Local development

Tourism benefits Viet Nam’s rural poor

Inland hilltribe villagers in Quang Nam province have increased their earnings by developing products such as traditional weavings, spices, tea gift baskets and home stay services for tourists, with the help of an ILO project and funding from the Luxembourg Government. By Tran Quynh Hoa, ILO Country Office for Viet Nam.

Feature | 01 November 2012
Bho Hoong Village, Viet Nam
ILO News (Quang Nam, Viet Nam) - Dawn breaks in Bho Hoong Village, revealing a hidden, picturesque community not far from the historic Ho Chi Minh Trail in the central province of Quang Nam.

The village is home to 67 members of the Ca Tu ethnic minority. With its peaceful and pristine landscape with old stilt houses, oxen gazing around and women smiling behind their brocade weaving looms, it is undoubtedly a good destination for visitors interested in unique cultures. Tourism, however, remains relatively underdeveloped here. Bho Hoong receives only about 2,000 visitors a year, while nearby attractions such as the My Son Archaeological Site, can welcome up to 600 tourists per day.

Bordering the central tourism hub of Da Nang, Quang Nam Province has attracted significant investment because of its sandy beaches, coral reefs and world cultural heritage sites - My Son and Hoi An. However, economic activity is concentrated around the coastal areas while the interior areas are largely limited to day trippers. This brings little money to the people in these remote areas.

Bho Hoong, some 100 km from the Hoi An beach, is typical of many inland areas in Quang Nam and throughout the country which could benefit from a growing tourism industry.

Some 24 per cent of households in the province, including many Ca Tu families in Bho Hoong Village, are still living under or close to the poverty line of US$21 per capita per month, according to the provincial People’s Committee.

“What our villagers earn from tourism here still could hardly help us make ends meet,” said Bruu Thi Nep, an official at the district’s Culture and Information Department.

Alang Thi Mot, a villager who performs traditional dances for tourists every other day, occasionally hosts tourists, using her house as a home-stay.

While the additional US$40 monthly income Mot earns from tourism has made life for the mother of two easier, the 26-year-old still relies primarily on income from raising four pigs, one cow and tending to 6,000 square meters of rice field to feed her mother-in-law and children, ages two and six.

A local project with wider prospects

To develop tourism into an income-generating opportunity that benefits the poor, the ILO is supporting Quang Nam Province in creating opportunities in the rural and mountainous areas.

“Tourism can be a useful tool for poverty reduction,” said Wolfgang Weinz, Hotels, Catering and Tourism Specialist of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

“Local people are not aware of how to reap the benefits and generate income through the tourism sector,” said Mimi Groenbech, Chief Technical Advisor of the ILO project “Strengthening of Inland Tourism in Quang Nam”. “They are friendly and naturally open to guests but they can benefit a lot more if they learn to see the potential from a business perspective”.

The US$1.35 million ILO project, funded by the Luxembourg Government, helps locals, particularly women, improve their ability to generate tourism-related income through the home-stay services, setting up their own businesses and marketing their traditional weaving and other products.

The project, which started in 2011 and runs until December 2013, has supported the local government to assess and make a plan for developing their inland destinations, including Bho Hoong Village, Dong Giang District and other destinations around the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Training for communities in tour operation and community-based tourism is planned.

The project also helps the rural communities develop products to increase their income, including Ca Tu weaving products, spices and tea gift baskets, and hotel room amenities, with "Made in Quang Nam" and "Products with a story" branding.

Ca Tu villagers have been weaving clothes for their families and bartering them for other commodities in their community for centuries.

They are now exploring opportunities to sell their products to new and larger markets, although Ms Groenbech says their products have yet to meet the market’s demand. In response, the project is trying to support the people in making their products more marketable.

Quang Nam People’s Committee Vice-Chairman, Tran Minh Ca, says the ILO project is helping the province maximise the benefits of tourism and hopefully reach its goal of increasing tourism-related business start-ups in the interior districts by 10 per cent by the end of 2013. The number of tourists visiting the interior districts of Quang Nam is expected to rise by 10 per cent.

“I hope Quang Nam’s experience and the local governments’ great efforts will be shared in the tourism sector nationwide, to make the industry equally beneficial to Viet Nam,” said the ILO Country Director, Gyorgy Sziraczki.