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Vietnam Starts Ranking Tour Guides to Improve Tourism Quality

In hopes of inspiring tour guides to improve their performance, Vietnam's tourism officials will launch a trial program that grades guides on capability, knowledge and skills.

Starting this month and continuing until the end of the year, the Vietnam Tourism Association (VNA) will carry out qualifying "exams" to rank the tour guides in Saigon, Hanoi, Lao Cai and elsewhere. By placing the guides into groups ranging from three to five stars, the VNA hopes it will be easier for travel groups to effectively hire and appropriately pay guides while enticing individuals to better meet tourist needs.

According to Nguyen The Binh, vice president of VNA, participation is voluntary and free of charge, thanks to financial support from the European Union. Capability will account for 20% of the grade while knowledge and skills will amount to 50% and 30%, respectively. The tests will begin in Saigon at the end of October, in Hanoi and Quang Ninh in November, in Khanh Hoa and Lao Cai in December, and in the rest of the country in 2019.

As tourism continues to boom in Vietnam, the government has made conscious efforts to increase standards in the sector. This includes the passing of a new tourism law last year to impose stricter guidelines on freelance tour guides. All freelancers are required to sign contracts with authorized travel companies or tour agencies in order to do business. Currently, only 5% of the country's 23,055 certified tour guides are under contract with a company that provides social security and health insurance.

Vietnam is receiving record tourists each year with profits to match. The country brought in VND312 trillion (US$13.5 billion) from tourism activities between January and June of 2018, an increase of 22.5% compared with the same period last year. Despite these numbers and optimistic growth projections, the industry has been hampered by low tourist return rates attributed to dissatisfaction with safety, environmental conditions and general services.

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