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Village attractions shortchanged by tourism

After receiving only VND20,000 from a tourism company for her evening’s traditional dance performance, ethnic Co Tu woman Bruu Thi Nep said it was not good enough.

Co Tu ethnic people in Bho Hoong Village are looking forward to the day they can fully benefit from tourism. — Photo courtesy International Labour Organisation

“The payment for our shows does nothing to help our villagers make ends meet,” said Nep, 25, from Dong Giang District in the central province of Quang Nam.

Her village, Bho Hoong, some 100km from the Hoi An beach and close to the historic Ho Chi Minh Trail, is typical of many throughout the country who are missing out on the cash from a burgeoning tourism industry.

Her village gets about 2,000 day visitors a year, attracted by the culture of the Co Tu ethnic minority group. But the locals get little benefit – any money the tourists bring goes into the pockets of the travel companies.

Quang Nam Province borders the central tourism hub of Da Nang, which has attracted significant investment because of its sandy beaches, coral reefs and world cultural heritage sites: My Son Archaeological Site and Hoi An Old Town. However, all the money was being spent on the coastal fringes and tourism in the interior is largely limited to day trippers.

Some 24 per cent of households in the province are still living under or close to the poverty line of $21 per capita per month.

In fact, Quang Nam was a vivid example of the unequal situation in tourism across Viet Nam in both quality and quantity of jobs, said International Labour Organisation country director Gyorgy Sziraczki.

He told a conference on poverty reduction through tourism, held by the ILO in Quang Nam yesterday, that much of the tourism development was limited to a few key areas while those in the rural interior had benefited little.

Globally, tourism development was strongly connected with employment, he said, since it was one of the world’s top job creators (230 million jobs, equivalent to 8 per cent of the overall number of jobs).

“Importantly, the sector requires varying degrees of skill and allows for quick entry into the workforce by youth, women and migrant workers,” Sziraczki said.

In Viet Nam, the $5 billion tourism sector employed about 434,000 people directly and 955,000 indirectly in 2010, up by two thirds against 2007. The industry was dominated by young and particularly female workers, who made up 58 per cent of the total workforce.

The contribution of tourism to job creation was expected to continue increasing as the country was ranked sixth in the world for tourism and travel growth.

The industry has targeted 10 million international visitors a year to generate an annual revenue of $18-19 billion by 2020. It expected to directly employ 940,000 workers by the end of the decade, more than double the 2010 number.

The growth in tourism and jobs had not been equal across the country, said Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism training department deputy director Nguyen Van Luu. Some 34 per cent of the tourism workforce was concentrated in HCM City and surroundings and 33 per cent in Ha Noi and adjacent areas.

To benefit the poor, an ILO project in Quang Nam Province was expected to bring hospitality and tourism development opportunities to rural and mountainous areas.

The US$1.35 million project, funded by the Luxembourg Government, is helping local people better their lives from tourism by developing home-stay services and promoting their traditional weaving and other products, with “Made in Quang Nam” branding and “Products with a story”.

With ILO support, the provincial government has set a goal of increasing the business start-ups related to tourism in the interior by 10 per cent and raising the average income of the locals by one fifth by the end of next year, said provincial People’s Committee deputy chairman Tran Minh Ca said.

And while all this is going on, young minority dancer Nep has volunteered to take a lead in the “fight” for equality in tourism.

With her university degree – a rare achievement in the 67-household village – and being the daughter of a war hero, who is also head of the village, Nep is expected to persuade and guide other young villagers to use tourism as a vehicle to get out of poverty.

And with support from the ILO, they will be trained in how to negotiate with travel companies and fight for their benefits. Nep is hoping for brighter days to come to her homeland and a bigger share of the tourism cake.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

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