International Workshop in Cambodia Discusses Effective Measurement and Monitoring of Tourism Sustainability
By Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL - Siem Reap, Cambodia
The first Asia Workshop of the International Network of Sustainable Tourism Inventories - INSTO took place in November in Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia.
The first Asia Workshop of the International Network of Sustainable Tourism Inventories - INSTO was successfully co-hosted on November 17 to 20, 2019 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Minister of Tourism of Cambodia, in collaboration with the Monitoring Centre for UNWTO Sustainable Tourism Observatories (MCSTO).
I attended this highly inspiring and energizing event aimed at further advancing the dialogues among the established and potential observatories in Asia-Pacific region and strengthening knowledge about the regular monitoring of tourism at the local level, as the Founder & CEO of Millennium Destinations and delegate representing South Korea.
The workshop was targeted at:
Considering the continuous growth of tourism in the Asia and the Pacific region, it seems crucial to be able to collect and monitor the necessary relevant data to make sure that tourism is planned, managed and controlled.
As of today, there are 28 observatories in the world (including 9 in China), and the Kingdom of Cambodia expressed its intention to establish one Sustainable Observatory in Kompong Phluk in 2020. Japan and the Republic of Korea also expressed their interest in establishing observatories.
This was welcomed by Dr. Dirk Glaesser, Director of Sustainable Development of Tourism, and by Mr. Harry Hwang, Deputy Director of Regional Department for Asia and the Pacific.
The UNWTO International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories was created in 2004 with the main objective to support the continuous improvement of sustainability and resilience in the tourism sector through systematic, timely and regular monitoring of tourism performance and impact and to connect dedicated destinations in order to better understand destination-wide resource use and foster the responsible management of tourism.
On November 20, I took a field tour to Kampong Phluk Eco-tourism Community, located in Siem Reap province close to Tonle Sap Lake. The Kampong Phluk commune has 3,707 peoples (911 families).
Kampong Phluk Eco-Tourism Community was established on April 17, 2015. It covers 12,329 hectares in 3 villages and plays an important role to attract many national and international tourists.
GSTC Partners with Millennium Destinations for its 2019 Sustainable Tourism Training Program in Seoul, South Korea
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) had its 2019 Sustainable Tourism Program in Seoul, South Korea on November 9 & 10, 2019 at the Seoul Global Startup Center.
This session was hosted in partnership with Millennium Destinations, with Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL as Lead Trainer and GSTC Director for Asia-Pacific Mihee KANG as co-Trainer, with the exceptional participation of GSTC CEO Randy DURBAND.
The training programme started with an introduction of GSTC and its four programs, as well as global trends in sustainable tourism, sustainability marketing, and sustainable tourism product development and management, followed by a detailed presentation of GSTC criteria for Industry and Destinations.
It also included presentations by Luis RIESTRA, General Manager of Crescendo Hotel about Planet21 initiative of Accor group and its actions in 2019, Lin HWANG, Founder & CEO of Damogo, a Seoul-based startup specialized in food waste reduction, and Louis HAAG, Co-Founder and CEO of HEROST, developed as a digital platform for co-creating, promoting and sharing sustainable, community-based travel experiences.
Through this interactive leaning journey, participants gained an in-depth understanding of the GSTC criteria as the global baseline standards for sustainability in travel and tourism, the roles of accreditation and certification in advancing the sustainability agenda in the tourism industry.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) manages the GSTC Criteria, the global baseline standards for sustainable travel and tourism; as well as acts as the international accreditation body for sustainable tourism certification.
On Dec. 4 to 7, 2019, the GSTC2019 Global Conference will bring together international and domestic tourism stakeholders involved in the development and promotion of sustainable tourism; including public sector, hotels, tour operators, academia, development agencies, NGOs, consultants, and more.
Given its beautiful sights and rich history, Japan is an ideal place to visit for adventurous millennials. There are certain highlights that every millennial must see, and no trip would be complete without any of the places listed below.
Harajuku is known worldwide as the centre of Japanese youth culture and fashion, with many of its streets lined with small, independent boutiques and cafés. You'll find yourself spoilt for choice as you browse the fashion boutiques, as well as Omotesando Hills – a large shopping centre home to over 100 shops. However, what makes Tokyo so incredible when it comes to shopping is its thrift-shopping culture. Despite being the land of technology, it's a mecca for hidden vintage outlets off the beaten tracks. In Harajuku, check out Kinji Used Clothing, a warehouse filled to the brim with incredible vintage items and categorised by both style and brand. If you're looking to become more sustainable, this is a great place to start.
The legendary Mount Fuji is the largest volcano in Japan, standing at 12,389 ft tall. Its spectacular core has made it a prominent feature in Japanese art and literature, and there are many ways for you to experience this magnificent sight – whether from a distance, or on the Fuji Visitor Center's observation deck. Travelling to the top can be an exciting adventure, with some trips around the mountain taking as long as 12 hours. It is quite cold at the top, so remember to pack layers.
The snow monkey – also known as the Japanese macaque – is a species native to Japan. They are famous for their red faces and their love for bathing in the hot springs. They are also noted as being an exceptionally intelligent species, quickly learning new skills such as eating and hunting. You'll need to venture out a bit to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park in the Nagano Prefecture to see them, but it's well worth the visit.
Kyoto is home to a large collection of temples. Popular temples include Ryoan-ji, where you can sit in the zen stone garden and achieve a tranquil mindset, which is perfect for anyone who has difficulty attaining peace of mind. Kinkaku-ji – the Golden Pavilion – is one of the most scenic temples you could visit, especially if viewed from across the lake. And there's also To-ji, which is immersed in nature and full of beautiful gardens and majestic trees. Japan's 1600 temples will simply leave you spoilt for choice.
Hokkaido’s flower fields
Whenever millennials go anywhere, they are generally on the lookout for scenic sights to fill their Instagram pages. Some of the finest imagery can be found on the island of Hokkaido, which offers several beautiful flower fields. It's like looking out over a rainbow scattered over the land.
Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo
Another area that any millennial tourist should visit is the famous Shibuya crossing intersection in Tokyo. There’s so much life here, with a huge crowd of the city’s residents and visitors all milling together at once, making it a fascinating spot for photography.
Japan is an incredible country, with so much to explore. These scenic locations are almost guaranteed to offer you a transcendent experience, and will leave you yearning to come back to take in even more of this divine culture.
Don’t forget, though: it’s important to be a responsible tourist, and respect the locations you’re visiting – especially when they already receive huge numbers of visitors already. Part of the joy of travelling is finding hidden attractions off the beaten track (as well as the more obvious highlights like those above) so keep your eyes peeled for these hidden secrets on your travels. You never know what you might find out there.
As part of its efforts to promote ecotourism in Daebu island, Ansan city organized a fam tour for foreign residents in Korea on Oct. 26, 2019.
It can be sometimes challenging to promote a fragile and vulnerable ecosystem such as an island, when the least thing you want is to see it become a mass tourism destination. Nonetheless, sustainable tourism is definitely a powerful tool for local development and community empowerment, and a smart marketing strategy can help target and attract the right people: those who care and are equipped to co-create a sustainable, fair and responsible experiences with the locals.
Within the framework of its project to develop ecotourism in Daebudo (Daebu island), the tourism department of Ansan city, South Korea, organized a fam tour (familiarization tour) for foreign residents in South Korea on Oct. 26, 2019.
Once called “the Hawaii of Ansan” and now dubbed “the Treasure Island”, Daebudo has been praised for its beautiful landscapes and has kept the appeal and characteristics of an island even if it is now linked to the Ansan mainland through the Sihwa seawall. With several thousand visitors per day day during peak season, Daebudo has indeed become a popular destination for Koreans, and particularly families or anyone looking for a beautiful, quiet and exotic escape. Many people, and particularly photographers, visit Daebudo and surrounding islands as top spots to watch the sunset. On the other hand, most visits to Daebudo usually do not last more than one day and the island does not seem to attract many foreign tourists or foreigners living in Korea, if we refer to the number of mentions on the Internet and in social networks.
Moreover, Daebudo has not been promoted as strongly as Ansan and/or is not perceived as an ecotourism or nature-based destination, even if Daebudo and Daesong wetland in Ansan have been designated as eco-tour zones by the Korean Ministry of Environment in 2014, together with Sanmakyi old trail and Lake Goesan in Goesan, Gasiyeon wetland and Lake Gyeongpo in Gangneung, Hyodon stream and Haryeli village in Seogwipo and Gochang dolmen.
According to researches, ecotourism is still considered a niche market but it has developed steadily over the past years. The market demand for ecotourism has been largely centered in the western world, mostly English-speaking countries, but more and more ecotourists are now coming from other regions such as the Asian Tigers.
