As a 19-year-old university student, Ms. Nguyen Thi Huong Lien recognized a need to empower young women in Vietnam. While most young people feel trepidation about tackling such a challenge, Lien chose to address it head-on.
Possessing only $100, some marketing knowhow, and passion for helping others, Lien launched I Love Hue Tour, an all-female owned and operated tourism social enterprise in Hue, Vietnam. Three years later, I Love Hue has proven to be a huge success, and Lien, always looking to make the world a better place, is in the process of expanding the enterprise and using it as a mechanism to tackle a host of societal issues.
Born in Quang Tri province in central Vietnam, Lien began volunteer work in high school and quickly discovered that it was her passion. During her early volunteering experiences, Lien said that “I felt a special feeling in my heart when I helped other people.”
Putting her passion into action, Lien started I love Hue after moving to Hue province for university. I Love Hue offers motorbike tours to Hue’s most interesting attractions, including museums, beautiful landscapes, and unique restaurants. If you have any questions about the value of these tours, read the glowing reviews on TripAdvisor.
Unlike other tour groups, I Love Hue empowers female students to lead all tours, and the social enterprise uses its proceeds to support a range of disadvantaged groups, such as people with disabilities, orphans, and women. Like its trailblazing founder, I Love Hue’s staff can effectively communicate in sign language, making it the first and only tourism company in Vietnam that offers tours using sign language.
In 2017, Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism (MIST) honored Lien with a WISE Women’s Leadership Award for her one-of-a-kind tourism social enterprise. Not resting on her accomplishments though, Lien is now embarking on expanding her model throughout Vietnam and, more ambitiously, Asia. Both I Love Vietnam and I Love Asia will feature innovative female-led motorbike tours in the region’s most interesting locations.
In an effort to improve her business acumen and economic knowledge, Lien applied for and was selected to participate in the YSEALI Generation: ECommunity! workshop, which is part of the U.S. Government’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) program. The workshop brought together 80 ambitious youth, aged 18-25, from across the region to explore the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and regional policy development process. Kenan Institute Asia designed the workshop in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, the U.S. Department of State, and the Centre for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS). It marked the second time Kenan and the U.S. Department of State have collaborated to strengthen civil society in the region, following the success of the Vietnam Women Improving Lives and Leadership (WILL) project, which built the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) serving the needs of women to advocate more effectively with government.
Kenan and its partners developed an action-packed four-day agenda where the young leaders discussed and grappled with the most pressing issues facing the region. Guided by economists, policy makers, NGO leaders, and business executives, the young leaders worked together to develop strategies to induce sustainable economic development in ASEAN. The process was designed to inspire the youth to continue striving to make the region a more united, equal, and prosperous place.
In addition to building economic and business knowledge, the young leaders networked and exchanged ideas as well as gaining an appreciation for the diverse cultures of the ten ASEAN countries. Lien says that she is most looking forward to “meeting and talking with the other amazing young leaders from around ASEAN. It’s a great opportunity for me to learn from their ideas and find ways to work together to build a brighter world.”
The workshop aimed to propel the young leaders’ closer to achieving their dreams. For Lien, this means continuing to grow her social enterprise into a driver of community development and social good across Asia.
Learn more about Lien and I Love Hue Tour.