As homestays mushroom in the popular holiday spot of Hoi An, the local administration there is determined to tighten regulations and guarantee a satisfying experience for international tourists.
Hoi An, located in the central province of Quang Nam, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its ancient town and trading port dating back to the 15th century.
Homestay services have long been a highlight of Hoi An’s tourism offer, with visitors immersing themselves in the slow-paced lifestyle of the tranquil Vietnamese town while exploring its charming quarters with local hosts.
Homestay is a form of accommodation whereby tourists stay in the home of a local and join their hosts during their daily activities as a way of experiencing local culture, according to Le Van Binh, head of Hoi An’s trade and tourism authority.
However, the homestay concept’s mushrooming popularity in Hoi An has resulted in some operators treating guests like any other hotel would, Binh said.
“Some homestay facilities offer virtually no connection between the hosts and their guests,” he added.
|A French couple poses for a photo with their homestay hosts in Hoi An. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Walk down any street near Hoi An Ancient Town these days and one is sure to find homestay facilities that advertise themselves using colorful billboards and neon signs.
According to the owners of one homestay on Nguyen Tri Phuong Street, their house is home to a family of multiple generations of Vietnamese, but they have only recently decided to open their residence after seeing their neighbors do so well in the same business.
“There are only the two of us who are regularly present in the home. We hire some helpers to take care of room service, cooking and collecting rent from the guests,” an elderly couple who owns the homestay told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
At another homestay in downtown Hoi An, the atmosphere is one of a professional hotel service, despite the home being the residence of a local family.
“My children are in college and my husband works as a state official, so none of them are home during the day. I run the homestay myself to earn some extra income during my free time,” the female homeowner said.
|Two women wearing the 'ao dai' (Vietnam's traditional long gown) walk in an old quarter of Hoi An. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
According to statistics from Quang Nam’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, there are 270 licensed homestay facilities in Hoi An, with over 90 percent in the city’s ancient town.
“Some of these facilities are owned by non-residents who live in other provinces and even overseas,” said Nguyen Minh Ly, chief of office for the People’s Committee of Hoi An City.
In 2017, the trade and tourism authority of Hoi An was forced to reject 13 applications to open new homestays and recalled several licenses they had already issued due to the facilities’ failure to provide what they considered to be adequate homestay services.
Since November 2017, households wishing to open homestays are required to be owned by Hoi An residents who are not married to a foreigner.
The house itself must not be more than two floors high, and must be furnished with a worshipping space as per Vietnamese tradition.
Inspections will be carried out to review all current homestays in Hoi An to ensure all of them conform to the new requirements, according to Binh, the head of Hoi An’s trade and tourism authority.