For many ecotourists, the main motivation is the inherent quality of the landscape and wildlife of the destination, together with the opportunity to meet local people and experience cultural traditions and lifestyles. Many of them like to take photos and are even professional photographers. This is the case for more and more birdwatchers. Some ecotourists are looking for complementary activities such as hiking, cycling, etc.
In South Korea, outdoor and leisure / leports (leisure and sports) activities have become more and more popular. There are over 15 million regular hikers in South Korea and biking / cycling has developed recently. In general, a growing public interest in ecotourism has been reported in Korea.
Regarding Daebudo, it seems that tourism marketing efforts have been more focused on domestic visitors, and short term visits. Due to its characteristics, the island may compete with similar ecotourism destinations, in Korea or not, that are better known and/or or promoted, such as Suncheon Bay, which has become a renowned ecological tourism destination even among foreigners. Having said that, competition may become an opportunity if synergies and partnership can be created with those similar destinations.
The Ecotour in Daebu island designed by Ansan city included the following experiences:
Millennium Destinations provided its support to the project for the marketing and communication strategy and through arranging a diverse group of around 40 "Millennium Hikers", expats living in Korea and Koreans from different backgrounds (diplomats, professionals, professors, consultants, students, social media influencers, etc. ).
According to the results of the post-tour survey, all participants have been either very satisfied or satisfied with their experience in Daebu island, mudflat walking and interacting with the locals being their favorite activities. On the other, foreign participants expressed their need for more information and interpretation at least in English.
In any case, Ecotourism products in Daebudo should focus on protected areas as focal points. They should also intend to include experiences and activities that would contribute to reduce overcrowding and seasonality. Promotion activities should consider the carrying capacity of the island and should be carried out in concertation with the local residents.
Sustainable tourism may have become popular over the past years but what do we really know about it, and how to best achieve it?
If you want to be familiar with sustainable tourism and become an informed practitioner, join our upcoming 2019 GSTC Sustainable Tourism Training in Seoul!
This two-day training class is designed for travel, tourism and hospitality professionals interested in learning about sustainability good practices for businesses and destinations.
Through this interactive leaning journey you will gain an in-depth understanding of the GSTC Criteria as the global baseline standards for sustainability in travel and tourism, the roles of accreditation and certification in advancing the sustainability agenda in the tourism industry, as well as topics such as global trends in sustainable tourism, sustainability marketing, and sustainable tourism product development and management.
Ms. Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL, Millennium Destinations, Founder & CEO
Dr. Mihee KANG, GSTC, Director for Asia-Pacific
Hosted in partnership with Millennium Destinations, with the support of GreenBIM Engineering.
Information and registration here.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) is managing the GSTC Criteria, the global baseline standards for sustainable travel and tourism; as well as acting as the international accreditation body for sustainable tourism certification.
By Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL
Whereas France has been recently re-branded as a "startup nation", is there anything innovative, new and/or smart France can be proud of in the field of travel and tourism? And the answer is: absolutely (yes, I'm French)!
At least, this is what I intended to highlight during the 2nd OCOVA Forum in Asia hosted by the GSIPA - Gangneung Science & Industry Promotion Agency, on Oct. 16, 2019, under the theme of Tourism and the 4th Industrial Revolution.
In my presentation, I introduced French innovative inititiaves towards smart sustainable tourism, including France Tourisme Lab, the national network of incubators and accelerators in tourism, and tech for good initiatives that can be applied to tourism sectors.
As of today, 7 structures are part of France City Lab:
During the Forum, a partnership agreement was signed between GSIPA and Grand Sud Formation, a tourism high school based in Toulouse, France.
The Forum OCOVA has been organized annually since 2004 in Les Orres, a French ski resort located in the Hautes-Alpes department in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. It has been providing a venue for networking and knowledge exchange on smart technologies and innovation, particularly in mountain areas. The Asian edition of the OCOVA Forum was launched in 2018 in Gangneung, South-Korea.
When it comes to promoting green inititiaves and eco-friendly behaviors, the grass should not be greener on the other side. The grass is actually greenest where it is properly watered, nurtured, and loved. This is why the Green Drinks Seoul's community is getting bigger and stronger than ever.
On September 10, 2019, Green Drinks Seoul hosted a networking event featuring a presentation by Christoph Heider, President of the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea (ECCK), titled "ECCK Going Green".
