The link between tourism and the communities they impose upon is often tenuous.
There is little doubt that much of the positive development taking place in many countries over recent years has been driven by travelers. And specifically, those travelers who are prepared to take responsibility and action. A community conscious traveler is not necessarily someone who engages in charity or volunteering. It is as simple as someone who has high standards and will not support a company who abuses its power, ignores human rights and does not actively engage in communication and underpin their community.
Challenges for Community Conscious Travelers
Resist volunteering. Voluntourism often comes with risks to the recipients unless you have a very specific skill set and know a lot about the company. Orphanage tourism is particularly fraught with danger for communities.
Measure your communications against being Kind and Effective. Many travelers will not respond positively to lectures on holiday but might be open to an approach that is gentle.
Cautions for Courteous
Community Conscious Travelers
Visiting somewhere for a short period is not ideal as far as understanding a complicated scenario goes. It is almost impossible for a traveler to grasp all the challenges faced by both the company and the workers. Both parties might be adept at showing you what they think you will want to see/ what will work in their favor/ what will garner most of your sympathy/ will result in you spending more money. An ethical Travel Designer who is not affiliated to the property and travels back to stay there repeatedly, year after year, is the key to assuring you choose community conscious companies throughout your travels.
… and Warnings for the Rest of Humanity
Even when you consider holidays your sacred space to relax do read about the country and the culture you are visiting and how to make a good impression as a traveler.
Ethical travelers are not the fun police – they simply want travel to impact positively.
Consider supply and demand wherever you go. People will only sell what others are willing to buy and if no-one is willing to buy items from an endangered species illegal killings and depletion of nature will stop.
How to Spot the
Community Conscious Traveler on Safari
Why would you want to find a Community Conscious Traveler? If you haven’t had time to do your homework the Community Conscious Traveler will act like your CliffsNotes: They will have all the best tips about culturally appropriate behavior and might be almost as good as a local guide (or will point you in the direction of the best local guide). This will lead you to a more authentic travel experience with more opportunities to engage with local people, share in the local culture, gain your own insider knowledge and see your destination from a different perspective.
This is what you look for:
They Buy from Locals
Often, in snippets of the local language. They understand the value of economic empowerment.
Figures and Numbers
They will be able to quote water shortages, child trafficking and alcohol consumption percentages.
They will Arrive with Useful Gifts
Community Conscious travelers do their homework and know what the local community need and make sure to pack accordingly
Their Food is Weird and Wonderful
Not only will they eat at locally owned restaurants but will also request local fare from hotels and lodges.
They are Bad at Bargaining
Just because everyone else bargains and it is possible to buy a souvenir for very little, they don’t. If they can afford to spend more on a homemade Etsy gift they pay a local artisan a similar price for their handicraft.
Excellent Travel Destinations for
Community Conscious Travelers
We are getting a little more specific with these suggestions because you need to be very particular about community conscious companies. These ones pass all our criteria year on year:
Sarara Camp, Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust, Kenya
In 1995 the Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust was established, and peace descended on the area. Local herdsmen were kitted out with radios to report poaching. It was the beginning. Slowly wildlife started to return, and visitors started to come. A sustainable income became a realistic possibility. First, four thousand elephants returned and then, other animals followed. The Camp is managed by and for the community.
Tongabezi, Livingstone, Zambia
On the banks of the Zambezi River, Tongabezi has championed its community since it first opened its doors over two decades ago. It combines an exclusive ambience with the legendary warmth and hospitality of the people of Zambia. The Tongabezi Trust school has grown over time to be one of the best in the country.
Grootbos Nature Reserve, South Africa
Grootbos Nature Reserve. Tucked between mountains, forest and sea, Grootbos offers one of the most unique and stunning landscapes in Africa. Enjoy close encounters with whales, sharks, dolphins, seals and penguins in all their glory as they feed, frolic and play. Hop onto a purpose-built, eco-friendly tour vessel and enjoy a trip led by experienced marine biologists and guides. Witness thousands of Cape Fur Seals basking in the sun, try and spot some fearsome Great White Sharks or delight as bottlenose dolphins surf right by the boat.
Taj’s Luxury Safari Lodges in Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks, India
India has one of the world’s most biodiverse regions and is home to a great diversity of wildlife in its four hotspots—the Western Ghats, the Himalayas, the Indo-Burma region, and the Sundaland; along with wildlife in protected habitats. Designed to provide guests, enthusiasts, or simply seekers of nature with an enthralling experience of the wild these lodges are situated in National Parks and the philosophy of Taj Safaris is to provide a thrilling wildlife experience while maintaining sustainability by operating on a lighter carbon footprint. Uplifting the local community while doing so, remains a key aspect of the philosophy.
Wolwedans Dunes Lodge, Namibia
The Dunes Lodge is perched on top of a dune plateau, overlooking panoramic vistas in all directions and capturing the beauty of the desert in a most memorable way. Since its inception 15 years ago, Wolwedans has been guided by an approach where people, nature and business were all equally important. Right from the start the commercial aim of the business has been to ensure the NamibRand Nature Reserve’s financial viability, assuring the conservation of the Pro-Namib for future generations.
Dwarika Katmandu, Nepal
People have settled in the Kathmandu Valley for over 2000 years. Throughout this period, the valley has witnessed the migration of people from the high plateaus of Tibet, the fertile plains of the Ganges, and everywhere between. This intermingling of people and cultures created a vibrant and diverse society within the valley. And at Dwarika Katmandu they are continuing to preserve, support and grow this beautiful community.
Images via 2Photo Pots, Nathaniel Tetteh, rawpixel, Daniel Funes Fuentes, MicBima