Travel companies risk losing their business licences if they take international tourists to illegally buy bear bile in localities nation-wide, said director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism Nguyen Van Tuan.

Illegal trade in bear bile did not only have negative impacts on bears and the natural environment, but it also damaged the image of Vietnamese people and Vietnam in the eyes of international friends, he said.

Ha Long City in north-eastern Quang Ninh Province is allegedly one of the most popular places with bear farms providing bear bile to foreign tourists.

In December 2009, the administration issued official documents ordering travel companies to stop offering tours to illegal bear bile farms.

Regardless of the order, some travel companies continue to operate the tours, according to the administration.

Tran Ngoc Ha, a tour guide from Asiana Travel said she agreed with the regulation.

"I don't know why people do not protect bears, especially because it is a rare animal in Vietnam and in the world," she said.

Under Government's Decree 32/2006, bears are listed as an endangered species.

Owning and selling bears or products from bears is illegal, under the decree.

Some international tourists buy bear products and transport them over the border in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).

The convention is an international agreement between governments aiming to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Vietnam is a member of CITES and as a signatory committed to seriously implementing the terms of the convention./.