Guest Post

Pack Light, Travel Far: Sustainable Packing Solutions for Eco-Conscious Travellers

Written by Ainsley Lawrence
Wise Greece Athens, Greece

The thought of arriving at a final destination without your bags sends most travellers into a cold sweat. It’s simply undeniable that the stuff we travel with plays a critical role in shaping trip experiences. 

For this reason, intentionality is key when it comes to packing and storing your travel gear—regardless of whether you’re travelling across the globe or around the block. But what if this natural packing intentionality could go beyond having a smooth trip and serve to promote and preserve the world’s resources as well? 

Many travellers are looking for ways to do just that by supporting sustainable tourism initiatives such as: 

  • Reducing environmental waste and damage 
  • Promoting local economies 
  • Preserving global cultures 

Let’s examine several practical ways eco-conscious travellers can prioritize responsible tourism by adopting sustainable habits while planning and packing for trips. 

Leave Responsibly

Sustainable travel habits start long before you walk out the door on your journey. Consider what resources you use in your daily life and how they will be attended to while you’re away. For most, the focal point of our natural resource consumption revolves around our housing. Everything from water or electricity usage to food waste and transportation is linked to your place of residence, which is why it’s important to establish a plan for these things while you are away. 

For frequent travellers, consider selecting a home or residence tailored to your travel needs that keeps sustainability at the forefront. For instance, if you are choosing a place to live for remote work and travel, you should take into account the local transportation and entertainment options as well as your proximity to family and friends. Selecting a home near the things you prioritize will greatly reduce your environmental impact in fuel and transportation while also saving you time and money. 

If you are planning to travel less frequently, create a plan for repurposing your current home and resources while you are away. Consider having a friend or professional house sit or try renting out your space to a tenant. There are many simple home storage ideas, such as decluttering and utilizing vertical space, that can create more space in your home for a guest or renter. Repurposing your residence and its resources in this way will ensure they won’t be wasted or unused for long periods and can save you on maintenance costs. 

Pack Sustainably

Packing for a trip is a largely personal undertaking. A great deal of personality and security is attached to the things we own and use—especially in a foreign environment—which makes packing for a trip a fairly intentional process. Luckily, this intentionality can be easily linked with several, simple sustainable habits that allow eco-conscious travellers to make a big difference in small ways while packing. 

For example, one practical habit is to resist the urge to purchase lots of new things for a trip. The reality is you will probably feel more comfortable and confident wearing and using items that you are familiar with than purchasing all new things, and reusing and repurposing goods is more sustainable for the environment. If there are items you need for an upcoming trip, consider purchasing durable, fair-trade goods from conscientious business brands. The Planeterra Partner Shop and others like it are great options for using your purchasing power to promote sustainability. 

Another eco-friendly packing habit is to avoid purchasing and using single-use items while travelling. Single-use goods like disposable razors, water bottles, utensils, wipes, and more result in unnecessary waste. Instead, consider packing zero-waste travel essentials such as reusable water bottles, soap bars, and snack bags. Though it may seem insignificant, these small choices can add to a tremendous reduction in global landfill waste.

Consider the Weather

Packing sustainably can be tricky when you’re trying to prepare for a variety of weather conditions. The more types of weather you’re prepping for, the more clothes and other items you’re going to be packing, which obliterates attempts at packing light. Additionally, if you want to support a cause such as Pack for a Purpose, you want to save space in your luggage for supplies that will benefit those in need. Weather worries and the resulting excess of caution don’t exactly leave extra philanthropic space.

Therefore, keep a careful eye on your destination’s forecast. Try to pack items suited to the predictions from sources such as The Weather Channel and Weather Underground. One great option is to pack a light windbreaker and wear your heavier coat with you on the plane. That way, you’ll be prepared for colder temperatures and rain without using a ton of luggage space. Or, you could pack a backpacking rain poncho, which hardly takes up any space. Additionally, wear a pair of waterproof, comfortable boots. Sandals will take up minimal space in your bag. 

For sunny weather, it’s best to buy sunscreen at your destination. Overall, remember that you can buy weather-specific supplies in most cities, and you could donate things like umbrellas and clothing instead of trying to tote them back home.  

Stay Intentionally

Being mindful of your final destination and where you will stay is another valuable habit for sustainable travel. Planning and packing for a trip isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Having a full picture of what you will be doing and where you will be staying, whether it’s with a host family, at a hotel, or a rental property, will help you prepare to use your travel resources to their fullest potential. 

Start by creating an accurate picture of the residence that best suits your needs and objectives while travelling. For example, if you are choosing a place to live for remote work, consider what you need to do your job, such as the internet or private workspace, and what timezone your working hours will be in. Or if you are choosing a place to stay to recreate and sight-see consider selecting a residence that is centrally located with good transportation to the places and things you wish to see. These types of lodging plans naturally support sustainability by eliminating unnecessary transport or purchases that would otherwise be needed to meet your trip objectives. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, be mindful of how where you will stay will impact those around you. Believing that sustainable tourism is only about protecting the environment is one myth of sustainable travel. While the environment should always be prioritized, sustainability in travel goes beyond this and also focuses on celebrating and supporting local cultures. In this way, whether you are working or playing, be intentional to spend your travel dollars and time within a community that is genuinely empowered and enriched by your visit. 

To conclude, the stuff that we pack and travel with matters when it comes to shaping overall trip experiences. For this reason, travellers tend to prioritize intentionality in their packing. This is why eco-conscious travellers who want to support sustainable tourism have a great opportunity to adopt more sustainable habits in their trip planning and packing processes. 

Simple sustainable travel habits like being mindful to repurpose current resources, reduce waste in packing, and accurately plan to meet your trip needs and objectives will help save the world’s resources and better support local communities. So next time, you’re ready to see a new piece of the world, remember to plan and pack with sustainability in mind. 

About the author:

Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer who lives in the Northwest region of the United States. She has a particular interest in covering topics related to travel, sustainability, tech, and accessibility. When not writing, her free time is spent reading and researching to learn more about her cultural and environmental surroundings.

