Community-based Tourism Development/Training in Northern Viet Nam

Community-based Tourism Development/Training in Northern Viet Nam

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We wish to empower vulnerable communities through sustainable and responsible tourism development. We believe responsible tourism can be a tool for change that:

• Empowers people with little formal education to improve their quality of life by creating employment opportunities with minimal capital investment

• Develops communities through engaging a broad range of stakeholders, building relationships, increasing confidence and community pride

• Conserves culture through valuing distinct languages, traditional practices and other elements of culture

• Leads to economic diversification and poverty reduction at the community level

• Has instrinsic educational value for tourists and locals through cross-cultural exchanges

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Located on the east coast of South-east Asia, Viet Nam is a country rich with culture and tradition, diverse in geography and history. Often associated with war and foreign occupation, the people of Viet Nam are kind, generous, and welcoming. Since the 1990′s Viet Nam’s tourism has increased exponentially. The challenge now is to manage this still relatively new sector in order to mitigate any harmful effects. The future of the country’s tourism industry is bright. Viet Nam’s youth are now appearing to take hold of this viable sector and have the potential to transform it into an industry that is equitable, sustainable, environmentally and culturally sensitive. Our training is located in the village of Ta Phin, located in the Sa Pa district of Lao Cai province in Northern Vietnam. The town of Ta Phin is comprised of small Black H’mong and Red Dao communes surrounding the village centre. The Black H'mong and Red Dao people are two of the ethnic minority groups in the region. They have inhabited the area for four hundred years, and are responsible for the sculpted terrace landscapes and the irrigation routes for water. Each group speaks distinct languages (from each other and from Vietnamese), and has unique cultural attributes including religion, handicrafts, medicines, dress, architecture, music and so on. Ta Phin survives on subsistence agriculture (primarily rice and corn); however, the village is becoming an increasingly popular spot for tourists on day trips from Sa Pa town. Since we started working in the village, a number of homestays have opened and, with our assistance, the women who own and operate these homestays are working together to collectively market their products and other tourism services in the village to the tour operators who bring tourists to the region. When we work in the village, we stay in the homestays and interact on a day-to-day basis with the residents of the village to ensure that their needs are being met in a culturally sensitive and appropriate fashion that meeds the needs of the residents.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Engagement of all stakeholders at the community level makes this project innovative. This project builds on the community's capacity to manage and implement change themselves. The project’s foundation relies on participation of all community stakeholder groups, from street merchants to local government. Traditionally, models of economic development using tourism have been created around foreign planning models with minimal local input. Projects are frequently based on developing infrastructure with little accompanying training. Our project builds on the internal initiative of the local community to develop their own goals for tourism. The training we deliver provides the specific tools the community needs to reach those goals. This more sustainable approach is self-sustaining after project completion. Furthermore, when the community drives the goals to reflect community values, substantive change in the quality of life for community members can occur while maintaining cultural integrity. Our project also integrates post-secondary students in developing and delivering the program. Student involvement leads to life-changing experiences, giving them the opportunity to apply theoretical learning to real-world situations, to engage in cross-cultural communications leading to increased cultural sensitivity and understanding, to experience unique tourism products and reflect on the importance of sustainable and responsible tourism in maintaining a community's human and natural environments in order to maintain the integrity of the tourism product.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We deliver workshop-based and one-on-one training to culturally unique ethnic minorities in the Sa Pa region of Viet Nam including: • Tourism product development (e.g., how to start a homestay including things like obtaining a license) • Entrepreneurship • Mentorship skills training, and facilitation for ongoing training to continue in the communities in our absence and after project completion In addtion to skills-based training, we also facilitate a diverse group of stakeholders who are engaging in a community tourism planning process for long-term community development. Our intention is to leave the community with the skills and knowledge they need to continue to independently manage tourism for the long-term through maximizing the benefits and minimizing negative impacts. Our project also emphasizes replication of this training in order that it can be provided in other communities as well. We are in the process of writing our second manual on community-based tourism planning. Through this and earlier projects, a rich and meaningful collection of lesson plans and case studies is being compiled. We are working on transferring the lessons learned to other villages - this is currently happening as we have recently started training in Lao Chai, another village in the Sa Pa region of Viet Nam.
About You
Capilano University CBT Viet Nam
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Capilano University CBT Viet Nam

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Project Director:
Dr. Chris Bottrill

Dr. Chris Bottrill is the Dean of Tourism and Outdoor Recreation at Capilano University. Chris has over 20 years of experience in over 40 tourism management and development projects worldwide. Chris also works with Sustainable Cities International for building sustainable tourism and climate change networks in Dar es Salaam, Dakar, and Durban, Africa and has recently facilitated stakeholder engagement processes for a major waterfront development in Dar es Salaam.

