Promoting Community-based Tourism Associated with Agricultural and Local Products of Son La Province

Promoting Community-based Tourism Associated with Agricultural and Local Products of Son La Province

Published: 2021.11.18
Accepted: 2021.11.17
Agricultural Systems Research and Development Center, Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences
Center for Agricultural System Research and Development, Institute of Food Crops, Vietnam
Vice President
Vietnam Academy of Agriculture Sciences (VAAS).


Son la is located in the Nord-western mountain of Vietnam with a strong diversity of local products and landscapes. With these potential community-based tourism resources, the tourism tends to develop rapidly in the region. This article with a desk study approach will review the literature about the perspectives of promoting diversity of community-based tourism forms. The possibility to protect brand name for Son la tourism associated with diversity of local products is feasible with the model of Acceuil Paysan in France. The challenges and solutions of this intervention were also discussed.

Keywords: Intellectual property, Rural tourism, Local product, Son la 


Tourism is one of the spearhead economic sectors of many localities, territories and countries, developing globally to become a competitive entity in the context of integration. Instead of exploiting the specific advantages of landscape, historical value, and local culture, etc., many places are lack of identity and patchwork, also lack of organization and skills for tourism. So different tourism households have realized a strategy of competition by price and not by service quality leading to unfair competition, or remove traditional occupations (distinctive features) that follow tourism. Therefore, this method is not suitable for perception and reduces tourism’s attractiveness, exhausts resources and leads to environmental pollution. This is not sustainable and may lead to lost opportunities for tourism development. For example, the massive development of homestays in Quang Binh caused the imbalance of supply and demand, causing social disorder and falling back into poverty due to an uncontrolled market. Therefore, it is necessary to develop products with unique characteristics (identity) and establish conditions for compliance with general principles to ensure sustainable tourism development.

Son La is a mountainous province in the Northwest, with a natural area of 14,174 Km2. Sharing a 250 Km border with Laos, where the long-lived inhabitants of the 12 nations have diverse values of ethnic culture. It has a beautiful landscape and cool climate and is often referred to as "Ha Long in the mountains" while also being a key agricultural area. Son La has many potentials and advantages for the development of various types of tourism, which is building into a strategy with a vision towards sustainability by 2030. This article focuses on promoting community-based tourism associated with agricultural and rural products of Son La province to create unique tourism products, contributing to the economic development of the provincial society.

Theoretical basis of tourism types

Tourism has existed since ancient times, but the concept of it was not completely developed until the 1960s. In 2000, four international organizations defined "Tourism" as activities related to people's trips outside their regular places of residence to meet the needs of sightseeing, learning, entertainment and relaxation in the country during a certain period of time. It is an economic branch related to the hotel business and all activities associated with visitor satisfaction (Boniface B and Cooper C, 1993).

There is a method of dividing tourism into different service types, such as: international; inland (territory); healing; recreation; sport; spirituality; discovery (need); bike; train; ship; car; aviation (transportation); hotel; motel; camping (means of accommodation); sea; mountain; urban; countryside (geographical features); group; individuals (form of organization); upstream; popular (composition); ecological; community; agriculture (new types of tourism); work group travel; tourism combined with conferences, seminars, exhibitions, events; etc.

It is necessary to diversify year-round tourism products of a geographical area, so France divides it into 16 types (although incomplete, and continues to develop but has an evocative meaning in development), including: 1) Business tourism; 2) Event tourism; 3) Nature tourism, observation; 4) Resort tourism; 5) Sports tourism; 6) Cultural tourism; 7) Spiritual tourism; 8) Sustainable tourism, ecotourism; 9) Craft tourism and trade; 10) Industrial tourism; 11) Social tourism and solidarity; 12) Culinary tourism; 13) Scientific tourism; 14) Medical tourism; 15) Recreational tourism; and 16) Creative tourism. These types of tourism are mostly managed by tourism agencies and sometimes farmers are not beneficiaries. The consequence is that rural tourism resource is not well managed because of lack of farmers’ incentives. So the community-based tourism in rural area was born as an alternative tourism management way for sustainable tourism. Community-based tourism is a form of tourism which is jointly organized, managed and owned by local people to bring economic benefits and protect the common environment through introducing tourists to unique features, local characteristics of landscape, culture, etc. (Nicole Hausle and Wolffgang Strasdas, 2009). This model creates conditions for tourists to experience people's lives, contributes to poverty alleviation, creates livelihoods, encourages people to form typical tourism products, preserves and promotes cultural values, traditional values ​​and local natural heritage.

To develop community-based tourism, it is necessary to have tourism products - A set of services to satisfy tourists' needs, including: accommodation, meals, travel, transportation, entertainment, entertainment, information, guidance and other related services. In which, the opportunity to innovate the thinking of tourism economic development is associated with local goods and services (Bob McKercher and Hilary du Cros, 2002). It is necessary to understand the characteristics of tourists (respect for natural, historical, cultural values ​​and attractions; the impact of tourism on the environment and values; sustainability; prefers small-scale accommodation of locals; seeks authentic aspects of life and interactions with people, lifestyles and cultures that are distinct from their own; free from attraction by mass marketing, etc.) (Guy Gay-Para, 1985).

Sustainable tourism associated with respect for the environment has been around since 1990. But in reality, it causes waste of energy and resources, destruction of local culture and environment, waste pollution, changes in landscape, exploitation of natural resources, local labor, etc. (Marc Boyer, 2007). Tourism is an effective tool for poverty reduction (UNDP, 1990). Ecotourism is the “key” to fight poverty, protect the environment and achieve sustainable development (UNDP and UNWTO, 2013).

According to UNWTO, the community-based tourism development is based on local tourism resources (cultural and natural). Cultural resources include: ethnic minorities or multicultural nature; local culture; festivals; historical attractions; arts and crafts; cultural landscape; local specialties and agricultural practices; culinary specialties; daily activities of the community; the hospitality and friendliness of the people. Environmental resources include: parks/natural areas; roads; flora and fauna; special attractions; sports, etc.

Rural development is a process that leads to the enhancement of rural people's ability to control the environment. It depends on many factors such as: economic development, humanity, environment, social values ​​and knowledge. Therefore, rural tourism must be considered as a part of sustainable tourism, exploiting the resources of rural areas, increasing benefits for rural areas in terms of productivity, employment, welfare distribution, environmental and cultural protection with the participation of local people in a way to combine traditional and modern values. “Sustainable tourism leads to the management of all resources in such a way that it suits the economic, social and aesthetic needs, maintaining the unity of culture, major ecological processes, biodiversity and life support systems” (UNWTO, 1988). Sustainable tourism is based on 4 main pillars, including:

  • Economic sustainability in the short and long term;
  • Ecological sustainability: maintaining key ecological processes, conserving biodiversity and biological resources;
  • Cultural sustainability: Tourism must be organized with the broad participation of the community; Develop educational programs for the improvement and management of heritage and natural resources; Protect cultural diversity; Respect the community's traditional land ownership rights; Protect nature, local culture, especially traditional knowledge; Strengthen, nurture, encourage the community to protect and use traditional skills; and
  • Community sustainability: Communities must control tourism development and benefit from tourism.

Practical basis of rural and community-based tourism

The current form of rural tourism is very plentiful, and is considered as a part of rural and sustainable development.

There are 5 types of tourism that can be included in rural tourism: (1) Natural tourism; (2) Cultural tourism, interested in local culture, history and archeology; (3) Eco-tourism, paying attention to the protection of natural resources as well as the welfare and cultural values ​​of local people; (4) Village tourism, in which tourists share in village life and villagers enjoy economic benefits from tourism; and (5) Agritourism, tourists view and participate in traditional agricultural activities that do not destroy and reduce local productivity.

Agriculture has an important position in rural tourism because of its unique contributions such as authenticity, high quality products, large spaces, heritage, etc., but the welcoming activities require a high level of professionalism. The multifunctionality of agriculture today is widely recognized as in addition to production it also has other benefits: territorial, environmental, and social. In the case of farm reception in any form, agritourism exemplifies the multi-functionality of an agriculture open to other segments of society often thirsting for space and invention, while at the same time preserving heritage and engaging in economic activity in rural society. Through production, farmers contribute to the attractiveness of the rural environment: the landscape is preserved. As for the farm receptionists, they have participated in the diversification of conditional tourism service provision. Localities with ambitions to develop tourism must offer a variety of accommodation and activities that can attract different types of customers: tourism "monoculture" cannot be the solution for localities. There must be rest villages, country houses, restaurants, farms-restaurants, hotels, and campsites. The different settings of the localities add to the diversity of rural tourism.

Agricultural tourism originated in German-speaking Europe, and formed at the end of the 19th century in the Tyrol region (Austria). It is a form of tourism that aims to discover and share farmers' know-how in many ways: farm visits, accommodation, service and sale of agricultural products. It is a unique opportunity for farmers to impart knowledge and experience to tourists who want to stay away from traditional forms of tourism. In France there are models: Bienvenue à la ferme, Accueil Paysan, Charmance, Gîtes de France, Clévacances, organic farming, etc., creating economic growth for rural areas and farmers (Roger Béteille, 1997).

In particular, the model of the farmer's reception organization (Accueil Paysan) is an association established and operating under the 1901 French law. This is a network of farmers and rural actors, committed to sustainable, equitable and united family farming and tourism, a network of 1,200 members in France and around the world. They develop standards (for accommodation, meals, products, sightseeing activities, experiences, welcoming children, welcoming society, welcoming artists, etc.) and conditions to become members (using the logo which is the intellectual property of the organization). This organization has 900 members in France and 300 members in 32 countries, the headquarters of the association reaches Grenoble (France). The association's tourism products include: accommodation, food and farmer's products, visits/events and social receptions, exploration of the rural environment, farm activities, trades, and know-how. This model allows farmers to live well on their land and contribute to the local socio-economic development; participate in building ecological and sustainable rural areas.

Vietnam's tourism is developing rapidly, but the main beneficiaries are the State and the private tourism agencies. Farmers are those who bring their ecological and cultural heritage into tourism but get little benefit. In developed countries, tourism has become a part of the rural economy and farmers benefit: creating jobs for farmers, developing agriculture, handicrafts, services and improving their income. Tourism has become an important component of rural development with forms such as: ecotourism, cultural-historical heritage tourism, rural tourism, community tourism.

Since the late 1980s, community-based tourism has contributed to poverty reduction in Vietnam with the first source of tourists from Eastern Europe. In the early 1990s, the tourism market began to open and the source of visitors from Western Europe and the country grew strongly. Lac village (Mai Chau - Hoa Binh), and Thoi Son island (Tien Giang) are the first places to develop this type and are expanding in many places such as: Sa Pa, Hoi An, Cham island, An Giang, Ben Tre, Can Tho (Pham Thi Hong Cuc, Ngo Thanh Loan, 2016).

Currently, community-based tourism is associated with agricultural and rural production. It is the type of tourism that brings the most benefits to local residents (Doan Manh Cuong, 2019). It helps to protect natural resources, ecological environment, preserve and promote the unique cultural features of the locality (Tran Lam Bien, 2001). Vietnam has a lot of potential in terms of natural landscapes, historical values ​​and indigenous cultures of ethnic groups, customs and lifestyles, and rich regional cuisine is the basis for developing this type of tourism (Pham Thi Hong Cuc, Ngo Thanh Loan, 2016).

In the South, many community-based tourism products have been formed and developed such as: Cham craft villages in Phu Tan (An Giang), Khmer craft villages in Soc Trang; Farm tours, Agro tours, learn about agriculture and rural life in Vietnam. At Binh Hoa Phuoc island (Vinh Long), after 1998 people's income from traditional fruit trees has been supplemented by tourism activities of home gardens, homestays, guides, production of handicraft products, bicycle rental, art, and sales. Recently, agricultural tourism has brought effective socio-economic results for many localities and businesses. The direct participation of farmers has created a richness and attractiveness for tourism products, and at the same time brought higher income for farmers.

