Throughout Southeast Asia, Journeys Within has always been committed to supporting the neighborhoods we work in. In last weeks blog we talked about what makes a functional community based tour and their growing popularity within the tourism industry. Today we look at how including community based tours in your travel can help protect the culture of the places that make trips abroad so worthwhile …
When planning a trip it is easy to get excited; talking to friends, doing research and speaking with experts about the places you long to see sets certain expectations. So what happens when you arrive at that destination you have been dreaming about to find that those who came before you haven’t left it in the condition you had hoped?
The very assets that attract visitors – welcoming locals, foreign customs and rich cultural heritages – can be threatened by the influx of foreign guests if they are not carefully protected. While the Louvre has guards, velvet ropes and rules against flash photography to protect its treasures, much of what makes Southeast Asia special isn’t subject to the same kind of management or care.
Responsible tourism strives to achieve a harmonious cycle, one where the local community is able to retain its cultural heritage while visitors get the experience they are looking for. This is something we actively support with our tailor-made tours.
So what does protecting local culture look like in practice? There are a few small steps that tour companies and guests can take to help safeguard the cultural heritage of the places they visit.
At Journeys Within, we love providing our guests with the information they need to be sensitive to local customs — we believe that educating people is one of the most powerful ways to combat cultural erosion. Somethings that are acceptable back home aren’t appropriate once you are abroad so knowing is half the battle! Our guests do their best to follow local dress codes, refrain from littering and even learning a few words in the local language. Though seemingly small gestures, these acts go a long way towards showing the locals that they are respectful of their way of life.
We use local guides and drivers — not only does this act as an economic driver but it is also a great opportunity to interact with the people who call these travel destinations home. Most of our guests find that they build friendships with their local contacts, giving our guides the opportunity to talk about the history and culture that they take such pride in it.
Traveling in smaller groups, respecting local dress codes, keeping an open mind about differing life styles are just a few ways that our guests help respect the destinations they love. Like others who work towards promoting cultural sustainability, we love offering small-scale, community based opportunities to our guests, like trips to see Journeys Within Our Community projects at work or including an Indochine Exploration eco-friendly tour. Even better, our guests LOVE taking part !
What is next?
As much as we try to protect the cultural heritage of the countries and cities that we work in, there is always more work to be done. We are constantly looking for new, sustainable opportunities for our guests. Lucky for us, Southeast Asia has more and more community-based excursions being created, with both guests and host communities in mind. One example is the recently founded Backstreet Academy program that is offered in Laos and Cambodia — fun courses that not only respect culture but look to share it with guests.
We embrace this growing trend and thank our guests for taking part in these opportunities — if we all do our part we can work towards preserve the places we love for those who live there year round and those who visit after us.