Thursday, 28 February 2013

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Land regeneration : A new initiative from us


210 acres of rainforest was cleared for Co-Operative farming in the 50s' by the then Government in Kerala. Heavy use of pesticide and unsustainable farming practices made the land barren. Later concerned about the damage it created, some souls (as you always find them around the world) decided to transform at least 10 acres of that into a sustainable farming space, which showed mixed result. 

Now we are partnering with them to see how we can develop this into a demonstration project to understand the damages caused, the results of positive intervention and how we could together make a larger difference. Looking at sustainable farming, increasing livelihood opportunities , food processing, nature interpretation for children ( adults welcome though most of us are pretty spoilt ;))...

This project site is just about 90 minutes from Fort Kochi, 30 minutes from the airport and easily accessible by road. Ideal for day trips.

Monday, 25 February 2013

The Blue Yonder at ITB Berlin 2013





Rice provides more than 20 per cent of the calories consumed by the human race. Almost everyone will have eaten it within the last week. And hardly any of us give it a moment's thought.

The oldest records of rice cultivation trace it to South India, where it has been grown for over 8000 years. Now we are offering visitors a unique day trip into not only this wonder crop's past, but to discover a possible sustainable, future.

Our new Pokkali culinary heritage tour takes a few select guests into the patchwork of paddy fields that surround Fort Cochin – the most beautiful and popular city in Kerala. Here, farmers have been growing a unique variety of rice for as long as people remember.

Pokkali rice is red, providing a vibrantly coloured ingredient to any meal. It is also always grown organically. But most significantly, it is the only variety in the world known to be capable of resisting salt water – which in this time of rising sea levels due to climate change, could just make it a lifesaver. And the farmers that grow it across just 3,000 hectres of Kerala paddies are protecting and cultivating the last known wild examples of it on earth.

A true symbol of sustainability, the farming methods have also been developed into a perfect symbiotic relationship. From June to October each year, the farmers grow the rice in the low lying paddies. Once it is cultivated, the remains of the rice plant along with all the wastes from its cultivation, become used in prawn farming.

Guests will visit the paddy fields, meet the farmers and learn the story of Pokkali from them over a traditional meal – after all where better place to eat rice and freshly harvested prawns. This is a unique window into the food heritage of Kerala, and offered by no other travel company. Properties like Malabar House, CGH Earth and Le Meridien has committed to purchase this rice for their restaurants, while TBY is also working in the local markets to create demand from public to consume this rice.

A trip to visit the Pokkali Rice Farmers is just one of the many new day trips that the Blue Yonder is offering out of Cochin this year. You can be a river fisherman for the day and try your hand at a unique fishing practice called 'Peru Vala'. Lovers of Indian handicrafts can escape the tourist trail and visit (and buy from) the women who make the most beautiful saris in all Kerala on the handlooms of Chennamangalam. A visit to this beautiful village weaves together not just fabrics, but religions - for while there it is also possible to visit the places of worship of the four main religions of the world – a temple, a synagogue, a church and a mosque, all within one square kilometre of each other. And on the musical trail local master musicians showcase their skills on a range of the traditional instruments of Kerala, whilst narrating stories and folk tales of the area. So popular has this tour become, that it has already won both the British High Commissions' Young Creative Entrepreneur Award and the Conde Nast Traveler's World Savers Awards.




Ever since The Blue Yonder started in Kerala over 8 years ago, the company has won countless awards and acclaim for its unique 'off the beaten track' trips. 

Our distinctive tours offer travellers authentic experiences of hidden customs and rituals, while providing their hosts with a meaningful income that enables them to sustain these threatened traditions. 

We now offers such trips across all of India – from Rajasthan to Sikkim, as well as into Nepal, Bangladesh, Singapore, and recently to South Africa.

The Blue Yonder can be found at stand 201 / Hall 4.1. Our colleagues will available for meetings throughout the course of ITB (06-10 March 2013). 

