The ministry instructed the Vietnam Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei to contact local authorities to seek information on the case and co-ordinate to settle the issue. The ministry hopes to ensure there is no negative impact on tourism between the two sides.
In response to the incident, Minister of Culture, Sport and Tourism Nguyen Ngoc Thienordered the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism and relevant agencies to co-operate in handling the case.
A source from the ministry said it has been working around the clock with Taiwanese agencies and HCM City’s tourism department to address the issue. It did not rule out the possibility the incident was a deliberate attempt to take advantage of Taiwan’s lax visa policies and send Vietnamese laborers overseas illegally. The ministry’s stance on the matter is that such a scheme cannot be tolerated; organisations and individuals behind such actions will face severe punishment.
Taiwanese authorities said an investigation is underway. In the immediate future, Taiwan plans to stop granting group visas to the HCM City–based International Holidays Travel Company Limited, which arranged itineraries for the missing tourists.
International Holidays Travel Company Limited’s director Phan Ngọc Hạnh said the 152 tourists, divided into four groups, were passengers referred to his company by two Hà Nội-based tourist companies: Twin Bright Company Limited and Golden Travel Trade and Tourism Company Limited.
Hạnh said he was asked by Taiwanese company ETholiday to support the tourists with their visa arrangements. When the tourists failed to show up to their tour destinations, ETholiday sent a report to the police.
HCM City’s tourism association on Wednesday issued a warning to travel companies based in the city to conduct thorough background checks on their clients.
Nguyễn Bá Dũng, director of Hà Nội-based Transviet Travel Company, said this unprecedented incident may adversely affect firms from both countries and their ability to do business. When asked if his company’s visa applications were obstructed, Dũng said it has yet to experience any delay.
There have been no changes in Taiwan’s visa policy for Vietnamese tourists, according to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vietnam.