How do you cope, in these days of gross over tourism, with promoting fabulous new destinations that you discover and want to shout to the world about, but don’t want to see go the same way?
I now see destinations I visited some 20-25 years ago which were extraordinary and my heart bleeds at what has become of them. I know that I have also, in some small way, contributed to this. In all fairness, the numbers of tourists I’ve sent to these destinations, having only worked with small, boutique companies will be relatively small, but it comes down to the adage, ”How can one more plastic bottle make a difference” – said 7 billion people’. I would hope, on the one hand, that my travel writing has encouraged more, on the other hand, not so much. It seems to have become a constant conundrum.
One way is to not share. I’ve become quite strict about wonderful authentic destinations, festivals and fairs that I’ve discovered where I’ve literally been the only tourist, and may write about but only share details with the people who I know will appreciate them. But then who died and made me God? And let’s face it, this isn’t any sort of sustainable business model for anyone.
Another way is to share, but only share the destinations you know can’t get spoilt. Beautiful, remote hotels which sit in their own land, that can’t be built upon and over developed. Those are magical and happily India has more than it’s fair share.
However, a better way is to come up with a very clever solution to developing new destinations, one which rather than adversely affecting the existing infrastructure, only benefits it along with the local communities. That is what the Community Homestay Network has done in Nepal.
Not only has this introduced more diversity of destinations into a tourism product that has for far too long focused solely on Kathmandu, Chitwan & Pokhara, or trekking circuits, but it also positively impacts rural communities, empowers women and helps to preserve crafts, traditions and ancient skills and knowledge of the land too. By creating a network of homestays, utilising unused rooms in existing homes and training the communities in how to host the foreign traveller it provides stays in previously unheard of destinations such as Panauti, Patlekhet and Kirtipur to name but three. It also provides benefit to the wider community too, produce needs to be shopped for, bicycles need to be repaired etc.
It’s so simple, and yet so clever.
Of course, such simple accommodation isn’t for everyone. But they’ve thought of that too and created a wonderful collection of half day and day experiences, run by these local communities that the more luxury minded traveller can embark upon, for a taste of the authentic before heading back to their hotels for a pre dinner G&T. A case of the best of both worlds, perhaps?