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Less then impressed

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Like several other traditional Vietnamese art forms, the once noble act of Hue Royal singing has become tarnished over the past few years in the wake of Vietnam's recent tourist boom.


A combination of locals seeking to capitalize on the influx of tourist dollars and a lack of professional, skilled management and authority to provide guidance has angered many tourists.

Moreover, the disarray has caused both singers and visitors alike to feel exploited.

Recently, the municipal Department of Culture and Information has required boat owners to register their businesses to help curb the problem.

The ancient capital of Hue now has 119 small and large boats on Huong (Perfume) River, which hold traditional royal singing performances for visitors.

The revered royal music dates back centuries and is indigenous to the area, but sadly the once refined ancient music – performed for royal audiences – has now become a cash-grab.

Most owners of the floating vessels have little to no education and some are even illiterate.

Seeing an opportunity to earn a better living in the new tourist sector, many locals have left their former unskilled labor jobs in favor of providing entertainment services for tourists.

However, their lack of service industry training and minimal know-how of the tourism business, often leave guests less than impressed.

The performance boats not only serve as entertainment venues, but also as homes for the owners and their families leading to an increased amount of waste-dumping into the fragile river environment.


Since residents operate without any real guidance or mandates from an overarching authority, many boat owners operate unscrupulous practices and exploit tourists by hiking up prices of souvenirs and beverages.


In another scheme to earn bigger profits, a few operators even sell “recycled” flowers to tourists who wish to present the artists with a show of gratitude.


The owners will collect the same flowers back again from the artists to make available for the next wave of tourists who come through.

Another nuisance is the noise of the boats them-selves which often drown out the beautiful singing.


Nguyen Van Mai, Deputy Director of the Hue Royal Performances Managing and Organizing Center, commented “We have received many complaints from tourists but we are not authorized to test or investigate the service quality of those boats.”

The Hue Royal Singing Managing and Organizing Center only has authority over the Hue royal singing artist troupes.


Meanwhile, the act of investigating unscrupulous show boats needs the involvement of various authoritative agencies.

At the beginning of the year, the Hue People's Committee passed a registration and operation regulation which applied to any boats offering royal singing, but so far no agencies have directly investigated any of the venues.


In an effort to make the floating stages more professional, the Department of Culture and Information and the Hue Royal Performances Managing and Organizing Center have drawn up a draft which would not permit artists to perform onboard unless the boat is licensed and obeys performance regulations.

However, many boat operators express opposition to the idea, Mai said.


Sharing his concern, writer Vo Que advised local authorities to join forces to create a long-term scheme, which initially focuses on training the boat operators in the areas of tourism and quality service.

Que claimed that any harsh measures may be counterproductive.


Source ThanhnienNews

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