The initial planning brainstorm on the chalkboard. 

The PATA Foundation and Capilano University have formed a long lasting partnership in an effort to deliver tourism training in the Sapa region of northern Vietnam.

Since August 2010, a new set of projects and training programs branched off from a previous five-year project (2002-2007). The project model empowers Capilano University volunteer faculty, students, and alumni in working with Hanoi Open University faculty and students on programs that build and strengthened the capacity of the local ethnic minorities, small business owners, village government, and communities as a whole.

We've come a long way and have many amazing people to thank. 

Projects like these include the efforts of many people, lots of effort and a little bit of good luck. In 1999, Dr. Geoffrey Bird visited Vietnam to assess the need for community based tourism training.  Living in Malaysia at the time, he was piloting training in Community Based Tourism (CBT) in Sarawak, working with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and an industry operator, Borneo Adventure. 

A chance meeting with a representative of the Dutch aid agency SNV, Ms Annalisa Koeman, led Geoff to visit Vietnam in 1999 to explore potential opportunities for training. By 2002, he returned, along with Maggie O’Sullivan Dean of North Island College, to begin planning with Hanoi Open University (HOU) for a five-year project.  Ms. Judy Storr, a Canadian based in Hanoi, played an important role in liaising with local officials and HOU, namely Dr. Ngyuyen Thanh, Ms. Ncoc Anh and Mr. Dan. 

The project was proposed to the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC), with the goal of alleviating poverty in villages through the development of sustainable tourism services.  The actual purpose of the project was to develop training and to build the capacity of HOU to deliver it over the long term. Funded by the CIDA through the ACCC a five-year program focused on skills based training was created. To ensure sustainability a train-the-trainer model would be adopted and implemented in the programming.

With funding attained, a team of five faculty and five students from Capilano University and North Island College visited Vietnam and, along with eight faculty and students from HOU, toured the Sapa region. The mission was to find two communities to pilot CBT training. While taking part in village-to-village trekking the team saw an opportunity for economic development through sustainable tourism.   The teams choose to work in two ethnic minority villages: Taphin and Tavan. The villages were selected for a number of reasons:  difference in experience with tourism, and different hilltribes:  one was Red Zhao, the other Giay.  By the end of the five years 3 new homestays would be set up in the Red Dao village of Taphin, and nearly 15 new homestays would be licensed in the village of Tavan. In total over 200 locals would be trained.

Below is a video created by Capilano University alumni, Jordan Kallman, while on one of the early project trips. This video highlights a CIDA / ACCC funded Community Based Tourism Training and Capacity Building project in the Northern Vietnam region of Sapa. The video was filmed and produced by student volunteer Jordan Kallman, and was narrated by Dr. Geoffrey Bird, project director.