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Water feature: Aqualagon with its amazing water slides is the main attraction. Photograph: Luc Boegly

There’s some weirdness attached to Villages Nature, the Disney-imagineered vision of rustic life, but the waterslides are amazing and there’s lots for kids to do

Welcome to the strangely disconcerting world of Villages Nature, 20 miles east of Paris and less than three hours on Eurostar direct from London St Pancras. All of this was once disused farmland until Disney and its partner, Pierre et Vacances (which owns Center Parcs Europe), transformed it into a 300-acre eco-resort; a “haven where guests can disconnect and feel at one with nature”. In other words, the polar opposite of the offering up the road – Disneyland Paris. Their hope is that families will be curious to try both these different worlds. It’s easy to see the appeal: when the children are done with Hyperspace Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean, you can escape back here to the serenity of your Scandi-chic apartment, a gloriously Disney princess-free zone.

Read the full article to find out more about the features of Disneyland’s new eco-resort here.

By  for The Guardian.

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Songkran Festival (Shutterstock)

 

Songkran is the Thai New Year festival celebrated from 13 – 15 April. It is one of the country’s most important public holidays. Songkran is a Buddhist festival also celebrated in many other parts of Asia including Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and parts of China. Each country has its own unique rituals and celebrations.

Water holds considerable significance during Songkran. It is a vital part of the celebrations as it is used for the ritual cleansing. However, this ritual expands inevitably into a giant fiesta of water splashing. If you visit these countries during this New Year period, be prepared to get very wet!

Songkran is a joyous time and an important festival for all Buddhists but it is important to act responsibly and conserve water – our most precious natural asset.

Here are some thoughts to consider when celebrating Songkran this week-end:

 

  1. Celebrate in traditional style

Celebrate Songkran traditionally by sprinkling a small amount of water over the hands of elders to receive a blessing for the upcoming year. This is a gentle and very meaningful gesture in Buddhist society.

 

  1. Use spray bottles – not water guns

It may be tempting and probably a must to take part in a water fight but you should consider using spray bottles as an alternative to the water guns.

 

  1. Visit a temple

Many temples offer Songkran activities and traditional shows where you may learn about the core concept of the water festivals in the company of local residents and fellow visitors.

 

Check South East Asia’s best temples here.

Songkran is a wonderful opportunity for mingling with locals and making new friends. Take time to consider how best to celebrate this year’s amazing Songkran Festival whilst remaining ever mindful of the need to conserve water.

 

Songkran Festival (Shutterstock)

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Travelling breaks down barriers and promotes diversity. Travel is about shared experiences and building friendships. It is a great way to learn understanding for different customs.

If we teach our children how to make the right travel choices, it can not only benefit them, but it will also make the world a better place.

 

Here are some ways to travel more responsibly with your children:

 

  1. Choose sustainable transport

Explain to children how biking, walking or using public transport is much better for the planet and then choose one of those modes of transport every day during your holiday. Understanding the impact of your carbon footprint will help children to grow into more responsible travellers. Read more on green transportation here.

 

  1. Choose responsible destinations

Make time to plan your trip together with your children – research each destination’s commitment to the protection of people, animals, sites of important historic interests and, of course, the environment. Participating in this process enables younger travellers to learn about the importance of sustainable and responsible travel. Read about top destinations that enforce sustainable tourism here.

 

  1. Get off the beaten path

Choose places where you may connect with locals and learn about their traditions. Building closer connections with a place is much more enjoyable and inspiring for you and your children. Consider asking your tour operator about participating in a community based tour or a local handcraft activity.

 

  1. Encounter wildlife with respect

Teach your children a few basic rules and lead by example: use a quiet voice, do not touch, feed or get too close to wildlife and always obey the rules and instructions.

 

Showing children how to travel responsibly now will shape them into empathic and compassionate travellers and more learned members of society. And by travelling with them as responsible adults it’s a fascinating learning experience for the entire family.

Read more on sustainable travel with children here.

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As the tourist industry is looking for new attractions, and with tourists’ growing awareness of environmental issues of tourists, new kind of attractions are popping up: landfills and cleantech facilities.