Project Founder:
Geoffrey Bird

Geoffrey was the convenor for the Bachelor of Tourism Management degree at Capilano University for six years. In this time, he founded the Community Based Tourism Training Project in Viet Nam. The project structure at this time was a five-year Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funded initiative. The current phase of the project is PATA Foundation funded and builds on the work established by Geoffrey Bird. Prior to the establishment of this project, Geoffrey lived in Kuala Lumpur and served as President of the Malaysia Canada Business Council.


There have been countless faculty and student volunteers from Capilano University and Hanoi Open University who are significant contributors to founding the work we have done in communities all over the world.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

The success of the project is measured qualitatively on an ongoing basis through the successful development of revenue generation due to tourism in the community along with a visible increase in community pride.

As a result of the training we have delivered, a higher value has been put on schooling and language development (English and Vietnamese) within the community for youth and women. Eight years ago, when we started working in the villages, many of the women we were working with had never attended any kind of school and some had never held a pen. Recently, we watched while they worked together to make signs for their small businesses - by themselves and in English!

The current focus of our project is on product development and entrepreneurship (both of which are transferable to other industries), and on community tourism planning. So far the project has witnessed tangible outcomes such as the creation of homestays, the opening of small businesses, and the certification of tour guides. In addition to this, the village has established a Community-Based Tourism (CBT) Management Board responsible for long-term tourism planning and a Homestay Owners Group which is working together to maintain standards and authenticity among the homestays in the community and to collectively market the tourism products in the community to tour operators. We also measure tourism revenues, visitor numbers, and visitor/host satisfaction through ongoing anecdotal reports.

Success is also measured by the local and regional authorities. As one of our key stakeholder groups, we maintain communications with these government bodies to ensure that our project continues to deliver tangible outcomes that are positive in the communities.

How many people have been impacted by your project?


How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

101- 1,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Our project will focus on the replication of this projects in other villages, for the short-term in Viet Nam and also around the world in other destinations. The following steps have been identified:

1) Maintain momentum in Ta Phin towards building on the successes of the CBT Management Board and the Homestay Owners' Group, and fostering mentoring relationships between community members.

2) Continue collaborating with all stakeholders including local and regional governments to ensure future successes.

3) We have begun the initial stages of a similar process in the community of Lao Chai, which we will continue.

4) We will collate all our learning materials into a single book to guide future projects so other participants can take advantage of our experiences.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

When working within the tourism industry, as with any industry, there are external factors (e.g., Avian Flu, global economics, competition, etc.) that can adversely affect the success of our project through their impacts on the tourism industry as a whole. While we support tourism development in these communities, through our community-based tourism planning we encourage a diverse economy of which tourism is one aspect. The entrepreneurial training encourages economic diversity which is already visible in the community today.

The subsistence lifestyle and poverty in the communities we work in are also barriers. Agriculture takes precedence over tourism training, so our workshops are designed to be flexible so participants can work in the fields as necessary while still benefitting from training happening in the village. The entire structure of the project is community-based to accommodate these difficulties.

The level of education of the people within these communities provides another challenge when addressing advanced topics such financial planning or marketing. We work with this in a number of ways. One is through ongoing English and Vietnamese language learning (primary language spoken is Red Dao or Hmong languages). Another is ensuring that we teach concepts using examples that are appropriate in terms of their cultural relevance and their complexity. An example of this would be coming up with novel ways to successfully plan, budget for and implement something for your business when you can not read or write.

Funding is another barrier that could hinder success. To date, many of the costs of the project are provided in-kind by faculty and students at Capilano University and Hanoi Open University. Faculty at Capilano U are encourage to fulfill their professional development requirements through volunteering on these projects, while general project costs and student involvement is funded by external agencies. Building strong relationships with these agencies is a key to our success, and one to do this is to demonstrate that our projects are successful and a positive use of their funds.

