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Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Overcoming poverty

I like to read the online travellers' forums for information that might be useful, particularly when I'm going somewhere that's new to me. There is an interesting thread at the moment about a hotel in Hanoi that made a deal with a customer to cut their price. The following day they kicked them out because they were able to get someone else to take the room at a better price. The customer posted the information not to whinge but to warn others so they didn't fall into the same trap.

Last time I checked, this thread had 47 postings. Many were suggesting that the hotel's behaviour was not bad and that it was OK for business people in poor countries to behave in such ways and that rich westerners have no right to complain. I find this attitude is not uncommon here in Vietnam. It seems some think 'I am poor, you are rich, therefore it's OK for me to rip you off.'

I believe that this attitude will help to keep people poor.

What happens when you go on a holiday? You get home you talk about it, perhaps you blog it or write in travellers' forums. If your experience was a positive one then those who hear what you have to say may be inspired to go to the same destination. If your experience was a negative one others will be less inclined to follow in your footsteps. Sometimes most of the experience might be good and there are one or two negative ones. Unfortunately it is often the negative ones that stick in the memory.

Every time someone in a developing country rips off a traveller they are adding to the negative attitudes that 'rich westerners' have of their country. In such countries tourism is often one of the major export earners. Negative behaviour towards travellers hurts the whole economy of the country. If we hear lots of bad stuff about a country we choose to go somewhere else.

If Vietnam, Cambodia or any other country wants to improve its export income through tourism and thus help the people out of their poverty there needs to be an education campaign to teach those who deal with travellers, from the street vendors and taxi drivers to hotel managers, that treating people badly only hurts themselves in the long run.

I might add that I am staying in a very cheap hotel in Hanoi. Despite this, I am always treated well by staff. They behave with complete integrity. I would like to think this is the way the majority of Vietnamese hotels treat their customers.

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