Saturday 23 April 2011

Zambian President to be patron of IIPT African Conference

Zambia President Rupiah B. Banda to be Patron of 5th IIPT African Confernce: Meeting the Challenges of Climate Change

Stowe, Vermont, USA – 23 April 2011 – The International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT) announced today that Zambia President, Rupiah B. Banda has agreed to be Patron of the 5 th IIPT African Conference: Meeting the Challenges of Climate Change to Tourism in Africa and the Developing World” to be held in Lusaka, Zambia, May 15 – 20, 2005.

In making the announcement, IIPT Founder and President, Louis D’Amore said, “We are most proud and honored to have President Banda as Patron of the 5th IIPT African Conference. His patronage adds immense stature and prestige to the conference and demonstrates the importance that Zambia has placed on this timely event.”

The aim of the 5th IIPT African Conference is to showcase models of ‘best practice’ in mitigating and addressing the anticipated impacts of climate change to tourism in Africa and the developing world.

The Conference is hosted by the Zambia Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources, and organized by the International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT) in partnership with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), World Travel Market, Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA), as well as other prestigious partners and supporters.

The conference will bring together leading experts on tourism and climate change, ministers of tourism, senior representatives of UN agencies, senior government officials, senior industry executives from the diverse sectors of the tourism industry, educators, and practitioners from more than 40 countries.

Topics to be covered include: Climate Change: Policy and Planning to Practice;

The Central Role of Parks and Wilderness Areas; Perspectives on Sustainable Destinations; The Human and Cultural Dimensions of Climate Change;

Establishing Guidelines and Business Strategies for Sustainable Tourism;

Coastal Tourism Strategies and Water Management – and other critical topic areas.

The conference will also include the first ever “Traditional Leaders Forum on Tourism” to be held in Africa with Ben Sherman, President, Native Tourism Alliance, North America, as a special guest.

About International Institute for Peace through Tourism IIPT is dedicated to fostering and facilitating tourism initiatives which contribute to international understanding and cooperation, an improved quality of environment, the preservation of heritage, poverty reduction, and the resolution of conflict - and through these initiatives, help bring about a more peaceful and sustainable world. IIPT is dedicated to mobilizing travel and tourism, the world’s largest industry, as the world’s first “Global Peace Industry,” an industry that promotes and supports the belief that “Every traveler is potentially an Ambassador for Peace.”

International Institute for Peace through Tourism

685 Cottage Club Road, Unit 13, Stowe, VT 05672

Phone: +1 802 253 8671

Fax: +1 802 253 2645



Monday 18 April 2011

Viswanathan Gurukkal - Vallabhatta Kalari

display of strength at Vallabhatta Kalari Sangham

"And, it is this that strikes me again and again. A compulsion to conserve and preserve, be it heritage homes, elephants, or art forms. The Vallabhatta Kalari Academy is just a few kilometres away from the Riverside resort. A classic example of a kuzhi kalari -a sunken arena - kalari payattu, the ancient martial art is taught here by the last descendant of the Muduvangatt family whose head was the commander-in-chief of the royal army of the Vettath Raja. Tracing a lineage of ten centuries, the kalari has managed to keep its traditional grandeur despite the lure of commerce.
As I walked into the kalari, the earth cellar like area with its thatched roof, mud floor and array of weapons laid out on the sides, I felt I had stepped back in time. Then my eyes trailed to the kanni-moola [ the southwest corner]. Here the kalari deity sits adorned with flowers and lit with oil lamps. A silent spectator, constantly assessing, perennially judging all that happens before her eyes, Bhadrakali, the deity radiates a presence that tolerates no deviation from tradition. And, it is this I see as the kalari comes alive. The short stick and long stick fights, the dagger, spear and sword fights, in the hand combat and finally where a blindfolded student located a dagger hidden in the arena floor and then used the dagger to slice a cucumber placed on another student's body... it's only when the cucumber fell apart, I realized that I had been holding my breath....perhaps so did the deity, I thought. No matter how often you saw this, one couldn't discount the possibility of human error…"

Some of the senior students including Unni during the training at Kaladi

This was a note written by Anita Nair in the India Today Travel Plus about her visit with us to Vallabhatta Kalari along river Nila. The last descendant of The Muduvangatt family, Viswanathan Gurukkal passed away yesterday after ailing for a last four years in Calicut. One of the first projects along Nila to be supported by The Blue Yonder since it's inception, we have vivid memories of this place and the man himself. Irrespective of caste, creed and gender, he trained more than 1500 students in traditional Kerala martial arts in Northern style. He was such a proponent that he developed his own style of training that came to known as "Vallabhatta" style focusing on norther kalari traditions. Old texts found in family attic reads the authority family had recognitions and titles given by "Vettathu Raja", the local King which says "Muduvangaatt should be in charge of eight countries ( 'desams') and protect the land from the enemies".

Gurkkal watchng a performance at his Kalari which was part of a documentary work we were involved in

They were protectors of Ponnani harbor. His family was the chief architect of war strategies during the "Mamaankam" which used to be held once in twelve years on the banks of River Nila in Tirunavaaya. When Kerala state government decided to include "Kalari payattu" as one of the subjects in school, Viswanathan Gurukkal took an active role in deciding on the topic and training those involved in preparing the syllabus. For the past eight years, he was also leading the Kerala state kalaripayattu Association. When it was decided to re-enact the moments of 1684 Mamankam (where Zamorin came so close to death by one of the youngest of warriors), it was Vallabhatta Kalari that choreographed the illustrious action in a festival in 1999 in Tirunavaya.

We bow with respect and love to the man who dedicated his whole life to sustain, preserve and propagate the martial arts tradition of Kerala. Another of Nila who will live through our memories.

Gurukkal promoted the training of girls in martial arts starting with many in his family

Saturday 16 April 2011

Kim, the Lama & the secret valley - Inviting travellers to join us in Spiti Valley

Cultural journey and discovery of Spiti Valley

From 4th to 18th June 2011

Spiti valley, Rudyard Kipling wrote, is ‘a world within a world, a place where the gods live’. Closed to strangers until 1992, this Himalayan kingdom back in time was the destination for Buddhist pilgrims, caravans and adventurers as well as it was the setting of Kim, the great espionage novel linking to Central Asia. The journey traces the footsteps of Kipling’s novel, travelling back in time to the year 986 when the Buddhist and Tibetan culture marked the vast and dry plains of the Eastern Himalayas with their presence.

You are invited to a spectacular and breath-taking crossing through one of the most remote and culturally well-preserved regions. The journey takes place in all-terrain vehicles and includes the visits to museums, monasteries, forts and interaction with local artists and artisans in the company of the venerable Tenzin Kunga, a native from Kinnaur, and the Swiss archeologist Lobsang Nyima, both monks of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery.

The night bus takes the travellers from Delhi to Shimla (2206m), the ancient summer residence of the British India. Leaving the cedar forests and the Himalayan foothills we reach the Narkanda Pass (2708m) to join the bustling meanders of the Sutlej coming from the high Tibetan plateaux. Then a long motorised ascension of several days starts on the Hindustan-Tibet Road, pompously renamed National Highway n°22. At Sarahan (1920m), ancient trading post of the state Bashahr and gateway to Kinnaur, we enjoy a break in the middle of orchards to visit the monumental temple Bhimakali, a sacred Hindu place where the human sacrifices were perpetuated until the 19th century. At Thangi (2966m), the inhabitants of the village of the venerable Tenzin Kunga, whose gentleness equals their hospitality, will make you discover one of the most beautiful regions of Himachal Pradesh with its terraced fields where apples and apricots are cultivated and where Hinduism mixes with Buddhism.

The ascend continues in direction of Nako (3625m) and the Tibetan border, under the close surveillance of the marmots, reveiling the first temples and monasteries dedicated to the great translator of the 11th century Rinchen Zangpo. Here we enter the genuine Buddhist art museum dating back to the medieval ages.

The voyage continues through the desolate and rocky landscapes, brown and ochre spots. The narrowness of the paths at the edge of dizzy chasms imposes manoevres that make you quiver with fear. Then finally the valley of Spiti unfolds, lunar depression scattered by stupa (funerary monuments), mani stones, prayer flags swaying in the wind. Guardian of an unequalled and original Buddhist culture, the valley uncovers finally its numerous monasteries and temples with frescos of rare delicacy and crowded with Buddhas and o following the example of the magisterial Tabo (3050m) classified the World Cultural Heritage by the Unesco.

Lobsang Nyima will also make you discover the monastic citadel of Dankhar (3850m), the place of his latest research. Then in the setting of this geological immensities and fantasitic shapes, where the ancestral traditions are perpetuated, still remain the modest hamlets with houses of brick and limed mud, such as the aerial village Kibber (4200m).

Finally, leaving the small administrative town of Kaza (3600m), the crossing of the high plateaux of Spiti and the passage from Kunzum (4551m) presents the ultimate stage of this adventure, surely the most challenging but also the most spectacular. The journey ends in Manali (1950m), the cosmopolitan mountain station that makes us already miss the silence of the stars at your finger tips in the high Spiti valley.
For enquiries please contact us on +91.80.4115.2218 or email.

