Story | 09 Nov, 2022

Pilot trips in Cuc Phuong National Park and Van Long Nature Reserve as part of the Sustainable Tourism and Protected Areas in a Post-COVID World project

Community members at Cuc Phuong National Park and Van Long Nature Reserve in Vietnam put their skills to the test by hosting real visitors.

After months of training and learning, community members at Cuc Phuong National Park and Van Long Nature Reserve in Vietnam, are ready to put their newly acquired skills in sustainable tourism operations to the test.

For this, the teams at IUCN and Planeterra are organising pilot excursions with real visitors to create meaningful and practical impacts for the communities.

By hosting these pilot excursions, community members would have the opportunity to be exposed to different visitor markets and to be able to practise their sustainable tourism activities in real-life circumstances.

In that sense, two immersive itineraries were proposed, targeting both international and domestic audiences residing in Hanoi who are incentivised to pay a 50% package rate as a donation for the communities in the protected areas and contribute to their development.

The two proposed itineraries are:

A weekend getaway in Van Long Nature Reserve

Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve is one of the largest wetland nature reserves in the Vietnamese Northern Delta. The natural land area is more than 3,500 hectares and consists of eleven ecosystems, the two major being the limestone forest and wetland ecosystems.

Travellers that are part of this pilot trip would be amongst the first visitors to be welcomed by the local communities of Gia Hoa commune (Gia Vien district, Ninh Binh) (see location here). The itinerary proposes two days of immersive experiences, inviting travellers to:

  • Explore the pristine and charming beauty of the “Ha Long Bay on land” - still relatively unknown to most tourists.
  • Experience the authentic northern lifestyle while learning about the livelihood of the locals.
  • Enjoy delicious dishes prepared with local fresh ingredients.
  • Take a boat tour through the vast area of Van Long wetland to enjoy the peaceful scenery.

Explore Muong Culture in Cuc Phuong National Park

Cuc Phuong National Park is the oldest national park in Vietnam. It was founded in 1962 and it is already a well-known tourist destination. Cuc Phuong’s ancient forest is home to more than 2,234 vascular and non-vascular plants, 122 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 135 species of mammals, including clouded leopard, Delacour's langur, Owston's civet, and Asiatic black bear.

Travellers that are part of this pilot trip would get the opportunity to experience an itinerary designed and guided by the local communities of Khanh village (An Nghia commune, Lac Son district, Hoa Binh) (see location here). The itinerary proposes two days of immersive experiences, inviting travellers to:

  • Explore the rich culture of Muong ethnic people, one of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups.
  • Test their cooking skills with an immersive culinary experience, including a trek in the primary forest to explore the abundant flora and fauna of this region.
  • Get a taste of delicious mountainous dishes made from local fresh ingredients.
  • Discover and get a better understanding of how local communities / indigenous groups are integrated into the work of the protected area's management.

Outcomes of the pilot trips

Two pilot trips to Cuc Phuong NP and Van Long NR were organised over the weekend of 29-30th October 2022. In order to keep this experience meaningful and insightful for both local community members and visitors, 7 guests got to join the pilot trips.

In Van Long, the visitors were impressed with the hospitality of the local people, and appreciated the training provided to the local communities by the Project. Alongside the highlights, some improvements were also pointed out. For instance, additional or feasible experiences can be expanded when the local hosts are more familiar with welcoming guests; or the timing and route of the boat ride can be adapted depending on the season and visitors.

In Cuc Phuong, Khanh villagers have been welcoming guests trekking from the Bong centre of the Park for a long time. Therefore, it took them little time to be able to organise the new experience, which is the cooking class in combination with a hiking experience.

As the itinerary was designed to reduce the reliance of the village on the Park’s tourism, the route where the hiking and vegetable picking is conducted lies outside of the Park’s territory.

Furthermore, the visitors had a chance to learn about Muong ethnic culture through folklore singing exchanges with an artist and trying out Muong’s attire.

For more information, please contact Phuong Tran, Community Tourism Project Manager and/ or Ulrika Åberg, Programme Officer, Protected and Conserved Areas Team, IUCN.