Many years ago Thailand was branded as The Land of Smiles. Vietnam, it seems, is also doing well on the getting-along-with-foreigners front.
This was one of the key facts that came out of the tourism section of our survey. 93% of our respondents reported either a good, very good or excellent set of interactions with Vietnamese people. Out of this figure, 38% said the interaction was very good while 40% said it was good.
This suggests the people in this country are a friendly lot. As one person pointed out, “[The Vietnamese] are the friendliest I've encountered in Southeast Asia so far.”
Service With a Smile?
Service in the food and beverage industry is also deemed to be good.
A whopping 53% of people rated it as good, 31% said it was either very good or excellent.
This represents a departure from Vietnam’s reputation of 10 years ago when this country was notorious for its poor service. Dishes would come out to the table at the wrong time and the idea of service with a smile was, well, no more than an idea.
The change suggests an understanding that good service can make the difference between a good restaurant, bar or hotel and a bad one.
Yet, it’s not all rosy. As one respondent wrote: “The service in Vietnam is getting better. Yet often there are too many employees and no real service is being done. They just flirt with each other. Drinks and food tend to take longer to come than other countries.”
Said another: “Service is usually effective, but staff are unaware of international standards and faux pas like waiting next to you while you read the menu and being afraid to say no.”
The Airport Run
One criticism of the tourism industry has always been the airports. But with the upgrading of Noi Bai, Tan Son Nhat and the airports in Dalat, Cam Ranh and Danang, things are on the up.
64% of people rated the service at airports either good, very good or excellent. Although people did point out “a lack of etiquette among the staff and locals” and the fact that it’s “difficult to get explanations when things go wrong”.
Said another respondent: “[The service is] below average internationally but getting better. Have had vendors in the store intentionally try to rip me off.”
As for the airport taxis — once the source of tourists being ripped off the moment they stepped in Vietnam — only 39% rated them as poor or very poor, with 61% saying they were now good, very good or excellent. This suggests that authorities have worked hard on ensuring that the airport run is no longer an opportunity for unscrupulous taxi drivers to extract money from unwitting tourists, although work still needs to be done.
As one person pointed out: “[There are] many stories of friends not familiar with Vietnam being overcharged.” Said another: “There are still fake taxis that really let the airport down.”
In the Resorts
The biggest success story on the tourism front is the service provided by hotel and resort staff. With such a huge rise in tourism numbers over the past decade, and a similar rise in the number of hotels, there has been concern that Vietnam will not be able to cope with the needs of the tourist industry.
However, it seems that this country’s resort and hotel staff have upped their game. A whopping 46% of respondents now said that service was good, while 34% said it was very good. Said one respondent: “[The service in hotels and resorts is] generally ok, but once again, basic English skills are often lacking.”
We asked respondents to answer five questions and rate their answers from poor to excellent. Here are the questions:
1) Service at airports
2) Taxi service from the airport to your destination
3) Hospitality service from hotel or resort staff
4) Hospitality service at cafes and restaurants
5) Interaction with local people
“If you expect [Vietnamese people] to speak your native language, be prepared for some awkward silences and misunderstandings.”
“[The Vietnamese are] excellent out- side of tourist areas, mixed experience within tourist areas.”
“[The Vietnamese are] excellent except when they're driving cars and bikes. Then beyond poor.”
“I'm always impressed with how fast it is to get through Noi Bai airport — maybe I just fly at the right times!”
“The airport taxis are generally pretty good if you stick to the known brands.”
— 2 in 5 people said the airport taxi service is either poor or very poor
— While only one third of people said the same of Vietnam’s airports
— More than 9 in 10 people say the service in resorts and hotels ranges from good to excellent
— This dropped to 83% when people were asked the same question of cafes and restaurants
— More than nine tenths of respondents say their interactions with local people ranged from good to excellent
Photo by Julie Vola
To read the other articles in this series, click on the following links: