Community-based tourism in Central Highlands district

(VOVWORLD) - A vibrant culture and a picturesque landscape have made Kbang district the most popular tourist spot in the northeastern part of Gia Lai province in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Local authorities have based its tourism development on community services that preserve and promote Bahnar ethnic culture.   
Before the pandemic, Nguyen Thi Hong Hanh traveled from Ho Chi Minh City to Kbang district with her family for a vacation. She booked a two-day homestay at Stor village in To Tung commune, where she ate local specialties like grilled chicken with bamboo-tube rice served with sesame salt and bitter leaves, and pork grilled in bamboo tubes. She watched artists play gongs, sing folk songs, weave silk, and knit. Those cultural attractions and the local hospitality won her heart, Hanh said.

“I love gong performances. Kbang culture typifies the Central Highlands. I will definitely come back again, and I hope that by that time Kbang district will be more prosperous and bustling,” Hanh added.

Community-based tourism in Central Highlands district - ảnh 1A female gong troupe in Kbang district (Photo: VOV)

According to Dinh Greng, who lives in Stor village, before the pandemic broke out, the village was welcoming dozens of tourists a day. The villagers kept their homes clean, stopped littering, and kept the village green. Homestay providers received training on food hygiene and communication skills. Stor village’s gong troupe, of which Greng is a member, delivered upbeat performances.

Greng told VOV, “We have a myriad of gong melodies for different celebrations, such as the harvest season, the inauguration of a new house, a worship ritual, a wedding, or a funeral. When tourists come to our village, we often perform a fast-paced gong melody called Celebrate Our Victory that expresses the joy the Bahnar people felt when Vietnam was unified in 1975.”    

Dinh Moi, who works for the Culture and Information Office of Kbang district and oversees Stor village, said, “Visitors are introduced by the villagers to gongs, ethnic musical instruments, and Bahnar folk songs. Community-based tourism is a good source of income for us, and it does wonders for cultural preservation.”

Community-based tourism in Central Highlands district - ảnh 2(Photo: VOV)

Nguyen Dinh Chi, chief of the Culture and Information Office of Kbang district, said there are four villages providing community tourism services – Chieng, Mo Hra, Kjang, and Stor. Since 2017 the Kbang district People’s Committee has adopted plans for community-based tourism. By 2025 they intend to have seven tourism villages capable of serving 20,000 tourists each year. To that end, local people have reinvigorated their traditional crafts of knitting, brocade weaving, and making straw wine, musical instruments, and utensils. According to Chi, hundreds of gong troupes, including youth clubs, are keeping their gong cultural space alive.

“Community-based tourism was defined in 2019 as the key to cultural preservation, with a vision until 2025. Each year we organize a gong festival and other traditional festivals, train artisans, and revive our handicrafts,” Chi said.
Kbang district is aiming at sustainable economic development via community-based tourism.
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