Adventurers come to us looking for authentic experiences in and amongst local communities and cultures. One of the best ways to achieve this is through community-based tourism and we've been working really hard to support many of these fledgling projects throughout the world.
What is community-based tourism? It's tourism in which local residents (often rural, poor and economically marginalized) invite travelers to visit their communities. The residents earn income as land managers, entrepreneurs, service and produce providers, etc. Part of the income is set aside for projects which provide benefits to the community as a whole.
Community-based tourism enables travelers to discover local habitats, wildlife, and celebrates and respects traditional cultures, rituals and wisdom. The community becomes aware of the commercial and social value placed on their natural and cultural heritage through tourism, and this will foster community-based conservation of these resources. These projects become a healthy way for communities to grow and prosper.
Trips to Vietnam offer plenty of options when it comes to this kind of responsible travel and some of the most well-known spots are in North Vietnam. For example, the town of Sapa offers multiple ways travelers can shop for handicrafts, trek to villages, and spend the night in an authentic hill tribe homestays. These activities all encourage travelers to interact directly with local Vietnamese people and benefit the community directly, economically, emotionally.
Nam Cang Riverside Lodge, a destination in itself in northern Vietnam, offers a wide range of activities where visitors can immerse themselves in the local life. The lodge was built and is owned by one of the oldest families of the Red Dao ethnic minority of Nam Cang Village. Guests are invited to join the villagers with rice planting, fishing and the production of bamboo paper. Most of the villagers are not used to meeting foreigners and, therefore, are happy to explain more about their daily life and maybe invite guests into their houses for some tea. It's a unique opportunity to gain insight and connect with northern Vietnamese people by contributing to and witnessing their daily lives.
Travel to Vietnam is becoming more and more popular and it's these community-based programs that will allow the country's tourism industry to grow in a sustainable way that benefits both locals and travelers.