Christoph introduced ECCK, and reminded that the Chamber has mentored Green Drinks Seoul for one year before it can fly with its own wings.
He also presented other initiatives of the ECCK such as the ECCK Go Green Month campaign in September 2019, aimed at promoting 11 measures so that the Chamber becomes more sustainable as a service provider. Script of the speech here.
This move has spread among ECCK's employees, and is now inspiring Green Office campaigns led by ECCK member companies.
The event was also an opportunity to promote the upcoming campaign Anatomy of Action on September 15 to 30, 2019, a partnership project of UN Environment and the Unschool of Disruptive Design aimed at defining and communicating the most positively impactful actions anyone of us can take to add to the global movement around sustainable lifestyles to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Green Drink Seoul is a group of professionals from the public and private sectors involved / interested in environment, sustainable development, green growth and ecology. We organize regular events aimed at promoting inititiaves in Seoul towards the achievement of the sustainable development goals with a strong focus on SDG12: Sustainable Consumption and Production.
Green Drinks Seoul is supported by the ECCK, the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Korea, and the Cercle des Entrepreneurs Francophones en Corée.
Facebook Group: GreenDrinksSeoul
Green Drinks Seoul web page: www.greendrinks.org/Seoul
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to host / support a GDS event.
Guest post - written by Clayton Miller
Responsible tourism isn't just about jumping on a trend. It’s about being part of a crucial movement that minimises our carbon footprint, promotes eco-conscious awareness and helps us become mindful of adopting environmentally friendly habits. Responsible travel means choosing your destinations carefully, finding ways to support local communities, staying in hotels which advocate sustainability, picking restaurants with a strong focus on organic and local food, and travelling in a way that has as little impact on the environment as possible. Here are five ways you can be a more sustainable traveller.
1. Carry reusables
Bringing reusables when you travel may seem like a small step but the more we all participate, the chances are that big brands will start to wake up to the demand of less plastic packaging. With one in three millennials prepared to spend as much as £5k on a summer vacation, it's easy to think buying a few more bottles of water on your holiday and extra toiletries aren't going to add too much extra to the bill. But it's the cost on the environment that is the biggest concern, and reducing travel waste plays a big part. If you're camping or going self-catering bring canvas grocery bags for the farmers' markets. If you know you'll be drinking lots of water make sure to carry a reusable eco-friendly bottle. Use reusable bags if you're taking snacks on the airline and carry decanted toiletries in a reusable clear zippered pouch. Take it even further by bringing a fabric bag for dirty laundry.
2. Choose hotels that promote minimal impact
Make sure to do your research before booking a hotel. Big resorts and all-inclusive hotels are often owned by foreign companies that have little care for sustainability. But there are eco-friendly hotel portfolios out there doing their utmost to create a positive impact on the environment. Look around and you'll find luxury hotels which have a zero plastic policy, use renewable energy, build with local recycled or renewable materials, and have rainwater filter systems. Examples include the Bucuti & Tara Resort in Aruba which has become North America's first CarbonNeutral® resort hotel.
3. Support local communities
From avoiding imported foods flown into the county, to choosing hotels that source food from their own vegetable and herb gardens, there are many ways to support local communities when you travel. And it doesn't stop with dining. You can immerse yourself in local life by taking part in community volunteering projects, buying ethically made artisan gifts and clothes, and avoiding experiences where wildlife is put at risk or exploited. Making informed decisions about your carbon footprint is a critical step in travelling more sustainably.
4. Conserve water
Water is renewable so why do we need to conserve it? Pure and simple, it takes a lot of energy to pump and treat water and reducing your usage helps preserve the freshwater that fish and plant life thrive on. The best way to help minimise water usage is to choose hotels that use a rainwater filter system, take quicker less frequent showers, and be mindful of reusing towels instead of sending them over to housekeeping to be laundered every day.
5. Choose environmentally friendly activities
Leave no trace of waste and make sure your footprints are respectful to the environment. This can be anything from ditching the gas-guzzling taxis and choosing to cycle, swim or hike to using public transport instead of a private car from the airport to the hotel. Pick off-the-beaten-path destinations that haven't been over damaged by tourism, take part in eco-friendly sightseeing tours and use non-motorized boats such as traditional jukungs or kayaks.
Written by Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL
Last month, an international team undertook a co-creative trip to three Japanese destinations in order to support local communities in their efforts to develop sustainable travel experiences for international visitors.
