Capilano University team at the “village to village” conference, Spring 2016. Photo submitted.


“When you are able to see, in person, how tourism is occurring as we did in Lao Chai [village], you are better able to grasp what cultural, social and political factors are actually shaping that tourism.” — Sarah Constable, CBT Vietnam Student Volunteer and Tourism Management Student

CBT Vietnam is a community based tourism training and capacity initiative that works with ethnic minority villages in the Sa Pa region of northern Vietnam. Since 2002, Capilano University has partnered with Hanoi Open University on projects in various villages so that the benefits of increased tourist visitation are distributed widely in the region. The primary objective is to develop sustainable tourism and help retain the unique culture of the minority peoples of Sa Pa. The project is funded by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Foundation and has been recognized with tourism-related awards by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Wild Asia.

Presently, the tourism businesses that have been created in the villages are homestays—where tourists have the opportunity to stay in the home of a local family—and handicraft workshops, where tourists learn about and create batik art. Other tourism related activities includes traditional craftsmanship, selling of brocade and trekking. Sa Pa is a lush, green mountainous area famous for its terraced landscapes and colourful cultures.

The 2016 Capilano University team focused on implementing two projects in Vietnam during April and May. The first team of two student volunteers assisted in executing a “village to village” conference. The successful “village to village” meeting brought together community leaders and representatives from four villages including three local hill tribes, homestay owners, restaurant owners, tour guides and village elders. The CBT Vietnam team facilitated positive discussions around the climate of tourism as well as successes, challenges, solutions and how to better work together as a village network.

The other major initiative is a FAM (familiarization) Trip, which is when tour operators from Hanoi and Sa Pa are invited to experience the activities of the village. A FAM trip is a powerful marketing and networking opportunity for the local business owners. A second FAM in the village of Lao Chai aimed at solidifying connections between village business owners and inbound tour operators. A second and final team of Capilano University students is implementing activities started by the first trip’s volunteers and will work with Lao Chai homestay owners to host a successful FAM trip.

CBT Vietnam is truly a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity for Capilano University students. For over a decade, the project has empowered students to jump into the action, work with community and tourism stakeholders and drive project outcomes. CBT Vietnam is now in its final year of funding, as it has achieved all strategic goals.

Cap students interested in sustainable tourism and community development should follow the Faculty of Global and Community Studies to stay up to date on future opportunities—such as the evolving project in Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk near the edge of the Arctic Ocean!

Submitted by Natalia Pisarek, CBT Vietnam Student Volunteer

*   *   *

Related Links: