Putting responsible tourism into practice, Planeta.com and friends in Oaxaca, Mexico, are hosting the Responsible Tourism Fair (Feria de Turismo Responsable) from 17-30 January 2010.
According to Ron Mader, founder of Planeta.com and organiser of the event, responsible tourism is treating others the way they wish to be treated. The Responsible Tourism Fair therefore responds to the “growing number of travellers [who] want their journeys to be less invasive and more beneficial to the local community,” he said. “They want to better understand the culture of the people they meet in the places they visit. Those who enjoy a trip will look back fondly on it for the rest of their lives.”
In keeping with this ethic, the Oaxaca fair returns for its 10th year with a full program of popular activities like treasure hunts, culinary tours and food tastings. For envious would-be participants who can’t make the trip all the way to Mexico, the fair’s organisers also tap into the popularity of the latest online social media tools to extend its reach worldwide.
All’s Fair in Oaxaca
“This year’s event expanded on what we’ve learned the past few years,” said Mader. Originally launched in 2001 as a lively and engaging way of connecting locals and visitors, the Oaxaca fair today still remains true to its core attention to local flair.
“Since 2006 things have been chaotic for Oaxaca businesses, so the fair serves as a way to learn what’s open,” Mader said. “The event itself has been created on a shoestring budget and in these times of financial belt-tightening, it’s a great example of how friends can collaborate and organise events with a minimal budget. Frugal can be fun.”
Notably, the fair has evolved from a one-day market to a dozen or so micro-events held in multiple locations in Oaxaca City and surrounding towns over a period of two weeks, a quality also very much in keeping with its celebration of slow travel.
Visitors can choose weaver-guided walks in Teotitlán del Valle, morning photo safaris in public parks and feasts of famous authentic local specialties like Caldo de Piedra (a Chinanteco dish), Maatsy (of Mixe make) and Zapotec-style tamales. Self-guided treasure hunts bring independent-minded foodies face to face with local cheeses, chocolates and mezcal.
Taking Local Global
Although the emphasis on local is paramount, the Responsible Tourism Fair uses modern technology and Web 2.0 communication tools to bring the fair to the world and the world to the fair. “The Web provides the most affordable way for locals to share what’s available and what’s new with potential visitors. We’re showing the resources for independent travel so that others can follow the footsteps,” Mader said.
As a primary means of integrating Web 2.0 capabilities, the Oaxaca fair can be followed via Facebook, Flickr, Twitter (use #rtf2010) and YouTube. “Photographers are invited to share photos in relevant Flickr Groups with prizes to be awarded at the end of the fair,” reported Mader, and “our responsible tourism buddies [are invited] to create your own event during this time and share the news via Web 2.0. Show us what ‘responsible tourism’ looks like in your corner of the world!”
In addition, many of the local artists, craftspeople and tour providers have developed their own websites and online photo galleries.
For a full and updated festival program, see the Responsible Tourism Fair page.
For further information and links, visit the updated Oaxaca travel guides on Planeta.com or the Oaxaca Wikispace, which, in addition to directories of artisans, features dictionaries of local indigenous languages (Mixe, Mixtec, Zapotec).