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Staying at Jukil Community Lodge

Written by Serena Hejazi

Just a short two-hour drive from the well-known Uyuni town, you’ll find the peaceful village of Santiago de Agencha. It’s a place where time seems to slow down, offering a break from the rush of everyday life. But underneath this calm surface, the village faced some big challenges.

With only about 280 people living here, Santiago de Agencha deals with issues similar to many small towns. Younger people often leave for cities in search of better jobs, leaving behind mostly older folks and kids. This makes it tough for the village to keep up its traditions and culture.

Living here is also pricey because the village is far from big cities, even though most people don’t earn much. And on top of that, there are often droughts that threaten the crops they rely on, like quinoa, which makes life even harder.

Despite challenges,  the people of Santiago de Agencha are dedicated to keeping their way of life alive. Through things like sustainable farming and eco-tourism, they’re working toward a better future while honouring their heritage.

Tourism, especially at places like Jukil Lodge, plays a big part in this. It brings in money for the village and helps people from different places learn about their way of life. It’s a way for visitors to really connect with Santiago de Agencha and its people.

Thanks to travellers passing through from Uyuni to the Atacama Desert in Chile, places like Jukil Lodge (a homestay located in Santiago de Agencha) have popped up, offering a cozy place to stay in the mountains.

Before Jukil Lodge teamed up with Planeterra, things were tough. Not many tourists came, and it was hard for the locals to make a living. But now, with about 300 visitors every month, the lodge has become more than just a place to stay—it’s a way for six local families to earn a living.

My own trip to Jukil Lodge was amazing. As we drove through the winding roads, surrounded by stunning views, I knew I was in for something special. The staff were so friendly, and the cabins were cozy and welcoming. Waking up to the sounds of nature outside my window was pure joy.

As travellers, it’s important for us to be respectful and mindful of the impact we have on places we visit. By supporting places like Jukil Lodge and embracing the culture of places like Santiago de Agencha, we can help make the world a better and more connected place.

So, if you’re looking for an adventure that’s exciting and peaceful at the same time, I highly recommend visiting Jukil Lodge in Bolivia. It’s an experience you’ll remember for years to come.

Serena Hejazi

About the author:

Serena Hejazi is a passionate traveler and the author of Sere Travels, a blog that focuses on sustainable tourism. Visit http://seretravels.com/ to learn more about Serena’s travels. 

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Nurturing Tourism Sustainability in India path to a Greener Future

Written by Dr. Niraalee Shah

Tourism plays a vital role in India’s economy, cultural exchange, and global recognition. The country’s rich heritage, diverse landscapes, and vibrant traditions make it a compelling destination for travellers worldwide. However, with the rapid growth of the tourism industry, it is essential to prioritize sustainability and minimize the environmental and socio-cultural impacts of tourism activities. 

This article explores the concept of tourism sustainability in India, highlighting the initiatives, challenges, and the path to achieving a greener and more responsible tourism sector. 

Source: Researchgate.net

THE IMPORTANCE OF TOURISM SUSTAINABILITY:

Tourism sustainability refers to the practice of promoting responsible tourism development that conserves natural resources, preserves cultural heritage, and benefits local communities. Embracing sustainability in the tourism sector is crucial for several reasons:

  • Environmental Protection: Sustainable tourism minimizes the ecological footprint by promoting resource conservation, reducing pollution, and protecting fragile ecosystems.
  • Socio-cultural Preservation: It aims to safeguard the cultural authenticity of destinations, preserve local traditions, and support the well-being of host communities.
  • Economic Benefits: Sustainable tourism generates long-term economic opportunities, including job creation, community empowerment, and inclusive growth.

Traveling Sustainably

India strives towards sustainable tourism; it faces various challenges while also uncovering opportunities for progress. One major hurdle lies in balancing infrastructure development with eco-friendly practices, necessitating meticulous planning and innovative design solutions.

Waste management remains another critical issue, requiring effective systems for disposal and recycling alongside efforts to cultivate responsible tourist behaviour. Moreover, engaging local communities in tourism planning is imperative to ensure their active involvement, foster socio-economic benefits, and safeguard cultural heritage. Promoting awareness among tourists, industry players, and communities about sustainable practices is pivotal for driving positive change.

Moving forward, collaborative endeavours are essential to realize the vision of sustainable tourism in India. Governments must enact and enforce policies conducive to sustainability while providing incentives and clear guidelines for developers and operators. Industry stakeholders, including tour operators and hoteliers, should prioritize sustainability in their operations and offer eco-friendly options to travellers.

Community participation is paramount, necessitating involvement in decision-making processes, capacity building, and equitable distribution of benefits. Concurrently, raising awareness through campaigns, workshops, and educational initiatives will instil a culture of responsible tourism, ensuring a brighter and more sustainable future for India’s tourism sector. 

COMMUNITY-LED SUSTAINABLE TOURISM INITIATIVES IN INDIA

In India, community organizations are pioneering innovative approaches to sustainable tourism, fostering positive impacts on both local communities and travellers. Two notable examples include the “City Walk” program by Salaam Baalak Trust and the “Women with Wheels” initiative led by Sakha Consulting Wings.

City Walk by Salaam Baalak Trust

This youth-led walking tour of Delhi not only offers a fresh perspective of the city but also serves as a platform for youth to develop essential skills. Funds generated from the program support scholarships, job placements, and shelter resources. Over 33 guides, including girls, have participated, with many leveraging their experiences to pursue higher education and careers in various sectors.

  • 37 Youth Guides Trained
  • 8,000+ Children and Youth Benefitting
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Women with Wheels by Sakha Consulting Wings

Challenging societal norms, this program empowers women by providing opportunities in traditionally male-dominated fields, such as professional driving and logistics. With over 1,193 women trained as professional drivers and initiatives like “Swayam Sakha” catering to the differently-abled, Sakha is making strides in promoting gender equality and safe transportation across India.

  • 2.4 million Safe Rides Provided to Date by Sakha Drivers!
  • 85 Women Employed
  • 425 Community Members Indirectly Benefitting
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Tourism continues to thrive in India, so it is imperative to prioritize sustainability and ensure the long-term well-being of the environment, communities, and cultural heritage. 

Embracing sustainable tourism practices, India can lead the way in creating a greener and more responsible tourism sector. It requires a collective effort from government bodies, tourism industry stakeholders, local communities, and tourists themselves.

