Next week, The Travel Word joins forces with others around the globe to look at and salute the role of indigenous people in tourism.
All week we will focus our articles on different qualities of indigenous tourism and hope they inspire you to join us in honouring the ancient cultural roots from which we have all sprung, roots that remain robust but require our admiration, care and protection.
Our tribute to indigenous tourism is in part inspired by the second annual Indigenous Peoples Week (August 6-12, 2012), a free, open, online unconference the two-fold objective of which is to raise awareness of indigenous tourism options around the world and to improve digital literacy skills among the indigenous tourism providers themselves. The Travel Word is proud to have supported this undertaking in 2011 and calls on you to take part in the circle of conversation this year.
We are also motivated by the August 9 International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, established by the United Nations as a way to celebrate and recognise the stories, cultures and unique identities of indigenous peoples around the world. This year’s theme is Indigenous Media, Empowering Indigenous Voices and highlights “the importance of indigenous media in challenging stereotypes, forging indigenous peoples’ identities, communicating with the outside world, and influencing the social and political agenda.”
Is Indigenous Tourism Coming of Age?
When asked to share share a thought about how travellers’ awareness of indigenous tourism changed in the last decade, Ron Mader of Planeta.com, one of the Indigenous Peoples Week’s co-hosts, commented that “While awareness of indigenous tourism has matured in the past decade, irresponsible actions – exploitation – are still frequently headline news and the focal points of campaigns. The promotion of indigenous tourism options has not enjoyed similar popularity, leaving visitors and locals alike with the notion that there is much to be wary of and little to cheer for. That said, the intention of Indigenous Peoples Week is catalyse a productive conversation (and hopefully some real-time reservations) that support indigenous tourism. This is a call to action and we hope that Indigenous Peoples Week provides a needed wake-up call.”
Of course, that call to action has already been heeded by many.
“In my experience, and with the high level of personal engagement on our Maori Tours, I am finding our clients are more informed with the increased access to internet based knowledge that they can find online about our culture,” reported Ceillhe Sperath, Founder and Director of TIME Unlimited Tours in New Zealand, another of the co-hosts of Indigenous Peoples Week, along with Nutti Sámi Siida, Guurrbi Tours and Nevada Magazine.
“I also believe that many more significant events, such as the Rugby World Cup and, more recently, the Olympics are offering another outlet to entice and provide insight (even tease) potential travellers in gaining an indigenous experience wherever they go,” continued Sperath. “Vacation, holidays or non-work escapes are becoming more about the ‘experience’of creating memories and engaging in face time with locals that go further than a random activity, adventure or visit to a set attraction that might otherwise be found in many other locations. The types of questions we get now have changed. We often get asked – What can I do here that I could not do anywhere else in NZ or the world? What would locals prefer to do on their holidays in this area and/or where do they hang out?”
How Can You Take Part Next Week?
* Participate in more indigenous tourism. Find and take part in the kind of tours that opens you to new experiences. Join the growing numbers of other travellers who “now realise a dance show is not the only indigenous activity that is on offer,” said Sperath. “Visitors are now starting to realise that stereotypical indigenous experiences can relate to living cultures around sights and sounds, as well as taste and conversation.”
* Get off the beaten path. Push outside the box. Break the mold! “Many more experiences can be offered that are authentic rather than being watered down to suit the palate of what we think tourists want to see,” emphasised Sperath. “It is time for tourism industry providers to stop pre-determining what we have always provided as being suitable and give discerning travellers credit that they can see through the cookie cutter/mass tourism approach. Indigenous tourism is about the exchange of cultural understanding and to do that it requires people to be integrated as part of the experience. The integrity of the tourism experience is about a forum where relationships and mutual respect for all cultures are formed and that a two way exchange might be possible.”
* Help spread the word. Use your blog and social media to curate and share stories of starting up, collaborating and developing new initiatives. Use the #ipw2012 hashtag on Twitter. Introduce yourself on the Facebook event page, the Google+ event page and the LinkedIn event page.
* Be attentive, be creative, be generous, be curious and be empathetic. (Read more about what this means on the LinkedIn event page.)