Nguyen Thi Huong Lien was a girl with big dreams. With 100USD in hand, she put up a small tour company knowing that it will provide a lot of opportunities to practice her English by interacting with foreigners visiting Hue.
IWTA Committee have spoken with Nguyen Thi Huong Lien, CEO of I Love Hue Tour, about her passion for travel and tourism and how she set up a tour company while she was still in university.
Q: How did you get started in the travel industry? And why the travel industry?
A: I started my enterprise, I Love Hue Tour, in tourism when I was in my third year at university. My purpose was practicing English with foreigners to improve language proficiency. I realized tourism is a wise industry that allows me to communicate with foreign visitors frequently, then I decided to get qualification as a tour guide license and set up female scooter tours in Hue, Vietnam.
It became my passion because I see the potential of female students working in the tourism industry, we become more confident everyday because of our work. Additionally, the community also thrives when we operate the tours to local businesses and non-governmental organization projects. Tourism really helps increase our economy drastically.
Q: Can you share a significant moment from your personal journey that inspired your passion for travel?
A: I met Mrs. Sheryl Sanberg at APEC conference in 2017. It was the highlight of my journey at running my own company, I Love Hue Tour. I still remember we discussed a lot about gender equality and community when we met. After meeting her, my passion for women empowerment was on fire, I worked hard to launch the company in five cities in Vietnam and one city in Laos with a hope that we can support more female students in English skills and finance by working in the tourism industry. In 2020, we changed the company to the I Love Asia Tour. Overall, we welcomed 180 local female students who worked closely with us as a tour guide.
Being a CEO is not an easy path, I have to embrace myself learning everyday to be able to lead my team.
Q: Can you share a challenging project you undertook in your travel career and how you overcame it?
A: Being a CEO is not an easy path, I have to embrace myself learning everyday to be able to lead my team. My challenge is finance management as I need to make sure sustainable revenue and profit for the company development. I went to some finance classes to learn more about this essential skill and it helps.
Q: How has working in travel or a career in travel broadened your understanding of different cultures and traditions?
A: As I mentioned earlier, tourism is a wise industry. It allows me to learn various perspectives from people in all over the world. Being a tour guide helps me constantly learn about different history, culture, tradition, custom and language to share with tourists. I am very grateful for the tour guide job because I have made many friends from around the world, and it sent me broader knowledge every single day at my job.
I Love Hue Tour
Q: Can you share the story behind starting your own travel-related business or project?
A: My story about developing and setting up the I Love Hue Tour is from 100 USD in cash. I built everything almost on my own when I was a student at university. My mission was practicing English and giving back to the community through tourism. In the beginning, I had support from the IT for the website builder, the rest I worked hard on my own such as content writing, social media marketing, tour guide, finance management, tour operation, recruitment, building partnership, etc…
All have made me learn fast necessary skills to manage the start-up successfully. From 2014, the company was named I Love Hue Tour, until 2018, it changed to I Love Vietnam Tour. Finally in 2020, we developed a global branding I Love Asia Tour. Now, after COVID 19, we develop a small-scale company again so it remains the I Love Hue Tour.
Q: What changes do you anticipate in the way people travel post-pandemic?
A: I think tourism is trying to develop in a sustainable way, I would like to see environmental friendliness in the tourism industry after COVID 19. I hope we can develop more green travel. Additionally, if tourism can support more community activities it would be great.
Q: If you could be anything in the world or do any role, what would it be?
A: I want to be the ambassador for women in the tourism industry.