Do tourists -or I'd rather say "travelers" since the term "tourism" seems to have become a bad word over the past years, especially when it comes with the prefix "over"- really care about the communities living in the destinations they visit? Not really. Or at least, not naturally. In fact, many travel experiences are just a brief and superficial encounter between a visitor and a place, local populations being usually spectators rather than actors. Moreover, only a small portion of the tourism revenues usually go into the pockets of the locals, and we may therefore wonder why they should have any interest in receiving tourists. On the other hand, a little more compassion and genuine interest from both part, combined with enough interpretation and interaction could make any relationship between hosts and guests deeper, more meaningful, and mutually beneficial.
On 14-19 June, 2019, I had a chance to take part in a co-creative trip to Japan as the Founder and CEO of Millennium Destinations, and co-Founder of the Herost project, developed as a global online platform and network for the co-creation, promotion and sharing of sustainable, community-based (CBT) experiences, especially in Northeast and Southeast Asia.
This co-creative trip was organized within the framework of Travel Well, an initiative supported by Japan Airlines and aimed at developing sustainable CBT experiences in four pilot destinations, to be promoted internationally: 1. Kesennuma (Miyagi Prefecture, Tohoku Region), 2. Amami-Oshima Island, 3. Tokunoshima Island, and 4. Kikaijima Island in the Amami Archipelago (Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu Region). The trip in June covered the three first destinations.
Other members of the Herost project team included Louis HAAG, co-Founder and Managing Director of Seoul-based GreenBIM Engineering, and Shinobu HAYAMA, Founder and CEO of Tokyo-based Journey for Change, as well as our intern Lucas BASSET. We were also accompanied by Dr. Takahiko Nomura, CEO of Future Sessions, a partner of the Travel Well Project.
Earlier this year, the Travel Well project had carried out a participatory process in consultation with local / regional stakeholders in order to identify different inbound travel market segments and build targeted concepts, contents and experiences to leverage the value of the natural and cultural assets of the destinations. In particular, Amami-Oshima has recently started to receive large-scale cruise ships bringing short-stay visitors, which may create both opportunities and threats in the near future, hence the necessity to rely on a relevant marketing and sustainability strategy.
THEME 1: RESILIENCE / SLOW LIVING
Destination: Kesennuma (気仙沼市 Kesennuma-shi), Miyagi Prefecture (Tohoku Region)
As of 1 October 2018, Kesennuma had an estimated population of 62,124 and a population density of 187 inhabitants per square kilometre. Large sections of the city have been destroyed by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and major fires in March 2011.
How can community-based tourism contribute to heal destinations and locals who survived a disaster?
What does it mean to live together with the ocean, and be sometimes hurt by it?
When you lose everything, including your family members and your home, how do you find the strength and motivation to start over?
Day 1 - Upon arriving in Miyagi, we stopped by Minamisanriku, a town that was hit by the 2011 tsunami at an unprecedented scale, where we visited the new SanSan shopping village. This reconstruction symbol was first built in 2012. It was then closed in 2016 before reopening permanently the year after, in a new location on elevated land. It is located close to the red metal skeleton of Minamisanriku's Crisis Management Center, which has been kept as a symbol of the town and a shrine for the victims of the tsunami.
We then moved to Kesennuma city where we met our local guide Mr. Nishant Annu, who currently works for the local tourism organization Visit Kesennuma.
We took a sunset boat tour around the bay, surrounded by voracious seagulls, then moved to Tsunakan minshuku (inn/guesthouse) run by a local lady who started this business soon after the tsunami, as a place aimed at encouraging guests to visit the area again, and as a way to move forward. During our dinner, we shared stories about courage, resilience and the ability to recover from traumas through action.
Day 2 - After a hearty breakfast, we left our minshuku and drove to Karakuwa area where we visited an oyster and scallop farm. The owner of the farm had initially left Karakuwa for Tokyo where he pursued a busy yet increasingly frustrating career. He therefore decided to go back to his hometown and take over his father's farming business. Soon after he started, the 2011 tsunami destroyed all the facilities. Humbled by the unpredictable power of nature he decided to start again from scratch, and to welcome visitors from overseas to share his story of positive recovery. During our visit, he expressed his deep gratitude for all the support he had received from abroad, and particularly France, after the tsunami.
After a boat tour around the farm, we went to his place where we were offered huge cooked oysters while listening more about his story. He suddenly invited us to stay for lunch (although there was not much room left in our stomachs). Later on, his wife, who had kept off to prepare the lunch with her stepmother, joined us and I felt the urge to ask her if she was happy. "So so", she replied with a faint smile. I promised her we would develop tourism activities that include her as much as possible and we would come back with French recipes to cook for her.