The path ahead for tourism sustainability in India lies in continued collaboration among various stakeholders. Governments need to provide policy and regulatory support that incentivizes sustainable practices and sets clear guidelines. 

The tourism industry must take responsibility by adopting sustainable practices and offering eco-friendly options. Local communities need to actively participate in decision-making and receive the benefits of tourism development. Lastly, tourists themselves should embrace responsible behaviour and support sustainable initiatives.

By nurturing tourism sustainability, India can showcase its natural and cultural treasures while ensuring their preservation for future generations. A greener and more responsible tourism sector will not only benefit the environment and local communities but also enhance the overall tourism experience. 

Let’s all work together to make India the capital of Sustainable Tourism for travellers worldwide.

Dr. Niraalee Shah

About the author:

Dr. Niraalee Shah is the founder of Image Building and Etiquette Mapping, aimed at assisting entrepreneurs in establishing profitable businesses and brands that attract their target clientele. Her expertise lies in enabling brands to showcase their expertise, command premium pricing, and enhance customer experience through brand and customer experience strategies. As a Corporate Trainer, Author, and Consultant in various fields including Tourism, Sustainability, Hospitality, Digital Marketing, and Branding, she collaborates with entrepreneurs, professionals, and corporate entities to drive innovation and development. Dr. Shah’s work emphasizes embracing change to achieve breakthrough performance, demonstrating the significant impact even minor changes can have.

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Cultural Immersion and Self-Care: Finding Balance in Sustainable Travel Experiences

Written by Ainsley Lawrence

Studies show that 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress, and 25% say that their job is the number one stress in their lives.

Practicing self-care can make a big difference in managing stress, and one of the ways many people enjoy relaxing is by traveling and experiencing other cultures. However, it’s important to find ways to travel affordably and with a lower impact on the environment.

Here are some ways that you can travel sustainably while immersing yourself in a new culture.

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How Travel Helps Manage Burnout

One of the stressful things about daily life is that it can feel very repetitive. You go to work, come home, have supper, go to bed, and do it all over again. It’s easy to feel like what you’re doing doesn’t make a difference and isn’t appreciated. 

Unfortunately, this repetition and discouragement can lead to burnout, which can have long-term negative effects on your life.

Burnout happens when you’re doing stressful work for long hours without much of a break. You can feel tired all the time, struggle with sleep, and have mood swings. Long-term burnout can cause headaches, high blood pressure, and digestive issues.

The good news is that travel can help you break up your routine, have new experiences, and get a renewed perspective on life, especially when you experience new cultures. Travel can increase your creativity, allow you to reset, and improve your mental health and overall well-being.

Traveling Sustainably

As you take care of yourself, it’s essential to also take care of the communities you visit and the planet by traveling sustainably. Start with what you decide to bring with you. The lighter you travel, the lower your carbon footprint and impact on the places you visit.

For example, instead of buying mass-produced fast fashion to wear on your trip, choose a high-quality wardrobe that will last for years. For example, you might choose durable Wrangler jeans, a high-quality Carhartt jacket, or a genuine leather belt.

Next, think about the sustainable habits you can practice as you travel. Remember that sustainable travel is about protecting both the environment and the local communities you visit. Each individual makes a difference with their choices. 

Consider supporting local businesses as you travel rather than national or international chains. You can choose local transportation that has lower emissions and prioritize spending money with companies that have strong sustainability practices.

Best of all, immersing yourself fully in the culture of your destination can help you break out of the rut you’ve been in. By going to locally-owned restaurants and businesses, you can experience the true essence of a place, whether it’s near where you live or quite far away.

How to Ensure Your Travel is Self-Care

It’s easy to intend to relax as you travel, only to get caught up in stressful situations, unmet expectations, and unexpected challenges. Having the right mindset as you go on vacation can make a big difference.

Start by thinking about where you’re headed and how you can embrace the culture. Tourism can help preserve local traditions and foster your awareness of new cultures. And you don’t have to leave the country to find unique heritages — simply visiting a subculture within your state, such as visiting the Amish in Pennsylvania or the Cajuns in Louisiana, can open your eyes to an entirely different way of life.

As you make plans to enjoy the local communities you visit, focus on mindfulness to boost your resilience to unexpected challenges.

Remember that vacation isn’t automatically stress-free, but having an adaptable attitude and sense of exploration can help you adjust to changes more easily.

Sustainable travel, where you immerse yourself in a local culture, can help you break free of the treadmill that is leading you toward burnout. 

About the author:

Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer who lives in the Northwest region of the United States. She has a particular interest in covering topics related to travel, sustainability, tech, and accessibility. When not writing, her free time is spent reading and researching to learn more about her cultural and environmental surroundings.

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Crafting Connections and Building Opportunities through the Community Haat Bazaar

Written by Sazza K.C. and Rubik Joshi from Community Homestay Network

Tracing the journey from conception to realization, the Community Homestay Network and Planeterra recently joined forces to unite Global Community Tourism Network (GCTN) Nepal partners in a dynamic marketplace. Hear our story of how we turned an idea into a reality, along with the key takeaways and lessons learned from the event.

Community-Haat-Bazaar attendees visiting one of the stands

Forging a Sustainable Future: Planeterra and CHN's Visionary Partnership in Community-Based Tourism

Established by Planeterra during the pandemic, the Global Community Tourism Network (GCTN) stands as a beacon of support for community tourism enterprises worldwide, actively dismantling barriers in the tourism marketplace. Through engaging activities like offering access to enriching online learning opportunities, fostering global connections among like-minded peers, and championing partnerships for increased visibility and sustainability, the GCTN is empowering community tourism enterprises to reach new heights. The emphasis here is on growth, learning, and collaboration—key ingredients for transforming dreams into reality.

As an active supporter of community tourism, Planeterra has been working together with the Community Homestay Network to support various community tourism enterprises and initiatives in Nepal. The objective of this partnership is to strengthen community tourism in Nepal by providing funding and knowledge-sharing sessions by bringing them under the GCTN partner network. The Community Haat Bazaar was one such initiative.

In the wake of the Planeterra team’s visit to Nepal for the First in-person meet of the GCTN, an interesting idea surfaced—to unite local members of the network under a common platform to showcase the local and traditional arts, products, and experiences—the notion aimed at fostering economic growth and providing extensive networking opportunities through organized events.

Subsequently, a series of monthly meetings unfolded between key stakeholders from the Community Homestay Network (CHN) and Priyanka Singh, Community Tourism Project Manager for Asia-Pacific at Planeterra. These discussions explored crucial considerations such as the nature of the event — whether it should be exclusive to GCTN Nepal partners or include other entities engaging in community tourism, budgeting considerations with potential assistance from Planeterra, and meticulous planning regarding when and where the event could take place. 

The collaboration between CHN and Planeterra emerged as a powerful synergy, with CHN as the organizing force and Planeterra contributing essential knowledge and resources to ensure the success of this community-building initiative. Together, we envisioned an event and a catalyst for sustainable growth and meaningful connections within the global community.

From Vision to Reality: CHN and Planeterra's Collaborative Journey in Creating a Dynamic and Inclusive Community Event - Community Haat Bazaar

The Importance of Fostering Community Growth for a Sustainable Collaboration

Long-term partnerships are the cornerstone of the sustainability of any event or project. By providing a stable foundation, these collaborations ensure consistency, effective resource utilization, and shared commitment to common goals. The gradual development of trust and rapport facilitates open communication and problem-solving, essential for overcoming challenges. Long-term partnerships also promote a continuous learning mindset, allowing collaborators to adapt and improve together over time. The sense of community fostered by long-term collaborations extends to stakeholders, creating a supportive ecosystem.

Members of GCTN Nepal partners share common goals that revolve around promoting sustainable development, preserving cultural heritage, and fostering positive socio-economic impacts. These shared goals reflect the commitment of community tourism enterprises to creating positive, sustainable, and culturally enriching tourism experiences for both visitors and local communities. Keeping these things in mind, the collaboration between CHN and Planeterra was initiated to foster the relationship between the GCTN Nepal partners; building a sense of community among collaborators. This not only includes the immediate partners but also extends to stakeholders and the broader community.

Before the conceptualization of the Community Haat Bazaar, we have also been organizing routine meet-ups (virtually) between our network partners to discuss how we can move forward with this collaboration. The Community Haat Bazaar was one such conception initiated to support our partner network members.

What is the Community Haat Bazaar?

The Community Haat Bazaar is a traditional open-air market aimed to bring the GCTN Nepal partners together and allow them to showcase their art and cultural commodities. This event serves as a multifaceted platform, bringing together community members, promoting local artisans and businesses, and creating a dynamic social and economic hub. 

The primary objective of the Community Haat Bazaar is to cultivate a sense of community among our community homestay members and visitors while providing economic growth opportunities to our network partners. The event was strategically designed to showcase and support local businesses. The market stalls featured an array of products, including handmade crafts, clothing, jewelry, and fresh produce, inviting local artisans, craftsmen, farmers, and entrepreneurs to display and sell their offerings.

In addition to the market aspect, the Community Haat Bazaar offers enriching experiences through workshops and interactive sessions. These sessions aim to educate participants on various cultural topics, such as the unique Ranjana Lipi script and the intricate Mithila Art. Beyond the economic boost, the event emphasizes community engagement and the creation of a vibrant social space.

Unveiling the Success of the Community Haat Bazaar

Following the conceptualization phase, we initiated collaborative efforts with our event partner, Planeterra. While CHN took the initiative to organize and manage the event, Planeterra provided funding and guidance for setting up the event. Furthermore, AVATA Wellness Centre provided the event venue in Baluwatar, Kathmandu. 

The Haat Bazaar was primarily marketed to the expat community, along with some of the key stakeholders of the travel industry. We wanted to expose our GCTN Nepal partners’ products and services to potential travellers and travel agents while creating a platform for the participants and an opportunity to network and connect with the visitors.

Collaborative promotional efforts besides promoting the event on digital platforms were also undertaken to amplify the reach of the event. With a common goal to promote tourism as a force of good, our sister entities from Royal Mountain Group of Companies played a crucial part in promoting the event. The same thing goes for the supporters of our co-organizing entity – Planeterra.

It was amazing to witness the synergy demonstrated by all these stakeholders involved in the promotion of the event, which shows that a well-planned communication strategy can work wonders when executed properly. A total of 8 organizations, including AVATA – our venue partner, participated in setting up a kiosk for the Community Haat Bazaar.

The fruition of all these efforts was reflected during the day of the event. All stakeholders involved were fully engaged throughout the entirety of the event. The venue; AVATA, witnessed a notable turnout of visitors that met our expectations, leading to an engaging event where people were busy exploring and involving themselves in the various local products and experiences provided by our enthusiastic partners. New connections were made along with the rejuvenation of existing partnerships. 

Notably, international travellers and expats came to the event, a testament to the success of our marketing efforts. In addition to that, other communities were invited to observe the Community Haat Bazaar, contributing to the event’s inclusive atmosphere. The day concluded with a feedback and reflection session, providing participants with an opportunity to share insights and experiences from this vibrant community-driven gathering.

After the success of the first edition, we are hopeful that this would be a good and replicable model to show what goes behind planning an event and how one can truly support community-based events to garner a wide audience resulting in success.

Lessons from the First Edition of the Community Haat Bazaar

In reflection, the Community Haat Bazaar not only served as a vibrant marketplace but also offered invaluable insights and learnings. The event highlighted a strategic shift in our approach, emphasizing the importance of expanding our reach to customer-centric audiences rather than exclusively focusing on business partners. The sense of belonging experienced by GCTN Nepal Partners’ community members showed the significance of such gatherings, providing not just economic opportunities but also fostering a deeper connection within the community.

Some pictures of the event, courtesy of Community Homestay Network:

The seamless orchestration by the CHN team, coupled with the active involvement of Planeterra partners and GCTN members, emerged as pivotal factors in the event’s success.

Looking forward, the importance of pre-scheduled communication with supporting partners and clear expectation management for participants became evident, emphasizing the need for meticulous planning in future endeavours.

The event not only marked a celebration of culture but also laid the foundation for continued community empowerment and sustainable growth.

