HOME-STAY services are becoming popular across Vietnam, with many people turning their houses into tourist dwellings to welcome foreign visitors.
Tran Thanh Hung, 45, of the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap, has spent 800 million dong (Bt1.24 million) to upgrade and expand his house. Located in Sa Dec flower village, his home is likely to be attractive to foreign tourists looking for a home-stay experience, living alongside local people or biking around the flower village.
After the upgrade, his house can accommodate more than 30 tourists.
Local authorities have encouraged the development of this kind of tourism, and in fact gave him the chance to hire tourism consultancy companies.
This model has also been adopted in many northern provinces including Hoa Binh, Son La, Lai Chau, Yen Bai, Lao Cai and Thai Nguyen.
Bui Viet Thuy Tien, director of Asian Trails Company, told the Saigon Times newspaper that the home-stay model gave tourists a chance to live intimately with local people.
In the past tourists could not stay in these areas because of the poor living conditions, but not any more, he said.
Authorities in Quang Nam, Lam Dong, Vinh Long, An Giang, Dong Thap, and Soc Trang are calling on companies with experience in developing home-stay services to train and assist local people.
In the central province of Quang Nam, a home-stay service is set to begin in Cam Thanh district.
In Da Lat city, while authorities are seeking to develop the service, it has already been adopted by locals and tour companies.
During the recent Lunar New Year it proved very popular even though prices had jumped by 20 per cent.
More facilities needed
Tour operators say there is massive potential for home-stay services to develop because more and more tourists are seeking the experience.
But the facilities need to be improved and more packages to experience local life must be developed.
Duong Minh Binh, chairman of CBT Travel, said home-stay services developed thanks to support from local governments and international organisations.
They proved successful thanks to the attractive local culture and landscapes, he said. But hosts should upgrade their houses to offer more facilities and a greater variety of food, ensure food hygiene and design more tours for tourists to experience local life more intimately.
“It is important to maintain service quality,” he warned. Other operators said it was necessary to preserve local cultural features.
Families that provide the home-stay services need to go on with their normal daily life, but have to be trained in serving visitors, according to the operators.
It is the locals’ daily life that is attractive to visitors.
The hosts also need to organise trips to nearby places of interest.
For instance, home-stay hosts in the northern province of Hoa Binh organise trips around villages and on rivers by raft. Though authorities provide support, the hosts have difficulty in finding customers. Since they lack knowledge about the market, they need middlemen, usually tour operators, or tourism websites to get customers and have to pay them 30 per cent of the price.
Binh said that while most hosts had difficulty finding customers and had to depend on travel companies, customers would start coming after a while if they did it well.
“Many people in the north are now managing to get customers without depending on intermediaries,” he said. “The lives of many have improved as a result.”