Tourists at loss to find local foods

HCM CITY — Visitors to HCM City usually find it hard to find local food specialities like candies to take back home as gifts due to the absence of tourist stores even though the country is a haven for tropical farm products.

“I don’t know where to buy locally made confectionery,” admitted Phan Quoc Viet, an English-speaking tour guide with Sunrise Travel Agency.

He was embarrassed once when asked by guests to take them to a shop to buy candies, he said.

“I know confectionery can be found at any local supermarket but the problem is they were looking for a store specialising in local brands, something not easy to find.”

“So I just recommended Ben Thanh Market.”

“Candies served in hotel lounges are mostly imported,” he explained.

The country exports fruits like rambutan, pineapple, coconut, jackfruit, and banana to more than 60 countries and territories, according to the Institute of Southern Fruits.

But processors pay little attention to international visitors as a potential market despite the fact that many of them love to sample local tropical fruits or products made from them, like candies and cookies.

“I especially love cakes made of coconut or cassava which I eat right away because they taste exotic, delicious, and really Vietnamese,” a Japanese visitor who identified herself as just Shiubu said.

She would love to buy chocolate cookies which are tasty and much cheaper than in Japan, she said.

“Except cashew nuts and coffee, which are typical of the country, I don’t know what other specialities I should take home,” Italian tourist Laure Pausini said.

A German tourist who was travelling with his wife, said he was excited to see how coconut candies and rice cakes are hand-made in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta provinces of Ben Tre and Can Tho.

“If these agricultural products are made easily accessible to tourists in cities, I think they will become very popular,” he added.

Specialty shops

Tu Quy Thanh, director of Lien Bang Travel Agency, stressed the need to open specialised shops for tourists that sell a variety of local specialities.

“All goods there must be of high quality, safe, and produced by credible companies,” he said.

“We should make tourists spend more in the country.”

He said foreign guests are interested in desiccated fruits, coffee, and tea.

“If local travel agencies support the opening of a speciality store for international tourists, we will be more than happy to feature our products there,” Nguyen Anh Trung, deputy general director of Givral Bakery, said. — VNS

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