Currently, a number of community tours associated with each place have become "brands" such as: experience, visit Moc Chau farm; tours to see terraced fields, visit villages in Hoa Binh, Son La, Lao Cai, Lai Chau, or tourism products to experience farming in Hoi An (Quang Nam): Tra Que vegetable village, pottery village Thanh Ha, An My vegetable village, Cham island fishing village, Cam Nam corn village, etc. Clean agricultural production, combined with tourism, is a sustainable direction applied by many businesses, cooperatives and farmers to increase their income and other economic benefits.

Binh Thuan develops agro-ecological tourism in a 2,000 ha hi-tech agricultural zone in Bac Binh district; eco-tourism combined with agricultural development on islands, around hydroelectricity and irrigation reservoirs in highland districts such as Tuy Phong, Tanh Linh, Ham Thuan Bac. Dak Lak develops community-based tourism and agriculture associated with the new rural construction program: CuEbur deer village, Ea Tu rabbit village, Kien Cuong weasel coffee. Dong Thap develops tourism under the model of clean agriculture, organic products and high technology, linking agriculture with community-based tourism and exploiting indigenous cultural values, traditional craft villages, souvenirs, and local specialties. Hanoi develops agricultural tourism forms. There are agricultural tourism models with rural farm visiting for school, weekend tourism, combining with visiting Duong Lam ancient village or agricultural experience tourism with organic vegetables, tea villages, natural forest vegetables and biodiversity.

Community-based tourism also creates local export markets for agricultural and rural products with short and effective value chains, more effective than other forms of market development.

Sustainable Community-based tourism development aims to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. So it is a form of responsible tourism. Community tourism programs such as discovering village life, visiting nature, exchanging cultures and discovering relationships between communities are guided by community members. Tourists have the opportunity to stay at Vietnamese family homes, cook and enjoy local cuisine, experience farming, fishing, weaving, and learn about the unique achievements of the community (Nguyen Thi Thanh Kieu, 2016; Le Thanh Tu, 2016).

Although the development of community-based tourism products is in line with the trend, there are still many shortcomings. The goals of raising awareness on environmental protection and preserving cultural identities are still limited, and socio-economic sustainability is not high.

Each locality needs to choose the type of product to develop a community-based tourism. To do that, it is necessary to have specific research in many fields such as the life of indigenous people, culture, typical cuisine, customs, and living habits in order to orient core values, preserve and develop cultural space to nurture, and to preserve and promote those values. To overcome the limitations of resources and infrastructure, especially in remote areas, it is necessary to research and choose a tourism model that requires less resources but promotes the advantages of natural landscapes and natural resources, humanity, and indigenous cultural nuances of the ethnic communities.

To develop tourism in a competitive context, it is necessary to find out the characteristics and advantages created by the innovation activities of the local people that are difficult for competitors to imitate. It is an intellectual property that is closely related to the natural, cultural, social and human conditions of the geographical area. This is a community property and product for socio-economic development and creating differences in the recognizable signs of the geographical area on national and international maps. In Vietnam, tourist attractions such as Quang Ninh, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Vung Tau, Phong Nha, and Phu Quoc, all have names or symbols associated with cultural features and local products. However, these assets are being used for free, with no standards and consistent messaging attached. Many tourism branding projects and programs for localities have been implemented, but mainly aim to build a common symbol for the geographical area that has not been managed and exploited as a form of public property to promote tourism.

