At just 21, Sanh has a lot of responsibility. He manages his parents’ homestay in Hoa Binh, Vietnam, as part of our Community-based Tourism project. Sanh is responsible for greeting guests, taking bookings and payments, and cooking delicious meals. This frees up Sanh’s parents to farm rice and bamboo, increasing their household income.
Both Vietnamese and international guests come to experience the stunning landscape and culture of Sanh’s home. On their tour, guests stay in traditional homes managed by locals like Sanh. Most are Muong – a local ethnic minority. Tourism allows the Muong to increase their income while also sharing their language and culture with others. Guests also have the opportunity to see Action on Poverty projects first-hand.
Three years ago, Sanh left Hoa Binh to look for work in Hanoi, a three-hour drive away. Hoa Binh offers few opportunities for young people, and after finishing secondary school, most leave to study or work in the city.
At first, Sanh worked in a restaurant, but eventually left Hanoi to work as a wage labourer on rubber plantations. While the labour was difficult, Sanh says the instability was the worst part.
“The wages were low, and I was always moving around from job to job,” he said. “It was hard.”
When his parents decided to open a homestay, Sanh decided to return home to help out. At first, he wasn’t sure if the project would succeed.
“I didn’t think the area was well-known enough for tourism, and no one in my family had any experience with greeting guests or hospitality.”
However, the rugged, isolated terrain proved to be a drawcard for tourists. And with some training and practice, Sanh’s skills and confidence as a host soared. A quick learner, Sanh was soon looking for new ways to improve his homestay.
He noticed the fish at market were expensive and scarce. To prepare the best meals for his guests, he decided to invest in his own fish cage on the nearby lake. Sanh’s fish cage provides plentiful meals for his guests, and additional fish can be sold to tourists.
However, combined with his duties at the homestay, the work is hard. Sanh sleeps at the lake several times a week, rising at 4am to tend and feed the fish, before returning home by 6am to begin cooking breakfast for his guests.
When asked if he found his workload too heavy, Sanh simply chuckled and said that on days he has no guests, he finds himself bored.
“I’m just glad to be home,” he said. “Before, I didn’t have any stability in my life. But now with the homestay, I hope that my family and I can have stable futures.”