Let's Unravel Travel: Experiences from India (Part 3 of 3)

‘Let’s Unravel Travel’ Series

Our latest dispatches series brings you stories from positive grassroots initiatives and a personal account of some not-so-good tourism activities happening on the ground. Amy, Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Initiative’s latest recruit, shares some first hand experiences from India.

Sadly this is the last in the India series, but we’ve enjoyed sharing these personal accounts of responsible and irresponsible tourism examples…we’re going to do more! Watch this space. .

Praise for the goodies!

Reality Tours & Travel (Mumbai, India)

Slum tourism can be a little controversial, but I really believe that Reality Tours have hit the nail on the head and developed an inspirational responsible tourism model. Reality Tours are based in the popular Colaba district of Mumbai and they deliver eye opening city tours delivered by local people. 80% of their profits are reinvested into community initiatives, including the development of an educational community hub in Dharavi slum. Their tour to the settlement of Dharavi ensures that no photography is taken, visits do not intrude on people’s lives, money is spent within the community and that these ‘real Indian’ experiences are mutually beneficial to visitors and locals. They’re dedicated to paying their guides a fair wage and provide exciting employment opportunities for young people. More information (link to website).

  • Reality Tours gets stuck in with local events and has recently hosted music classes for youngsters and events to celebrate World Woman’s Day
  • They give guests tipping tips to ensure fair pricing strategy and to avoid embarrassment
Some things that have got me worried…

Trekking guides without correct equipment or training in Kerala (India)

Chembra Peak is Wayanad’s highest peak, nestled in a beautiful corner of Kerala. A trekking guide is compulsory. However it’s disappointing to see untrained guides taking people into fragile environments with no mobile phones, first aid kit, torches, jacket nor appropriate footwear – worse still, no food and no drink for themselves. Tourism needs to realize the huge potential that well trained guides can have in educating guests about local culture and environment as well as delivering practical steps to protect their natural assets.

[message type="simple"]

The need for Responsible Tourism and Wild Asia

These positive stories highlight the need for responsible tourism everywhere in the world and showcase that tourism can be a force for good. These are just a small handful of inspirational schemes that are out there. But the benefits to local people speak for themselves. Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards recognises best practice in responsible tourism, rewarding businesses by giving them the recognition they deserve. More information on our Awards.

Wild Asia has been championing responsible tourism for over ten years. But we know that in many destinations there is still a lot of work to be done. Wild Asia can provide bespoke training courses for tourism operators to raise awareness on how to reduce environmental impacts or ensure local communities benefit from tourism. The sad stories of poor tourism development show troubles from the top and bottom. Wild Asia continues to work with industry level groups to influence how tourism operates and travelers must remember to take responsibility into their own hands. Please get in touch if you are a tourism business and would like to enquire about responsible tourism training.

[/message]

(Photos: Amy McLoughlin, except image of family Dharavi slum: credit Reality Tours)

Let's Unravel Travel: Experiences from India (Part 2 of 3)

‘Let’s Unravel Travel’ Series

Our latest dispatches series brings you stories from positive grassroots initiatives and a personal account of some not-so-good tourism activities happening on the ground. Amy, Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Initiative’s latest recruit, shares some first hand experiences from India.

Praise for the goodies!

Kabani and Uravu homestays (Kerala, India)

Kabani is an ethical tourism campaigner, championing human rights in tourism across Southern India. It has partnered with an inspiring community bamboo cooperative to develop a fantastic homestay programme. In an area where farming is experiencing some devastating downturns, villagers have got together to create a sustainable tourism model to benefit the lives of the inhabitants. Tourists can come to the quiet village of Thrikkaipetta and stay with local families, immersing themselves in real Keralan culture for an authentic holiday. Villagers benefit from a range of capacity building training from English language, to sustainable farming; more than 1000 people have benefitted from these courses. More information (link to website)

  • Developed first India based map of identifying responsible tourism issues
  • Featured in Tourism Concern’s Ethical Travel Guide
Some things that have got me worried…

Local people’s access to public places in Varkala (India)

Varkala is at the heart of Kerala’s prized coastline. Despite being a well established beach resort, most of the development has been done sympathetically and it retains a low key atmosphere and the beach is impressively clean. However, witnessing local guys accused of ‘boob watching’ and ushered away from a part of the beach that’s ‘not for Indian’s’ is pretty disturbing stuff. Girls, put them away if it’s not acceptable and infringes on local’s values.