Tell us about your partnerships

<a href="" target="_blank"><strong>PATA Foundation</strong></a>:
The PATA Foundation is a charitable foundation created by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). This is a membership association acting as a catalyst for the responsible development of the Asia Pacific travel and tourism industry. Their focus is to enhance the sustainable growth, value and quality of travel and tourism to, from and within the region.

<strong><a href="" target="_blank">Capilano University</a></strong> and <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Hanoi Open University</strong></a>:
Capilano University has partnered with PATA Foundation in an effort to deliver tourism training in the Sa Pa region of Northern Viet Nam. Capilano University faculty, students and alumni volunteer with Hanoi Open University faculty and students in a program that builds and strengthens the capacity of the local ethnic minorities, small business owners, village government, and communities as a whole.

Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA):
CIDA was involved in the initial phase of the project. It is Canada's lead agency for development assistance. The organization’s aim is to engage in policy development both in Canada and internationally in order to realize its development objectives.

Explain your selections

While our budget for the past year of project operations is approximately $40,000, funded from <strong><a href="" target="_blank">Capilano University</a></strong> and the <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>PATA Foundation</strong></a>, the larger budget estimation of over $50,000 reflects the need of increased project management as we expand to additional communities and provide monitoring and maintenance in the villages we are currently operating in.

Significant in-kind contributions are made by faculty members and students from both Capilano University and Hanoi Open University.

In addition, we have the support of the local and regional governments in the villages we are working in. This support includes the their staff assistance in both delivering and participating in the training. Without this support, these projects would not be so successful.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

Speaking specifically about the community of Ta Phin, we intend to continue to monitor the development of tourism in the community, mentor leaders in the village to continue the community-based tourism planning process, support business owners in their role as mentor to other young entrepreneurs, and support the CBT Management Board and Homestay Owners Group in ways they identify in order to assist the community to become self-sufficient in its ability to manage tourism.

We will use the lessons and experiences from Ta Phin to replicate the training program in other communities that express an interest in developing tourism and demonstrate a significant need for tourism consultation. We intend to collate our materials into a permanent form (such as a manual or book) so we can continue to deliver and fine-tune our established method. We also intend to involve more faculty and more students in the project, and the creation of a permanent document will assist in ensuring continuity.

By working in one region, we also intend to increase interconnectivity between the villages we work in that are in close proximity, strengthening their tourist products through partnering opportunities and the creation of multiday tours.

As we expand into more rural areas, our project will continue to engage in community-based tourism planning processes to manage the impacts of unmanaged tourism growth. Our model can be applied to any community with the need for long-term tourism planning and development consultation.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Lack of skills/training




Restricted access to new markets

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

We are delivering tourism training to community members. The training is specific to the particular needs of the individual and the community. Training begins with basic skills necessary for tourism(e.g., food safety, sanitation and maintenance) and expands to include topics such as product development and entrepreneurial skills.

Training builds villagers’ capacity for self-employment. In some cases, tourism is the only method of earning income in addition to subsistence agriculture activities.

As villagers build more skills in areas such as collective marketing and public relations, the community is gaining access to domestic and international tourism markets. Tour operators now initiate links to the community’s tourism product, leading to sustainable tourism in the community.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.


Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services



Grown geographic reach: Multi-country

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

We wish to build the breadth of our program to continue meeting the needs of the villages we work in. Basic skills training (e.g. food safety) leads to more advanced training in product development and entrepreneurship, and community-based tourism planning. We have been working with villagers in Ta Phin for almost 10 years and continue to develop programming through adding appropriate modules as knowledge and skills of residents increases.

Our partnership with Hanoi Open University allows for expansion in Viet Nam. We recently began delivering programming in another village of Lao Chai.

We intend to take the collective knowledge from current and past community-based tourism projects to other countries in the Asia-Pacific region as funding permits.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Our most significant collaboration has been with Hanoi Open University, whose faculty and students have helped propel the project forward.

Our project also works with local and regional governments, collaborates with other NGOs working in the area, and has had funding support from CIDA and the PATA Foundation. In addition, private tourism companies have contributed to this project such as Footprint Travel who helped the community of Ta Phin build a tourism website.

The partnerships and dialogue that has been created through these collaborations has been an invaluable resource for the project. This wide reaching stakeholder engagement is critical for tourism development that is truly community-based. The unique collection of voices contributes to the ability to be innovative.