Day 2 - Afternoon
After lunch, we moved to Seiryoin temple in Miyagi Prefecture to practice Zen meditation. This beautiful temple has long represented a vibrant community center for the locals, as most Buddhist temples have in Japan in the past. It then became a rescue and healing shelter in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami.
Seiryoin also hosts Hamawarasu, an organization helping children build or restore a peaceful and trustful relationship with the sea and nature, through a variety of outdoor activities.
After meditating and (re)learning how to let go, the team was invited to take part in cleaning activities in preparation of an upcoming jazz festival at the temple, before sharing joyful stories over coffee. We were told that the abbot was a music lover and a talented singer.
Day 2 - evening: after leaving the temple, we went to visit Iwaisaki, the southern entry point of Sanriku Geopark, in order to have a better understand of the impact of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami on the area. In particular, we stood by a former middle school close to the ocean that was hit by the big wave. Luckily all students could be evacuated on that day but some teachers had to stay in order to rescue valuables. They eventually went to the rooftop. Thinking their last hour had come, some of them started to smoke cigarettes although they knew it was strictly prohibited. But in the end, they all survived.
In the evening, we checked in a newly built guesthouse run by Tsuji-san, with whom we shared stories of how our choices can lead us either to dark places or comfort zones. Tsuji-san's son was one of the students who could be rescued from the middle school. The son had initially planned to become a fisherman but resolved to embrace a career of fireman, fighting fire with water.
Water can kill, water can heal, water is life.
Day 4 (morning) - After a Herost presentation and discussion on sustainable and community-based tourism at breakfast time, we left our minshuku to go to downtown Kesennuma where we visited Otokoyama Honten sake brewery, which was founded in 1912. The store, office and shop were taken away by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Luckily, the brewing facilities remained intact and the owner, Akihiko Sugawara, convinced his team to go back to business the day after the disaster as a pioneer of the recovery of Kennesuma so that sake keeps cheering locals in the trivial and crucial moments of their lives.
Akihiko Sugawara has been promoting Kennesuma as the first Slow City in Japan since 2013.
Before leading a tour of the brewery facilities, he played a video about the aftermath of the tsunami Discovery Channel’s: “Beyond the Tsunami” in which Ken Watanabe visits Kesennuma after the Great East Japan Earthquake, and explained more about sustainable community development in the area.
During this first part of the trip, we were able to know more about the lives and concerns of our hosts, and their daily struggle to keep going on in spite of traumatizing memories and a lingering sense of loss. We made a point to give back to them and to show our appreciation of their hospitality through cheering them up as much as we could, mostly through using humour. This was made possible through very professional interpretation services, although some of our French jokes could hardly been translated.
The people we have encountered have been very sincere in sharing sweet and sour moments of their lives, which gave us the comfortable feeling of being most welcome.
We have been able to provide insights and ideas with our hosts and partners so that local culture is preserved as a strong cement for the local communities and a valuable asset for tourism.
We were also able to appreciate the strong relationship between local community members and their natural environment. This gave us a more acute sense of the place.
In the future this experience could also include some eco-friendly practices such as plogging hikes, discovery of the local flora and fauna.
THEME 2: BALANCE / HARMONY
Destination: Amami-Oshima (Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu Region)
The largest island in the Amami archipelago between Kyūshū and Okinawa, Amami Oshima covers an area of 712.35 km2 and has a population of approximately 73,000 people. Much of this semi-tropical island is within the borders of the Amami Guntō National Park, added to the list of Japan’s 34 national parks in 2017.
The Amami Islands feature stunning landscapes and a rich biodiversity including several rare endemic species such as the Amami black rabbit, often referred to as a living fossil, or the Habu pit viper. The islands are also a popular for whale watching and spotting sea turtles from the shore. The Amami Ōshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, the northern part of Okinawa Island and Iriomote Island, located in Kagoshima and Okinawa prefectures, have collectively applied to be registered as UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site and are now in the tentative list, with official registration expected in 2020.
How do people connect with each other?
What is true happiness?
What does it mean to live as citizens of the earth?
How can the community-based tourism contribute to the cultural and natural heritages of the islands?
