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Credit: Michelle Groothedde, PATA

 

There has been much recent speculation and discussion about elephant welfare in tourist elephant camps. With ill-informed media coverage in the West showing the apparent mistreatment of elephants many camps are out of business – leaving a great number of elephants, mahouts, and communities without a source of income.

 

Media and lobby groups have placed considerable focus upon the welfare of the animals without giving due consideration to other factors. These tips will help you to be better informed.

 

Make sure you are well-informed before visiting the elephant camp

Elephants are wild animals and can therefore be dangerous. Read the information provided on the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of interacting with elephants and listen closely to the mahouts’ advice.

 

Elephant welfare

Sometimes it is obvious to see if an elephant has been mistreated. Look for marks on their skin and check that the skin is dark. Look at the condition of their feet and nails? Are the elephants too fat or too skinny? Sometimes using a hook is necessary for a safe handling of the elephant but this should not be abused.

 

Signs of a purple ointment used for healing wounds may give a hint as to whether an animal has been abused. If you see any abuse or mistreatment, report this to the camp management. View more examples of other things to look at are the price of an elephant camp, appropriate use of chains, and water and food supply.

 

Elephant riding

Despite all the activism against this topic, it is important to respect different positions regarding riding or not riding. However, all riding should only be performed responsibly under strict guidance and rules. If elephant rides are offered, for how long? Where do they go? How are riders sitting on the elephant? Is there a weight limit? Read about responsible elephant riding here.

 

Consider culture

Keep in mind that working and living with elephants has been part of Asian cultures for thousands of years. They are effective working animals because of their intelligence and ability to build special relationships with humans.

 

Elephants are generally admired in these cultures and are a valued part of Asian civilisation and it is, therefore, in a community’s best interest that elephant attractions are well managed – taking in account the welfare of the elephants and the communities in which they operate. If presented well, these attractions may be very educational and informative. Read more about the elephant’s role in Asian culture and communities.

 

‘Be a mahout for a day’

Tourism experiences with elephants have made a general shift from old-fashioned circus activities to a more interactive experience that brings you closer to the elephant. Try being ‘a mahout for a day,’ an experience where the tourist spends a day with the mahout and his elephant to learn more about their day-to-day life at the camps.

 

Be wary of media reports

Western perspective on elephant welfare has been highly influenced by stakeholder groups such as media channels and animal welfare organisations but one very important stakeholder group – the Mahouts – rarely have an opportunity to express their views. Mahouts develop a very special relationship with their elephants as they usually stay together for a lifetime. Unfortunately there are some camps that hire mahouts without any experience and they all too frequently resort to force to control their elephants.

 

Control of the elephant

For safety reasons, hooks and chains are sometimes needed to control the elephant. Read about the dangers of free-roaming here. Read the article about the ‘human cost of elephant camps’ to get more information on the sometimes necessary use of chains and hooks.

 

By: PATA Associate Intern Michelle Groothedde

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Travel with Social Good in Nepal’s Community Homestays

Categories: Blog Posts
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by Sudan Budathoki, Senior Office -Online Branding & Communication, Royal Mountain Travel, on behalf of CommunityHomestay.com

 

 

 

 

 

While luxurious hotels with all the mod-cons can be a lavish way to travel, with travelers interested in getting to know local people and exploring different cultures, some may find this a limiting way of experiencing a country. If you’ve seen the inside of one generic hotel, you’ve pretty much seen them all. But the Community Homestay Program, an initiative of Royal Mountain Travel, co-operating with multiple native communities of Nepal, offers an innovative and unique service for travelers wanting a comfortable place to sleep as well as local flavor, warm hospitality and the chance to see and experience things not otherwise accessible to tourists.

CommunityHomestay.com is a network of community homestays in Nepal, with the objective to empower women of vulnerable communities, preserving Nepalese ancient culture and traditions, supporting local business, and creating a memorable vacation for travelers visiting community Homestays.

