This paper examines the perceptions and experiences of poor people in Sapa, Vietnam, regarding tourism as a means of poverty alleviation. Participant observations and semi-structured interviews were conducted with local people and key informants. The paper indicates that local people perceive poverty as a lack of rice and/or income and attribute it to both internal and external causes. The local tourism sector has primarily benefited the non-poor and tour operators, resulting in conflicts of interest among community members. However, more local people consider tourism a contributor to poverty alleviation than those who do not. All interviewees wish to become homestay owners or tourist guides. The most important barrier to the former is the lack of capital, while foreign language proficiency is the main hindrance to the latter. It is concluded that while an appropriate approach is required to involve local people in tourism, alternative livelihoods other than tourism are also needed. The study suggests that poor people’s interpretation of poverty may be different from that of academics and policymakers. It argues that by valuing the perspectives of those experiencing poverty we can establish more meaningful approaches to alleviating poverty through tourism that are more likely to succeed.
Notes on contributors
V. Dao Truong
V. Dao Truong is a lecturer in the Department of Tourism and Hospitality, National Economics University, Hanoi, Vietnam, and he is a PhD candidate in the Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
C. Michael Hall
C. Michael Hall is a professor of Marketing in the Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Tony Garry is a senior lecturer in Marketing in the Department of Marketing, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.