Recently, the topic of entrance fees to Hoi An Ancient Town has heated up on online forums, in the media, and at local meetings in various places. People have expressed a wide range of emotions and opinions about the issue, but one thing is clear: Hoi An holds a special place in the hearts of many. This long-form article aims to shed light on the history and current state of ticketing in Hoi An and to address some of the concerns and controversies surrounding the issue.
A Brief History
In the late 1980s, when tourism began to take off in Hoi An, entrance fees to the ancient town included access to four privately and collectively owned heritage sites, with prices set at 7,000 VND for foreign visitors and 1,500 VND for domestic visitors. Half of the revenue went to the site owners, while the other half covered administrative expenses, electricity, water, and minor repairs.
However, the low ticket prices and the fact that many tour groups did not purchase tickets led to insignificant revenue from entrance fees. In some years, ticket sales barely covered the expenses, forcing the government to subsidize the shortfall. To address this issue, the local government adjusted the ticket prices in 1992, setting them at 5,000 VND for Vietnamese visitors and 50,000 VND (equivalent to 5 USD) for international visitors.
In August 1995, the “Hoi An Ancient Town Tourist Management Regulation” was introduced, and on October 15, 1995, the new entrance fee package was launched, increasing the prices tenfold. On the first day, 324 tickets were sold, generating a revenue of 11 million VND. In 1995, the total revenue from entrance fees reached 5.7 billion VND. This significant increase in revenue enabled the ancient town to invest in the preservation and restoration of its historical sites, eventually leading to Hoi An’s recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
Since 1995, the ticketing system has undergone several changes, with pricing and cultural tourism offerings improvements. UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific branch has praised the system, stating that it has many advantages, such as controlling visitor numbers and minimizing negative impacts on heritage sites. Currently, 85% of the revenue from entrance fees is allocated to the restoration and maintenance of historical sites, as well as to support the owners of the sites.
Thanks to the revenue from entrance fees, Hoi An has been able to implement various tourism projects, such as “Ancient Town at Night,” “Ancient Town without Engine Noise,” “Streets for Pedestrians and Non-motorized Vehicles,” “Extended Hours and Content for Visitors in Hoi An Ancient Town at Night,” and “Electricity-Free Hour.” These initiatives have contributed to the unique charm of Hoi An’s nine architectural styles and more than 1,300 heritage sites, creating an enchanting and peaceful atmosphere for visitors.
Due to rising consumer prices, the entrance fees for Hoi An Ancient Town were adjusted on November 1, 2012, with foreign visitors paying 120,000 VND (up from 90,000 VND) and Vietnamese visitors paying 80,000 VND (up from 45,000 VND). With these fees, visitors can enjoy the ancient town’s ambiance, experience the daily life of Hoi An residents, participate in traditional games, and watch cultural performances from 7 am to 10 pm. Visitors can also choose their preferred sites from a list of 22 prominent heritage attractions. Foreign visitors can choose six sites (up from five), while Vietnamese visitors can choose four sites (up from three). The increased number of sites included in the entrance fee package aims to provide visitors with a more comprehensive experience of Hoi An’s rich cultural heritage.
Controversies and Concerns
Despite the improvements in the ticketing system, controversies and concerns have arisen in recent years. Some travel agencies have taken advantage of the situation by not purchasing tickets for their clients, leaving them to explore the Ancient Town without proper guidance. This disappoints visitors who miss out on the opportunity to experience Hoi An’s cultural heritage fully and creates unfair competition between travel agencies that adhere to the rules and those that don’t.
Furthermore, there have been reports of inconsistent ticket checking at various sites, causing confusion among visitors. In some cases, visitors have been charged additional fees for sites that should be included in their entrance fee package.
Moving Forward: Preserving Hoi An’s Essence
To address these issues and preserve Hoi An’s unique charm, the local government and tourism industry must work together to implement stricter ticket sales and control measures. This includes closely monitoring travel agencies and acting against those violating the rules. Additionally, improvements in ticket checking should be made to ensure that visitors receive the full experience they have paid for.
At the same time, it is essential to enhance the visitor experience by offering comprehensive and engaging cultural programs. This will ensure that the essence of Hoi An remains intact and that its rich history and cultural heritage continues to captivate both domestic and international visitors.
One way to achieve this is by promoting and encouraging more community-based tourism initiatives, which allow visitors to interact with residents, learn about their traditional crafts, and participate in various cultural activities. These experiences provide an authentic and immersive experience for tourists and help support local businesses and sustain the community’s livelihood.
Another important aspect to consider is the proper maintenance and management of the heritage sites. This includes regular conservation efforts, ensuring the sites’ cleanliness, and implementing measures to protect these historical treasures from potential damages caused by natural disasters and human intervention.
Moreover, the local government should invest in improving the infrastructure and facilities in Hoi An, making it more accessible and comfortable for visitors. This includes enhancing public transportation, providing better signage and information, and ensuring the availability of essential services such as clean restrooms and drinking water.
Lastly, educating visitors and locals about preserving Hoi An’s cultural heritage is crucial. By raising awareness about the value of these historical sites and the responsible behaviors that should be practiced while visiting them, Hoi An can maintain its unique charm and continue to thrive as a world-renowned tourist destination.
In conclusion, the entrance fees for Hoi An Ancient Town play a significant role in preserving and maintaining its unique cultural heritage. By addressing the controversies and concerns surrounding ticketing and implementing stricter measures, Hoi An can continue to protect its historical sites and ensure a high-quality experience for all visitors. Collaboration between the local government, tourism industry, and community is essential in maintaining Hoi An’s essence and promoting sustainable tourism practices. By enhancing the visitor experience through engaging cultural programs, improved infrastructure, and raising awareness about responsible tourism, Hoi An can secure its place as a cherished and revered destination for future generations.