Interaction with international cultures

Currently, the network envelops twelve community homestays from all over the Nepal. To become a family in the Community Homestay Network, a community is suggested to come forward with at least ten families (houses) to host guests. The homestay program recommends and prefers women to lead the project. Once the application is submitted, administration officers of CommunityHomestay.com pay their visit to the respective community. If a community meets the guidelines, CommunityHomestay.com begins promoting that community in the national and international travel industry. But, if a community does not meet the requirements, CommunityHomestay.com takes every possible measure to make a community competent to host guests. From a fund raising program (to maintain houses) to hospitality courses, from the English language learning classes and health and sanitation awareness, CommunityHomestay.com supports a community by every reasonable means. Once a community is comfortable to host guests, they are requested to reserve some certain amount of revenue to eradicate a social issue or to support a social situation. This is to say, not only a host family shall witness the benefits of community homestay, but eventually an entire community shall gain the positive impacts of responsible tourism.

One such example is Panauti Community Homestay. Like every other community homestay in the network, this homestay is a women-led project in a small town of Panauti, 32 kilometers outside the Kathmandu Valley. In 2009, 10 housewives and Royal Mountain Travel ventured for this very first project. In the initial days, housewives, who later became successful entrepreneurs, were shy and showed a lack of confidence to host foreign guests into their houses. They were concerned if a guest would not like the poor infrastructure of their houses or a guest would not like their home-cooked food or they would not be able to communicate with guests in a foreign language. Most of the housewives of Panauti Homestay are uneducated, and there was an urgent need to encourage them. Royal Mountain Travel provided training to these housewives regarding hospitality, service management, and gave English language learning classes. Royal Mountain also provided an idea and supported the houses to re-build toilets and bathrooms. Gradually, the owners/housewives began hosting guests in their houses. As every guest who visited their Homestay showed their tremendous support to housewives/owners of Panauti Community Homestay, the concept of community homestay came to an existence to empower women from every vulnerable community of Nepal.

 

Women of Panauti

Now the women of Panauti are full of confidence. The housewives are earning well, in some cases, more than their husbands. They can afford to send their children to better schools and their husbands are proud and happy for their wives’ success. With growing success, Panauti Community Homestay installed solar panel energy displaying their support for the natural energy. Once the kids of Panauti would chase a traveler for chocolates, now they communicate with guests in the English language and help lost travelers, if they spot one. A certain amount of revenue, generated from the homestay project, is set aside to support widowed women of Panauti; supporting financially to sponsor their children for education. The same revenue is also used to build a community hall, where younger generation are learning to play traditional Newari (ethnic) music, which was almost extinct.

Panauti Town

Such a success story has not limited its passion only to Panauti, rather it has encouraged other women from different communities to come forward to establish homestays. Other homestays in the Community Homestay Network are following the same principle. Women are in charge of other homestay projects, and so far it seems to be the fact that if a mother in a house becomes stronger, an entire family becomes stronger. If mothers of a community are stronger, the entire community sees only prosperity.

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by Marta Mills (@oneplanetblog), Stakeholder Engagement and Communications Director, Transcaucasian Trail Association


According to UNWTO, tourism’s role in the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is to promote inclusiveness: inclusive sustainable economic growth, social inclusiveness, diversity, mutual understanding. The word “inclusive” appears in five Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet one thing that was clearly missing from the ITB’s “Sustainable Tourism Program 2017” was inclusiveness.

ITB Berlin (held 8-11 March) is “the world’s leading travel trade show” with over 10,000 exhibitors from over 180 countries, and over 160,000 participants. The three-day-long Sustainable Tourism Program of seminars, workshops, panel discussions and award ceremonies included over 200 speakers on 12 different stages in seven halls. However, the programme lacked speakers from the southern hemisphere; it showed race, nationality and gender imbalance amongst panellists; and lacked the Responsible Tourism (RT) practitioners during debates on big stages as if RT was not part of the “proper” tourism industry. I found it quite puzzling and questionable, particularly now in the Year of Sustainable Tourism.

There were some very inspiring and insightful sessions I am going to refer to later on, but I will start with the challenges that should be addressed in planning next ITB.

