Friday, April 21st 2023

Visitors May Soon Have to Pay to Enter Hoi An

Written by

Rafael Bracho

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Introduction: Entrance Fee to Hoi An:

Thirty minutes outside of the nomad destination of Da Nang, lies the ancient town of Hoi An. One of the top tourist destinations in Vietnam, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hoi An has it all. Take a boat down the river among the picturesque colored lanterns, and then enjoy the thriving nightlife. It’s no wonder Hoi An attracts so many tourists a year—roughly 15,000 every day.

With so many foreigners enjoying Hoi An each year, it’s become more and more costly to preserve this cultural gem for future generations. Funding to help in the conservation of Hoi An has previously been set aside from the money generated through tour guides when seeing specific monuments and other tourist attractions. However, that hasn’t been enough, and the City People’s Committee of Quang Nam province–where Hoi An is located—has been exploring other avenues of revenue to help generate the necessary funds.

The Proposal: Entrance Fee to Hoi An:

To reach the city’s Old Town, all foreigners would have to pay 120,000 VND (roughly $5 USD) to be allowed in, and Vietnamese citizens would have to pay 80,000 VND (roughly $3.50 USD). This would have to be paid by both tourists and locals—unless the Hoi An residents had a legitimate reason to be in the Old Town. The proposal would designate two entrances into Hoi An: one for tourists and another for local citizens who live in Hoi An.

Currently, there is a loose ticket system in place, though it’s rarely enforced and the tickets sold represent less than 50% of the people attending. Now the province of Quang Nam is planning to crack down on tourists visiting Hoi An without paying—in particular, Vietnamese tourists visiting Hoi An from other parts of the country.

Also, Vietnamese drivers have been taking foreigners to Hoi An without going through the ticketing process—largely through popular rideshare apps, like Grab. Some have pointed to the fact that it’s unfair that some tourists pay, while others don’t.

The city of Hoi An seems to be serious about adopting these measures. They’ve installed cameras in the Old Town to monitor tourists violating the new regulations when they are put in place; the city is planning to put together patrol teams made of local residents to check purchased tickets, and the city is open to adopting more authoritarian measures with advanced facial recognition in the future.

Those clearly evading the purchase of the ticket will be asked to leave. However, the city of Hoi An recognizes that many people may not be aware of the change in the legislature. Thus, at first, the city plans to focus on awareness—not on harsh punishments for those violating the new rules.

In return, the city plans to put these funds toward new spaces and artistic programs that will attract more visitors. This proposal, if accepted, would take effect on May 15th, 2023.


The Reaction: Entrance Fee to Hoi An:

The reaction to this proposal has not been positive—and has instead been met with negative reviews from residents and business owners in Hoi An.

Some think that Hoi An is known for its welcoming atmosphere, and now that seems to have changed. Many residents in Da Nang feel that coming into Hoi An for a cup of coffee no longer makes sense economically, if the entrance fee costs three or four times as much. Many vendors in Hoi An agree. They worry that if the fees are too high, it will discourage tourists from visiting—certainly for several days at a time.

“I think the idea is disgraceful. Perhaps they are trying to raise money for the preservation and maintenance of this beautiful, historical place. I don't know. I love Hoi An but I always feel like I'm in a theme park. It's impersonal and commercial. When you walk into a store they ask, "Where do you come from?" You can see their eyes roll from side to side as they calculate what you would be willing to pay. Surely the vendors there pay enough to keep it as a free area,” said Steven Carlo Viola, a Da Nang resident.

Other options have been put forward, such as adding the charge to hotels in the area—which would minimize the disturbance for tourists visiting Hoi An. The money for conservation is sorely needed, but many residents feel that it shouldn’t come at the expense of the visitor’s experience.


The Latest: Entrance Fee to Hoi An:

As of now, Tran Anh, the Party Secretary of the City of Hoi An, ordered that the implementation of the proposal should be postponed until all parties are satisfied with the new legislation. As of now, it’s unlikely an agreement will be found between all parties by May 15th, 2023.

Anh plans to meet with local vendors and residents to try and come up with a compromise that meets the needs of everyone involved. As soon as a consistent plan is agreed upon, the local government will hold a press conference to announce the new proposal.

In the meantime, the People’s Committee is looking at models of other tourist hotspots throughout Vietnam and other parts of Asia to see if it can adopt a better model that makes everyone happy.

Conclusion: Entrance Fee to Hoi An:

Currently, Hoi An is considered a cheaper tourist attraction in Vietnam, and city officials believe that this is not the branding that they want for their destination. They would like Hoi An to be appreciated as one of the most precious locations in Southeast Asia, and that tourists should be willing to pay to help conserve this beautiful town.

Until all parties feel that a solid proposal is in place where a solid compromise that meets everyone’s needs has been found, there will be no changes. However, change is in the air. Make no mistake, soon tourists will have to pay more to experience this cultural gem.

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