Ly Nha Ky presses her two compelling arguments for national sovereignty, known as Truong Sa and Hoang Sa, respectively, against the general. 'Fight for the Spratlys, General Giap!'
Vietnam has found itself in yet another petty, self-inflicted media scandal over the appointment of Vietnamese domestic actress Ly Nha Ky as the new ‘Tourism Ambassador’ for Vietnam’s National Administration of Tourism. We are told that her duties are diverse, but in actuality authorities don’t appear to have thought beyond the gimmicky contest this month for the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature,’ in which Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay is a contender (Shhh… don’t tell them that the only people paying attention to the contest are National Tourism Administrations in other countries).
Apparently there’s been a bit of a public argument over Ms. Ky. First Tuoi Tre Newspaper complained, with a rather captivating photo, that she nearly smothered poor General Vo Nguyen Giap with a bit of exposed cleavage in a Communist propaganda film aired on TV. Shameful to ‘abuse’ our war heroes like that… just shameful… I guess… Can I be a war hero?
Next the online VietnamNet Bridge decried that her name was too Chinese. The Vietnam government has used it’s state-controlled media to subtly whip up anti-Chinese sentiment ever since the two nations started fighting over a few often-submerged, uninhabitable coral reefs out in the South China Sea earlier this year. We can’t have an allegedly part-ethnic-Chinese half-breed model screwing around with appearances of alleged national sovereignty… or national tourism now, can we? What if she invited China to invade Ha Long Bay again? There goes our big 7 Wonders certificate and the plastic trophy. Nasty dirty Chinese.
Then again, Tuoi Tre fussed that Ms. Ky lied about her college degree. Apparently some Viet Kieu they talked to over email said the university didn’t exist, so then Tuoi Tre googled it and couldn’t find the school… big scandal… or just shoddy journalism. Not sure which.
But I am sure the manufactured hissy fit won’t stop there.
The Head of the National Tourism Administration has defended his daydream fantasy, I mean professional appointment, by telling the press that ‘It’s not like she’s killed anybody’ and that ‘an education isn’t a requirement for the job.’ But apparently being really, really, super hot, bilingual and charismatic, and foxy, and talented and having a gorgeous bodacious body, is.
Not only does the appointment of Ms Ky, but also the clueless and irrelevant public outcry that followed, together reflect that sad fact that Vietnam’s Tourism Industry is a rudderless ship headed for the rocks (and to be quite honest, I can't help but wonder if the Vietnamese media has actually faked the whole 'public outrage' bit anyway--wouldn't be a first).
Don’t get me wrong. I love Vietnam. Of any country in Southeast Asia, I’ve always thought it has the greatest potential for tourism. I also think Ly Nha Ky is probably a fine, capable, lovely young woman and professional. But who?... I’d never even heard of her until this ‘scandal,’ and that’s the real problem.
Vietnam’s Tourism Administration and various National and Provincial Departments of Tourism, Sports, Culture and Extended Coffee Breaks, all have absolutely no clue who their audience is. They know who they’d LIKE to attract: rich people who spend a lot of money. But this xenophobic government office has never spent time seriously analysing who actually does come to Vietnam, and what those people really want. They’ve only thought about what they, the government, want. They’ve also never consulted both the foreign and domestic tourism companies serving the international tourists who visit Vietnam.
Every tourism season is a grand mystery to the Tourism Administration. They just sit back and wait to see what happens. Its not even a game of chance because they don’t even have their hands on the cards. It’s more like Russian Roulette and someone else is pulling the trigger.
So, OK Vietnam, you’ve got Ly Nha Ky now. So use her. I have no doubt she's at least as good of a talent choice as any of the other Vietnamese candidates. But why not add someone else to the mix that your audience will have actually heard of? Pair her up with Bobby Chinn, Anthony Bourdain, Luke Nguyen, Dustin Nguyen or Johnny Tri Nguyen… even an Angelina Jolie or Samantha Brown. Get SOMEBODY with some international notoriety who has a personal connection to Vietnam (and would probably be very honoured to be asked), and pair them up with Ms Ky and make this happen. Two people would be much more effective than one anyway. Its not like Vietnam’s neighbours haven’t tapped into famous celebrities too—why can’t Vietnam try to learn from other’s once in a while? Do we really need to repeat everyone’s mistakes? Problem is, other than the latter two Nguyens and maybe Jolie, I bet our xenophobic (yes I did use that word twice now for emphasis of the paradigm) tourism officials have never heard of these celebrities. And that’s the other problem.