Nationality, race and gender imbalance while discussing sustainability in tourism

Nationality, race and gender imbalance while discussing sustainability in tourism

 

My ITB hats

I attended ITB wearing two hats – a sustainable tourism practitioner and a MSc student of Responsible Tourism Management. With a background in sustainability communications, I work on developing sustainable tourism in the Caucasus region through the Transcaucasian Trail project. I study how to implement responsible business practices for the benefit of communities and the environment in destinations. I was therefore keen to hear the latest news, trends and practical solutions in sustainable destinations management and in maximising the positive impacts of tourism globally. And anything related to trails, understandably.

Morning queue outside the venue: 160,000 people from over 180 countries attend ITB Berlin each year

Morning queue outside the venue: 160,000 people from over 180 countries attend ITB Berlin each year

The programme and the venue – first obstacles

The first ITB challenge, even before going to Berlin, was to go through the 27-page-long (!) CSR programme, pick the sessions of most interest, and work out whether it is actually possible to get from one to the other (often held in different halls on different floors) on time. The venue is huge – there is a shuttle bus cruising between 28 exhibition halls!

It is pretty time-consuming to work out what sessions happen simultaneously, and the app doesn’t allow to put “my favourites” in order either. I ended up making a spreadsheet of my timetable to work it out and wondering why this can be simplified. Perhaps the ITB could make it easier next year and run a scheduled timetable of all sessions so we could see at a glance who, when and where is speaking?

But these are technical issues that can be easily resolved. I believe that the lack of inclusiveness I referred to above is much more serious. Here are the challenges mentioned in the introduction:

 

  • Nationality/race imbalance:

Vicky Smith of Earth Changers, a RT practitioner and the ITB veteran, made a point that “although held in Germany, ITB is the international show, and therefore has more of an opportunity to showcase international players, start-ups and initiatives on its stages in order to represent the worldwide perspective.” And the worldwide perspective doesn’t only come from the European, white middle-aged men in suits. Particularly during debates on sustainable tourism.

I believe that at such an international show there should be a better representation of speakers from developing countries. The practitioners on the ground in destinations are not given the chance to participate effectively. The ones with hands on experience and often have a much better practical understanding of various sustainability issues than CEOs of companies based in Germany.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for inclusive participatory processes from designing change to implementation of good practices. Without “southern” speakers taking part in global discussions we are not addressing the sustainability of tourism. One of those small handful of “southern” speakers, the Founder of the Gambian Institute of Travel and Tourism Adama Bah, told me that “the purpose of the global discussion is to raise awareness so that the industry will take responsibility of making tourism sustainable. Without hearing from “southern voices” where most negative impacts of tourism do happen, educative global discussions defeat their purposes to make tourism sustainable.”

 

  • Gender imbalance

And speaking of other imbalances… One of the most-attended debates on “How Can Sustainable Travel Offers Be Marketed Successfully?” was led by seven white men on stage. Six Germans and one English. I tweeted ITB asking whether it was really that hard to find at least one woman who knows how to communicate sustainability (didn’t get a reply). Some other tweets about “the glass ceiling in tourism” followed. A quick glance at the small presentation offer in hall 4.1 (dedicated to Responsible Tourism) would have provided a few names of women professionals to choose from. Again, something to consider for next year.

I understand that by supporting various sustainability awards, the ITB demonstrates its commitment to sustainable development and gender equality. And there were women on other panels (although just over 30% – 38 women compared to 115 men speaking on the big stages). But it was quite ironic that a major session on sustainability has forgotten about respecting SDG 5 – Gender Equality.

Interestingly, at the very end of the session, the moderator apologised that “there are all gentlemen up here” on the panel. Considering how much applause that comment got, I clearly wasn’t the only one feeling disappointed.

 

  • (not) knowing your audience

Sometime I also felt that some speakers were not aware who the audience was. While I understand that the level of knowledge of sustainable tourism in the audience varied, I also believe that it is safe to assume that most of us in hall 4.1 (Responsible Tourism hall) knew a fair bit. There was still a lot of vague language from the business representatives, particularly the more senior executives of big companies, for example “we are working to build more capacity and improve sustainability of our operations”. This sounds great, however doesn’t provide any meaningful information nor any clear examples of what exactly the operator did to “build capacity” and what exactly “improving sustainability” meant.