After landing on Amami Oshima, we went to Basyayama-mura resort where we had “Keihan", a local traditional dish made of chicken and rice, and shared ideas and insights on how to best promote the island and its key natural and cultural assets, with "Ken", the owner of the resort, as well as Masayuki Sakae, Regional director of Japan Airlines, Akimi Sogioka, representative of Amami International network, and Tim Shostak, our American guide and interpreter who became a local.
We then checked in at Sango Beach minshuku located in Yamoto-son willage, run by the joyful Ms. Saatchi, with the support of her son Junta.
Day 5 - After another copious breakfast, we experienced tie dye activities using garcinia leaves in a neighboring coffee / workshop, and then we had a stand-up paddling (SUP) session, for the first time in my case. I surprised myself being able to keep my balance and enjoying this relatively relaxing exercise ("sitting-up paddling" in my case). While other Herost team members continued with snorkeling, I stayed on the shore and had a discussion with Akimi Sogioka on ecotourism and sustainable tourism in the area, and the necessity to preserve the fragile local ecosystems of Amami islands from unplanned and uncontrolled tourism development.
We had lunch at the SUP center before going on a bicycle tour around the island. We first managed to spot a sea turtle swimming in a small harbor, before heading to Amami Wildlife Center, founded and run by the Japanese Ministry of Environment. We learnt that small Indian mongooses had been brought to the island in order to kill the venomous Habu pit vipers living in the mountain but it turned out the rodents were more interested in eating rabbits and frogs (a familiar diet for us Frenchies), and they eventually proliferated in such a way that they had to be eradicated, according to the Invasive Alien Species Act. Nowadays, only a few of them remain.
After going back to Sango Beach, we had a walk around Yamoto-son village, guided by Osamu Nakamura, President of local NPO Tamasu, dedicated to promoting the conservation of Amami's natural and cultural heritage. We concluded the tour by a BBQ dinner at the Sango Beach where Osamu introduced Tamasu's activities in the field of environmental protection, highlighting the dilemma of developing tourism in the island without destroying the the natural and cultural assets it depends on. Our discussion was followed by an animated and Shima-Uta (island folksong) performance by senior community members, a good opportunity to enjoy “Kokuto Shochu", the local alcoholic beverage made with brown sugar.
During our stay in Amami Oshima, we had a chance to be guided by an English-speaking local who provided us with extensive information on the local culture and traditions. This really enriched our experience. We also had many opportunities to interact deeply and directly with our local hosts and all in all, our exchanges have been very productive, and offered us many different perspectives on tourism development for Amami Oshima.
Cycling and walking were a great way to explore the island with limited carbon footprint.
Some experiences such as tie dye, SUP and bicycle were not really part of the island cultural heritage but they could surely be promoted as part of the new local culture, under the theme of balance and harmony with nature.
Day 6 - In the morning, we visited Kagoshima Prefecture Amami Park, where we learnt more about the different characteristics and history of Amami island. We visited its Tanaka Isson Memorial Museum displaying works by the late painter, who once lived on the island.
Amami Islands have been successively under the domination of Ryukyu (Okinawa), Satsuma clan (mainland), and the USA (1945-1953). This history of hardship and submission surely contributed to shape their unique culture.
THEME 3 STAMINA / LONGEVITY EXPERIENCES
Destinations: Tokunoshima (Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu Region)
Tokunoshima, one of the Satsunan Islands, has a population of approximately 27,000, and has become famous for the outstanding energy and dynamism of its inhabitants, which could explain its record birth and longevity rates.
Together with the consumption of Kokuto Shoshu?
Families in Tokunoshima are therefore large, and can even include fighting bulls, which are treated as family members and are raised with great care.
Tokunoshima is also popular as a sport venue. Since 1988, the year of the Summer Olympics hosted in Seoul, many athletes have visited the island to participate in the 98 km triathlon competition (swim, bike, and run). Naoko road, named after the Olympic gold medalist is part of the race.
What does it mean to be an island of longevity?
What does it mean to have an extended family including a bull?
What does it mean to be exposed to pristine nature?
Day 6 - Our arrival in Tokunoshima was delayed because of a typhoon, which actually set the tone of our short yet intense stay on the vibrant island. After being warmly welcomed by the Manager of Tokunoshima Tourism organization and his team, we had lunch in a newly open Kanan Blue restaurant where we were served a tasty traditional lunch meal made of local wild boar delicacies.
