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.

No comments: