Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers about services and their prices at popular tourism destinations in their countries during public holidays, and their experiences in Viet Nam during such occasions.
The People's Committee of the northern province of Lao Cai approved a zoning plan earlier in April for the tourist town of Sa Pa which would include the construction of a 6.2km cable-car system from Sa Pa to the top of 3,143m-tall Mount Fansipan, the highest peak in Indochina.
The plan has met with public opposition, especially from backpackers. A group has even been set up on Facebook to object to the plan, attracting over 800 members so far.
Many said that Fansipan should be a destination for people with a strong will to conquer the mountain and that a cable-car system would run counter to that purpose. They also warned that it would commercialise the area at the top of the mountain, affecting the natural beauty and biodiversity of the site.
Supporters, however, said the plan would help develop tourism in the province and that building cable cars to high-altitude tourist sites was a common trend around the world.
Have you ever planned to climb Mt Fansipan, or have you done so already? What do you think about the plan to build a cable car to the top of the mountain? Have any similar plans to build cable cars in your own country met with public opposition?
Please reply by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi. Replies to this week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, May 3.
Arti Samkaria, Indian, Delhi
I've thought about issue and realised that this is same almost everywhere. Even in Australia I think people plan well in advance as the prices go up if they book late. I had this experience last Easter and on New Year's Eve. A hotel room next to the Opera House cost three or four times more than usual.
India also faces a similar kind of situation because of its high population. The main occasions when people plan their vacations are during Holi (March or April), Diwali (October or November) and New Year's Eve. A high percentage of the Indian population work in the fields of the internet and high technology that require them to spend most of their time in the office and makes their lives really hectic. Hence everyone plans their holidays well in advance.
People book their vacations around 2-3 months in advance to get a better price, rather than leaving it late. They also make travel arrangements as early as possible because air fares tend to go up as the holidays approach.
People prefer to use tourism companies instead of making their own arrangements because it is a lot cheaper. A tour costs around 20-25 per cent less than if they book it themselves. The main reason behind this is that these companies do bulk bookings for everything like flights, buses, hotels and site seeing destinations, so they get a discount.
India covers a large part of Asia and has a variety of culture (28 states and each state has its own culture). People from the north which is hilly and a lot cooler during the winter try to visit the plains or the south which is hot in comparison and vice versa. People also try to explore the different cultures.
Charlie Stansfield, Australian, Sydney
Public holidays cause the same issues in Australia. People flock to popular spots such as the coastal areas or the Blue Mountains. The Pacific Highway (north and south) is legendary for its horrendous traffic jams on Easter weekends or at Christmas holidays.
Sydney-siders are not usually good at using public transport which adds to the congestion on the roads so it is traditional for Sydney-siders to pack the cars with the family and pets and take off to the coast. I am not sure if the trains become more expensive but flights certainly are.
At Christmas I flew to Coffs Harbour which you can usually fly return for a couple of hundred dollars – at Christmas the flight was AUS$600, a three-fold increase. I stay at home on most public holidays because even if you only want to take a city break, it's difficult to park at popular destinations. Public holidays are a good time to stay in bed in my opinion!
Nguyen Mai An, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
It is acceptable for the prices of hotel rooms and services to be more expensive because people in this industry have to put in much more effort than usual to cope with larger numbers of tourists. But it is not okay if they take advantage of this chance to set unreasonable prices four or five times higher than usual to exploit tourists.
My husband and I decided to spend the previous three-day public holidays in Da Lat. Instead of charging us VND400,000 (US$19) per room per night as listed, the hotel asked us to pay four times more. Other services such as restaurants and tour guides also escalated four-fold, and everywhere was crowded.
Although we had prepared for this situation, we still felt a little disappointed. However, we discovered a different way to enjoy the city by ignoring popular sites such as Love Valley and Prenn Falls and going off the beaten track, taking advice from local people.
We visited the Prenn mountain pass, Tu Lake, Muoi Loi farmers' flower valley and Vang springs.
We also spent our time in small, local cafes where the food and drink were typical of the city, and the artistic performances were amazing.
What I mean is that you can still discover relatively untouched places that will earn a special place in your hearts in the middle of popular tourism destinations.
One more thing we did to avoid the crowds was that we got up quite early to breathe the fresh air and did whatever we wanted because at that time, most of the other tourists were still in bed.
Sann Oo, Myanmar, Yangon
In Myanmar, we have the New Year Holiday every April when we celebrate the Thingyan Water Festival. The government designates ten days off around Thingyan, which this year was from April 11 to 20.
On this occasion, some people travel to the beaches, others go on pilgrimages to religious sites, and those with enough money travel abroad.
During this time, most hotels are full, and we need to pre-book accommodation, bus tickets and flights. Not all of them go up in price, but sometimes they are difficult to get hold of during the peak season.
My friends went to Ngapali Beach for the festival, the most famous beach in Myanmar, and they had to pay higher prices for the hotel rooms. The reason for this was not only because of the holiday season, but also because tourism is booming here.
In Myanmar, I think, in comparison with other countries during public holidays, it is not very difficult, even if you don't pre-book. The only problem you can face is that bus and flight tickets are limited. For accommodation, you can normally find somewhere to stay. It might not be of an exceptional standard, but you can still find it, and those kinds of places are usually cheap and don't raise prices during the holidays.
I didn't travel during this New Year Holiday. Instead, I stayed in Yangon and celebrated the festival with friends and my family. It was a great fun and I had a different experience. I enjoyed it.
Pham Quoc Hieu, Vietnamese, HCM City
I think these issues are common on public holidays not only in our country but also in others. It just obeys the law of supply and demand.
Local authorities and relevant agencies should not just release management documents but take effective measures to encourage hotels, restaurants and other service establishments to fix their prices instead of raising them every hour on public holidays. It is necessary to make them acknowledge that this is a professional working method in a competitive market where foreign service companies have interests.
However, tourists should also be prepared. I would like to share some of my experiences to decrease the troubles:
Firstly, I choose less popular provinces in the Central Highlands or Binh Thuan, instead of the really "hot" provinces of Vung Tau, Phan Thiet, Nha Trang or Da Lat.
Secondly, I book accommodation and transport in advance, because these services are limited in some places and I can minimise the suffering caused by escalating prices.
Thirdly, I choose my departure times carefully to avoid rush hours which can save several hours.
Finally, I always try to get fit before my trip because this helps me feel easier in uncomfortable situations. — VNS