Since starting Journeys Within, Andrea has prioritized the communities she works in, which lead to Conde Nast calling her a pioneer in philanthropic travel. It seems the rest of the travel industry is finally catching up…
Last month the Journeys Within team was proud to attend a conference hosted by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). The International Conference on Community Development through Tourism, co-sponsored by UNESCO and the United Nations World Tourism Organization, was a meeting of tour operators, hotels and Cambodian ministry officials, among others. All of these stakeholders were brought to the table to discuss how those of us working in the region can help use tourism to support sustainable development and work towards alleviating poverty.
Much of the conference focused on how to promote the positive influences of travel while educating and mitigating against the negatives. When done with thought and care, travel can be an eye opening, informative and enriching experience both for the visitors and the host communities — a belief that is held at the heart of our company.
One of the overriding ideas of how to accomplish this was through the continued development and support of Community Based Tourism (CBT) — projects that work directly with communities to provide the economic benefits of tourism while protecting cultural, historic or environmental assets.
While a new trend to some, this has been a Journeys Within focus from the beginning. We are always looking to enrich a travel experience and spread the wealth as much as possible. While our guests love to see the Ankorian temples, it is experiences like the community Baci ceremony in Laos or dinners with a local family that they rave about.
By helping to funnel tourist dollars in a positive way, the private sector can help local governments and NGO’s achieve their goals. As Martin Craigs, PATA CEO, puts it is can also help develop cross border empathy — an understanding of the unique and sometimes difficult situations others face.
For Community Based Tourism projects to work we must consider:
- if communities are being empowered — tours must include input and respect the boundaries of the communities they visit.
- if there is fair and transparent benefit sharing — does the money you pay for the tour go to the families involved?
- if there is an integration of partners and stakeholders
- if economic links are strengthened — is the community being included in the economic process.
- if the overall well being of the communities is improved
- if there is a meaningful and interactive host visit — tours should be designed to make guests feel welcome
- if local culture and traditions are respected
- if the project is financial sustainable
The fact is that most authentic and positive experiences revolve around people. After 10 year working on one-of-a-kind tours, we know this to be true. We love peppering itineraries with tours like the Reach Dak Baray, the Kulen Mountain Forest Discovery Trail or one of our own JWOC experiences because the people involved are truly passionate about showing off their communities and preserving their heritage.
While many of our guests want to volunteer or give back, they aren’t sure how due to the short nature of their stays. One of the most effective ways to help a community can be by supporting established projects that meet all of the above criteria — projects we are happy to help guests access.
These hands-on kinds of activities are always guest favourites and at the conference we learned that they are the next trend in responsible travel, something we readily welcome.
Interested in learning more about Community Based Tours or taking one yourself? We are happy to add them to any Southeast Asian itinerary!