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Walking workshops and community-benefit tourism

Vietnam Walking Workshop January 2020

Tourism & Social Entrepreneurship in Vietnam

The symposium and walking workshop began with the symposium and a design thinking for the visitor economy workshop in Hanoi on the 10th January. In this workshop participants were introduced to design thinking principles and methods, and engaged in the first of many deep listening conversations about community benefit tourism in Vietnam. Participants learned of the challenges, experiences and successes of CBT, and shared their understandings of design both in theory and practice.

The working workshop sought to advance understandings of community-based tourism and social entrepreneurship through an embedded co-learning process. The models and approaches adopted by the communities in Northern Vietnam have been developed and refined over decades by Mr Binh of CBT Travel and consulting. The insights about working with local communities to facilitate the conservation of local cultures (traditions, language, dance, food, stories), to develop sustainable income streams and to establish employment for young people who would otherwise leave the region have met with much success.

The event also contributed to a broader vision to create the first ‘School for Community-based Tourism & Social Entrepreneurship’ in South-east Asia, with the potential to replicate the model in other parts of Vietnam and in other countries. The pandemic has impacted on the progress of this, but e expect to continue the journey in 2021 under the leadership of Dr Giang Phi.


Social entrepreneurship in tourism, especially in the context of community-based tourism, has received increased attention in recent years. In Vietnam, there currently exists an extensive system of community-based tourism (CBT) and social entrepreneurship projects. There was so much co-learning that took place about the purpose economy, mission-based business models that deliver on a higher purpose, micro-finance and social enterprise during activities that ranged from walking, talking, rafting and bus journeys and local explorations.

The need to nurture both local social entrepreneur talents and develop local community capacities was clear, yet to date tourism programs in developing countries, including Vietnam, still mostly adopt Western models of business education. The main focus of these tourism education programs is on producing graduates who become employees in the formal for-profit hospitality and travel sectors. Such programs have been criticised as not fulfilling the local need for entrepreneurship, especially catering to minority ethnic communities in rural and remote areas.

Workshop Content

The Itinerary included:

  • An introduction to Design Thinking and Tourism in Hanoi (1 night/own accommodation).

  • 4 days guided trekking between Hua Tat, Mai Hich, Lac village and Pu Luong

  • 4 nights along the trekking route in CBT social enterprise accommodation (mix of shared and private accommodation depending on the village).

  • Activities and entertainment provided by tourism social enterprises and associated presentations.

  • The final workshop in Hanoi – Ideation & prototyping CBT, social entrepreneurship & sustainable development education for tourism (1 night/own accommodation)

  • Bus transport to and from Hanoi.

Participants in this walking workshop walked on mountain and rural paths in the Northern area of Vietnam with walks lasting up to 4 hours during the trekking days.

Workshop Outcomes & TEFI Symposium

The 1st TEFI SYMPOSIUM & WALKING WORKSHOP IN VIETNAM sought to advance community-based tourism, social entrepreneurship & regenerative tourism design. We achieved this by immersing and learning about the communities, their challenges, needs and future aspirations. We then turned our attention to understanding how knowledge sharing and education might be used to scale social entrepreneurship. The event contributed to a broader vision to create the first ‘School for Community-based Tourism & Social Entrepreneurship’ in South-east Asia, with the potential to replicate the model in other parts of Vietnam and in other countries.

We adopted regenerative design principles and methods - deep listening, building empathy, observation, information collection, sense-making, and idea generation in the delivery of the walking workshop. Through active learning experiences, delegates developed an appreciation for regenerative tourism design methods in tourism. Our intention is to continue this journey with prototyping and experimentation, although Covid-19 meant that the project has been put on hold temporarily. Themes explored included:

  1. Community-based tourism education and curriculum development.

  2. Fostering value-added activities in community-based tourism.

  3. Heritage and environmental conservation in community-based tourism.

  4. Linkages between tourism and local social enterprises for sustainable development

  5. Tourism, social innovation and rural development.

  6. Experiential learning and student exchanges between the North and South.

Our Commitment to Tourism for Good

Through directly experiencing tourism projects in 5 villages in the northern mountainous area, this event offered unique opportunities for the creation of new research projects, as well as plans for long-term collaboration between Vietnamese and international institutions. The event also sought to nurture a unique forum that connects global social entrepreneurs, industry players, and scholars who are passionate about activating social purpose in tourism.

CoLearning Together

Co-learning, reflection, and building empathy was a huge part of the journey. It took just a few hours on the first day for participants to realise just how much they had to learn from each other. CBT Travel and Consulting Vietnam had a wealth of knowledge and participants from other countries had different perspectives and fresh eyes.

Epilogue: 2020 threw us a curveball! Progress towards the development of a school of entrepreneurship, while still a strong commitment, needed to be put on hold. However, we continue to work towards its development behind the scenes. Watch this space!


Thank you for your interest in the Walking Workshop. As activators and change agents, we believe in the power of deep listening and active co-learning in the field. Learning is motion, embedded in place in much more powerful than in a classroom or virtual space. The CoLab organises a range of active learning experiences, so just reach out if you'd like to know more about active learning through immersion.

If you would like to know more about what we do, how we work and how we might be able to help you, then send us an email.


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