Hiriya -Turning Landfills and Cleantech Facilities into a Tourist AttractionA few places around the world have transformed former landfills into nature parks. The Hiriya Center for Environmental Education in Israel, for example, attracts domestic and international tourists as well as professional visitors. Another example is the former landfill in Hangzhou, China, where tourists can visit its trash-to-gas power plant, play environmental video games, and hike in an eco-park the size of 10 football fields.

Cleantech facilities also serve as a tourist attraction that educate and offer experiential activities. The Solar Garden in Binyamina, Israel, is one such an educational initiative designed to promote awareness and use of green energy sources and environmental technologies (CleanTech) amongst the Israeli public. It was intentionally built in a place easily accessible with public transportation.

Another example is the Singapore National Water Agency’s NEWater Visitor Centre that promises a fun-filled and enriching time for all its guests with its free daily tours and educational workshops. There, one can learn of the water treatment and water planning of technological Singapore.

One particularly innovative attraction is the Pool+ project in Manhattan, which will be a floating pool in the Hudson River that would filter the river’s water through the pool walls, making it possible for New Yorkers and visitors to swim in clean river water, with pool fees helping to clean the river. This unique pool is thus a water filtration plant and a visitor attraction.

So what can you do? In addition to visiting and spreading the word about such attractions, if you have cleantech facilities in your hotel/lodge, share this information with the guests and make it an educational experience for them.

Remember to share it with us, too!

Clean, accessible water is vital to tourism, used in most of the tourism businesses, from hotels and restaurants to leisure facilities and transportation. Hotels also depend upon their supply industries, such as agriculture and the food and drink industries, none of which would function without sufficient water.

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Thinking about how to conserve water is important. Water conservation can save a significant amount of money by using less: fewer water treatment costs, less labor costs, and less energy use. Using less water also strengthens the local economy as more economic resources are available for the local area. Water conservation also helps protect ecosystems that include tourist attractions that depend on natural resources. Learn more about it from Kuoni’s Water Management Manual for Hotels.

There are many ways to reduce water usage that are more efficient than taking shorter showers, like eating less meat. Here are some useful tips for water conservation that you can easily apply:

Honourable Mention Community Based Tourism Initiative

TheCBT-Vietnam RedDao-hadynyah-copy-e1422561514990 Northern Vietnam Community Based Tourism project is a collaboration of several organizations that make up the overall initiative. It is led by the School of Tourism at Capilano University in association with Hanoi Open University, and the ethnic hill tribe communities of Taphin, TaVan, and Lao Chai in the trekking region of Sapa. The Capilano University School of Tourism lies within the Faculty of Global and Community Studies. Some of the guiding principles of the Faculty are to connect from global to local levels in all facets of learning, demonstrate leadership in stewardship and sustainability, place emphasis on healthy communities and good governance, and actively engage and pursue social entrepreneurship. We have also had the support of the PATA Foundation to run this project for the past five years.

The overall goal of the work has been to provide practical tourism training for three ethnic minority communities (Tavan, Taphin and Lao Chai) to reduce poverty, create employment opportunities, and improve quality of life. The key objectives have been as follows:
• To create healthy business operations for several independent family or individual owners;
• To create social enterprises in the villages to share benefits of tourism
• To build active business partnerships with appropriate values based external tourism operators where mutual benefit results
• To facilitate quality and good value tourist experiences in the villages;
• To generate fiscal resources to sustain and enhance tourist products;
• To improve environmental quality in alignment with the development of tourism in the communities.

When Capilano University and Hanoi Open University were first invited into the villages of Taphin and Tavan in 2002 to begin the work of helping generate sustainable tourism, Sapa was just emerging as a destination and very few visitors were coming to the remote, ethnic minority villages. We were challenged to help locals understand what tourism was, what the perspectives of the visitors were, and to help build skills in a culture based solely on subsistence agriculture and minor trade for hundreds of years. The only way to achieve this was through exceptionally high levels of consultation, community engagement, and relationship building. Details of the work and outcomes are described in following sections of this submission.

