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.
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.
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.