We then had a guided tour in the area to explore the local flora and fauna, and very quickly we were invited to experience another SUP session ("suffering-up paddling" in my case, as my body was aching all the time). I was not able to observe any coral in the ocean since the only position I felt comfortable was lying on my back and watching the clouds. However, the experience was exhilarating, and in many ways hilarious.
We walked (where did I find the energy to walk, I don't know) to Sankaisou minshuku, run by a local mother where we were offered a fantastic feast for dinner involving fresh lobster, fish and seafood, paired with Japanese beer and the French and American wines (obviously not local but purchased in a local convenience store) that we had brought for our hosts.
The day and evening were far from being over since we were energetically invited to leave the comfort of our minsuhiku to have a night tour to observe endemic and rare species of the island such as hermit crabs. We could see million (or so) of them but at almost midnight, everybody agreed that Amami rabbit, rats, birds, wild boars could wait to be seen.
Day 7 - The last day of our trip started very well for us, since we were exempted from waking up in the middle of the night to watch the sun rise.
On the other hand, we had to get prepared for a last but not least stand-up paddling session ("sleeping up paddling" in my case). I therefore got dressed to go to the beach since that was the plan. To my surprise, and my contentment, we stopped by a place which did not smell the ocean but rather the field. We realized that we would actually have an encounter not with a board but with a bull.
During the domination of mainland Satsuma clan, bullfight was the only leisure for the locals. Today, many visitors, including Koreans who are familiar with this tradition, come to Tokunoshima to watch bullfight competitions, which are traditionally hosted three times a year.
Since my bull did not seem to be in a fighting mood, I volunteered to brush him, oblivious of the fact he could either crush me like an homeless hermit crab or simply stain my white short. Then our group, composed of our team, our hosts, the bull and his human family members went to the beach for a training session. As soon as the bull smelled the odor left by his fellow fighters on a palm tree, he became slightly mad and almost unearthed the tree with his horns. He then came back to normal after a few steps on the beach. The bull and his two carers, a young couple who were to get married on the same day, formed an extraordinary scene on the beach, a mix of elegance, placid strength, love and trust.
We visited a few other places such as caves and observation towers, before having another healthy lunch prepared with great care and tasty local ingredients by a local community café where we shared more insights and ideas with local destination managers and project partners, on sustainable , community-based travel development in Tokunoshima, with a focus on different travelers profiles such as young adventurers and silver tourists seeking rejuvenation / anti-ageing activities.
The last part of our program was as epic as busy as it has started and allowed us to feel the island landscape, nature and culture through several site visits, including a co-working space run by the Manager of the tourism organization.
During the visit of Tokunoshima, many people helped us for interpretation and we had the chance to interact with the local tourism stakeholders and project partners in a deep way.
We believe the bull-sumo culture should be better explained in order to avoid potential controversies, especially from Western tourists. While bull-sumo (or even human-sumo) may be difficult to understand and accept for some people, we learnt how it was crucial and sacred for the community. In some ways, bullfights seem to impersonate the powerful energy running through the veins of its inhabitants, as well as through its fauna, flora and event inanimate things.
It would also be interesting to create "sugar cane route" to explain how it is strongly influencing the local culture (same for Amami Oshima).
The extraordinary longevity and birthrates could be highlighted through longevity / well-being experiences and events such as festivals.
We provided some insights and recommandations on how to preserve and better the local nature, and suggested that the bike sharing system is better promoted. Even if cars and trucks seem to be the most convenient way of circulating, green transportation could be more encouraged.
Finally, some beaches could be cleaned by groups of locals and foreign visitors. We have identified garbage from many different countries such as China and Korea but not only.
How can a destination achieve popularity without losing its identity, integrity and dignity?
Are we careful enough what we wish for when it comes to tourism development and marketing strategies? Don't we create monsters through the dictatorship of likes and filtered pics?
The path towards sustainability is not an easy one and is often paved with a myriad of good intentions, and illusions leading to ill-informed and irrational choices.
Instead of selling dreams and utopias, why don't we focus on the divine essence of hospitality?
We are convinced that tourism, as an increasingly universal element of people's lives and lifestyles, has the capacity and the responsibility to stand as a reference and a model for sustainable consumption and production.
Travel Well is an initiative aimed at developing sustainable inbound tourism experiences in Japan through creating journeys contributing to regional revitalization and generating net positive social, environmental and economic impacts.
HEROST is a global online platform and network for co-creating, sharing, and promoting life-changing sustainable, community-based travel experiences.