Sustainable Tourism: Moving Forward through Giving Back

June 6, 2018

Have you ever considered what sustainable tourism is and how you can contribute to impoverished communities? The Village Experience co-founder, Kelly Campbell, works around the world–in countries such as India, Guatemala, and Kenya–and uses tourism as a force for good in helping improve lives. She shares her insights with us.

Tell us a bit about The Village Experience. What is it? How did you get started with it?

The Village Experience is a socially pro-active business dedicated to uplifting impoverished communities in the developing world through efforts in international trade and tourism. We focus on offering socially responsible tourism programs to countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Morocco, Egypt, Thailand, India, Nepal and Guatemala.

Our fair trade handbag line, Sora Nomad, offers beautifully handcrafted, travel-inspired bags made by artisans in India. Creating this market for the artisans allows them to greatly improve their standard of living for themselves, their families and their community as a whole.

Could you describe your project in Kenya? 

We have many projects in Kenya! We partner with Safari Doctors in Lamu to deliver healthcare to marginalized communities in the island archipelago. I sit on their board and take a special interest in this project. We also partner with Twashukuru Eco School. This is a nursery school dedicated to the environment and to educating their students on the importance of caring for and protecting their planet. We have ongoing projects throughout Lamu including support of a girls’ orphanage, construction of classrooms and latrines at Jericho Primary School in Witu, recycling education programs/beach cleanup/sea turtle conservation with LAMCOT. We are also developing an in-depth community-based tourism program to create jobs for the Shela Women’s Association.

Tell us about your projects in Guatemala and India.

In India, we focus on supporting Women’s Interlink Foundation in their work to protect, educate, rehabilitate, and reintegrate young women victim to human-trafficking, abuse, or prostitution. We partner with WIF to provide a loving, caring, and safe home for the girls. We have built shelters, playgrounds, and a vocational skills training space for the organization.

In Guatemala, we partner with Vamos Adelante on working to improve living conditions for rural villages on the side of Volcano Fuego. These are communities of migrant coffee and sugar cane workers, making very little for the few months out of the year that they can find work. We help to build and paint classrooms, create recreational spaces, and launch vocational training programs with the women.

When doing a project, do you and your groups engage with the locals? In what ways?

Absolutely. Since we only work on development projects in three countries, we know the communities well. In fact, we look at our partner communities as family. We spend time with families in each community. We get to know the students at the schools we’ve built and support. We have engaging conversations with the women we are training. Even on our socially responsible tourism programs to countries outside of Kenya, India, or Guatemala, we engage with the local communities we are visiting. We make a point to share meals together, do cooking classes to learn more about the cuisine, share photos over coffee, learn about traditional handicrafts, and support income-generating businesses.

Tell us about how sustainable tourism works.

The Village Experience is a socially pro-active business dedicated to uplifting impoverished communities in the developing world through efforts in international trade and tourism. We support fair trade, create a market for it, and work one-on-one with artisan groups to improve their standard of living. We believe wholeheartedly in traveling the world and giving back at the same time, something we like to call “moving forward by giving back”.

The Village Experience adheres to a strict policy of promoting socially responsible tourism. This can mean different things to different people, but here’s what it means to us:

  1. Locally owned and operated hotels with a commitment to the community.
  2. Fair wages paid to all guides and drivers.
  3. Exposure to fair trade and artisan cooperatives.
  4. Commitment to the community.
  5. Service to others.
  6. Partnering with ground operators who share our vision.
  7. Embracing the local culture.
  8. Contribute to the local economy.

How can everyone travel and tour countries more responsibly? 

Research the tour companies, hotels, or activities you are interested in before booking. Look to see what philanthropic projects they support, or if there is a commitment of any kind to the surrounding communities. Use your tourism dollars to support only those that give back.

About Sharon Zelnick

Sharon Zelnick is Pink Pangea’s Outreach Coordinator. Sharon holds an MA in comparative literature (summa cum laude) from Leiden University and a BA in liberal arts (magna cum laude) from Tel Aviv University. Originally from the US, Sharon has lived in the Netherlands and Israel and has traveled extensively through Europe, the Middle East, and Central America.

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