Empowering communities through tourism in central Viet Nam

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shutterstock 77308795Destinations like Hoi An, Hue and My Son frequently appear on the bucket list of some of the world's most discerning tourists, but thanks to technical support from two specialized UN agencies, tourism is making a real and lasting impact in local people's lives.

In 2015, ILO and UNESCO worked together to help formalize the tourism value chain by helping to establish a number of community cooperatives. By providing services that meet local demands and building on existing local capacities in Hoi An, My Son and Hue, valuable jobs have been created and local people are already benefiting from improved livelihoods. This innovative approach is helping to drive sustainable economic development in communities and surrounding areas.

Nguyen Thi Nam, a sedge mat-weaving artisan who recently joined and became an active member of the Triem Tay Community Tourism Cooperative, has benefited greatly as a result of UNESCO support over the last year. She believed that there has been a radical change in her community, particularly in the way people get together to agree on the actions needed to improve the services they provide.

Too often in the past, local people have been unable to meet the high employment standards required by resorts and other tourism services. However, this initiative has made it possible for local communities to get together to maximize their collective community potential. Some have got involved in providing entertainment, interpretation services or private tour guiding, while others are using their motorbikes to offer transportation. As a result, jobs are created and local livelihoods benefit from higher standards of living. This is helping to drive sustainable economic development in the community and surrounding areas.

UN-HABITAT and several local NGOs have joined forces with ILO and UNESCO to leverage support to build partnerships with community business alliances. Both domestic and international academic institutions are now providing support in areas of development planning, handicrafts design and quality control.

Since taking part in the cooperative, Nam is now engaging with other members and is getting to know much more about her neighbours.

Following years of centralized planning, with the joint UN support, Viet Nam is making a shift towards a new paradigm of tourism development. From simply counting the number of resorts or tourists, local authorities are understanding the importance of introducing quality based indicators. This is helping national authorities focus their actions on creating jobs and enhancing opportunities to increase the standard of living, especially among vulnerable populations.

Speaking about her hope for the future, Nam is enthusiastic: "My sister-in-law and I are so glad that we can continue doing this traditional work. We earn additional income from providing these services to visitors. What is more important is that our children are proud of the family traditions and when they grew up, they can come back to live and work in our homeland and not necessarily migrate to the city looking for jobs".

Within this framework, the authorities, communities and the private sector have also been trained to use participatory methodologies. Local authorities provide follow-up and support obtaining funds from the private sector, especially through conducting forums to give voice to investors. As a result of the authorities being part of the process, policy adjustments for more balanced, strategic policies have been advocated for and supported.