Making a fortune at home
Posted on 10/06/2022
Carefully wiping dust from a white bed sheet in her guest room, 30-year-old Sung Y Hoa, adds some final touches to the cleaned room in preparation for guests who have booked to stay for few weeks.
Putting some wildflowers in a vase by the window, she looks to the lush plum trees down the valley. She feels happy. She sings a folk song. Cool gusts of wind blow through the window and move the flowers gently.
Cleaning guest rooms has been her morning routine since her family began offering a homestay service in 2021. Her family was among the first to become involved in community-based homestay in Tà Số 2 Village, Chieng Hac Commune, Moc Chau District in Sơn La Province.
The village sits at approximately 1,050m above sea level, 180km northwest of Ha Noi and has fertile land, a temperate climate, beautiful landscapes and hosts a diverse ecosystem. It is home to 130 Mong ethnic group families.
“Before, we just lived by planting fruit trees like plums and peaches and raising chickens, cows and buffalo,” she said. “My husband learnt about the homestay service from neighbouring villages and we decided to invest in a homestay named Hoa Phong, which means flower and wind, as up here in the hills we see a lot of flowers throughout the year, and much wind.”
Hoa received a loan from the bank for VNĐ100 million (USD4,400) and used the funds to build the house. Her husband, Mùa A Hạng, designed the wooden house and their neighbours helped them to build it. The house has two rooms and. the hosts live just a few hundred meters away from the guesthouse.
Hoa and Hang received support to enter the tourism industry from the Gender Responsive Equitable Agriculture and Tourism (GREAT) program, funded by the Australian government.
“GREAT helped us to get access to the loan. They opened training courses on hospitality, where we learnt skills to run a homestay and cook according to guests’ taste,” Hoa said.
Once a shy woman who used to stay at home, farm and take care of the children, Hoa has become more confident when receiving guests.
“I still remember how nervous I was when receiving the first guests. I did not know what to say, how to cook for them,” she recalled.
“Now I know a lot more. I’m totally capable of talking with guests and entertaining them. I even prepare a menu, from which guests can order food. I now know how to make different dishes from the available ingredients in our garden. Vietnamese guests like grilled pork, chicken and vegetable dishes while foreigners prefer noodles and grilled pork,” she said.
Hoa said she and Hang have joined gender courses offered by GREAT and local authorities, where they met a lot of people and exchanged ideas.
“My husband and I have more to talk about now. We are much busier but quite happy now,” she said.
The mother of two now sometimes travels to attend training courses and activities hosted by GREAT.
The homestay service has brought in additional income for Hoa and Hang, supplementing the money they make from producing plums, peaches and galangal.
In a month they can earn up to VNĐ10 million from two groups of tourists. This is five to ten times higher than what they earn per month working in agriculture.
“I now want to get more experience to be able to offer a better service,” Hoa said.
The couple plan to build a dormitory house that can host up to 20 people. They also plan to improve their homestay with a fireplace.
Dinh Thi Huong, Head of the Culture and Information Department of Moc Chau District, expressed appreciation for the effectiveness of the GREAT program, particularly for women.
“The GREAT program has helped develop not only agriculture, community tourism, and handicrafts such as making wooden toothpick boxes, knives and lipstick from sachi seeds, it has improved people’s awareness in various fields. Women are now more respected than ever before. They can earn money, can raise their voices in social affairs, and can decide things at home together with their husbands.”
Hường said the local authorities will continue to conduct research and issue policies to support competitive loans for people who invest in developing community tourism.
“We will also expand the successful community-based tourism models to other potential villages in the district,” she said.