Acting as coordinator of a project on diversifying livelihoods via heritage tourism in remote villages implemented by JICA in Nghe An province, Dr. Ando Katsuhiro has helped the Thai ethnic people in Nua hamlet escape from poverty thanks to a sustainable livelihood.
Dr. Ando Katsuhiro during a trip to survey the tourism potential on the Giang river in Con Cuong district, Nghe An province.
Con Cuong is a district of great tourism potential in Nghe An province. However, the district is not living up to its potential. Thanks to the support from Ando Katsuhiro, tourism activities in Con Cuong district and Nua hamlet in recent years have been put into good order and become more attractive to both domestic and overseas visitors.
We visited Nua hamlet, where the Japanese doctor considers the link to ecological tourism destinations in Con Cuong district. Ando Katsuhiro guided us and some Japanese tourists to experience tourism destinations, like Pha hamlet, the Giang river, Pu Mat National Park, Kem falls, Moc stream and Nua hamlet. The doctor set up this tour which is described on the travel map when visitors come to Con Cuong district.
Dr. Ando Katsuhiro helps locals create tourism products.
Dr. Ando Katsuhiro came to Con Cuong district in 2014 to start this project. This place had strength for tourism development, offering a lot of scenic spots, but it was far away from the centre of Vinh and the road was bad. Local residents also joined the project but without any standards or procedures. For this reason, tourism promotion was still a big question for not only Con Cuong district but also for Ando Katsuhiro during the early days.
Local unique cultural features are introduced through community tourism activities.
However, the Japanese doctor wouldn’t give up. After time, Ando Katsuhiro spent much time exploring, studying and understanding the local travel conditions as well as collecting opinions from the residents to learn if they were interested in community-based travel services. The results surprised him.
“Despite the living standards of the residents being low I was surprised by their sense of a community-based travel model. They suggested a lot of ideas of how to attract visitors,” Ando Katsuhiro said about the days he was carrying out the project in Nua hamlet.
To help residents further understand a community-based travel model, Ando Katsuhiro organised fact-finding missions for some of them to visit and learn in Mai Chau (Hoa Binh). Then, he invited travel experts to discuss and guide the residents to promote home-stay services as well as fully tap typical features of the local traditional foods and culture. Ando Katsuhiro also invited a Japanese architect to design bathrooms so that visitors will be more comfortable.
To promote community tourism in Nua hamlet, Dr. Ando Katsuhiro invites Japanese tourists to experience local home-stay services and then give out their evaluation.
We see that the infrastructure of home-stay households in Nua hamlet are re-designed. The stilt houses have been kept unchanged. The walls of restrooms are built of gravel with rocks collected from the stream. The roof is made of bamboo and rattan.
“Ando helps us a lot in promoting community-based travel services. Residents there consider Ando a member of their families,” said Lo Thi Hoa - a home-stay owner in Nua hamlet.
After more than one year receiving the support from Ando Katsuhiro, locals in Nua hamlet started the community based travel model to welcome visitors in January, 2016.
Dr. Ando Katsuhiro received an Achievement Prize for his effort to protect Hoi An World Heritage (2005); a Campaign Medal “For the Career of Culture, Sports and Tourism” granted by the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; a Prize for Architect/Designer/Consultant, a Certificate of Merit “Preserving Old Works at Duong Lam Old Village”; the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation (2013); the Honourable Member Award for those who have made great contributions to the preservation of Hoi An World Heritage (2015).
Story: Ngan Ha - Photos: Viet Cuong