[message type="simple"]

The need for Responsible Tourism and Wild Asia

These positive stories highlight the need for responsible tourism everywhere in the world and showcase that tourism can be a force for good. These are just a small handful of inspirational schemes that are out there. But the benefits to local people speak for themselves. Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards recognises best practice in responsible tourism, rewarding businesses by giving them the recognition they deserve. More information on our Awards.

Wild Asia has been championing responsible tourism for over ten years. But we know that in many destinations there is still a lot of work to be done. Wild Asia can provide bespoke training courses for tourism operators to raise awareness on how to reduce environmental impacts or ensure local communities benefit from tourism. The sad stories of poor tourism development show troubles from the top and bottom. Wild Asia continues to work with industry level groups to influence how tourism operates and travelers must remember to take responsibility into their own hands. Please get in touch if you are a tourism business and would like to inquire about responsible tourism training.

[/message]

(Photos: Amy McLoughlin)

Let’s Unravel Travel: Experiences from India (Part 1 of 3)

Our ‘Let’s Unravel Travel’ Series

We’re pleased to announce the launch of our Let’s Unravel Travel series of dispatches style articles. The aim of this exciting new series is to raise awareness about tourism from the field; looking at inspiring grassroots initiatives and localised issues that need addressing. We’re kicking off our articles with experiences from India.

Experiences from India

by Amy McLoughlin

Let me introduce myself. I am Amy and started with Wild Asia in May 2012 to help with the coordination of the Responsible Tourism Awards. I’m a young sustainable tourism professional who has worked for the past few years in the UK as a Sustainable Tourism Adviser in a national park, following a degree in related studies. I joined Wild Asia after eight months travelling and volunteering through Asia. Don’t worry! I’m not going to bore you with my soul searching mission, but I will excite you with my sustainability searching mission!

I have spent most of the past eight months in India. Along my way I have seen some things that have shocked me, inspired me, angered me or moved me. I’d like to share some of these with you.

Praise for the goodies!

Agri Tourism India (Maharashtra, India)

An initiative developed to encourage city slickers to ‘get back to their farming roots’ on peaceful holidays in the beautiful Maharashtrian countryside. It has gone far beyond. It remains a popular get away for Mumbai and Pune residents, but it’s doing it in a way that is wonderfully responsible. Their training centre hosts a range of capacity building courses for local farmers and to date has trained in excess of 500 people. Farmers have been learning about how to diversify their farms into homestays, creating additional sustainable income as well as providing an opportunity to conserve their cultural heritage. The agricultural centre hosts a variety of cultural evenings and events for guests, including traditional bullock cart ride and opportunity to dress in local costume (that’s me in the middle!). As a result, farmers have experienced a 25% economic growth. The scheme is great news for employing woman’s cooperatives and advocating youth employment in an area when many young people flee their rural roots. More information (link to their website).

  • Tourism for Tomorrow 2011 Finalist Community Benefit
  • Responsible Tourism Awards 2011 Winner Contribution to Conserving Cultural Heritage
Some things that got me worried…

Waste management in the Andaman and Nicobar islands (India)

The quintessential tropical paradise. Beautiful beaches, swaying palms, bath like sea, pirate movie film set villages…and a shed load of rubbish. I made the calculated decision to visit the tourist hub of Havelock after learning how tourism in these islands has had a negative impact on tribal communities. I was anxious of tourist numbers, I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting a stretched infrastructure, it was good. I was not expecting to wade through sanitary towels and clamber over mountains of glass bottles to get to the beach. Nothing is being done to manage this, gulp.