About the authors:

Sazza K.C. and Rubik Joshi are two dedicated team members of the Community Homestay Network (CHN), a social enterprise that supports a network of community homestays in Nepal. Sazza works as a Product Development Expert, while Rubik is their Social Media Manager.

CHN is one of our Strategic Partners in Nepal with whom Planeterra has joined forces to support the members of our Global Community Tourism Network.

 

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Eco-Adventures: How Tourism Businesses Can Embrace Nature Without Harming It

Written by Ainsley Lawrence

Spending time in nature does wonders for your mental health. Today, 98% of studies confirm that nature boosts physical and cognitive health, and many suggest that time in the wilderness is particularly powerful.

However, left unchecked, our love of the great outdoors can inadvertently harm the natural world. This is a real issue if you run a tourism business but care about preserving local ecology while combating climate change.

You can continue to support environmental causes while running a tourism business embracing responsible travel. Responsible travel can even strengthen the environment by raising funds for conservation efforts and your local community.

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Eco-Friendly Events and Education

If you run an eco-friendly tourism business, you probably appeal to folks who want to actively help the natural world. However, many well-intentioned tourists trample on green spaces when exploring a nature reserve or animal sanctuary.

You can help folks minimize their impact by hosting an eco-friendly outdoor event. When planning the event, focus on key details like:

  • Replace single-use plastics with reusable cutlery and crockery.
  • Avoid paper products and opt for digital tickets and programs instead.
  • Provide local, responsibly sourced food.
  • Encourage folks to ride-share or hire a minibus to reduce transport emissions.

Consider partnering with like-minded organizations when organizing your event. These organizations can provide educational materials for participants and assist you in refining your approach to hosting an eco-friendly event. An example of such an organization could be Soa Zara.

Outdoor Activities

Theme your eco-adventures around an outdoor activity that excites your clientele. The outdoor activity industry is booming now, as many of us feel the urge to reconnect with nature while having fun. Your eco-friendly tourism business can take advantage of this surge in interest by providing accommodations for activities like:

  • Hiking tours on pre-established trails.
  • Equipment rental to reduce waste.
  • Offer horse riding in place of car safari tours to minimize disruption.

These outdoor activities are designed to work with the natural world, rather than against it. If you do decide to take a group hiking, keep folks on predetermined trails. This mitigates potential disruption and teaches folks to care for the natural world.

Try to educate eco-tourists while they are on your outdoor eco-adventure. For example, if you’re hiking into the wilderness, use your pre-trip planning time to introduce folks to leave-no-trace principles. This will ensure that your guests respect the local wildlife and take steps to leave the area as they found it.

Fundraising

Low-impact, educational eco-adventures can make a world of difference. Even small changes to your operations — like offering free rental equipment to reduce the impact of consumerism — can reduce waste on your site and help folks understand the key principles behind eco-tourism.

However, if you want to maximize your impact, you should consider teaming up with charities to raise funds for sustainable causes. Many eco-friendly charities require a steady stream of donations to keep the lights on, meaning your donations will always be well received.

If you suspect that your guests can’t afford to donate, consider offering alternative ways to raise funds and help. Run fundraisers like sponsored marathons or ask your corporate partners to match your donations. Even small donations help in the fight against climate change, poverty, and ecological damage.

Conclusion

If you run a tourism business, you may be alarmed to find that your company causes a lot of ecological harm. You can take action to prevent harm and support eco-friendly causes by making strategic changes to your events and activities. Encourage folks to rideshare en route to your location and use your time together to educate your guests. Give people plenty of opportunities to donate to charitable causes and try to run as many fundraisers as possible during your busy season.

About the author:

Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer who lives in the Northwest region of the United States. She has a particular interest in covering topics related to travel, sustainability, tech, and accessibility. When not writing, her free time is spent reading and researching to learn more about her cultural and environmental surroundings.

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Nurturing Nature’s Jewel: The Vjosa Wild River National Park Community Tourism Initiative

Written by Blerina AgoEntrepreneur & Tourism consultant, activealbania.com

Greetings from the heart of the Vjosa River! I’m Blerina Ago, a passionate advocate for sustainable tourism, and I am excited to share with you the remarkable story of the Vjosa Wild River National Park (WRNP) Community Tourism developments with the significant support of Planeterra.

As I stand here by the pristine riverbanks, surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, I can’t help but reflect on the transformative power of community-driven initiatives in the field of tourism.

Photo © activealbania.com : Blerina Ago enjoying the dramatic view of Vjosa Wild River National Park.

A Historic Promise for the Vjosa River

For over a decade, a dedicated coalition of environmental experts, tourism activists, organizations like IUCN, Patagonia, Riverwatch, Euronatur, and EcoAlbania, together with local communities, artists, media, and adventure enthusiasts, have tirelessly worked to protect the Vjosa River for future generations.

On March 2023, history was made. The Albanian Government declared the Vjosa River a National Park, marking it as Europe’s first Wild River National Park. This decision is more than a legal designation; it’s a promise to keep the Vjosa flowing freely, benefiting both people and nature for generations to come. It’s a testament to the unity of people and government in protecting this natural wonder.

A Journey to Remember

Photo © Adnan Beci: Blerina Ago enjoying the adrenaline rush in Vjosa Wild River National Park.

I’ll never forget the first time I met Vjosa. It happened on a rafting adventure more than one decade ago. It’s challenging to put into words the sheer rush of adrenaline and emotions I experienced that day. All I can say is that this one adventure changed the course of my life forever.

I was captivated by the river’s charm and the hospitality of the communities that call this area their home. These communities have always had a strong connection to the river, relying on its resources for their livelihoods. This connection is what ultimately sparked my interest in getting involved in community tourism as a way to protect and preserve this pristine environment while benefiting the local people.

Community Tourism:  A Real Game-Changer

Community tourism is more than just a buzzword; it’s a transformative approach that empowers local communities to take charge of their own destinies.

In the Vjosa WRNP, this concept has become a guiding light for sustainable development. It encourages the active participation of local residents in tourism activities, promoting the preservation of their cultural heritage and natural resources.

One of the most significant impacts of community tourism is the diversification of income sources for local communities.

