Since most of us still wonder as to what exactly Sustainable Tourism is, I thought what better way to answer it – than telling a few stories. Here comes my first collection of sustainable tourism examples from around the world.
Delhi Food Walks
I took this amazing food walk around the old part of Delhi this summer and featured it, in my Top 5 things to do in Delhi at night.
Food has always been one of the most interesting expressions of cultural identity. It is also a very effective way people preserve their cultures. Therefore, this walk was not less than a cultural extravaganza.
More so, Delhi being the national capital, is the hotspot of cultures from around India. The street food here, represents many regions of India, and even the empires that ruled it hundreds of years back – The Mughals.
The walk was 5 hours of sinful gorging, on some of the most amazing street food of Delhi.
It was organized by ‘Delhi Food Walks’ – one of the best Sustainable tourism examples I came across. The company was founded by Anubhav, a major foodie himself – out of his passion for sharing the rich epicurean heritage of India.
The walks are conducted by locals, in love with the Delhi food – obviously! In conducting these walks, they proudly share their cultural heritage, while also trying to learn as much as possible about it.
We went to eight places to eat and each of them were about 100 years old. So, the walk clearly helps in keeping traditional businesses alive, together with creating a fresh buzz about them.
They are also coming up with something called the ‘Street Food Awards’. Now that is a fantastic way of encouraging people to keep doing what they love – sharing age old authentic recipes with foodies from around the world.
Make sure you pay your respects, next time you are in the capital of India 😊
Both the pictures courtesy Delhi Food Walks
Recreational Chiang Mai Biking
Sometimes during our travels, we also find home – that perfect place which we don’t want to leave – but live in. So is the story of the head of Recreational Chiang Mai Biking – Fokke van Egmond.
After visiting Thailand for holidays continuously for many years, Fokke decided to call Chiang Mai, Thailand his home.
He now heads and operates cycling tours around Chiang Mai. These tours vary in duration and content from few hours to a couple of days. The tours are lead by local Thai people and give visitors an in-depth and honest introduction of Chiang Mai – the kind never possible with run of the mill city tours.
The tour I took with them was featured on my blog – Non-Touristy things to do in Chiang Mai. The tour took me through notably following places, amongst many other.
- Dok Kawe Gardens – the state of the art senior center in Chiang Mai
- A beautiful local school
- Wiang Kum Kam – the ancient city in Chiang Mai
- Rice paddy fields
- Hidden small temples and monasteries
We had lunch at a local eatery and I had my first Khao Soi there – the friendly chef made it vegetarian on request 😊
Both the pictures courtesy Recreational Chiang Mai Biking
Virasat Experiences, Jaipur
Jaipur being my home town for almost a decade, I visited it almost every third month – a meagre 5 hours from Delhi – my erstwhile workplace.
I went to monuments with the best of guides, being from the tourism industry itself and did the ‘Things to do in Jaipur’ a couple of times – not just once.
Never however, I saw and understood Jaipur as well, as on my recent heritage walking tours there. My blog Offbeat things to do in Jaipur , is the result of a series of such walks that I took with Virasat Experiences.
‘Virasat’ literally means heritage. Virasat Experiences are dedicated to promoting and encouraging the preservation of living heritage – cultural and architectural.
Vipul and Akshat, residents of Jaipur, started this company together with the same drive – passion for sharing their heritage and making it fun to explore.
It takes a lot of effort in carving out an interesting route for a walk or a cycling tour. Also talking to the families and artisans and getting them to agree to welcome tourists in their private lives – with happiness. They have many different routes based on different themes.
I met and interacted with local families in their homes. Had one on one interaction with artisans, craftsmen and other local businesses in their workshops. Entered inside family temples, private spaces, nooks and corners that otherwise I could never even have known, existed.
Most of them happily shared their experiences and stories with me.
It was an enhanced, authentic and exclusive experience!
They also have to their credit, taking celebrities like Prince Charles and Penelope Cruz on these walks. Here is a picture with the star cast of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, who took the tour with them.
You are not going to miss it now, are you 😉
Garavek Traditional Storytelling Theatre, Luang Prabang
While we were starting our climb up Mount Phousi, I saw this leaflet of a Theatre company on a metal stand on the stairs.
We had just finished enquiring at the Palace Museum of Luang Prabang about any activity that could give us some insight into the performing arts of Laos, but their own theatre was under construction.
I also had given up recently on finding an operator who could give us an authentic tribal community experience. Given the language restrictions, it wasn’t a feasible idea to go on such an adventure on our own.
So this leaflet was our last bid for an insight into the REAL AUTHENTIC LAOS – given the fact that Luang Prabang is one of the most favourite towns for travellers into South East Asia – rendering it a rather touristy feel than Lao.
We made our way through the lanes and reached this pleasant neighbourhood by the river side. Started chit chatting with who we thought was a visitor like us – turns out we were talking to the founder of Garavek in Laos.
Read what happened after that in detail on my blog Luang Prabang Highlights 2018.
Garavek Luang Prabang is the passion project of Nicholas Gibson, a Scottish gentleman, in love with Loas. He believes that storytelling is the most powerful way of keeping a culture alive as folktales and music are the closest you can go to culture. Garavek does exactly that for you, your most potentially intimate introduction to Loas culture is their Theatre experience.
By hiring storytellers and musicians locally – it keeps the traditional art forms and stories alive amongst locals as well as visitors. It is also a great example of sustainable tourism providing the most authentic experience possible in a country.
With Laos being the latest addition on the already crowded South East Asia tourism map – it is a directional initiative in terms of how tourism can be developed sustainably in one of the most modest economies.
They also have a chapter in Cambodia and are expanding steadily and consciously.
Both the pictures courtesy Garavek Storytelling Theatre Luang Prabang
SITA Cultural Center, Pondicherry
This place is a cultural hub, literally. Sita Cultural Center in Pondicherry offers tonns of local activities – with the minimum carbon footprint. These are categorized around food, health & wellbeing and arts & culture.
From Yoga lessons to French cooking, learning Tamil to making Kolams – a local decoration, heritage walks to Thanjavur painting classes – SITA has it all! Each of these activities are conducted by local people – Yoga enthusiasts, local musicians, artists and even house wives.
This is a real sustainable tourism example! Providing employment to the locals while keeping a plethora of traditions alive and kicking. This is revival, preservation and flourishment – all at the same time.
Brainchild of Martine and Fleur – two women in love with India, it is a non-profit organization called South Indian Traditional Arts Society – SITA in short. Both have been living in India for over a decade now and calls it home. One grounded in art and the other in medicine and dance.
Martine also runs a residential school for low caste and tribal children.
Read their complete stories here, to see how people can make their homes and lives as interesting and useful as they want them to be.
I took a flower beading class at SITA and had real fun making hair decorations. Something that I have been wanting to do from the time I saw a flower seller in Chennai making hair decorations at the speed of a Maglev!
Both the pictures courtesy Sita Cultural Center
Read all about it in my blog – Top Cultural Experiences in Tamil Nadu
All the above stories completely resonate with the idea and soul of sustainable tourism. ‘Tourism that respects both local people and the traveller, cultural heritage and the environment’ – as very precisely quoted by UNESCO.
For me, the intrinsic factor of sustainable tourism also is that it has the capability of being sustained for an unlimited period, in harmony with everyone involved.
Look forward to bringing more of such examples for you from around the world!