Today World Tourism Day (WTD) is celebrated all around the globe as every year on September 27 – for ‘global observance to highlight tourism‘s social, cultural and economic value‘. This year‘s theme is:
TOURISM & COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
What really means development? And what means it for the community?
In a short video on the WTD website some native people from different continents tell their stories of responsible and sustainable tourism (http://wtd.unwto.org). Natives of Australia, Africa, South-America provide in their homes and villages a simple place for visitors, who will be introduced in their nature‘s surroundings, culture and lifestyle. Of course, these people benefit of tourism as long as they maintain their responsible and sustainable philosophy – that will be a real development for their community.
Tourists enjoying such authentic local impressions are not in need of five stars facilities. They have all these kind of so-called luxury at home where they come from. They want to experience something different of what they already know and being used to. I think this kind of tourism provides the most benefit for communities.
Since years local tourism as home stays in India and Kerala is booming. But often home stays are built in a style locals don‘t and didn‘t live at all like. It seems to me as a westerner, the locals‘ dream of a western lifestyle is creating such artificial places to offer proudly to tourists. Why aren‘t they proud of their rich old culture? This question is very compex, since it leads to the far past, to answer and discuss would blast these thoughts about tourism.
During my early travels to India and Kerala end of the 70ties and beginning of the 80ties I experienced the real home stays. Families were inviting foreigners to stay in their small hut or house, sometimes for free sometimes for a little amount. So that time foreigners got an authentic experience by sharing bathroom, toilet, food with their hosts.
That time such foreigners were called travelers. Tourists were quite rare and of course not to be seen at that rural, original spots, which were not yet developed in a classical meaning: the places were not yet spoiled.
Meanwhile time has changed a lot. More tourists visit India but less travelers are seen. But among all these tourists nowadays there are different categories. Many of such tourists looking for a holiday, pleasant, comfortable, relaxing, flavored with some sightseeing tours and cultural performances. They will book their stay in 3 to 5 stars hotels and resorts, which were increasing in Kerala during past years.
In my opinion these kind of artificial places you can find all around the world without much differences. And these kind of touristic places may not really develop the community in the very best way. Luxury means a lot of waste, means trained stuff – mostly coming from far away, but not from the nearby village – means high energy usage, since all that luxury rooms are built with plenty of modern materials, often not fitting fot the tropical climate, equipped with air condition, TV, refrigerator, hairdryer …
Since waste management at most of the places in Kerala is not existing, the waste is dumped in ponds, canals, landscapes, beaches. To get aware of such bad polluting habits a responsible, sustainable tourism would really help to develop the communities.
Traveling around the world in my young days I have observed the misunderstandings of development especially in so-called poor or undeveloped countries, where people think AC, TV, Hotel transfers with waterplanes, loudspeakers and all kind of modern technical equipments mean development, but don‘t consider about polluting their natural places and disturbing others with noise.
Many tourists visiting India and Kerala are in search for experiencing a local lifestyle, the culture and tradition. These include house construction in all traditional matter as materials too, food, bathroom, toilet, landscape …
Tourists not want to see waste everywhere, they not want to hear permanent noise from loudspeakers. Actually they come for what India and Kerala was famous once, as I was lucky to see in 1977, when waste was completely organic, when loudspeakers were not existing, when traffic was less.
India and Kerala is changing by copying all the negative things from the west.
Therefore a responsible, sustainable tourism will be a big task, as communities themselves have to understand what means development.
The Sylviander House is our idealistic dream of a Kerala atmosphere, which disappears more and more with the modern capitalistic present age. We wanted to create a place, where luxury is an idea of olden times in Kerala, which I loved so much, when I came here on my first travelings, and which I missed more and more while Kerala‘s seeking to reach modernity.
Sylviander House is a recycled house as we collected windows, doors, bricks, roof tiles from demolished old Kerala houses in the nearby area of Alappuzha. We used all materials in a very economical way, local and tradtitional. All workers were from the neighborhood, and still up today, whenever we need help for cleaning, cooking, gardening, repairing, everybody comes from the village, even those treating our guests with the traditional Kerala massage.
We don‘t need a TV or AC or marble floors, but have a internet connection, and thanks to the traditional construction of the building we enjoy a very low current bill. We avoid plastic and unneccessary waste, store glass pieces and energy saving lamps in a safe place. We buy fish and vegetable from local fischermen and local farmers, who started now with organic farming. Regularly we are giving children classes to the neighbor kids to make them aware about their surroundings nature and their daily pollution, also showing them the house and the garden, which they are happy to see. Hopefully this could inspire the villagers in a good way for their common future and make them understand what development really means …
Even in our simple traditional bathrooms where one has to draw water from bassins to showering, our guests will get a real Kerala feeling of olden times – by the way, this saves water too. We catch rain water from our roof and can enjoy a very good drinking water without any chemicals.
All these things, local material, locals to help, local style, traditional philosophy with holistic understanding are in my opinion development, which can be supported by a responsible and sustainable tourism for the community.
I‘ve seen so many places in the world developing from small touristic spots to huge tourism attraction. What was the development for the local population? They couldn‘t afford the prices anymore and had to leave the place. The benefits went straight to the pockets of big hotels and restaurants.
Meanwhile the pond with biotope and aside two almost extinguished trees in the Sylviander House garden became a rarely seen landscape of olden Kerala scenery, no gardener can create for a resort since it needs decades to grow in that natural way to result in such a beauty, I enjoy every morning again and again. And this small spot of untouched nature never bores me whenever I sit on the veranda to look at, watching the birds in the branches …