“Sustainable tourism is a way of travel that, while it offers a unique and amazing experience to the traveller and connects people, it also protects our best assets, our nature, our culture, our communities, our history and our planet,” Gloria Guevara, CEO World Travel and Tourism Council.
More and more people are concerned with the impact of their purchase decisions than ever before, and this includes the impact of travel. Traveling sustainably doesn’t require compromising on the quality of your holiday. A mindful approach to selecting your destination and service provider can enrich it.
In sub Saharan Africa lies a small landlocked country you may have heard of, Malawi. The Warm Heart of Africa is small enough to offer you a lot in a short amount of time, from climbing a mountain that touches the clouds, to getting up close and personal with wildlife in the national parks, to reclining on a sandy beach at the lake of stars. Of course, there is also the people, culture and heritage to learn about. You never know who you will meet, how they will change you and what social themes will pique your interest.
Malawi is an emerging tourism destination, not yet visited by vast numbers of foreigners. This is the right time to set the foundations for sustainable tourism by establishing sustainable practices within our business and in the experiences offered to our clients.
How can you do the most good and the least harm while on your dream holiday?
Go in Groups
If 10 people individually visit a destination, they will require ten different modes of transport and an assortment of logistical arrangements that could be consolidated into one lot for one group using less paper, time, equipment and so on. Most community visits charge per person, so there more of you there are the bigger the earning opportunity for the community. Besides being good for the environment by using fewer resources to arrange the trip, group travel is a great way to create memories for you and your friends, or to make new ones by joining a group trip of like-minded people.
When you travel long haul, take more time in your destination. Aim for more than 7 days in a place, to allow yourself to acclimatise and take it all in. Itineraries can be jam packed with daily transfers from location to location, but how much fun can be had when so much of your time is spent in transit. We try to design trips that have a minimum of two nights per location before moving on so clients spend more time enjoying the sights and sounds of each location. We even schedule “at leisure” time throughout the trip to allow you to actually read or write that novel, take those amazing pictures of yourself, call home or just rest.
We know that tourism can benefit local communities. In addition to opportunities for cultural exchange, the money flowing in to a destination can support small enterprises who build, maintain and supply food and other items for the accommodation you stay in. To keep your dollars in the local economy, select as many locally owned providers as you are able. If you want to donate to a local cause, find out if what they need (clothing, text books, medicine) can be purchased in that location. If the answer is yes, bring cash and make a day of it buying from a local business to donate to a good cause instead. Whilst in the destination visit local markets for some shopping or add community tours to your itinerary. At Orion we carefully select community based organisations, family run businesses and social enterprises who work to address the needs of their communities and preserve cultural knowledge. You can meet people who are protecting the environment through reforestation, empowering women through micro finance and civic education, promoting adult literacy or making beautiful handcrafted items.
Rather than taking photographs of other people’s children, keep a journal with you on your trip. Find time in your day to gather your thoughts and think about all the things you found striking. Who did you meet? Who did they remind you of? What surprised you today? What was as you expected? What did you eat? What ideas were sparked for your return home? By trying to have a respectful, mutually beneficial interaction with the host communities you will make the experience good for all the parties involved. Ask questions that you would be happy to answer.
Orion Tours is a tour operator owned by a Malawian woman. We are committed to designing enriching experiences for our clients and the communities they visit. Ten day tours with mountain climbing, safari, lake and community visits start from $3,500. Visit www.orionmalawi.com or email Temwa at firstname.lastname@example.org.