Confidence shining through in tourism offerings from women

March 07, 2022 | 11:20
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Tourists who have had the opportunity to return to Vat and Ta So villages in Moc Chau have experienced newfound confidence and dynamism from the Thai and H’mong women. Compared to their previous quiet personalities, they seem to have become happier and more independent since beginning to carry out community tourism.
Confidence shining through in tourism offerings from women
Confidence shining through in tourism offerings from women

After the end of the peak time to welcome guests on the Lunar New Year, Vat villagers return to their normal daily life with jobs in their fields. But no matter how busy they are, the women in the village always spend a part of the day practising art together, making brocades, and exchanging experiences in serving guests.

Vat village in Muong Sang commune has become a famous community tourism destination in Son La province’s Moc Chau district in recent years. The village has 50 households working in tourism, of which 15 open to guests to stay in while the rest feature knitting groups, performing arts, tour guides and providing food for homestays.

Thanks to the smooth division of work, all households in Vat village are enjoying bigger incomes to help improve family life. Luong Thi Tuoi, 30 years old, is the owner of Moc Mien homestay and also the leader of the homestay group in Ban Vat. Previously a shy person, now Tuoi can confidently stand in front of a crowd to introduce her family’s services.

She is also the one who directly contacts and welcomes guests, advertises on online channels, and regularly attends training courses on tourism. Ha Van Thuy, Tuoi’s husband, who was the main financial breadwinner of the family, has now retires to do logistics work, supporting Tuoi with housework so that his wife has time to attend training courses.

“Many people ask me if I feel inferior when staying at home and supporting my wife. I replied no, I’m proud of her,” Thuy shared.

Trained to serve

Before convincing her husband to switch to community tourism, Tuoi’s family’s economy mainly grew speciality fruit trees of Moc Chau such as plums, apricots, and strawberries. In 2017, she and her husband discussed developing a homestay after seeing the potential for tourism development at Vat village.

“Seeing Ang villagers change their lives through tourism, I also dream of having a house on stilts to welcome guests. At that time, the way to do it was completely spontaneous and so efficiency was not high and the annual income was only around VND40 million ($1,700),” Tuoi said.

Her family’s life and those in the village began to change drastically after receiving the support of initiatives including the Australian-funded GREAT (Gender Responsive Equitable Agriculture and Tourism) project, funded by the Australian government. Now, Tuoi and family are further trained in leadership, presentation, and tourist service skills. From 2020, the total income from Moc Mien homestay and the sale of local products to tourists has brought her family an income of VND800-900 million ($34,000-39,000).

Dozens of other women in Vat village are also gradually making positive changes. From hanging around the kitchen and doing housework, they have gradually become true family heads. They have the ability to carry out business and their voices in the family are more respected.

In addition to working time, they also know how to take care of their spiritual life through cultural and artistic activities led by both a youth group and a group of elderly people.

Ha Thi Bin, 65 years old and a member of the art team at the Elderly People’s Association in the village, said her group has 16 members that range from 50 to 70 years old. In addition to performing for tourists visiting the village, her art team has also travelled to Hanoi, Ha Nam, and many other districts in Son La province.

“In most of the exchange programmes, everyone has to contribute their own travel expenses, but everyone follows and responds, and many husbands encourage their wives to participate in order to be happier and healthier,” Bin said.

Ta So village in Chieng Hac commune, the residence of the H’mong ethnic group, is also a new community-based tourism destination being promoted by Moc Chau district.

According to the head of Ta So 2, Mua A Lu, both Ta So 1 and 2 villages currently have 330 households, of which six are homestays. Even though they are just beginners in the field with less than a year of experience, the women in the village have changed a lot, Lu insisted.

Confidence shining through in tourism offerings from women

Building confidence

Sung Y Hoa in Ta So 2 village is one of the first three H’mong women owning a homestay in Ta So 2 village. Hoa and her husband currently own Hoa Phong homestay located on the top of a hill right next to the road leading to the village, surrounded by a blooming plum and peach blossom garden.

Hoa said the homestay is named after the climate and landscape in the area, meaning the house of wind and flowers. The house is made entirely of wood, roofed with leaves according to the traditional house architecture of the H’mong people, and together she and her husband completed nearly all of the house themselves in order to give the homestay its present-day configuration.

After only a few months of being open for business, Hoa Phong homestay has served several guests. Although the ongoing pandemic means fewer tourists are heading to Moc Chau, she still persuaded her husband to build an extra house to serve groups of up to 14 people.

She said, “During the tourist season when plum blossoms and peach blossoms begin to bloom, the demand for bookings is very high, but we cannot accommodate them all. If it is favourable, just welcoming a few groups of guests a month, the income can be up to VND10 million ($430), nine times higher than farming work.”

She and her husband have borrowed money to build more houses and plan to install more fireplaces and bathtubs, as well as prepare some other services to serve longer-staying tourists. She shared that many H’mong women in Ta So village have begun to pay more attention to the community-based tourism model.

“In the future, my husband and I will try to expand the model so that the girls and boys in the village can approach and develop this model like my family has,” said Sung Y Hoa.

The Thai ethnic women in Vat village and the H’mong ethnic group in Chieng Hac village are just one of many groups of women benefiting from the GREAT project in Moc Chau district.

With the orientation from locals as well as the advice and support of the project through training courses, they are confident in promoting their strengths and being more proactive in expressing their roles and positions.

The head of Moc Chau district’s culture and information office, Dinh Thi Huong, said that many women are also more proactive and agile than men in accessing new skills. For example, H’mong women in Ta So village are not only good at doing business but also love learning English and are even better at it than men.

“In the past, women in these villages were not very confident at all – but with the skills they have equipped in recent times, their confidence levels at work have been raised substantially,” Huong said.

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