Community-Based Tourism Development: Long and Sustainable Strategy Required

3:41:36 PM | 1/11/2018

In the past few years, community-based tourism has contributed effectively to the development of tourism, creating more jobs and improving quality of life for local residents. In order to develop community-based tourism into an efficient tourism product line that does not disrupt cultural identity, a long-term and functional strategy is needed.

Great potential for development
Community-based tourism is developed on the basis of the cultural values of communities, managed, exploited and benefited by the communities. Therefore, this type of tourism brings many benefits of sustainable economic development to the local areas. In addition, it also helps to protect the ecological environment, and preserve and promote unique cultural values.

Emphasising the importance of developing community-based tourism, Mr Tu Manh Luong, Director General of the Department of Science, Technology and Environment, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said: "Community-based tourism is an attractive and well-developed type that has resulted in many benefits for local communities and contributed to poverty reduction. With the advantages of this type of tourism and the advantages of Vietnamese culture and people, Vietnam is totally capable of developing community-based tourism into one of its major types of tourism, bringing great economic and social value."

Vietnam's four-thousand-year history of building and defending the country has created a long and glorious culture. In particular, on the beautiful S shaped land, there are 54 ethnic groups living in harmony. Each ethnic group has different customs and habits, which create diverse and rich cultural identities. This is a solid foundation for building and developing a system of rich and attractive community-based tourism products to attract more and more visitors to Vietnam.

Many localities have developed successful community-based tourism models, including Lao Cai, Son La, Hoa Binh and Ha Giang. This model not only promotes local cultural values which leads to practical results, but also contributes to improving quality of life among the people there.

Mr Pham Tien Dung, Vice Chairman of UNESCO Hanoi Travel Club, said: "The development of community-based tourism products is consistent with the trend of development and demand of tourists. The integration of cultural exploration and indigenous experience in tours makes tourism products more attractive and unique. At the same time, this form of tourism is likely to stimulate tourist spending, especially in traditional craft villages, handicrafts and souvenir shops."

According to the statistics of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, in September 2018, the number of international visitors to Vietnam is estimated at 1,212,597 arrivals, down 8.4 per cent from the previous month and up 24.2 per cent over the same period in 2017. In the first 9 months of 2018, the country achieved 11,616,490 arrivals, an increase of 22.9 per cent over the same period last year. International visitors to Vietnam have been attracted by the unique culture, the uncommon customs of our country's ethnic minorities, and have been very excited to participate in community tourism activities.

A good strategy is needed
Despite its high economic value, community-based tourism is still a relatively new form of tourism in Vietnam. The main focus is on exploiting cultural values, lifestyles, techniques of labour, and food owned by the community. Local residents play a very important role in implementation and development. Therefore, community-based tourism activities have been mainly spontaneous. Local people often lack skills, and are not aware of the importance of each stage in the tourism value chain, so selling products at inflated prices to visitors and unprofessional communication still happen.

On the other hand, through surveys in localities, the preservation and promotion of indigenous cultural values in terms of exploitation for tourism is still limited, many tourist products are commercialised in a large scale and lack of attractive features. Meanwhile, the environmental sanitation at many tourist destinations is not good enough to serve tourists.

Therefore, to promote the development of tourism, it is necessary to find unique characteristics, avoid duplication and ensure preservation of cultural identity, environmental landscape and security and order. To do that, Vietnam needs to develop concrete strategies, clear planning and direction, strengthening state management functions, providing detailed guidelines, and creating conditions for people to correctly and effectively implement this type of tourism.

According to Dr Doan Manh Cuong, Department of Training, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, in order to develop community-based tourism, Vietnam should have policies to encourage tourism enterprises and travel agencies to choose products made by local people. Communities must receive a share of benefits from tourism development. In each area, it is essential to develop a plan of selecting suitable tourist products to orient people to do tourism. Local authorities need to support, guide the way people to welcome, behave civilly with tourists and preserve traditional cultural values.

On the other hand, according to Mr Cuong, the training of local human resources should also be paid attention to. The training of human resources for the development of community-based tourism must be comprehensive with many contents, such as providing other services, ensuring security and safety for tourists, skills to introduce destinations, method of communication and behaviour with tourists that are polite and suitable, showing friendliness and hospitality.

It can be said that the development of community tourism is consistent with the trend and also a sustainable direction to promote the economy and improve the lives of people. To make community-based tourism one of the main types of tourism, Vietnam needs a long-term and functional strategy from human resources training, investment to managing mechanism and orientation of development.

Giang Tu