Rural tourism can build many different types of facilities. Customers stay at farmers' homes, live and work with them, participate in cultural activities and visit local attractions. There are following types:

  • Guest house: receiving guests as "friends" of the family, with a bedroom, a dining table with traditional dishes and local culinary specialties.
  • Children's house: welcome groups of about 10 urban children who want to live in the countryside for a few days to experience and know what it's like to be in the countryside. Children can play, eat and sleep with rural children and have a person in charge.
  • Summer camp: a piece of land near a cultural and historical monument that is organized to be able to set up tents, toilets, and outdoor kitchens that can accommodate groups of about 20 teenagers to stay and travel around regions and enjoy dishes from agricultural products.
  • Stopover station: a rest house on walking, bicycle and motorbike travel routes near historical sites so that tour groups can rest, eat and shop.
  • Hostels: can host families who can stay in the countryside for a few days.
  • Playhouse on stilts: organize groups of 3 to 25 houses on stilts that can accommodate 6 people to eat and sleep. Around there are fun places such as fishing, hunting, cycling, walking in historical and cultural sites or with beautiful scenery.

In addition, special forms of tourism can be organized:

  • Rural restaurant: held on a farm, cooking regional specialties from locally produced products. There are restaurants organized in old sheep stables and cow stables, refurbished, but with some traditional views.
  • Farmer's museum: a farmer's house that retains production scenes like a traditional farmer household of the region with traditional crops and livestock. The house holds traditional tools and items like a museum.
  • Rural customs museum: introducing rural traditional ways and customs with traditional clothes and household items in the form of living museums. Can produce souvenirs to sell to tourists.
  • Craft villages: can organize and preserve traditional handicraft activities and produce traditional souvenirs.
  • Areas with rural festivities: festivals, traditional festivals of ethnic groups, rural tourism can be organized to welcome guests on festive occasions, associating festival activities with tourism activities.

Rural tourism must use the ecological and cultural heritage of the country such as:

  • Biodiversity: Vietnam is home to many crops such as rice, root crops, legumes, bananas, citrus, etc. Each group of plants has many species and rich genetic patterns. The rural tourism package can be organized with presentation of different dishes maintaining local biodiversity such as sweet teas from tubers and beans in Hue.
  • Tea culture: The original tea tree is in Vietnam, but our country has not preserved the tea ceremony like China and Japan. We are researching and preserving our country's ways of drinking tea to build Vietnamese tea ceremony and tea brands.
  • Dong Son culture represented by bronze drums: We can rebuild the Vietnamese bronze drum line, distinguishing it from other types of bronze drums such as those of Dien (Van Nam), Que (Quang Tay). Dong Son culture is a common culture of Southeast Asia but little is known to foreigners. The tourism activities will be associated with Dong Son cultural sites and bronze casting villages. 
  • Vietnamese Buddhism: It does not belong entirely to the Mahayana like China and Japan, nor does it belong to the Hinayana like Thailand and Laos. Currently in Europe, Buddhism is developing very strongly because they consider it a peaceful religion. You can organize into training centers on Buddhist teachings for foreigners.
  • Culture of ethnic minorities: Our country has many ethnic minorities. It is necessary to have villages to preserve the cultural forms of ethnic groups. The preservation of the culture of these ethnic groups must be done in a comprehensive way, including the cultural space of the tribes along with their history.

Tourism potential associated with agriculture and rural areas of Son La Province

Located in the center of the Northwest region, Son La province has many potentials and opportunities for tourism development with its own characteristics.

Son La has 68 historical - cultural relics and scenic spots that have been inventoried and put on the list, of which 12 are recognized and ranked at the national level and 35 ranked at the provincial level. In terms of types, there are 46 historical sites, 11 scenic sites, 2 architectural and artistic relics, and 9 archaeological relics. There are some well-known relics such as Moc Chau plateau tourist area, Son La hydropower reservoir, Son La Prison, King Le Thai Tong Temple, Muong Va Ancient Tower, A Phu Cave, Bat Cave, Vietnam - Laos Revolutionary Historical Relic, Lady Han Temple, Architectural works: Son La hydroelectric power station, Pa Uon bridge, and Northwest square.

