© Helvetas

Fighting Poverty with Responsible Tourism

© Helvetas

Many ethnic communities in the highlands of North Vietnam used to live on agriculture alone. Helvetas now supports their efforts to capitalize on the region’s tourist potential and develop sustainable low-impact tourism in order to overcome poverty.

  • Project Name
    Low-Impact Local Tourism
  • Project Phase
    2015 to 2019
  • Funding
    This project is funded by donations.
  • Thematic focus
    Private Sector Development
    Partnership & Capacity Development


Northern Vietnam has a lot to offer tourists: wooded hills and mountains, spectacular terraced rice fields and many ethnic groups that still practice traditional customs. Tourism has already gained a foothold in some parts of the region, but the agencies down in Hanoi still do the bulk of the business. The locals, many of whom belong to marginalized minorities, hardly benefit at all since they are not included in this development.

But the situation changes when locals put together and run locally-adapted eco-friendly tours themselves. Families now take in guests and give them an inside look at local culture, thereby developing new income sources. Local guides show tourists the scenic sights. Small handicraft businesses open their doors to show tourists how old craftwork is produced and to sell their wares.

© Helvetas
In some villages of Cao Bang, the whole population practises a unique craft that has been handed down from time immemorial - in Phia Thap, it is the production of incense sticks. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
All 50 families of Phia Thap are involved in the production of incense sticks, even travelers can try their hand at it. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
The natural incense sticks from Phia Thap are popular, they are an important source of income for the village. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
The homestay of a family in Phia Thap is the end of an eventful day for a small group of travellers. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
The waterfalls of Ban Gioc are a popular destination for excursions. The guides of the tourism project offer travellers many nature experiences off the beaten track. © Helvetas

Initiatives like these are not a matter of course in remote and inaccessible communities. So we provide various forms of support for locals who wish to work with tourists: by training families who wish to rent out rooms or open a little restaurant; by pinpointing agencies whose tours are based on local needs; by providing courses for officials to make sure they do not obstruct the development of tourism with too much red tape; by promoting local tourism cooperatives and arts and crafts cooperatives; and by setting up an umbrella organization whose support enables local tour operators to expand their business activities.

This project targets particularly disadvantaged and poverty-stricken people. 400 women and men are directly involved in the activities. 10,000 benefit indirectly from the value chains generated by the tourism project. This project in Vietnam is based on our past experience in similar projects, such as in Kyrgyzstan, where a small-scale and very successful form of community-based tourism helped many families work their way out of poverty.

© Helvetas
Guests can look forward to delicious local cuisine with fresh, natural and sometimes unusual ingredients. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
The furnishing of the sleeping places is simple but charming. And it allows flexible use of the house. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
Host couple Ly Van Long and Trieu Mui Chieu in Ho San would like to give the guests an insight into the local culture - and contribute to the development of the village with their offer. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
Guests are also welcome in this house. The family appreciates the exchange and would like to participate in the tourism development of Nam Hong. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
The village communities involved in the project have developed other tourist offers such as motorcycle taxi services, guided tours and cultural events. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
Hospitality is an important part of the local culture. In the homestay of Trieu Menh Quyen and Trieu Mui Lieu in Nam Hong you feel like part of the family. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
Trieu Menh Quyen and Trieu Mui Lieu participate equally in the work on their homestay, while Trieu Tra My, daughter of Trieu Tra My, also wants to help with peanut peeling. © Helvetas

Private Sector Development

Youth need access to reliable, fairly paid jobs to break the cycle of poverty. Helvetas creates partnerships and promotes policies that build more inclusive economies.
Vietnam_Biotrade_Woman | © Helvetas
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