We are also organising several events and are part of Studiosus debate at ITB Convention. Please see more details here



Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A-Z of Responsible Travel | Meaningful

"Responsible Tourism develops travel experiences that reveal truths about the places we visit; provide authentic connections to local people; and ensure our visits benefit those we meet and cause no harm to the environment. What could be more meaningful that that?"

This post card is part of A-Z series on Responsible Travel designed by TBYA for us.

At the ITB Berlin 2013, we are running a session called A-Z on Responsible Travel to demystify the idea of Responsible Travel, to get rid of thousands of academic jargons and make sense to travelers and industry. Shouldn't be Responsible Tourism be more fun than any thing else?

There will be an art interactive art-installation where representative from the trade as well as consumers get an opportunity to highlight a word that's more interesting for them. They could also provide alternative words and even translation in their local language.

On the facebook event, we are getting interesting proposals from public about alternative words. Today, for. e.g some suggested M for Mindful & Memories. What is yours? 

The Blue Yonder at ITB Berlin 2013

 We welcome you to meet our colleagues from The Blue Yonder, at 210, Hall 4.1 at ITB Berlin between 06-10 Mar 2013. We have new products, itineraries and destination details to share with you from India & South Africa.

Some of the events we are associated at ITB Berlin:
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Studiosus Debate: ITB CSR Day
Holiday Encounters With Local People - What Does The Tourist Want, What Do The Locals Expect?”

Date:7. March 2013, Time:12:00 – 13:00 Location:Hall 7.3, Auditorium Europa

Moderated by: Andreas Stopp, Deutschlandfunk

Panel guests:
Johannes Klaus, Travel Blogger
Gopinath Parayil, Founder, The Blue Yonder
Peter Strub, Managing Director, Studiosus Reisen
Dr. Dietlind von Laßberg, Deputy Chairwoman, Studienkreis für Tourismus und Entwicklung e.V. (Institute for Tourism and Development)

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Responsible Tourism ClinicsThursday 7 March 2013, 13.30 – 14.00, Hall 4.1
How to Use Digital Storytelling and Social Media to Market Your Responsible Tourism Offering - Daniel Noll & Audrey Scott (Uncornered Market)
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Friday 8 march 2013, 17.00-17.30 Hall 4.1
The Fair Game Tourism Initiative - ensuring the future of the safari.
Jeremy Smith introduces the Fair Game Tourism Initiative, which aims to make sure tourism companies that profit from wildlife do more to ensure its survival
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Friday 8 March 2013, 17.30 – 18.00 Hall 4.1
Tired of academic definitions of Responsible Travel, Zainab Kakal designed a series of A-Z of Responsible Travel in a fun and interactive way. From 'Authentic' to 'Zest', she explains how each word helps in creating innovative travel experiences. Following up on her research with travellers from Western Europe to developing countries like India, Mariska van Gaalen presents perspective of travellers on how they respond to some of the themes introduced in the A-Z series.
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Hall 4.1 will also see an interactive art installation this time based on A-Z of Responsible Tourism during the 5 days of ITB Berlin. 


Responsible Tourism Networking on 8 Mar 2013 will be co-organised by The Blue Yonder, Tripbod, The Green Circuit and ITB-Berlin. This year ATTA, Cape Town, Gujarat Tourism, TBYA and Isthmus Connect is supporting the event.

For appointments please write to Ms. Anne Zummach or call our office in India +91.98860.53286 or Berlin on +49.30259.316517

Friday, 8 February 2013

The Good Journey - Perceptions of a traveller


"How can a nice journey become a good journey? This is what gutereise (goodjourney) is all about. Taking India as an example, I want to show how travelling can be an unforgettable adventure for ourselves and actively support the environment and communities at our destination. For this aim I need you: Become part in every step of this project – from the idea to my research trip to India and finally to the book we will put together – and create a new, responsible way of travelling with me!" - Dorit Behrens 


Yoga by The River! A travel experience soon to be launched from TBY. 