In terms of cultural resources, Son La is the long-lived land of 12 ethnic groups with their own and unique cultural identities. Many villages still retain their traditional values ​​to develop valuable cultural tourism products (Phu Mau, Na Bai, Chieng Yen, Ang, and Hai). Along with that, there are folk games (Cong throwing festival, hunting festival, fishing festival, praying for the harvest, and zigzag) and festivals (Ban flower, praying for rain, Thai ethnic boat race, Season festival, Spring, Xen Pang Festival, and Hmong festival).

Regarding ethnic dance and music, Thai people are famous for their xoe dance, hat dance; Hmong people have Khen dance, umbrella dance; Dao people have bell dance; Kho Mu people has tribute top dance, au eo, etc. In terms of traditional cuisine, Thai dishes associated with local agricultural products are relatively unique and diverse.

In terms of agriculture, agricultural products are associated with local agricultural production. Son La's tourism is very diverse and of high quality: rice 51,564 hectares, yield 195,881 tons; maize 85,302 hectares, output 365,002 tons; cassava 36,864 hectares, output 434,887 tons; sugarcane 7,852 hectares, output 512,784 tons; vegetables 11,058 ha, yield 157,834 tons; tea 5,535 ha, output 48,414 tons fresh buds; coffee 17,687 ha, yield 28,822 tons kernels; medicinal herbs 1,560 ha, output 4,210 tons; fruit trees and medlar 78,850 ha (Son La Provincial People's Committee, 2020). Son La has 68 supply chains of safe agricultural products, 18 branded agricultural products including: Moc Chau Shan Tuyet Tea, Yen Chau Mango, O Long Moc Chau Tea, Ta Xua Bac Yen Tea, Moc Chau Safe Vegetables, Coffee Son La, Song Ma longan, Phu Yen orange, Mai Son na, Moc Chau avocado, Son La medlar apple, Muong Va sticky rice, Thuan Chau Phong Lai tea, Thuan Chau taro, Yen Chau banana, Son La honey, Da Son La river fish, Son La sturgeon. In 2018, the export value of agricultural products of Son La province reached US$115 million to 12 markets, including difficult markets such as the US, France, Australia, UAE, etc. Agricultural products of Son La became well-known with the brand name "Son La agriculture" on the internet.

The highlight of Son La's current tourism focus is on Moc Chau plateau - where there are many scenic spots, local festivals (spring flowers, all Cha, praying for rain, hot air balloons, ban flowers, tea, fruit picking, Miss Cow contest milk).

Bac Yen district just built some tourist attractions such as: dinosaur spine, Hua Nhan lotus lake, ancient rock field carved tiger slot, A Phu cave, Ta Xua cloud paradise, Pu Nhi hill, Xim Vang terraced field, ancient tea garden in Be village. The revenue in 2020 is about USD870,000 with 61,700 visitors. Muong La district is building tourist attractions associated with Son La hydroelectric projects and reservoirs, cultural, historical, spiritual tourism, "Fairy countryside" Ngoc Chien. Some new tourism products were built such as: Yen Chau Mango Festival, Song Ma Longan Festival, Festival of Colors and Culture of Hang Chu (Bac Yen), Peach Blossom Festival in Long Luong Commune (Van Ho).

In particular, the tourism resources of Son La hydroelectric reservoir are very rich. If exploited well, it will create competitive domestic and international tourism products, thereby building a tourism brand in the lakebed area in particular and Son La province in general.

The province also has a tourism development project for the period 2020-2025, with a vision to 2030, making Son La a safe and attractive destination in the Northwest region with unique, different and specialized tourism products, industry, sustainability and international integration.

Necessity of branding community-based tourism associated with agricultural and local products in Son La province

Over the past years, the tourism industry of Son La province has made progress: the number of tourists increases every year, the market is expanded, products are gradually diversified and their quality is improved, infrastructure and facilities are improved, and communication is focused. Strong products such as: community tourism, tourism Son La hydroelectric lake-bed history, resort, culture associated with festivals, ecology, adventure have been formed.

Huge advantage, fast growth but tourism of Son La is not commensurate with the potential and challenges between developing and preserving traditional values. The current challenges of community-based tourism (destination and products) in Son La are spontaneity, limited human resources, not rich types, few products typical with its own identity.