Monday 11 April 2011

Local food and accommodation

Travellers prefer local properties with character than branded international hotel chains. Purity by the backwaters in Kerala

‘What kind of travelers do you have? ‘We were asked this question at the ITB Berlin congress panel on linkages between consumers and industry fousing on social responsibility. And today we received an email from a journalist asking if local accommodation and food makes a difference to the travelling experience. Some of the thoughts we shared are here:

Most of the travellers choose a company like ours precisely for the reason that they are 'cultural creatives'. These are people who consume responsibly, who wants to ensure that they money they give ( to a hotelier or a tour operator) should make a difference to the destination they are travelling to. Our holidays are designed in a way that the itineraries touch many social initiatives and innovation that are happening in the country right now. These are not visits to NGOs, but designed in a way that these causes become the interactive travel experiences for travellers. When the demands from travellers are towards 'local, slow, sustainable' travel, it's easy to communicate. For those who are not aware of such travel trends, we of course spend time with them, sharing guest feedback and even details on "how their travel make a difference to local communities and environment''.

CSR Panel on socially conscious travellers at the ITB Berlin 2011 convention.

Such quantifiable claims give an opportunity for travellers to 'check' it out and report back. This resulted several times in travellers playing the role of a 'curator' than just a 'consumer'. For such travellers, it's important that they eat local food, consume as much local produces as possible. Choosing locally owned hotels, resorts and home-stays are important to them compared to staying in a massive, (universally boring ) international hotel chains.

Even yesterday one of the leading German tour operator requested, “Hotels should be good hotels for sustainable tourism, that is hotels with character, but please, no international chains.”

We don't provide all-inclusive trips, except for the breakfast that's offered in the property, we give insights to travellers about good local restaurants and shops. This also helps travellers 'spread' their money in destinations in a more judicious way. In any case what's point in travelling to a place like Kerala or Rajasthan to try out badly made pasta?

Luxury home stay in Rajasthan. Revenue streamlined to support kids with HIV / Aids

It's very important for us to choose the 'right kind of accommodation'. This certainly enhances the quality of our trips. In the initial years, we had issues of not being able to provide such accommodation. After a fantastic day trip interacting with locals, being part of initiatives that give 'sense of pride', 'alternative and supplementary sources of income' and help 'preserve culture and heritage' and sometimes even help reduce migration to urban settlements, our clients used to end up staying in characterless properties. This has changed quite a lot in the last few years. Properties like CGH Eeath , Our Native Village and Maranat Mana are some of the examples of how travelling experiences can be enhanced. They do this by promoting sustainable practices. 'Spice Village' in Periyar in Kerala is probably the first property in the country to go totally off-the grid. Knowing that their stay is not creating any extra pressure on local energy consumption, travellers are quite excited as well. By end of the day, its all about conveying these stories in the right spirit and not scaring away travellers by talking too much about their social responsibility!

Another English tour operator says about her scouting with us at CGH Earth, “These hotels are truly gorgeous with loads of character in their own unique way - each a destination in itself - exactly the type of venues many of our clients enjoy. We wish we could have stayed longer to experience more each hotel could offer, hopefully the next time! We had tours of each hotel which demonstrated the eco-awareness and connections to nature that are actually being adopted by the hotels. This is refreshing and a definite inspiration. “

As part of our attempt to provide a total Blue Yonder experiences, we are proposing less usage of houseboats in Kerala, which are largely responsible for polluting the backwaters and ecosystem because of unsustainable practices. These fresh water lakes are direct source of water for all the communities living along the backwaters.

There is a lot to achieve to be sustainable, but we are confident on having taken small steps in the right direction. With customers playing the role as curators, it’s no longer that difficult to reach there.

Saturday 9 April 2011

Muslim for a month

Ben talking about 'Muslim for a month' initiative at The Blue Yonder stand at ITB-Berlin:

'Muslim for a Month' is a Blood Foundation cultural exchange program run in partnership with Islamic scholars and peace activists in Istanbul Turkey. Blood Foundation is a social enterprise and NGO dedicated to promoting positive intercultural experiences.

Foundation also organises the successful Monk for a Month temple stay program in northern Thailand’s Fang Valley, offering guests an immersion experience into Buddhism and Thai culture as well as a unique opportunity for personal spiritual progression.

In a similar vein the Muslim for a Month program offers an inner experience of the Islamic faith with the focus being on the Sufi path and the universal spiritual teachings of Mevlana Rumi.

Foundation is launching Muslim for a Month by offering two versions of the program; the 9 day short course and the more comprehensive 21 day program. The short course consists of a broad introduction to Islam, Sufism, Rumi, and Turkish culture while the longer version offers a deeper exploration of Sufi mysticism and a more thorough immersion into the life and works of Rumi.

