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 co-hosted in Seoul and Tokyo, 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.
On the occasion of the Fête du Sport 2019, the celebration of sports initiated by the French Ministry of Sports and supported by the French Embassy in Seoul, Millennium Destinations organized a special Millennium Hikers event, aimed at promoting sustainable, international and intercultural hiking in urban environments.
The hike took place in Gyeyang mountain in Incheon, South Korea, and was hosted in partnership with Décathlon store in Songdo, and the French Institute in Seoul.
"Hikers who care"
Millennium Hikers was created in 2016 to increase awareness on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as promoted by the United Nations, and the role of hiking experiences in promoting sustainable behaviors and mindsets. This international and intercultural group is dedicated to all sustainable and smart hikers / trekkers / walkers around the world who care about their social, environmental and economic impacts on destinations, while co-creating, promoting and sharing unique, community-based experiences between local hosts and their guests, especially in mountain destinations but not only.
Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL, Founder & CEO of Millennium Destinations attended as Panelist the 18th Asia Pacific Forum for Graduate Students Research in Tourism (APF), which took place at Sol International School - Woosong University in Daejeon, South Korea, on June 21 to 23, 2019.
The Forum was co-organized with the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and included three general sessions;
1. Sustainability in Hospitality & Tourism Industry,
2. Travel Industry in Asia Pacific Region Trends and Developments, and
3. Hospitality & Tourism Education in the 4th Industrial Revolution Era.
Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL was a Panelist of session 2, moderated by Dr. Richard Johnson, Dean, SIS/Woosong, together with Dr. Mario Hardy, CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and Dr. Jin, Hong-Seok, Chairman of the Korea MICE Convergence Leaders Forum. She particularly insisted on sustainability as a value added to tourism and hospitality, as well as the necessity to secure loyalty not only from visitors and guests, but also from employees. Finally she reminded that sustainable tourism was about promoting quality over quantity, or value over volume.
On the occasion of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Week 2019, Green Drinks Seoul and Green Drinks Songdo happily and successfully co-hosted their first joint-networking event on 20 June 2019.
Green Drinks Seoul is set-up by a group of people working on environmental issues from the private and non-profit sector. It is supported by the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea - ECCK, the French Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry - FKCCI, and the Cercle des Entrepreneurs Francophones en Corée.
For more information, feel free to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Green Drinks Seoul Page: www.greendrinks.org/Seoul
Green Drinks Songdo Page: http://www.greendrinks.org/Songdo
Within the framework of the Herost project, Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL, Founder & CEO of Millennium Destinations undertook a mission to Laos on April 12 to 19, 2019, in order to identify potential local partners and explore eco-friendly and community-based travel (CBT) experiences, especially in Luang Prabang region, in Northern Lao.
The mission took place during the Lao New Year, or Pi Mai (Lao: ປີໃໝ່), which is celebrated every year on April 13/14 to April 15/16 in Laos, as well as in Cambodia (Chaul Chhnam), Myanmar (Thingyan), and Thailand (Songkran).
During three days, corresponding to the hottest time in the region, more or less copious amounts of water are sprinkled or thrown at passers-by on the street, very often using buckets, hoses, water guns or any available tool. This may put a strain on water resources, in spite of their relative abundance in LAO PDR.
Particularly in Luang Prabang, listed as UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, the Buddhist festival has become a very popular attraction for domestic and foreign visitors. It offers many opportunities to share unique cultural experiences with the locals, including a spectacular procession with the golden statue of Prabang, the most revered image of Buddha, or building sand stupas in order to keep the evil spirits at distance for the coming year.
Apart form Buddhist monks, thousands of locals take part in the Pi Mai parade, wearing a variety of traditional outfits, such as the traditional Hmong hand-embroidered costumes.
In 2018, Luang Prabang was granted an ASEAN Clean City Award and an ASEAN Sustainable Tourism Award for Phousy Hill at the ASEAN Tourism Forum in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Several eco-friendly initiatives have been implemented, particularly aimed at reducing the generation of single-use plastic waste, including safe drinking water refill stations and the spreading of bamboo straws.