Traditionally reliant on agriculture, forestry and fishing, the people of the Vjosa region are now finding new opportunities in tourism-related businesses. This not only improves their economic well-being but also allows them to stay connected to their land and traditions.

Now, let’s dive into why the Vjosa WRNP Community Tourism developments matter so much:

-Conservation and Awareness: This initiative brings visitors into close contact with the beauty and significance of the Vjosa River. It’s like turning them into eco-warriors who want to protect this natural gem. They become passionate advocates for conservation.

-Preserving Culture: The project places a strong emphasis on preserving the rich cultural heritage of the local communities. Tourists are encouraged to immerse themselves in local traditions, from traditional music and cuisine to handicrafts. This not only keeps these traditions alive but also helps local residents earn a living.

-Economic Diversification: Community tourism will open new doors for the locals, who traditionally depended on farming. Now, they’re finding new livelihoods in tourism-related businesses. This not only boosts their income but also lets them stay connected to their land and traditions.

-Empowerment and Ownership: The Vjosa WRNP community tourism initiatives empower local residents by giving them a say in their region’s development. They’re not just passive observers but active decision-makers, ensuring that tourism activities are sustainable and in harmony with their values.

-Preserving Natural Beauty: Sustainable tourism practices, like responsible rafting, biking, hiking and wildlife observation, ensure that the Vjosa River’s natural beauty stays unspoiled. This isn’t just great for the environment; it’s also crucial for the long-term success of tourism here.

-Education and Learning: Visitors don’t just come for the scenery; they come to learn about the Vjosa River’s unique ecological importance. This educational aspect makes them feel responsible for the environment, strengthening the river’s protection.

The Distinct Character of Albanians

But the Vjosa River isn’t the only gem in this region. Albania itself is a land of fascinating diversity and a unique character. The people, known for their warm hospitality, have a deep-rooted sense of identity and culture.

Albania’s cultural traditions are deeply rooted in its history and its people’s enduring spirit. From its distinctive polyphonic music, where multiple voices blend harmoniously, to its unique dances that reflect the country’s diverse regions, Albanian traditions are a testament to the resilience of its people.

Photo © activealbania.com: Enjoying stories of Lord Byron visit in Tepelena told by the locals while tasting a handmade drink with fresh strawberries from the garden.

The age-old Albanian adage, “Buke e kripe e zemer,” meaning “Bread, salt, and a kind heart,” embodies the very essence of Albanian hospitality.

It speaks to the values of the nation’s spirit, which is rooted in the idea that all that one possesses, no matter how little, should be shared with guests who have honored their home with their presence.

Let me share with you the authentic cultural heritage of remarkable places,  where Vjosa WRNP flows as a living river:

Gjirokastra, often called the “City of Stone,” is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its well-preserved architecture is a testament to the rich history of this region. Strolling through its cobbled streets feels like stepping back in time. The locals are proud of their traditions, which include unique  “saze” music, dance, and culinary delights like gliko.

Here, you’ll find talented craftsmen creating exquisite hand-carved wooden and stone items, including furniture and decorative pieces, which often incorporate traditional motifs. In the nearly four-century-old reconstructed Characteristic Bazaar, traces of a tradition of working with wool, tapestries “sixhade”, embroidery, but also iron and wooden rosettes can be found. In this Bazaar, one of the city’s earliest crafts is also being cultivated, stone coffee.

Photo © activealbania.com: Sunset to remember in Gjirokastra.

The road by car from Tepelena towards Vlora, through the deep canyons of Bënça, stops in authentic villages like Gusmar, Lekdush dhe Progonat, meeting with the local shepherds of the area, or visiting the impressive waterfall of Peshtura and encountering the crystal-clear waters of the Vjosa River tributary, the Shushica river, offers one of the most dramatic views of the valley. Vlora, a coastal gem, owns beautiful beaches, a rich maritime history, and a unique connection to the sea reflected in local life and cuisine.

It’s also historically significant as the birthplace of Albania’s independence in 1912. When you venture into this region of the Vjosa River, you’ll have the chance to explore the Zvërnec and Sazan islands, home to ancient monasteries, unwind on Orikum Beach, uncover the wild allure of Karaburun Island, and appreciate the rich biodiversity of the Narta Lagoon.

Photo © activealbania.com: Idyllic campsite Lekdushi-Shehu, located in the middle of the Vjosa valley mountains, in an ideal setting for a total change of scenery.

Fier, on the other hand, is a city with a fascinating history dating back to ancient times. It’s home to some of the most impressive ancient ruins in Albania like Apollonia, which reveals its rich heritage through well-preserved archaeological ruins and captivating stories of the past.

As you stand amidst other well-preserved ruins of this historic city of Bylis, you’ll not only immerse yourself in Albania’s rich history but also be treated to an awe-inspiring vista of the Vjosa below.

Skilled artisans here craft pottery and ceramics using age-old techniques, often featuring intricate patterns and designs. These pieces serve as a beautiful testament to the city’s historical roots.

Photo © activealbania.com: Amazing view of Vjosa WRNP from ancient Byllis Archaeological Park.

Korca, nestled in the southeastern part of Albania, intricately threads together a vibrant cultural mosaic. Known for its historic architecture and vibrant arts scene, Korca has managed to safeguard its traditions through the ages.

The city’s women, in particular, champion traditional craftsmanship, with a focus on weaving and embroidery. Their dedication underscores the vital role women play in preserving cultural heritage and traditions.

In Korca, community tourism serves as a conduit for the endurance and celebration of these traditions, connecting travelers to the city’s living cultural legacy.

Photo © Albanian Telegraphic Agency" (ATA): Artisanal woodwork skills are passed down through generations by the women of the Roma community in Korça.

The Vjosa WRNP Community Tourism developments represent a model of sustainable tourism that balances economic growth with environmental and cultural preservation.

This project is not just about attracting tourists; it’s about empowering local communities, preserving nature, and fostering a sense of responsibility for our planet.

As I stand here, watching the sun dip below the horizon, I am filled with hope for the future of the Vjosa River and its surrounding communities.

The journey from an unknown gem to a thriving community tourism destination is inspiring. It serves as a model of what is possible when local people, passionate environmental advocates, and responsible travelers come together for the greater good.

