Le Thi Mot launched her homestay business on Ly Son Islands two years ago after being urged by a group of tourists she had hosted for free.
“The tourists group arrived on Ly Son late and all guest houses were full,” the woman from the island 15 nautical miles off the central Quang Ngai Province said. “I asked them to stay in my house for free that night.”
After returning from the trip, the tourists called Mot and advised her to start a homestay and her business has been a big success.
“In summer there are 5-15 tourists a day. The room rates are VND50,000-100,000 (US$2.2-4.4) per night,” she said.
Soon around 10 families on Ly Son’s main island of Re got into the business to meet the increasing demand.
Vo Thi Loan, Mot’s neighbor, said people on the island are mostly fishermen, and it was a bit unusual for them to have strangers in their houses.
“It took time, but we have gradually got used to hosting guests in our houses.”
She has hosted many tourists including students and those visiting the island in groups, she said.
“It is like staying at home for the tourists. I cook any food they want and boil water for drinking. It is not expensive like in restaurants and hotels.”
The hosts also tell interesting stories when taking tourists to visit old houses, an old pagoda, a cave or garlic fields – a specialty on the island.
Currently there are three high-speed boats from Quang Ngai to Ly Son Islands that depart at 8 a.m. and five boats depart an hour later every day. The trip takes an hour by speed boat and two hours otherwise.
Fishing coracles on Ly Son Islands. Photo: Diep Duc Minh
According to local authorities, the homestay industry has not been managed properly, with many service providers lacking experience.
There are 34 families that have registered to run the business.
Around 150,000 people visited Ly Son this year, or 27 percent of the tourists coming to the province.
Huynh Thi Phuong Hoa, deputy director of the Quang Ngai Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said her agency has organized two trips for families on Ly Son to see homestay services in other places.
“They have visited Hoi An and Cham Islands, where homestay developed earlier, to learn and have a look from tourists’ viewpoint to improve their service at home.”