See comments of a traveller who experienced 'Muslim for a month' : "As a Catholic, this program has been seriously insightful with an outcome of total surprise and great benefits to understanding the Muslim people and their religious practices. It has sharpened my own inadequate beliefs of how to serve God in this world. Bookings are now open for next 9 days travel beginning 15th of May 2011.

Contact us for bookings if you want to experience this unique journey:

Thursday 7 April 2011

5th IIPT African Conference: Meeting the Challenges of Climate Change

IIPT 5th African Conference LaunchMinister of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources, Zambia, Hon. Catherine Namugala has officially launched the 5th IIPT African Conference: Meeting the Challenges of Climate Change to Tourism in Africa and the Developing World to be held in Lusaka, Zambia 15 – 20 May, 2011.

In launching the Conference, Minister Namugala said, “The Zambia Government is proud to be hosting the conference as the theme is very appropriate to Africa, and Zambia in particular, because the effects of climate change are exerting a heavy toll on the entire life chain.”

“It is worth noting that climate change is a major threat to sustainable growth and development in Africa, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Impacts of climate change include among others, increased incidence of both drought and flooding, desertification, sea level rise, reduced freshwater availability, decreasing fish resources, cyclones, impacts on food security, all of which have an impact on tourism,” Minister Namugala said.

“Climate change is the pre-eminent geopolitical and economic issue of the 21st century. It rewrites the global equation for development, peace, and prosperity.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 2009 Summit on Climate

The aim of the 5th IIPT African Conference is to showcase models of ‘best practice’ in mitigating and addressing the anticipated impacts of climate change to tourism in Africa and the developing world.

The Conference is being organized by International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT) in partnership with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA) and The Blue Yonder.


Other partners include Livingstone International University of Tourism Excellence and Business Management (LIUTEBM); Zambia Ethno Tourism and Cultural Tourism Alliance (ZECUTA); and The Children’s and Youth Welfare Foundation of Zambia.

To register, please click here.

Topics to be Addressed
• Sustainable Strategies and Practices from Diverse Regions
• Perspectives on Sustainable Destinations
• The Human Dimension of Climate Change
• Preserving Bio-diversity for Future Generations
• Returns on Investment from Conservation Practices
• Strategies for Marketing and Tourism Investment
• Climate Change: Policy and Planning to Practice
• The Central Role of Parks and Wilderness Areas
• Traditional Approaches to Preserving Bio-diversity
• Multimedia Approaches to Promote Public Awareness
• Coastal Tourism Strategies and Water Management
• Mitigating the Driving Factors of Climate Change
• Forums for Responsible Travel and Tourism
• Setting Standards and Business Models for Sustainable Tourism

The 5th IIPT African Conference will bring together leading experts in tourism and climate change, Ministers of Tourism and the Environment, senior government officials, and executives from the diverse sectors of the industry; UN agencies, donor agencies, and NGOs; researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners; representatives of related sectors, including environment, culture, and sustainable economic development; and leading academics to share their knowledge and experience and research related to climate change response strategies, programs and actions in Africa and developing countries throughout the world.

Timeliness and Importance of ConferenceVictoria Falls, Zambia
The year 2010 ranked as the warmest on record, together with 1998 and 2005. The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998. Arctic sea-ice cover in December 2010 was the lowest on record. Last year also witnessed a large number of extreme weather events, including an extreme heat wave in Russia and devastating floods in Pakistan. This year has begun with extreme flooding in Sri Lanka, flash flooding near the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, and severe flooding in eastern Australia, expected to be the most costly natural disaster in Australia’s history.

Although African and other developing nations are least responsible for climate change, they are particularly vulnerable to the effects, including reduced agricultural production, threats to food security, increased incidence of both drought and flooding, sea level rise, coastal erosion, coral bleaching, deforestation, loss of wildlife, reduced fresh water availability, spread of malaria and other disease, and an increased risk of conflict over scarce land and water resources.


UNWTOIn 2007, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), jointly with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), with the support of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Swiss Government, convened the Second International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism, in Davos, Switzerland, with the aim of responding to climate change imperatives in the tourism sector. The conference set out a range of specific policies and actions to be taken by all stakeholders in the tourism sector to immediately begin to establish and implement a long-range, carbon-neutral roadmap.

The 5th IIPT African Conference will seek to identify actual ‘on-the-ground’ progress since the 2007 Conference with case studies of ‘best practice’ from each of the developing regions of the world and from governments, destinations, industry sectors, NGOs, researchers and academics, and the media.

Official Airline and Hotel InterContinental Hotel

SAA LogoSouth African Airways is the official carrier for the conference andthe Hotel InterContinental Lusaka is the official hotel and conference venue.

For more information and to register, please click here.