FINALIST – 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Best in Community Engagement & Development
In a province threatened by the rapidly growing tourism industry Xintuo provides a different type of experience aimed at keeping the local communities in Yunnan and the surrounding environment healthy and thriving. Through their ecotourism offerings tourists know that not only are they minimizing their negative effects on the environment but supporting the local community they are visiting. The community-driven hospitality network gives guests unique interactions with the local culture, whether they are visiting villages inhabited by ethnic minorities, learning about the region from a local guide, or experiencing the diverse flora and fauna while trekking, biking or hiking.
Firmly integrated in the surrounding Lashihai community, Xintuo Ecotourism is employee and community-owned with the support of the Nature Conservancy, their partner in promoting the area’s biodiversity. The community’s well being is a top priority and Xintuo holds meetings to discuss current needs, both socially and environmentally, knowing change can only occur through collaboration. A couple of their successful projects: funding the renovation of the kindergarten in the Noy Yao Village, which improved classroom conditions and facilities, and supplying the Wuhai primary school with books, blankets, and stationary.
Xintuo has seen how harmful the effects of domestic tourism in China tend to be, including a general low awareness of environmental issues, and strive to offer unique experiences making them an important player in the domestic ecotourism market. At the moment the are one of the only companies in the region locally sourcing all of their resources. Tour guides are hired from the local ethnic minority groups, the Yi and Naxi, guests stay in locally run homestays, and they purchase food grown in the villages or from the original supplier.
After seeing the success of their current initiatives, Xintuo hopes to turn the Lashihai region into a model for sustainable development. They currently plan on growing community involvement by expanding their homestay network while encouraging those involved in the program to develop additional activities for their guests such as handicraft demonstrations, agro-tourism, and bike rentals. They also hope to incorporate organic farming and agro-tourism into their future programs. Food safety is a growing issue for many in the community so Xintuo plans to develop experimental plots as a way to offer training and gradually change the local agricultural practices.
For more information about Xintuo Ecotourism, visit their website: http://ecotourism.com.cn/