Although there remain limitations and difficulties, the new strategy on strengthening the tourism sector, especially building community-based one, has contributed to sustainably enhancing the living standards of ethnic minority people and preserving and promoting local cultural features. 

Tourism – A source of livelihood for locals

The Western region of Nghe An province, accounting for 83% of the total area of the Central province, has 11 districts, is home to different minority groups, including the Thai, H’mong, Kho Mu, and O Du, among others. Ky Son, Que Phong, Tuong Duong, Quy Chau, Con Cuong are districts having a high proportion of ethnic minority population. These localities hold numerous potentials for developing tourism including natural resources, unique culture, and a particularly important strategic position in terms of economy, politics, defense, security and foreign affairs. 

Local people in Hoa Tien village, Chau Tien commune prepare for welcoming tourists to her homestay.

The fact shows that in spite of being cared by the Party, State, and local authorities through a number of preferential policies, people in the area, especially those from ethnic minorities, are facing difficulties, while the culture is at risk of falling into oblivion. Among the reasons are harsh weather conditions and limited working capacity of a large part of the population. Historically, people in the area mainly depended on agricultural production. However, harsh weather conditions and limited working capacity strongly affected economic efficiency.

In recent years, the authorities of Western mountainous districts of Nghe An have focused on supporting locals to build agricultural models in the direction of commodity production, especially bring into play the advantages of nature and cultural identity of ethnic minorities to develop tourism and attract tourists to the land.

Thanks to the efforts, models in Mon Son commune (Con Cuong district), Muong Long commune (Ky Son district), and Chau Tien commune (Quy Chau district) have obtained initial achievements, attracting both domestic and foreign tourists. Along with nature-exploring models, community-based tourism associated with experiencing ethnic minorities’ culture has been paid special attention to. The development of tourism in mountainous localities has been a source of livelihood of indigenous people. The effective operation of local service and accommodation establishments have helped create jobs for many local workers and at the same time consume a large volume of agricultural products of local people.

Chairman of Muong Long commune People's Committee Va Cha Xa said that the commune has very favorable conditions for developing homestay model. Thanks to that, in recent years, Muong Long has welcomed a large number of tourists from different localities. The more tourists come, the more job opportunities are created.

Apart from that, tourists are also main consumers of locals’ agricultural products. He recalled that during the last national reunification holidays (April 30), some families in the commune earned up to VND 20 million through selling their vegetables and fruits. 

Driving force for cultural preservation

Apart from beautiful landscapes, Muong Long commune is known for the H’mong’s rich culture. Over the past time, local authorities have found it difficult to maintain and preserve cultural features. However, since the mountainous commune shifted to developing tourism, it has witnessed positive changes. Apart from sightseeing, tourists to the area are interested in learning about the culture of the H’mong ethnic people. Tourists’ aspiration to explore local culture has inspired locals to restore handicrafts, dances, and instruments to serve them.

In recent years, Quy Chau district has focused on promoting community-based tourism development, in which Chau Tien commune is a typical example when effectively exploiting the values of local cultural identity. Particularly, many households have made full use of stilt houses of the ancient Thai people by building homestay models. Mrs. Lo Thi Nga's family in Hoa Tien village, Chau Tien commune is one of the 10 first households doing community-based tourism in the village. Homestay Tu Tam of Mrs. Nga's family has so far been a familiar destination for tourists.

While hosting tourists, Mrs. Nga introduces them to the family's brocade weaving, traditional Thai dish cooking methods, handicrafts, and dances to help them understand more about local cuisine, culture, and people. “What makes us happy is tourists’ interest in cultural features of the Thai ethnic group,” she said.

In spite of reaping initial outcomes, tourism development in the mountainous localities in the Western region of Nghe An province is still facing numerous difficulties and limitations due to the lack of proper investment in community-based models, poor connection between local authorities and tourism and other sectors, poor tourism products and infrastructure, and lack of high-quality human resources.

To further develop the region’s tourism sector, it is said that local authorities should build detailed plans, foster dissemination and tourism promotion, attract investment in tourism with priority given to community-based tourism, and build high-quality “on-the-spot” human resources, thus bringing about “double benefits” of creating livelihoods and preserving cultural features of ethnic groups.

Source: Baobienphong

Translated by Tran Hoai