Also, we already are “the converted.” We know that – to quote a few panellists – “everyone has to take part,” “it is our shared responsibility,” “we need to accelerate in sustainable product offer” or “make the message about sustainability more visible.” I didn’t come all the way to Berlin to listen to such old and vague slogans. I came to listen and learn how others actually do it, what works and what doesn’t, how I can get involved in a practical way. And, as many sessions have proven again, the best advice will always come from those who work on the ground, who have tried various approaches, who have made mistakes and are happy to share them, so we can all learn together.

Practical overview and lessons learn from the Jordan Trail Association – an insightful, fun and informative session led by practitioners on the ground

Practical overview and lessons learn from the Jordan Trail Association – an insightful, fun and informative session led by practitioners on the ground

 

  • Not enough awareness

However, these messages are important and should be repeated to the ones who are not converted and who need a constant reminder about the importance and role of sustainability in tourism – and that’s why I would also argue for including more RT speakers in the wider programme of ITB Convention. The whole industry needs to transform to minimise its negative impacts. The ITB mentions that “additional panels dedicated to ecological and social responsibility can also increasingly be found e.g. at the ITB Destination Days, but it should do much more to mainstream sustainable tourism.

For example, “ITB Young Professionals day” discussed which graduates will the industry need in the future. That could have been an excellent opportunity to raise awareness and repeat the messages about sustainable tourism. Or the big debate on “World Tourism Trends.” or “Success Factors for Nation and Place Branding” – giving RT practitioners space on the panels would have demonstrated that sustainable tourism is one of the big trends and brings competitive advantage when it comes to successful branding. And, overall, contribute to raising awareness amongst the wider industry. 

 

But…

I found the events on smaller stages much more informative, useful, practical, and engaging. Most presenters used their 30 min-slot very well – a short summary of the project/issue, how the issues are being dealt with, lessons learnt, time for questions. I immensely enjoyed the session on the Jordan Trail on the big stage of hall 4.1 on Friday 11th – three women panellists, all of them working on the ground in Jordan, representing the business and government stakeholders. Giving that practical overview with challenges and opportunities I was craving for. Similarly, an engaging session on community-based tourism in Myanmar, with a step by step guidance on how to develop tourism in emerging destinations. Both of them proved my point – ITB needs an international representation of hands-on practitioners to share the potential and best practice examples of sustainable tourism.

Peter Richards, Expert on Community Tourism Development and Market Access during a practical and engaging session on tourism development in Kayah State, Myanmar

Peter Richards, Expert on Community Tourism Development and Market Access during a practical and engaging session on tourism development in Kayah State, Myanmar

 

ITB 2018

Matthias Beyer, the moderator of the aforementioned all-men-in-suits panel, noted that his panel in terms of gender balance doesn’t reflect the reality of the industry, emphasizing that for the future, it is imperative to find a better gender composition for such panels. Such an approach is much needed and gives me hope that at future ITBs the number of women and intentional speakers will match the number of white men in suits.

 

Note: ITB Messe-Berlin was unavailable for comment.

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Responsible Travel crestcampocuba

Image Source: CREST

The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) has published their annual report on the state of responsible tourism:

“This 2016 version of CREST’s annual study demonstrates that the growth of responsible tourism continues to outpace growth of the tourism industry as a whole. In addition, the 2016 report concludes that “the social and environmental imperative for responsible travel” is being spurred, in part, by the twin crises of wealth inequality and climate change. The report was prepared in collaboration with 16 leading tourism organizations and institutions.”

The report also puts a spotlight on the growing niche markets of adventure tourism, agritourism, culinary or gastronomic tourism, orange tourism, wellness tourism, and the sharing economy (e.g., Uber and AirBnB).

Read the full report here.

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What is sustain.pata.org?

PATA’s sustainability website, sustain.pata.org, is an online platform that allows users to easily search, browse, and find information related to sustainable and socially responsible tourism. The aim of the website is to serve as the ‘go-to’ resource for all things related to sustainable and socially responsible tourism.

Developed in part with support from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ, implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, this site is open to everyone and is the first dynamic portal that not only offers general information on sustainability in tourism for the Asia Pacific region, but also features case studies from all over the world. This website supports the increasing efforts of the tourism sector by offering access to carefully selected information on the latest in tourism sustainability, presented in a user-friendly format.

