Hanoi will focus on training management skills and professionalism, constructing infrastructure, improving the environment and co-ordinating with tourism agencies to preserve and develop trade villages, Dao Thu Vinh, Deputy Director of the Department of Industry and Trade, said.
“Besides renovating temples, pagodas and amusement parks, trade villages will develop traditional products which have great cultural and economic value,” said Vinh.
Villagers will be taught about business management, marketing and product packaging to improve sales.
According to the Hanoi Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, it is providing vocational training for 5,000 labourers in rural areas and trade villages.
Developing trade villages in groups will also be a focus, Vinh said. Hoai Duc, the processing agricultural group, proves the model is a success. Tapioca processing enterprises throughout Duong Lieu, Cat Que and Minh Khai communes bring an annual production value of VND211.5 billion (US$10.8 million) and provide jobs for 15,650 labourers.
Statistics show that each labourer makes an average of VND13.5 million ($692) per year, improving living conditions in rural areas. The proportion of poor households in trade villages stands at only 3.7 per cent, much lower than the national average of 10.4 per cent.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ho Xuan Hung recognised the great contribution of trade villages in the economic and social development of the city. On average, the villages attract more than 600,000 labourers, making VND7,650 billion ($392 million) per year. The money accounts for 26 per cent of the city non-state industrial production and 8.4 per cent of industrial production.
Trade villages have a 15 per cent annual development rate, 5 per cent higher than in 2000, and contribute VND19.5 billion ($1 billion) to national export turnover each year, said Hung.
There are 1,350 trade villages within the city and out of the 224 traditional villages, 54 are more than 100 years old.
But a study by Hanoi University of Culture shows that few trade villagers are considered appealing to visitors and that, in fact, numbers have even started to decline.
The study found that some, including Chuong My village (rattan and bamboo), Quat Dong (embroidery), and Ha Thai (lacquer work) are rarely visited by tourists despite being promoted for several years.
Artisan Nguyen Huu Chinh from Van Phuc silk village in Ha Dong town said that villagers did not have essential knowledge about marketing, welcoming visitors or how to produce low-price products to meet their demands.
The study found that tourism agencies had difficulty in introducing trade village tours to tourists.
Luong Xuan Hong, manager of A Chau Tourism Agency on Ma May Street, said that about 35 per cent of its customers once booked tours to Ha Noi trade villages, but the number had fallen in the past two years.
“Around Hanoi, tourists want to see the Old Quarter or places of natural beauty, such as the Huong pagoda,” he said. “They consider that the trade villages are not attractive enough.”
“There are no need to go to villages because we can buy those products anywhere, in the Old Quarter, for example,” said Adrian Brookes, an English tourist. “We have little time to spend and visits to trade village are time-consuming and offer few services.”
The Hanoi Department of Tourism analysis shows that the more creative the villagers, the more attractive they are to visitors.
Van Phuc creates made-to-measure clothing. The village delights tourists with high-quality dresses and hand-made clothing.
The renowned Bat Trang pottery village uses buffalo carriages to take visitors around the kilns, showrooms and local temples and pagodas. They even encourage tourists to make their own pottery – and paint it.
“Visitors are happy taking home products they make with their own hands,” said one villager.
Bat Trang welcomes hundreds of visitors during the tourist season.
Vinh is adamant that, properly managed, the potential of traditional trade villages is enormous.
“If we could organise tours professionally, Ha Noi would not only receive economic and cultural profits, but also help keep alive its 1,000-year-old heritage,” she said.