The mission found out that Phousy Hill (Sacred Hill), located in the center of Luang Prabang on the peninsula between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, was littered with candy wrappers, and other plastic waste, probably due to an increased affluence of visitors during Pi Mai. Apparently, candies are common Buddhist offerings and some visitors (likely kids but may be adults as well) like to eat them before littering the wrappers on the spot, instead of using the many bins that have been installed.
Finally, the mission got a preview of some CBT projects and eco-friendly sites, such as Ta Kuang Si, 30 km away from Luang Prabang. In spite of the beauty of Kuang Si waterfalls, a popular tourist attraction, the sides of the Discovery Trail were littered with plastic bottles and snack wrappers, while several waste bins have been installed. In less than 10 mn, a full bag of trash was brought back.
Herost has been designed and developed by Millennium Destinations and its partner GreenBIM Engineering as an online platform and marketplace aimed at co-creating, promoting and sharing community-based travel experiences, with a focus on South-East Asian countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as Korea and Japan.
On April 11, 2019, Green Drinks Seoul co-hosted a networking event with the Global Green Growth Institute.
From 6.30 p.m. around 70 participants gathered at the headquarters of GGGI and were given a presentation about its history, activities, and HR policy and management, before visiting the newly LEED-certified premises.
The event was supported by the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea - ECCK, the French Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry - FKCCI, and the Cercle des Entrepreneurs Francophones en Corée - CEFC, and sponsored by Millennium Destinations and GreenBIM Engineering.
Green Drinks Seoul is set-up by a group of people working on environmental issues from the private and non-profit sector. GDS' organizing team includes: Magali Deschamps, Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL, Louis HAAG, Se Jeong KIM, and Hortense SERRET.
Facebook Group: GreenDrinksSeoul
Green Drinks Seoul Page: www.greendrinks.org/Seoul
Chaired by the 8th UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is a treaty-based international, inter-governmental organization dedicated to supporting and promoting strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in developing countries and emerging economies. Working across the thematic priorities of sustainable energy, green cities, sustainable landscapes, and water & sanitation, GGGI aims to deliver impact through six strategic outcomes:
Autor: Beatriz Perez-‐Soto, written on March 18, 2019
When I was invited to be a guest speaker at the Universidad Metropolitana of Machala in Ecuador, my host asked me if I wanted either to go to the Peruvian border “to say I have been to Peru” or to visit a local tribe community. My choice was clear, I was so excited to have the opportunity to visit this Amazonian tribe based in South Ecuador at sea level. It was my first trip to Ecuador and I was elated to have this amazing opportunity.
After the conference and talks and when the week was sadly coming to an end, we drove to the location of the tribal site. On the road trip, I detected that the beautiful and fertile land was abruptly sliced by a huge quarry. I learned that foreign companies have been exploiting these amazing mountains with no limits. We all know that Ecuador is the Eldorado of banana trees and gold and copper mines nevertheless it is still a land having much to offer.
Doing some research about the group, I came across the UNOP organization that published some background info about the 'Shuars’ lands assigned to Canadian and Chinese companies. Those companies harnessed the resources of the land and the tribe was forced to endure persecution and violence. Therefore, the Amazon Land battle still persists. Although current president Moreno seems to be more open for dialogue, the Shuar movement wants to create political and diplomatic pressure for the respect of human rights and protection of the environment and ancestral lands in Ecuador. According to their beliefs, their lands are inherited from the past generations and borrowed from the future ones, and therefore need to be protected from degradation.
According to other sources, Shuars are considered a minority; however, they have won battles against local governments and today they claim their rights and their land. In 1964, they founded the Shuar Federation, to defend indigenous communities from the 1964 agrarian reforms that actively promoted the colonization of the Amazonian region. The Shuar Federation was one of the earliest indigenous resistance organizations in Ecuador, and their achievements have been made it a model for other groups. Their education programme has enabled Shuar to reassert themselves and take pride in their cultural inheritance. Strategic adaptation to changing realities gives them an improved chance of long-term survival as a people and their initiative may be followed by other groups.