Next up…

Our next issue will highlight more positive and negative examples from India.

[message type="simple"]The need for Responsible Tourism and Wild Asia

These positive stories highlight the need for responsible tourism everywhere in the world and showcase that tourism can be a force for good. These are just a small handful of inspirational schemes that are out there. But the benefits to local people speak for themselves. Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards recognises best practice in responsible tourism, rewarding businesses by giving them the recognition they deserve. More information on our Awards.

Wild Asia has been championing responsible tourism for over ten years. But we know that in many destinations there is still a lot of work to be done. Wild Asia can provide bespoke training courses for tourism operators to raise awareness on how to reduce environmental impacts or ensure local communities benefit from tourism. The sad stories of poor tourism development show troubles from the top and bottom. Wild Asia continues to work with industry level groups to influence how tourism operates and travelers must remember to take responsibility into their own hands. Operators can play their part by educating guests. Please get in touch if you are a tourism business and would like to inquire about responsible tourism training.

[/message]

(Photos: Amy McLoughlin, except Havelock litter image: credit Brombags1 on Flickr.com)

Shergarh Tented Camp

Top 3 Winner of the 2011 ‘Inspiring Stories from Destinations’ Competition

tourist in treesShergarh Tented Camp opened in 2004 and was established as a small and informal tented camp with a strong focus on high quality wildlife experiences, and with a deep concern for the environment and local community. The project all started with the vision to build a simple lodge from which tourists could enjoy the nearby Kanha Tiger Reserve.

Jehan arrived in Kanha 15 years ago to train as a naturalist at one of India’s first wildlife camps. Kanha captivated him and he purchased a degraded plot of non-native eucalyptus plantation. As the eucalyptus stunted the growth of other plants by consuming too much water, he set about clearing all non-native plants and nurtured indigenous flora. The land has been restored back to original native woodland and a haven for wildlife and set the journey of sustainable discovery.

Today at the camp, you can see indigenous fig and mango trees thriving and home to an array of wildlife. They have recorded hundreds of bird and about fifty butterfly species. Flying foxes colonise the trees and hundreds of breeding ingrids visit each year. A jungle cat hides in the grasslands and brings new born kittens each year. Wild boar and foxes are nocturnal visitors.

In 2001, Katie came to India and volunteered at the original wildlife camp Jehan had trained at, and developed a concern for local nature and communities. She questioned positive and negative impacts of tourism and wanted to be part of something responsible.

shergarh familyKatie and Jehan constructed Shergarh in one year using local skills and services, with a labour force from the local village.  They were quickly accepted by their neighbours, forging relationships which still flourish. A local staff base was established or accomplished cooks, waiters, housekeepers and gardeners. The staff know almost every aspect of the camp and many operate as team leaders.

The camp works on projects with the local school, taking children into the reserve and teaching them about the importance of preservation. As their own children also attend this school, they take the approach as concerned parents in the community.

In running Shergarh, Katie and Jehan have stayed as true to their surroundings as possible. They avoid excessive services and focus strongly on delivering rich experiences.

tiger shergarhMost visitors come to catch a glimpse of a tiger and Katie and Jehan help them achieve this by creating a range of activities that enable guests to have a more complete understanding of the local area. Their latest venture is overnight cycle trips through the forests and villages of central India, which incorporates responsible values and a fun activity.

For them, bringing up their two children in the jungle is the greatest influence of how life and work takes shape at Shergarh. Seeing them in the natural surroundings able to identify and draw lizards or save an ant from being washed down the plug hole reveals the sacred values of mother earth and teaches us how much their is to learn and to preserve.

Katie and Jehan believe what they have done is very simple and their success comes from following their hearts. They say they have followed basic principles in being a responsible human and that no qualifications or price tag is behind what they have achieved. To them, eco or organic can be elitist terms but the concept of responsibility is accessible to anyone.

Watch video of Katie’s story