Photo © activealbania.com: The Brati Bridge with 2 arches over the Vjosa tributary, Shushica

So, I invite you to experience the magic of the Vjosa WRNP and witness firsthand the incredible transformations happening here. Come and be a part of this inspiring journey towards a more sustainable and harmonious future for Vjosa and its people.

Remember, every visit, every story shared, and every choice you make as a traveler can make a difference.

Together, we can protect and empower the places we love, and the Vjosa WRNP is a shining example of what can be achieved when communities and tourists work hand in hand for a brighter, more sustainable future.

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Impacts that Last a Lifetime through Responsible Travel

Written by Chloe Friedland – International Development and Social Entrepreneurship student at McGill University.
I had the opportunity to speak with McGill Student and Travel Enthusiast Madeleine Loh, who has had numerous opportunities in the past to travel with G Adventures and visit Planeterra Partners. From what she told me, her travels with G have been a whirlwind of discovery and connection. Each trip, each visit to a Planeterra community partner, has been a step into a world that's as vibrant as the local markets and as warm as the welcoming smiles of the local peoples.

In Cambodia, India, and Vietnam, Maddie discovered the resilience of the human spirit. At New Hope, a vocational training restaurant in Cambodia, and City Walk in India, she saw how Planeterra partners empower individuals to rise from adversity, as the Partners’ outreach programs touch some of the poorest areas in the region, and gives people from those communities a renewed spirit through job opportunities and health care support.

Her favorite experience, however, was at Oodles of Noodles in Vietnam. Oodles of Noodles acts as a curriculum for youth to practice their English skills in order for them to succeed in the hospitality industry. The students lead a noodle-making class with travelers and teach them about the twenty-six different types of noodles available in Hoi An, Vietnam. Many of the students go on to work at large five-star hotels in Da Nang and neighboring cities. Through this experience, Madeleine learned that food is more than sustenance; it’s a cultural connector and a tool for change. And let’s be honest, who can resist a good noodle?

City Tour in India
A warm welcome in India

As Maddie journeyed to Nicaragua and Morocco, she experienced the power of community and the joy of cultural exchange. At Puesta Del Sol, a tourism cooperative in Nicaragua, she saw how tourism can support local economies and preserve cultural heritage. She saw first-hand how the creation of new job opportunities through Puesta Del Sol, profoundly uplifted the livelihood of the community.

In Morocco, through AFER HomLunch, an organization that empowers and develops the skills of rural women in Morocco through kitchen spaces and cooking training, Madeleine tasted authentic local cuisine and experienced the warmth of Moroccan hospitality. 

Madeleine also had the opportunity to journey to Tanzania and visit the Maasai Clean Cookstoves. Here, she saw the strength of women who build and sell clean cookstoves, improving health conditions and creating a sustainable income for themselves. 

These experiences deepened Madeleine’s understanding of the ways in which supporting women and creating job opportunities can have a ripple effect throughout an entire community, bolstering its economy and revitalizing its collective spirit. 

Madeleine’s travels with G Adventures and to Planeterra Partners have shown her the power and value of responsible tourism. They’ve demonstrated that when we travel with an open heart and a desire to connect, we can find common ground with people from all walks of life.

While Madeleine thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of her trips, she recounted how much her visits to Planeterra partners resonated with her, as these experiences brought her to the next level of immersion into the local cultures. By visiting Planeterra partners, Madeleine was truly able to connect with local communities and understand where their values are rooted. 

Madeleine on a Jeep in tour Kenya

She says “I have amazing memories of all my adventures with G Adventures, but my experiences visiting Planeterra partners will always hold a special place in my heart. When I visited these organizations I really felt like I gained a new perspective on their communities and now have a really deep appreciation for what they stand for.”  

When planning your next adventure, remember Madeleine’s insights and consider seeking out experiences that will allow you to truly immerse yourself in the local culture. Connect with local organizations, visit Planeterra Partners and other community projects, and embrace the customs and traditions of the places you visit. By doing so, you’ll not only enrich your own travel experience, but you will also contribute to the well-being and preservation of the communities you encounter along the way. 

Chloe Friedland

About the author:

My name is  Chloe Friedland, I’m a fourth-year student at McGill University, studying International Development and Social Entrepreneurship. I have a passion for travel because I love the way it can foster new perspectives. I am very interested in the Responsible Tourism Industry as I am committed to creating a positive impact for both communities around the world and the environment.

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Sustainable Tourism: Dispelling Myths and Uncovering Facts

Written by Deeksha Sharma – Founder and Writer at YouInVerse. 
Growing up as a child, I always noticed the little things that my mother did at home. The word ‘little’ actually sounds little but these little things create huge impacts. From recycling the fruits and vegetable peels, to saving and reusing water from the R.O. or water purifier. From using plastic bottles to make her beautiful flower pots, her every small action was contributing towards a sustainable planet.

Unsurprisingly, I started celebrating sustainability from a very young age. Not only this, I have been a travel enthusiast since childhood too. Travelling has been a significant factor in shaping the way I think in life. The more I travel the world, the more I realize how similar we are despite our differences.

In today’s ever-changing world, sustainable travel is becoming a force for the good. However, there are many myths and misconceptions about what sustainable tourism is and what it is not. First, let’s define what is meant by sustainable tourism. Sustainable tourism is defined by the UN Environment Program and UN World Tourism Organization as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”

Debunking myths and uncovering facts are essential for promoting accurate knowledge and advancing both individual and collective well-being. Let me share five myths and facts about sustainable tourism.

Myth 1: Sustainable tourism is ONLY about protecting the environment

Fact: Needless to say, environmental conservation is a significant aspect of sustainable tourism, however, it’s not the only one that should be prioritized. It is also about supporting local communities, preserving cultural heritage, and ensuring that economic benefits reach the local communities such that they get a fair share of their contributions.

Myth 2: One person can never make any difference in sustainable tourism

This is one of the biggest myths of all time. Every traveler can make a positive impact by making small yet responsible choices. These include – supporting small-scale local businesses, reducing plastic and other waste, mindfully spending on tourism activities, conserving natural resources, and respecting local cultures. Even a small action can create a global impact. When more people act as responsible travelers, the collective impact is significant.

