Tourists and traffic: a bad combination
Foreign travel companies have been telling Ho Chi Minh City travel agent that they’re going to stop sending tourists here unless traffic conditions improve.

They say traffic jams and unforgivable gridlock in HCMC often cause them to cut short the number of destinations on their trips, angering travelers who have already paid for their pre-planned tours.

La Quoc Khanh, deputy head of the municipal Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, admitted that while it previously took tourists some 40 minutes to drive from the city center to the airport, even in the worst traffic, the time frame was now “unpredictable.”

“Traveling just five kilometers can take up to two hours sometimes,” he complained.

Khanh said a Japanese travel agent had lost money recently when two tour groups in Vietnam missed their flights back home due to traffic jams on the way to Tan Son Nhat Airport.

“They told me they would not send any more tourists to Vietnam if traffic conditions remained unchanged,” he said. The Japanese agent sends some 60,000 tourists to Vietnam each year, Khanh said.

Tour operators cannot afford to miss their flights as it costs them time, money and prestige.

To cope with the worsening traffic, many travel companies have reduced the number of destinations they visit in the city, distorting their itineraries and annoying travelers. Nobody likes having their tour schedule changed at the last minute.

Hoang, a tour guide from a major HCMC travel company, said he now has to fill his opening speech on the way from the airport to the hotel with explanations about the traffic barriers, potholes, dust and delays.

I recently asked 100 foreign travelers in Vietnam about what worried them about traveling in HCMC. Nearly 100 percent of the respondents said, “traffic jams.”

The numbers speak for themselves.

By Tran Tam /