Power to People:
I’ve just had an “aha-effect”: In preparation of my trip to India, I had learned that the overall aim of responsible tourism is to save the places we love to visit. But that is only one side of the story. For, in addition to the visitors’ perspective who want to maintain the environment and not exploit the people at their holiday destination, there is also the hosts’ point of view. Responsible tourism thus is really about two things: creating awareness in travellers for their responsibility on the way – and empowering local communities to look after their own economical, environmental and cultural well-being. But how can this be done?

Here a number of initiatives come into play that emerge in India right now, mostly on grassroots level. Their aim is to facilitate a lasting positive change long after the single tourist has left. In the southwestern state of Kerala, it seems, these initiatives are especially active. Maybe this is due to the fact that Kerala faces some special issues such as a drastically declining livelihood for traditional professions such as farming or fishing. It might also be a relict of the communist era (Kerala is the first state to have had a democratically elected communist government): Many of the projects are organized in community-owned “co-operatives” - doesn’t that sound slightly socialist? Well, never mind the wording – it works.

God’s own country

Kerala is pretty special: Located on the southwestern Malabar coast and comprising some 39,000 square kilometers, the state features an abundance of geographical and natural varieties: the Western Ghats highlands in the east, followed by midlands with dense vegetations and eventually the lowlands along its beautiful coastal zone with an elaborate network of streams and lakes, the famous Backwaters. The region usually gets an efficient rainfall of some 3,000 mm during the monsoon season (June-August) resulting in a rich biodiversity. A perfect place to grow veggies and livestock – the majority of local communities rely on agriculture – and to stay and spot the different shades of green: All around there is jungles with loads of wild animals (even Elephants!), innumerable lush tea, rice and banana plantations and palm trees all over the place. In fact, the name Kerala means “Land of the Coconut Tree” in the local language Malayalam.

An 'ordinary' meeting like this in the middle of the river for a local person is an 'Extra Ordinary' Travel experience for           a traveler.

Regional development

Another example of how to empower local communities is The Blue Yonder, one of the first responsible tourism businesses in India founded in 2004. The small team regards tourism a tool for a sustainable regional development and offers tours to create meaningful exchanges between guests and host communities. In Kerala for example, you can meet Varanath Asan, a humble man in his seventies who built a school to pass on the ancient art form of Mudiyettu. The ritual dance drama based on a mythological tale around the goddess Kali and the demon Darika was once performed in temples by his family, but nowadays is threatened with extinction. In his small school, Varanath teaches his wisdom students of all ages, even girls, who were formerly not eligible to learn the craft, and thus manages to keep the cultural heritage alive. Recently this was recognized internationally: UNESCO has declared Mudiyettu an Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

On other tours travellers may test their talents for the traditional craft of handlooming – a symbol of Kerala’s female culture of wearing saris – or learn how one of the oldest crops in the region, the red and very nutritious Pokkali rice, is being cultivated in a sustainable symbiosis with prawn farming. Set in the stunning Backwaters, Pokkali is the only variety that tolerates saltwater – and thus is a possible answer to food safety questions in times of global warming and sea-level rise in coastal areas. The communities benefit from these tours on various levels: Through fruitful interaction with incoming travellers, a growing recognition in the world and, very practically, though the support in kind of The Blue Yonder – while the projects always stay in their own hands. Meaningful encounters like these attract more and more travellers: The Blue Yonder now offers tours throughout India, in Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and South Africa.


Mudiyettu : UNESCO declared Intangible Heritage of Humanity, unfortunately is struggling to survive.

Wanna do more?

The longer you stay in one place, the deeper will be your understanding of it. Kabani and The Blue Yonder both offer the opportunity to stay a while and get some hands-on experience. While it is possible to support Kabani as a volunteer to facilitate additional income for underprivileged communities, The Blue Yonder provides several Workshops and Art Residencies in their corresponding projects in which candidates can learn a handicraft from scratch and put in their own knowledge. At the moment, the Chennamanagalam Handloom is looking for a textile designer (or student) who is keen to learn the traditional way of weaving and who helps to introduce the use of natural dyes. Interested? Then go to www.kabani.org or www.theblueyonder.com

The above text was edited for brevity. Full text including article on Kabani written by Dorit can be found here