Sources: https://minorityrights.org/minorities/shuar/; https://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/14920/EC
More interesting facts published in this blog are relevant to knowing the Shuars’ cultural heritage:
But who are the Shuars? Their ethnic background says Shuars belong to the Jivaroan ethno-linguistic group and live in the upper Amazonian region of Ecuador as well as in Peru. They are the second largest indigenous community in Ecuador. Preserving an abundant and rich cultural legacy, the community’s religion and beliefs system is based on respect for the nature and for their ancestral lands.
During our almost three-hour journey, we finally arrived at the village where the family community has settled for over 40 years now. The ancestral amazon tribe is settled in 470-hectare of land expanding to a rich mountain of gold mines and thermal waters near the southern coast of Ecuador.
The grandparents of Marcia Lequi came looking for water and they arrived to the southern coast. Marcia is one of the chief tribe members with a total of 10 families, each family has a leader, and they have all 10 children each and she kindly agreed to tell the story of her community during an interview. “The community is only one big family, like you and other many people have come to us trying to help us and is true we have received some help though, telling us how we have to proceed improving and do things better to preserve our cultural heritage and our land”.
This community arrived by the coast more than 40 years ago. The community migrated from Amazonia. Marcia’s grandparents moved to Mocaye and lived in Bucal for over 20 years, apparently occupying more than one piece of land, the tribe members were spread out in different locations as they were looking to own great pieces of the discovered land. Finally, Marcia says “we found land when L. F. Cordero was named president. From that moment, our indigenous tribe declared their position as strongly as our grandparents did when they left Bucal. All the tribe did, by moving to the coast near the Naranjal region, they found this region where they were able to settle in thanks to God.”
When Marcia’s grandparents arrived to this Naranjal new land, they lived in a township up there, they stayed approximately two years, and she says: “then they moved to the wild mountain region, and from there they moved again to this place to work as workers”.
“At that time, they were many land invasions, therefore in order to protect our lands, my brothers, sisters and parents decided to establish a cooperative organization, and they all followed the initiative.” Marcia says that they were very well organized and they shared in fairness the land among all the tribe’s members. One member had a piece of land up in the mountains, another one another piece, she adds: “however we never thought that the land where we just moved would be so rich with all these thermal waters and other resources”. Apparently, this unexpected discovery had an unpredictable impact with reactions on the nearer village community. Marcia adds: “When our neighbors grasped that we were fortunate to have an abundance of natural resources such as hot waters pupping up from almost everywhere in our land, troubles started to surface. From every hole we would dig, a hot water field would come out”. She described it as a blessing from the spirits they believe in.
The objections started by the small village members against the Shuars, Marcia adds. Some of the arguments used by the villagers against the Shuars included that they should go back to their former lands to the Eastern side of the country. Not only issues of identity and land were raised but also the villagers wanted to steal their houses, their land, they wanted to kill the Shuar’s family, Marcia says: “our kids running on the hills were in danger threatened to be killed.”
This conflict lasted for almost 10 years, it was considered as a fight, even a war, the approximate dates are 1972 to 1982. After the long dispute, the Shuars were able to keep their land, therefore they decided to set the boundaries of their land. Marcia adds:” the most important was that we won the battle and that we had our land and we were protected by law.” They efforts paid off when Shuars decided to protect themselves, the community was strongly unified, they decided to bring a lawyer to help them to inform them about their rights and how to be respected as a tribal indigenous minority and community land owner.
Marcia says that “unfortunately our innocence and our lack of value for money, nor the idea of how much the water sources could be worth, made our position extremely weak facing the Hispanics. We never thought that this hot water would have so much value, what could it be worth? I mean value for other Hispanic people, the value of the hot waters was value for money, we never thought that could be so valued. Before the conflict arrived and so the Hispanics, we were sharing all the waters with the local inhabitants of the area, we were bathing together, all neighbors were coming, there was no question about the site and the abundance of what was under our fit. Positively, we shared a lot, food, joy and events.”
After a while, the same issues we had with the local neighbors came back, they claimed that they wanted to get the lands we were in. They try to buy us with material things, unfortunately my uncle, who was the oldest of the family, was seduced by what they brought: meat, food, TV (we did not have TV), good things that could improve our lifestyle says Marcia. They even showed us what beds were, how a home could be according to their criteria. Our bed is called “Cuca.” Marcia explains that there was a powerful gentleman who came and offered all these comfortable and unaffordable things to their community, he offered many beautiful things, Marcia adds: “he even gave us electricity for free during 5 months, anything we would ask they would provide it.” The gentleman and his team offered some money to my uncle, when he visited him, he would always manage to get him drunk, he told my uncle that he was a millionaire. Therefore, the gent proposed my uncle to buy our land for a lot of money (that’s what he alleged Marcia says). The end of the story was: “he gave my uncle 300 dollars, a TV, a bed and many other things that you can wish to have in a home, my uncle seemed to be so satisfied with the deal.” The rest of the community did not accept anything from them, even my two brothers who were studying abroad, refused any kind of deals with the gentleman and his team. My brothers were less naïve than my uncle who did not know what the value of money was in this new world to him.
Moreover, my uncle decided to go for the deals alone and started selling “solares” (parcels of land), so he did, one after the other. When uncle had enough, he stopped and we were left with a tiny piece of land. My poor uncle after being trapped and ripped off, he was confused, he did not know what to do, to be with them, or to be with us. It was hard to make a decision for him as he was alone, had no wife no children, he even admitted that he did no longer care about our community land.
The rest of the family/tribe met for a tribal council and decided to take the lead and fight for what was left. The council team knew nothing about money, and the value of it, nor payment issues, at that time, but one thing the tribe council knew for sure was that we did not want to lose our land. Therefore, in order to protect what was left of our heritage based on thermal spring waters. In order to be financially more independent, we decided to set an entrance fee to anyone who would like to visit the site and bath in the pristine waters, thus we started with a minimum fee of 50 cents.
When the neighbors from the nearby village, “the ones who were ready to take our lands” “oh yes” exclaims Marcia, they heard that we were asking for an entrance fee, they were extremely outraged by our decision. We tried to explain that it was a way of protecting our assets and that it was a rule for anyone who would like to take benefit of staying in our community, bath and enjoy our medicinal water sources, had to pay. Marcia concludes: “Believe me, the pressure started to be quite high between us.”
The idea of making foreigners or any person external to the community to pay, came from Marcia’s husband who is Hispano (Hispanic), he suggested it to the community, and the tribal council accepted. At that time, we did not have any money to pay an attorney, the eldest brothers were going often to Quito to find out about our rights and trying to find an attorney who would help us to protect our heritage and keep it, was highly challenging with no money. Lawyers told us that we could not do much to win the battle against the local neighbors who wanted our lands with the current laws, however these statements did not stop us to pursue, and we finally started a case which lasted for years and recently two years ago (2016) we finally won the case.
After the neighbors’ defeat, they claimed back one of the “solares” they have bought for about 500 dollars to my uncle. We found out that my uncle never received any money, however, we thought that with this money he could have built a house, unfortunately he did not know what the value of money was representing, at that time, he was such an innocent man, Marcia adds.
Our case was on the national news, a journalist came, and a paper was published. We also had some visitors from a university in Guayaquil, they named our site “The hot spring waters of the Shuar’s community”, they came when we were in the middle of the conflict, they helped us by giving advice, sharing ideas, they told us that the hot spring waters were a treasure and that we had to protect it for Community-Based-Tourism development. These experts carried out some soil assessments to find out and show us all the water that could come out of the mountain. Marcia declares that Shuars community did not know the significance and value of the treasure they had, they were using the waters as a source to fulfill their private needs such as wash clothes, bathing, they did not even have built the pools. Marcia describes it as just a fall, a small waterfall that they were even drinking from and upmost enjoying the warmth temperature of the water. She pursues: “we did not value what we had and did not know what we had until the people from Guayaquil came and told us.” We also hosted some Canadians, they stayed with us for eight months, during the conflict period, they were respecting everyone, they helped us on environmental issues, including setting up the spaces to build the pools. Canadians also taught us how to protect our environment by managing our waste, collecting all the garbage that we had in our river. When we started collecting and cleaning, we were surprised by all the garbage and waste we had accumulated, as we never thought that we would have to collect our proper waste. They organized workshops for us to help us and train us about sustainable tourism practices. During the workshops, they showed us how to present ourselves, how to welcome tourist to our site, they taught us also how to separate the organic waste, and to recycle it. Canadians gave us a great example of protecting our lands and after when they left is when we really started taking care of our environment despite the fact that the local neighbors did not approve our new practices. We also received some help and advice with workshops from Guaya, which helped us a lot too. Only a few of us were able to attend and be assisted but we have been involved and caring more and more about our community and our precious waters adds proudly Marcia. This is how the site looks like today on a Saturday morning:
Marcia explains: nowadays, we do remain confident and stick to our goals, which are trying to improve our community’s tourism offer by working, even with such poor income, nevertheless we have tried to improve the situation and with no other external help. The major of the Naranjal community has been in power for 8 years now, and he claims to have helped “the Shuar community” by building a parking space in concrete for the visitors coming to the area. Unfortunately, our community has completely disagreed with this action which has destroyed the scenery of the location. However, whatever happens the entrance fee goes directly to our community, we are working and moving forward with new projects and one of them is to build another pool on the site.
We are currently seeking for an institution to help us. This touristic complex was formed first by the Shuar community enterprise and now it has been a year that our family has its proper official organization. Each family has named one leader who represents them as a member of our tribal corporation, we are a total of 10 tribal families. As per these changes, we have decided to take things further and move forward on our different projects.
Marcia represents her own family as the Tribal Family Chief. It is easier during the meetings to have only one family chiefs’ representative. She explains how they started with an entrance fee at 50 cents per person, then decided to reach one dollar, then after they reached 1.50 dollar. The entrance fee was also increased to 3 dollars, then when they saw that tourists were interested, and gradually they realized the great value of the site, hence that it was the only place nearby the coast of this country to offer such a resource with hot spring thermal waters. We were at 3 dollars fee for 10 years, since October 2018, we decided to increase the fee up to 4 dollars. We offer a service of medical and natural thermal waters to our visitors, we also offer drinks such as coffee, tea and water, we also offer beauty products for the skin made of our rich mud.
Marcia states: “My community, my family are saying that 4 dollars is too expensive, they say that people don’t come because of that. We know that there is a lot of competition, but what we offer is very unique.”
I would like to thank you my host Professor Jessica Lalangui for having introduced me to the Shuar community and made this interview possible.
The next step is to launch a fundraising campaign to help this community to build a museum in order to protect their cultural heritage and also make their site more attractive to tourism. Many pieces of their art have been kept by the entire community and they will be assembled for this project. By assisting this community, we are helping them to wide their vision into the future and show them also the existence of sustainable practices and products in tourism that they can apply to their site in order to ensure a prosperous future, making them independent and secured economically, financially and inclusively.
The outcome of this experiential and inclusive voyage is enabling me to partaking to a better future for this indigenous community. Hence hoping that this could be an example that any individual could be following in collaboration with Universities or institutions that are willing to support this type of actions.
Beatriz Perez-Soto, Guest Speaker for research projects Economic and Business Sciences Faculty
Department at Universidad Metropolitana UMET, sede de Machala, Ecuador
Pyeongchang Hosts its First Peace & Sustainable Development Forum and the Third Francophonie in Motion Hike
As Pyeongchang county is commemorating the first anniversary of the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the timing seems just right to seat and think about the contribution of those Games to the host region, and particularly the socioeconomic development of local communities.
On March 30, 2019, one month after its Global Peace Forum 2019, PyeongChang city hosted its first Peace & Sustainable Development Forum at Woljeongsa temple, in partnership with the International Charity Foundation (ICF) and Millennium Destinations, under the theme “Peace, Sports and Sustainable Tourism”.
Commemorating the first anniversary of the 2018 PyeongChang, the biggest Olympics and Paralympics ever, the Forum was designed as a venue to discuss about the PyeongChang Olympic Legacy Development Plan and sustainable development through sports and tourism, as well as sharing experiences and cases of cities around the world with the participants,
The event started with welcoming remarks by Mr. HAN Wang-kee, Mayor of Pyeongchang and Amb. DHO Young-shim, Chairperson of ICF and UN SDGs Alumni, and a keynote speech of H.E. Mr. YOO Jin-ryong, Former Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea. This was followed by questions and comments by the participants, and an active debate on how peace and prosperity could be promoted through sustainable cultural, sports and tourism experiences.
The Forum was attended by an international audience of over 100 participants from across the world, including the Ambassadors of Egypt, Lebanon and Romania to South Korea and representatives of the Dutch and Norwegian Embassies. Many issues were raised about the necessity to focus on quality over quantity and value over volume while avoiding the risk of overtourism, in order to preserve the unique culture of the local communities and their natural environment.
Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL, Founder & CEO of Millennium Destinations mentioned that most Western tourists were unlikely to travel long distances to practice winter sport activities in South Korea or even its neighbors. She added that PyeongChang should rather be branded as a mountain destination offering all-year-round activities, such as hiking and cycling, while emphasizing the distinctive assets of Korean mountains. 70% of the Korean land is covered by mountains, and many Korean Buddhist temples are located in mountains and are surrounded by beautiful forests, which make them the perfect places for spiritual retreats, and connection with nature, towards mind and body healing for example through templestays or forest therapy.
On the other hand, tourists from South East Asia might be attracted by an exotic combination of snowy landscapes and fun activities in South Korea during winter.
The event also included visits of Olympic facilities, as well as a Templestay program offered by Woljeongsa temple.
On March 31, all participants, together with the Mayor of Pyeongchang and local residents, joined the "Francophonie in Motion" hike, or Randonnée "Francophonie en Mouvement", on the Sunjae trail of Odaesan mountain, organized by Millennium Hikers. This event was part of the official program of the Fête de la Francophonie, an international celebration of French language through culture, sports, and business events. Fête de la francophonie has been celebrated annually in South Korea since 2009.
"My mountain is your mountain": created by Millennium Destinations, Millennium Hikers is a Seoul-based group of hikers / trekkers / walkers around the world who care about their social, environmental and economic impacts on destinations, while co-creating, promoting and sharing unique, community-based experiences between local hosts and their guests in mountain destinations.
Articles in the press (Korean)
As part of the annual celebration of "Fête de la Francophonie" in Korea, the French-Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry - FKCCI, hosted its "2019 Francophonie économique" seminar under the theme of "Sustainable Development and Climate Change".
The event was organized in partnership with the Institut français de Séoul, and the Cercle des entrepreneurs francophones en Corée (CEFC), and included presentations by the Ambassadors of Cambodia, France, and Rwanda in Korea, and representatives of the Embassy of Côte d'Ivoire, as well as companies and the Green Climate Fund.
Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL was invited as President of CEFC and Founder & CEO of Millennium Destinations to speak during Session 2 - Business focus. She introduced Millennium Destinations and its services and solutions in the field of sustainable tourism development and promotion, with a focus on French-speaking countries. She also mentioned the efforts of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and the Institut de la Francophonie pour le développement durable, especially in developing countries and small island states.
Fête de la Francophonie
Organized in Korea for more than 10 years, the Fête de la Francophonie features more than 100 events in the areas of culture, sports, business, etc. promoting the French language and the cultural diversity of French-speaking countries. In 2018, more than 10,000 participants participated to share these many moments of conviviality and, according to the Observatoire de la langue française, nearly 40,000 students learn French in South Korea.
Created in 1970, the International Organisation of La Francophonie - OIF represents one of the biggest linguistic zones in the world, with a membership of 84 States and governments (including 26 observers) representing over one-third of the United Nations’ member states and a population of over 900 million people, including 300 million French speakers.