Except for Moc Chau, Son La tourism still has shortcomings in terms of difficult traffic, inadequate and weak infrastructure and technical systems. The monotony, unsanitary conditions of accommodation facilities, loss of safety of food and beverage services make the length of stay short, the spending level of tourists low, and the competitive pressure of tourists in other tourist areas in the Northwest region. Other lake-bed tourist areas (Hoa Binh hydropower reservoir, Dai Lai lake, Ba Be lake, etc.) have been exploited for a long time and have established a brand in the market, many tourist attractions of Son La and Son La hydropower reservoir is still at the stage of planning and development orientation while the investment capacity is limited.

On the other hand, Son La's tourism resources have many similarities with other geographical regions, so the products are under great competitive pressure from traditional destinations such as: Moc Chau, Mu Cang Chai, Sapa, and Dien Bien Phu. Without a solution, Son La will not be located on the main routes but only a stopover on tourist routes along National Highway 6 and National Highway 279 connecting Son La with Dien Bien provinces, Lai Chau, Lao Cai, and Yen Bai.

Community-based tourism is currently a popular trend in the world and in Vietnam. According to the survey results of tourist demand trends conducted by AC Nielsen: 65% of tourists want to experience local culture and heritage; 54% want to experience nature, rest and recuperate; 84% want to visit local scenic spots; 48% are willing to pay more to experience local culture and heritage. This result explains the trend of community tourism development in Son La in particular and the Northwest in general, and turns it into a product.

The factor that attracts community tourists is a living space imbued with indigenous culture, different from their culture or they have ever experienced. In a flat world, the difference in architecture, cuisine, products and local culture is the competitive advantage of community tourism.

Community-based tourism development needs to ensure the diversity of types, create specific products associated with potentials, natural advantages, and unique cultural characteristics of each locality, without overlapping and causing boredom. So, in order to sustainably develop tourism in Son La, it is necessary to focus on the following solutions:

  • Early realization of the Son La tourism development project in the period of 2020-2025, with a vision towards 2030. Prioritize resources to build and complete the infrastructure system, and to train human resources for the tourism sector.
  • Restoring, conserving and developing the original local resources into typical tourist products bearing the identity of Son La associated with green and clean agriculture. Diversify accompanying services, expand links with localities in the province to exploit the available potential of each place.
  • The values ​​of natural, cultural, social and human conditions of the geographical area are the community's intellectual property to develop the tourism economy. This property differentiates itself with its local identity in the domestic and international tourism markets. It must be built on original local standards to create uniqueness and integrate national or international standards for integration. It is not merely creating a common symbol for the tourist area which is not associated with an institution of management and exploitation to value. On that basis, strengthen the promotion of Son La's tourism image in the domestic and foreign tourism markets.
  • Rural tourism development needs to be responsible from the community itself to develop the local economy, respecting indigenous values. When losing its own identity, tourism commercialized for short-term profits will reduce its competitiveness and lose opportunities.


Necessarily, the model of building, managing and exploiting agricultural and community-based tourism branding "Accueil Paysan" is a valuable lesson for the tourism development of Son La. This model is built on standardized rural tourism resources, including: culture, festivals, handicrafts, agricultural products, and rural life experiences and practices. This is also the place to help farmers consume local specialties protected by geographical indications, farm produce, organic products, and red labels that has existed and developed for more than 30 years.

Some recommendations for building and exploiting the branding of “Son La Tourism” are as follows:

  1. Studying the possibilities and needs of developing community-based tourism products associated with agricultural activities and craft villages of Son La province.
  2. Researching local cultural - artistic and culinary characteristics to build tourism products.
  3. Restoring cultural - artistic resources, traditional cuisine typical of ethnic communities in Son La province.
  4. Researching and developing community tourism products in Son La province.
  5. Building, managing and exploiting the certification mark "Son La Tourism".
  6. Enhancing value addition for community tourism products, agricultural products and craft villages of Son La province.


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