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The Innovation Process

Phase 1: Questioning and Criticizing Current Intervention

In 2011, CBT was developed in Mai Hich as part of an integrated community development program focusing on poverty reduction, social equity and sustainable livelihoods. Funded from 2011 to 2013 by MISEREOR and Brot fur die Welt (Bread for the World) INGOs, the project was implemented by the Centre for Community Health and Development (COHED) which is a Vietnamese NGO specializing in working with vulnerable communities and individuals (COHED, 2013). Influenced by the recent international and national Green Growth strategy, the project’s main aim was to help local people improve their standard of living by utilizing available resources in the area for income generation, while preventing negative impacts to the local environment. To achieve this, COHED sought to build eco-homestays, which are compatible with the village’s traditional housing structure and provide training to increase local citizens’ capacity to operate the home- stays in a sustainable manner. During the implementation of these ideas however, the project got caught up in traditional pattern of NGO-led CBT development. For instance, locals went to traditional sit-down workshops in which theoretical information was provided (e.g., definitions of tourism, tourists and ‘green’ development). However, this information was not deemed very relevant to the daily operations of tourism businesses (i.e., from the information it was not clear how homestays should be designed and operated). Consequently, the local people were skeptical, and it was very hard to convince anyone in the village to invest in the first homestay, even with technical and partial financial support from the NGO (VTV2, 2013).

In 2012, a breakthrough occurred when COHED called for volunteer support from tourism experts. Responding to this call, Mr. Binh Minh Duong, a recently retired director of a tour company, became involved and quickly took the lead in the Mai Hich CBT project. Mr. Duong’s extensive experience in tourism and hospitality helped him to recognize a general supply-demand gap where tour companies have relentlessly searched for quality, responsible CBT opportunities, yet most CBT projects could not provide products and services that satisfied tourists’ needs (Nguyen, 2013). Moreover Mr. Duong identified the following issues with the current CBT development in Mai Chau:

  • • CBT in Lac village was mostly self-organized by local people trying to capitalize on opportunities to improve their income. Without guidance from experts or proper management from local authorities, the services on offer were of low quality, over-commercialized and unsustainable.
  • • In Mai Hich, CBT was developed by an NGO lacking in tourism expertise and with no understanding of market needs. Thus, the development of an attractive, well-targeted tourism product was poorly executed. Additionally, the NGO’s minimal promotion and advertising campaigns were sporadic and there was little to no effort made to continuously and consistently maintain high quality services to ensure customer satisfaction.
  • • There was an inflated focus on providing homestay in CBT. This led to a lack of other value-added services and activities that have the capacity to improve tourists’ experiences and distribute tourism benefits more widely to the whole community. (Duong Minh Binh, 2015)
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