Sapa O’Chau – The first ethnic minority people-owned travel business in Viet Nam

O’Chau means Thank You in the H’Mong language. Sapa O’Chau is an unique homestay tourist address in Lao Chai (Sa Pa), always attracting to international tourists.

At first, Sapa O’Chau was founded by Shu Tan – a H’Mong’s person who grew up in a poor village. Like many other H’Mong in Sa Pa, she sold souvenir for tourists on the streets. She was able to read by the age of 16 years old. With her strong personality and creativity youth, Shu determined to set up a tourism business owned by herself.

In 2007, with the help of several Australian tourists, Shu Tan established Sapa O’Chau unofficially, aiming to help visitors contact directly with the local tour guide. They worked together to fund and open the first H’mong owned homestay in Sapa. In 2010, The Sapa O’Chau Centre was founded. Since the beginning of the centre, they provided considerable efforts to increase awareness of travelers to the existence of the association. With the help of a Norwegian anthropology student she organized informal English night classes for a small group of enthusiastic youths.

So far, Sapa O’Chau has become an official travel business licensed by authorities. The business provided jobs for 18 ethnic minorities guides with deserve salary.

Revenue from organizing tours of Sapa O’Chau is currently used to support 35 minority children in learning English, vocational training, renting hostel for children to go to school in the town (villages often too far from school), as well as offering scholarships for older students so that they can continue to learn about the hotel profession.

The achievements of Sapa O’Chau will be a great example to prove the effective impact of tourism on poor communities.

Thu Thuy