Search, Browse, and Find!About-Sustain

The site features facts and figures, tips and tools, and a curated library of recommended reading. A calendar of sustainable tourism conferences and events around the world, a glossary, and articles from guest bloggers within the industry are also provided. New content is being added on a near-daily basis, with future plans including increased opportunities for users to engage with the content.

Sustain.pata.org also features a suite of case studies from Sustainable Tourism Online, which has been made available for download on sustain.pata.org, courtesy of EarthCheck. It includes examples of more than 800 best practice initiatives. The case studies are the result of more than US$260 million worth of research from the Australian government. The information included offers tools for destinations including situational analysis, business operators with – for example carbon calculators, case studies on parks and culture, as well as different processes of sustainable tourism development.

Other featured content from PATA partners include Know How Guides and Destination Asia Pacific Case Studies from the International Tourism Partnership/Green Hotelier, and WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards Winners and Finalists.


All materials submitted to sustain.pata.org are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – NonCommercial 4.0 International License. To submit case studies or recommended reading for publication on the site, or for more information, please contact ssr@PATA.org.

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by Johanna Meissner, Sustainability & Social Responsibility Associate, PATA

 

travelThe one thing I have always known I wanted to do in my life is to travel. The thought of experiencing what life is like in other places of the world has always motivated my wanderlust, so you could say it was only natural that I would end up pursuing a career in the tourism industry.

I was hoping that, by studying tourism management I could live out my passion of travelling and experiencing other cultures and places, meeting people from all over the world.

I found that responsible tourism is very well suited to cater to this exact way of travelling and I know I am not the only one seeking these kinds of experiences.

Read more

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Join the Fight against Human Trafficking

Categories: Green Tips
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This week marks the second annual World Day against Trafficking in Persons, taking place on July 30th. This day was created to promote awareness on a horrific truth that is too commonly ignored, – human trafficking. Here, you can find the resources to become educated on the topic so you can help. Have a heart for the victims of human trafficking, and learn how to use the power of social media to show your support.

To find out more facts about this topic click here.

Read about trafficking in the hotel industry.

Get involved: Learn what our partner, The Code, is doing to combat child sex trafficking in the region.

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Honourable Mention Culture and Heritage Tourism Provider

Blue YonderThe Blue Yonder was set up in 2004, to assist the work of Nila Foundation, that was working to preserve the rich heritage of River Nila (Bharatapuzha) region in Kerala. From this learning, we spread across many states in India, including Tamilnadu, Pondicherry, Rajasthan and many regions in the Himalayas through partnerships.

Our focus has always been about ‘creating better places for people to live and for people to visit’ in that order. We never launched a tourism project first, but always started with community development project. We pursued Gandhian Talisman and we designed all our travel initiatives based on how we could bring in a change into destination and our people. This started with investment into local communities and working with them, increasing their quality of life. It was obvious that once the quality of life was enhanced, the destination by default becomes the natural fit for Responsible Tourism leading to a sustainable tourism destination.

Our business is focused on Co-creation ( we never push our ideas into the community we work with, but we co-create them), Collaboration ( without deep rooted alliances, no change would happen in a destination) and Crowd-sourcing ( We are aware of our limitation as one company, so we always go to the public seeking ideas ).

In the last ten years, we have launched more than 40 initiatives focusing on heritage conservation, livelihood, dignity, natural conservation and community health care to name a few. From 2004, where we launched Musical Trail to bring in dignity, respect and income generation to isolated musicians, to 2015 when we partnered with Kozhikode District administration on Compassionate Kozhikode, we have continued to be innovative and disruptive when it comes to destination development.

 

For more information: The Blue Yonder website

Responsible Tourism Toolkit – Part 1 Energy Saving Tips

We all know that becoming more energy efficient as a tourism business doesn’t just make business sense by reducing your operational costs, but also helps to minimise and reduce the environmental impact of your business.

by Dr. Louise de Waal

 

November 02 2015 – Anna Pollock, Founder of Conscious Travel, was invited to create a context document that could help identify, promote and support social entrepreneurship within a rapidly changing tourism and hospitality sector. The Conscious Travel Approach articulates an emerging form of community-driven, responsible tourism Jeremy Smith Read more.