 

For more information: CBT Vietnam website

Honourable Mention Community Based Tourism Initiative

Ban Rai Gong KingBan Rai Gong King Village is a small community in Chiangmai Province, a popular tourist destination in the northern part of Thailand. The community is situated next to Chiangmai Night Safari, so the main occupation of the villagers are vegetable plantation to sell as animal food in the zoo. During the economic crisis in the year 1997, many villagers who worked in the city moved back to Ban Rai Gong King Village to be with family and to think about what to do next. Many villagers lost their jobs and income. To help solving the economic problem of villagers, the village headman set up the ‘Ban Rai Gong King Development Fund’ which started with 3,000 Baht (approximately USD100). The initial money was used to set up a Bulk Purchasing Business where villagers can sign up for their commodity needs and the village headman will go to buy the products in bulk to get the wholesale price and save money for all. The profit from this business goes to the Development Fund which is used for community welfare from the birth to the death.

With the rich cultural resource and strong community welfare system, Ban Rai Gong King Village thought about using tourism as a development tool to improve the livelihood of villagers. With the support from various organizations, Ban Rai Gong King Community-based Tourism Club is formed with the objectives of the following:
1. To use tourism as a tool for developing sustainable livelihood of the villagers.
2. To revive the local culture and wisdom for next generation.
3. To improve the community welfare.
4. To promote healthy lifestyle for all.

The operation of Ban Rai Gong King Community-based Tourism Club is fruitful because of villagers’ participation in every process of development. That is why in the year 2015, Ban Rai Gong King Community based Tourism club earned a Thailand Tourism Awards in the category for ‘Best Community-based Tourism’.

Best Community Based Tourism Initiative

Bojo AloguinsanBojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association (BAETAS) was formally registered with the Department of Labor and Employment in October 2009, and with the Bureau of Internal Revenue the following year. The project was initiated by the local government of the municipality of Aloguinsan, a town located 73 kilometers midwest of Cebu City on the island of Cebu in central Philippines. The town is classified as a 4th class municipality with a population of 26,000 and a land area of 7,421 hectares. The village of Bojo is a fishing village of about 1,600 residents living in an area of about 355 hectares. Most of the residents earn from fishing, farming and working as laborers in the city. The 1.3 kilometer Bojo River flows through this village and empties into the Tanon Strait, the biggest marine protected area in the Philippines, and home to 14 species of dolphins.

Community organizing work began in the first quarter of 2009. The association had 52 member families with 75% of them having finished elementary education. More than half of the members are fishermen and housewives and earning US$70 a month. Sixty-five percent have lived in the village since birth.

BAETAS’ mission is to protect Bojo river and the marine resources of Tanon Strait, and attract tourists and earn supplemental income. Its general strategy is community-driven environmental management and the approach is ecotourism revenue as a strong incentive to protect the environment. By the middle of 2009, the Bojo River Eco-Cultural Tour was launched. After fine-tuning the product for a year, it began full swing in 2010.

To date, it has received almost 38,000 satisfied tourists who have joined the tour bringing memorable and meaningful experiences with them after. Tours have generated a total receipt of 16 million pesos with the 2.6 million pesos turned over to the local government. People hail it as a trailblazing initiative in Philippine community-based ecotourism where a local community association gives financial endowment to a municipal government from its tourism activities! The Department of Environment and Natural Resource, Integrated Coastal Resource Management Project and the Asian Development Bank awarded BAETAS the Inang Kalikasan Award for Best in Ecotourism Leadership in 2013.

 

 

Best Responsible Tourism Destination

Borneo Rainforest LodgeBorneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL) is nestled in a magnificent setting alongside the Danum River flowing through Sabah’s largest protected lowland rainforest – Danum Valley Conservation Area of 43,800 hectares of pristine and undisturbed tropical flora and fauna in the eastern part of Sabah. This pristine rainforest is also home to more than 340 species Birds, 124 species of Mammals, 72 species of Reptiles, 56 species of Amphibians and a staggering 200 species of plants per hectare.

BRL has 30 individual chalets with fans and en-suite bathrooms, accommodating up to only 60 guests on any one day and on a Full-Board basis. The newly opened 3 units of Premium Villas offer a higher level of comfort. These two single-storey and a double-storey chalets combine minimalist design and green conservation exercising eco sensitive structure with minimal footprint. Each chalet has its own outdoors tub attached to spacious viewing deck for a panoramic view of the river and serene forest landscape.