Myth 3: Sustainable tourism is for the rich and wealthy

Fact: Sustainable tourism caters to all pockets. It can be affordable and accessible to travelers with diverse budgets. You can immerse yourself in eco-friendly accommodations or luxury hotels that prioritize sustainability. You can choose to travel by public transport or private transport with lower emissions. Sustainable tourism is for everyone.

Myth 4: Sustainable tourism only caters to the nature lovers

Fact: Sustainable tourism is for everyone, and you don’t need to be in a forest or a beach to enjoy it. You can immerse in sustainable tourism experiences even in cities, museums, luxury resorts, or remote villages.

Myth 5: Sustainable traveling restricts your experiences

Fact:  Sustainable travelling never restricts anyone’s experiences. Interestingly, it can surely enhance your travel journeys by connecting you with local cultures, traditions, and authentic experiences. Sustainable tourism offers what mass tourism often overlooks.

Sustainable tourism is about making conscious choices that prioritize the well-being of all – environment, people and communities. Banishing the myths can help promote a greater and much better understanding of the significance of sustainable tourism. It’s time that we take only memories and leave only footprints. When our planet does so much for us, what are you doing to keep this planet sustainable?

Deeksha Sharma — Founder and Writer at YouInVerse

About the author:

Deeksha (she/her) is an international development sector professional with a keen focus on sustainable travelling and storytelling. She is passionate about finding creative ways to lead social change and making a positive contribution to both global and local communities. In her award-winning blog, YouInVerse, she creatively covers stories of travel, culture, sustainability and well-being from India and around the world. She strongly believes that there are stories everywhere and we should keep discovering the ones that inspire us to be better humans. Deeksha is a travel enthusiast and a passionate writer who believes in the power of storytelling for a peaceful and more compassionate world. She enjoys long walks, stargazing, reading and writing poetry, and will be delighted to have you visit her blog and read some stories.

Follow Deeksha on LinkedIn!

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Responsible Travel for a Better Future

Written by Aayusha Prasain – CEO, Community Homestay Network
Responsible travel emphasizes respect for local communities, cultures, and the environment while exploring new destinations. It encourages travelers to make conscious choices that have a positive impact, such as supporting local businesses, minimizing their carbon footprint, and preserving natural and cultural heritage.

By practicing responsible travel, individuals can contribute to sustainable development, foster cross-cultural understanding, and leave a lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy. However, with the looming threat of climate change, having a better sustainable future for the next generations seems uncertain. 

Nevertheless, it is just not enough to be uncertain, having an action to mitigate it is very important. When we encounter terms like climate action and biodiversity crisis, we often come across complex concepts that may be challenging for the general public to comprehend. However, it is crucial for everyone to understand and address climate action since it is a shared responsibility that affects each and every one of us. 

Strengthening Community Tourism

In an effort to promote community tourism and address pressing environmental issues, Planeterra, a pioneer in community tourism, organized a peer-to-peer learning workshop for its Nepal partners.

The workshop aimed to facilitate discussions on climate action, the biodiversity crisis, and the importance of local solutions. As part of its commitment to supporting community tourism enterprises, Planeterra established the Global Community Tourism Network (GCTN) during the pandemic, with the goal of breaking down barriers in the tourism marketplace and enhancing the capacity, quality, and accessibility of community tourism worldwide.

Recognizing that addressing climate action requires collective efforts, we, Community Homestay Network (CHN) as a strategic partner of the GCTN here in Nepal joined forces to co-plan and co-execute the workshop, held on June 27, 2023.

The session aimed to foster engagement and knowledge-sharing among various stakeholders in Nepal, while promoting best practices in community tourism and addressing the urgent challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

During the session, participants from different community-based tourism enterprises such as Social Tours, Hands on Institute, Girls Empowered by Travel, Nagarkot Community Homestay, Kirtipur Community Homestay, Panauti Community Homestay and Panuati Bike Station had the opportunity to learn and share about successful models of community-based tourism. They delved into topics such as how to effectively run a community-based tourism experience and understand its wide-ranging impacts and ripple effects.

The discussion emphasized the role of community tourism in addressing the ongoing climate action and biodiversity crisis. By adopting sustainable practices, community tourism can become a catalyst for positive change, promoting responsible travel and mitigating environmental impacts.

The discussion was further facilitated by a collaborative learning and problem-solving process where participants were engaged in a workshop. The workshop also explored the role of the GCTN in mitigating these challenges.

By fostering engagement and providing a platform for knowledge-sharing, the GCTN can contribute to the growth and sustainability of responsible and ethical travel. The partnership between the GCTN and CHN presents an exciting opportunity to harness the power of community-based tourism in addressing the ways to build responsible travel and work on climate action and biodiversity crisis.

Through meaningful engagement and the sharing of best practices, this collaboration aims to promote responsible and sustainable tourism models that benefit local communities and the environment.

Fostering Collaboration and Sharing Best Practices

The session served as a crucial step towards a more responsible and inclusive tourism industry, where community-based initiatives hold significant importance in shaping a positive future for both travelers and local communities.

The best practices for reducing single-use plastics were shared by the communities while the importance of switching to renewable sources of energy was also discussed. The discussions highlighted that these changes not only contribute to making one destination cleaner and greener but also raise awareness among travelers, encouraging responsible behavior in other locations.

The dynamic conversations and collaborative atmosphere allowed all partners to connect and establish relationships for future joint collaborations. As an organization committed to providing community-based tourism experiences that directly benefit local communities through homestays, this platform provided a valuable opportunity for us to exchange ideas with like-minded initiatives and organizations.

We anticipate that this gathering will foster long-term collaboration and contribute to the promotion of responsible tourism practices in Nepal.

Aayusha Prasain, CEO- Community Homestay Network

About the author:

As the CEO of Community Homestay Network (CHN), Aayusha is working towards strengthening the organization while streamlining and scaling the impact of tourism across communities. Along with her team at CHN, she also works towards bringing local actors into the tourism value chain and promoting responsible and inclusive tourism. 

Visit www.communityhomestay.com to learn more about CHN’s work.

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