“Lai móc pin phấn – Lai cần pin bán”
Posted on 21/07/2021
Many clouds make the rain – Many people make the village
Community spirit runs deep among Thai people, one of Vietnam’s many ethnic groups. It is with this community spirit that the Thai women of Vat Village, Moc Chau District in Vietnam’s Son La Province have approached the development of a local, community-based tourism project.
“Lai móc pin phấn” – Many clouds make the rain
Mrs Luong Thi Hong Tuoi, the owner of Hoa Moc Mien Homestay in Vat Village recalled why community-based tourism was appealing to the Village.
“Around five years ago tourists began occasionally coming to the Village looking for accommodation. Our hospitable villagers would usually invite them to stay in their stilt houses, and serve them food,” she said.
Mrs Tuoi explained how in those early days when she hosted tourists in her home, she would be so nervous that she couldn’t eat and sleep well.
“We had only ever worked in agriculture so the first few times were the toughest ones, particularly as we lacked financial capital and skills in tourism,” said Mrs Tuoi.
Despite the uncertainty that operating a homestay brought to many women and their families, they rose to the challenge. During the day, they did their farm work and sold products at a local waterfall, and at night they were online studying tourism services. What they were missing, was technical expertise, guidance and market connections to translate this commitment into a successful business model.
The Australian Government-funded Gender Responsive Equitable Agriculture and Tourism (GREAT) Program partnered with Action on Poverty (AOP) in Vietnam in 2019 to develop opportunities for women to participate and thrive in community-based tourism. Moc Chau District offers strong potential for community-based tourism due to the scenic landscape and the cultural diversity of the population. As an industry, community-based tourism offers an opportunity for households to diversify their income and for the economic empowerment of women.
Mai Thuan Homestay has been receiving tourist groups for almost two years, with tourist numbers in the hundreds.
“Since joining the project with GREAT and AOP, the number of tourists coming here has increased dramatically. Our household earns around VND 15-20 million per month from tourism. Previously, my family only earned about VND 7 million per month from agricultural production, but it was also an unstable income because it depended on the weather,” said homestay owner Mrs Thuan.
After nearly two years of operation, community-based tourism driven primarily by women in Vat Village has gradually developed a range of attractive tourism experiences, and perhaps none as well-liked as the local cultural performances, particularly the traditional folk dance (Xoè and Sạp dancing) performances by the women of Vat Village.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Vat Village safely welcomed more than 3,000 visitors in 2020 and generated more than VND 1.2 billion in revenue through community-based tourism – an increase on 2019.
The community-based tourism model has improved the outward appearance of the village due to the efforts of the community. The most significant impact, however, has been that the local Thai women have increased their earnings and their ability to economically support themselves and their families, and developed a strong sense of confidence in their business and their social dealings.
Mrs Van, the owner of Van Dung Homestay in Vat Village, manages food preparation for her guests and begins each meal by offering a glass of corn or rice wine.
“Thanks to the project’s training in communication skills and study tours to other community-based tourism projects, I am now confident when communicating with tourists; I am no longer shy like before. Our cooking and hygiene practices have also improved,” said Mrs Van.
Mrs Ha Thi Chien, the owner of Ha Chien Homestay also shared that her confidence and status in her household had changed as a result of the project.
“My husband did not listen to me in the past. Yet last year, when renovating our stilt house into a homestay, he said he would like to discuss the renovations with me because I had attended many training courses,” said Mrs Chien.
“Lai cần pin bán” – Many people make the village
With support from GREAT and AOP, service groups were established in Vat Village to look after different elements such as homestays, transport, food, performances and brocade weaving. Clear operational regulations were developed and shared with the groups. Community participation in these groups was enthusiastic and the groups have also ensured a more equitable spread of the benefits of tourism within the Village.
“The happiest time is the group meeting time. We share with each other the positives and the challenges in our tourism work. Most importantly, it is not one single household receiving tourists, but rather the village is receiving tourists,” said Mrs Chien.
At the time of writing, 60 percent of all households in Vat Village were providing tourism services. An image of a clean, beautiful, friendly and hospitable village is being shaped, which is attracting many domestic tourists, and hopefully this will extend to international tourists in the post-COVID-19 era.
GREAT and AOP are supporting Vat Village to establish a management model in the form of a cooperative or business enterprise. This will empower local women in areas such as service quality management, product marketing and linking with tourism partners.
The participation of the entire Vat Village community supports sustainable tourism development that will reduce poverty and advance the economic empowerment of women in the Village. Their solidarity strengthens their position as they work on further developing their community-based tourism offerings.