Hum hamlet is located near Son La city. It has 125 households of Thai ethnic minority people. In 2012 Hum hamlet was selected to pilot community-based tourism. Since then the villagers have learned how to develop tourism services and promote their traditional values to increase their incomes. Tourism is helping them escape poverty and build new rural areas. As farmers becoming more involved in tourism services, the villagers are facing new concerns. Lu Thi Chien, a member of Hum hamlet’s Women’s Union, says: “At first, we very worried because we knew that tourism would be more difficult than farm work. We were trained in communication skills to help us introduce our typical cultural features. We are now confident about tourism.”
The Thai ethnic group has many typical cultural features embodied in their food, customs, beliefs, festivals, and folk games. Hum hamlet has promoted these features by organizing 3 art troupes to perform for tourists. The girls, spattered with mud from the field during the day, become as beautiful as Ban flowers when they perform Xoe dancing at nightfall. Visitors to Hum hamlet can experience the local people’s daily activities such as working in the terraced fields, catching fish in the stream, weaving, and cooking. Quang Van Kho, Deputy Head of Hum hamlet’s tourist board, said: “Hum hamlet offers tourists various tasty dishes. We have grilled sticky rice in bamboo sticks, crisp seasoned fish, buffalo skin soup, and roasted chicken. These are traditional Thai dishes.”
The provincial Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism regularly organizes training courses to promote local culture and cuisine and share good practices in tourism development. Hamlet chief Quang Van Phong says people’s awareness has changed a lot since they began developing tourism. They keep the environment cleaner and more beautiful. Understanding that community-based tourism will increase their incomes, improve their material and spiritual lives, and develop new rural areas, local residents have actively promoted their traditions and practiced weaving techniques, singing, and dancing. They have worked together to restore the ancient Thai communal house on stilts where they keep typical items of their ethnic group such as costumes, looms, musical instruments, and farm tools. Many households have renovated their houses to accommodate tourists. Mr. Phong said: “Tourism brings both material and spiritual benefits which have heartened local people. The hamlet’s tourism board has decided that our children will have to learn more about brocade weaving, Thai songs and dances, folk games, and festivals to serve tourists.
Since 2012, Hum hamlet has welcomed more than 20 tour groups from South Korea, Japan, Australia, and Poland. Although income from tourism is not high, developing community-based tourism is a promising way for Hum and other hamlets in the northwestern region to raise their living standard.