Tay people in Ban Lien Commune warmly welcome tourists
Posted on 27/04/2021
Ban Lien Commune is located 30km from Bac Ha Town in Vietnam’s Lao Cai Province and, with its scenic landscape, stilt houses on hillsides, tea plantations and palm trees. It has great potential to develop into a tourism destination. Furthermore, the community are friendly and hospitable hosts and the local food serves as another experience for tourists to enjoy.
However, as tourism remains an emerging industry in the Commune a community-based tourism project is being implemented by the Centre for Rural Economy Development (CRED) with support from the Australian Government-funded Gender Responsive Equitable Agriculture and Tourism (GREAT) Program to improve the tourism destination and service offerings and attract more people to the Commune. The project is also focused on ensuring local ethnic women are involved and have the opportunity to increase their incomes and build their confidence.
Local farmers used to rely solely on agriculture (rice, tea, cinnamon cultivation and livestock) to earn an income. When the project began in 2019, very few people in Ban Lien Commune understood what community-based tourism was and houses were not equipped to offer homestay experiences. Houses were renovated, bathrooms and toilet facilities installed and farm animals relocated away from homes.
The community also needed to learn and understand how to provide quality tourism services.
Tourism experts were sent to support households that wished to provide a homestay service. Access to finance was arranged with competitive interest rates that allowed for home renovations in preparation for visitors. Farm animals were relocated away from homes, and measures were taken to reduce mosquito numbers.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic hit just as home renovations were completed and travel restrictions meant there were no tourists. Yet the community was not discouraged. Homestay owners and eight members of the performance team (a team offering dancing and singing performances) took advantage of the delay to undergo training and develop skills in reception services, English language, entertainment (cultural dancing and singing), cooking and online marketing and communications. They also participated in study tours to established homestays in other communes.
With tourism numbers slowly starting to rise, the Ban Lien community-based tourism operators understand that their Tay cultural identity is an attraction. Along with the village’s scenery, the enthusiastic and warm welcome provided by homestay owners in their traditional Tay clothing and the natural flavours of the local food are enticing tourists to stay longer and increasing the chances that they will return.
“Due to the pandemic, my family’s income from tourism has not met our expectations, yet every month we have some tourists coming here and we earn between VND 500,000 – 1,000,000,” said homestay owner, Mrs Vang Thi Thong.
The community-based tourism project has resulted in other important changes in Ban Lien. Men now share more household chores and women are more confident and are joining more social activities.
Mr Vang A Binh is the owner of Vang Binh Homestay and he talked about changes to them as a couple.
“Hiem recently attended training and exchange activities with the Women’s Union in the Commune. Last month she said that she would like to join the village football team. I supported her immediately and volunteered to do more housework so she could play football,” he said.
The positive results of the community-based tourism project in Ban Lien are encouraging other households to consider a move into tourism activities. Some people who previously did not want to be involved in the project are now showing an interest in offering homestay services or providing services to homestays (such as cooking or entertainment).
More people are requesting to attend one or more of the many tourism service trainings that are provided and traditional handicraft groups have also been established. This is reviving many of the local handicrafts as the older generation is teaching the younger generations how to make traditional products such as palm hats.
The local women, including both the homestay owners and those working in traditional crafts, are proving to be more self-confident when receiving tourists. This is evident as they accompany and guide tourists to the rice fields for harvest, or instruct tourists in sewing palm hats, or in processing tea.
At the beginning of the project, there were only four homestay households. There are now 20 homestay households with 50 people providing related services for tourists. All of these changes indicate there will be many direct and indirect benefits from the project on the Ban Lien community and beyond.