Community tourism projects supported by TTG’s Sustainable Travel Heroes include cooking classes in Vietnam and homestays in Nepal. Madeleine Barber explores why it’s a rewarding way to travel
Community-based tourism can be defined as “community-owned, directed and managed visitor activities and experiences, usually for the greater good, that uplift marginalized groups such as women, youth, migrants or refugees, homeless people, indigenous people and people with disabilities”.
So says Jamie Sweeting, president of the Planeterra Foundation, the leading nonprofit that champions community-based tourism. It works with providers such as Just You and G Touring’s Travelsphere to make these activities more easily accessible to travel agents and their customers – with a shared mission to “change people’s lives through travel”.
Intrepid Travel, another operator known for its efforts in community tourism, says “engaging” and “authentic” are essential characteristics of its trips. Customers can enjoy deeper interactions with locals, have memorable experiences, and make better choices in the future, because community tourism not only promises change for the marginalized around the world, it is often life changing too. and traveler values.
PROJECTS FOR GOOD
Customers of G Touring routes in Vietnam visit Planeterra’s Oodles of Noodles project, where they learn how to cook noodles like a local. But the teachers here are actually the students; underprivileged young people using tourism to hone their English and presentation skills to prepare for the hospitality careers they once dreamed of. They receive tuition, safe housing and health care, with most graduates working in respected hotels, so visitors go home knowing they’ve made a real difference in someone’s life. a ; a good deed that many choose to repeat on future holidays.
Meanwhile, in Nepal, Intrepid has edified the people of Madi, a rural area in Chitwan National Park, by adding an overnight stay here to its itineraries. Once plagued by elephants and tigers destroying the crops and livestock he depended on for his income, the area is now fenced off and thriving, with around a third of households operating guesthouses, some with small shops and others maintaining their traditional trade.
“By choosing to include an overnight stay here, we are not only benefiting local people, but giving our travelers a great experience through a glimpse into rural life in Nepal,” says Myvawny Costelloe, Community Tourism Manager at Intrepid. .
She adds that women in particular have benefited immensely from the support that tourism brings to Madi: “Having received professional training in hospitality, management and cooking, the women now have the confidence to run their own bed and breakfast businesses, generate their their own income and for the first time they feel empowered to decide how that money is spent.
SKY IS THE LIMIT
DO’S AND DON’TS
Abta offers advice on identifying sustainable excursions, including green and red flags to watch out for when looking for community tourism experiences.
TO DO choose excursions offering a tangible benefit to the local community: financial contributions through the purchase of food, drinks and other local products; economic development opportunities; or providing employment opportunities.
DON’T suggest excursions that include visiting, volunteering, or donating money to orphanages or other organizations that provide institutional care for children.
TO DO ask the tour operators you work with to show you their official sustainability credentials.
There is a misconception that community tourism is only good in poorer countries, but it can also be beneficial in more progressive countries. Avis Budget Group, for example, has partnered with tour operator Not In The Guidebooks to provide community experiences in areas that are less concentrated and therefore not directly benefiting from tourism in Norway. Examples include baking Norwegian cakes on a farm in Hafslo and dog sledding on a family business in Tromso.
“We help customers travel off the beaten track and support these local economies,” says Sophie Nelson, Head of Travel and Partnerships at Avis. “These experiences are actually so off the beaten path that car hire is essential to get there.”
Hurtigruten also practices community tourism in Norway using local farms and tour operators on its Norwegian Coastal Express trip. “We believe it is essential that we make a positive contribution to the communities we visit,” says Mark Walter, UK Sales Manager. The expedition expert is therefore committed to respecting and supporting indigenous communities, contributing to the livelihoods and well-being of small coastal societies and maintaining year-round activity to ensure that communities do not lose during low seasons.
It’s statements like this and taking action to support local communities that separates the most sustainable travel companies from the masses. When community tourism elevates marginalized groups, enlightens travelers, and has the potential to encourage customers to return for more, there’s no reason not to spend time learning about, promoting, and selling these types. responsible holidays – and you might just change lives in the process.
STAYS TO BOOK
Travelsphere’s Epic Peru The tour includes a visit to Planeterra’s Ccaccaccollo women’s weaving workshop, which creates economic opportunities for women in the local indigenous community through the sale of products such as hats, socks and sweaters woven from llama and alpaca wool. Prices for the 16-day trip start at £3,449 per person, including flights from London, for departures from September 2022.
Disko Bay from Hurtigruten – The heart of Greenland The cruise allows guests to visit the local communities of Qaqortoq, Sisimiut and Maniitsoq, where they will have the opportunity to purchase traditional crafts while learning about local culture. Cruise-only pricing for the 16-day voyage starts from £6,343 pp, with London arrival or departure packages available from £498 pp (regional airports available at an additional cost). There are eight departures between June 2022 and July 2023.
16-Day Panoramic Vietnam from Intrepid Travel (£1,879 pp including flights from London and based on departure Jan 10, 2023) offers a homestay in Da Bac. Visitors will get to know their hosts over authentic home-cooked meals in traditional Muong stilt houses knowing that their contribution helps marginalized families improve their living conditions and educate their children.
Find more sustainability tips and advice at ttgmedia.com/sustainabletravelheroes.