Tourists enjoy dinner at Cô Sang Homestay on Phú Quý Island, Bình Thuận Province. — VNS Photo Ngọc Diệp
HCM CITY — Quitting his job in HCM City in 2014, Nguyễn Văn Giởi returned to his native Phú Quý Island in the south-central coastal province of Bình Thuận to start a homestay service.
“I want more and more people in the country know about my island like the islands of Phú Quốc, Lý Sơn and Côn Đảo,” he says.
When his friends did not know where Phú Quý was on the country’s map, he says he would feel “sad”.
“I was determined to make the island famous. I started writing about the island’s beauty on a website for people who like to travel without using tourist companies and Facebook pages.”
And then he brought several of his friends to the island for a visit and put them up in unused rooms in his house.
Those people went back and told their family and friends about a place that has since been hailed as one of the most beautiful islands in the East Sea by US news site CNN.
High-speed boat services to the island, situated 120km from the resort town of Phan Thiết, began last year.
Not surprisingly, it has become a popular destination for tourists, especially young people.
Tourists enjoy their vacation on Phú Quý Island in Bình Thuận Province. – VNS Photo Minh Thơ
Giởi says: “The island’s inhabitants are hospitable to tourists. In the past, travelling from the island to the mainland was difficult so they were happy if anyone visited them. The hospitable attitude keeps tourists returning.”
Many young people who want to travel to the island call Giởi to ask for information and book his homestay service. He is one of the first few people to offer homestay on the island.
A tourist from HCM City who wished to be identified only as Ngọc said: “I have visited the island and stayed at [Giởi’s] homestay twice because I like the island’s beauty and locals’ friendliness.”
According to statistics from the island People’s Committee, the number of tourists coming to the island has risen this year. Last year, it received 16,500 visitors, and in the first five months of this year the number was 10,000, including nearly 2,000 foreigners.
Ngô Tấn Lực, the committee’s vice chairman, says the homestay services have been developed to provide enough accommodation for tourists, many of them by young locals.
Twenty households have been licensed to provide the services.
“Homestay services help the island develop tourism sustainably and not have adverse impacts on the landscape and environment,” Lực says.
So authorities plan to develop them professionally by getting experts to provide training, he says, adding that young owners have also been trained to become professional tour guides.
Giởi says that following the training, the people providing homestay services have linked up and share guests in case their place is full.
“Sharing helps serve tourists well. Besides traditional fishing and purchase of seafood, tourism and homestay are new occupations for local residents to earn an income.”
Large foreign exchange earnings
Loan of the HCM City University of Sciences and Humanities said a more than US$4 billion tourism is one of the five industries fetching the highest foreign exchange earnings for the country annually, leading to a boom in the accommodation business, especially homestays.
Many young people offer homestay services by taking advantage of unused rooms in their house and offering to tourists who want to stay with locals when travelling.
Some others even rent apartments and houses to tourists, she said.
A woman with a Facebook nickname of DucHanh Candy is one such young person. She rents an apartment in District 1 to foreign visitors, mostly backpackers.
She said: “I [do this] because it is my hobby. In the beginning, I made a loss but did not give up. Starting a business requires patience.”
The competition in the business is high, she said.
According to statistics from accommodation-sharing site AirBnB, 25,000 households in the city offered rooms to tourists as of June last year.
The accommodation business accounts for nearly 70 per cent of the tourism industry’s revenues, Loan said.
According to the Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism, the number of accommodation business establishments in the country increased from 9,080 in 2007 to 25,600, including homestays, in 2017.
The northern region accounted for 45 per cent of them, the highest in the country, followed by the central and southern regions.
Phú Quốc Island and the cities of Hạ Long, Hà Nội, Huế, Nha Trang, Phan Thiết, Đà Nẵng and Hồ Chí Minh have the highest number of such establishments in the country.
At a recent conference in HCM City on developing tourism, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc said community-based tourism, including homestays, should be encouraged by local authorities around the country because it could help develop tourism in the most sustainable manner.
Local people have the deepest understanding of culture and history, and would be the best tour guides, he added. — VNS