As the world gets smaller and we grapple with new technologies and major discoveries, it is easy to become disconnected with reality. The power of travel is incredible, with its ability to unite people from all walks of life and appreciate one another. Only if you keep your eyes and mind closed does your heart not open. The ancient people knew that borders are simply geographical. Travel allows us to go beyond borders and find kindred spirits across the world, who identify as global citizens.
In Southern Africa, this is acknowledged by the Zulu phrase of Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, or a person is a person through other people. Some believe that ubuntu is an actual metaphysical connection between people that promotes selfless acts. In Japan, one of the newest destinations in our Enchanting Travels collection, the term wa, is an integral traditional value that invokes peaceful harmony and unity in society. In India, we have the ancient Sanskrit phrase, Atithi Devo Bhava: Guest is God. Finding common ground without destroying local identity allows us to better understand other communities and share possibilities.
Enchanting Travel believes in supporting every community, to provide them with an opportunity to shine. We facilitate global connections, between our team, our guests and the communities we work in. Together, we are a global family, belonging and united.
Indigenous groups are often still living their ancestral customs, and we do believe in the benefit of bringing discerning guests into contact with such communities, as long as relationships are being nurtured with respect and consideration. We believe that communities should be consulted and involved in how tourism is conducted in their geography. We aim to work with partners who make an effort to engage with communities and empower them or – better yet – are part of the community. We also continually encourage dialogues with all our on-the-ground teams to ensure that we are acting responsibly as a tour operator.
Rather than open up a destination to international norms, through care and consideration, responsible tour companies can help retain and revive a community’s traditional cultural and natural heritage. We aim to offer experiences that we believe have a benefit to the local community. As an example, we often have educators and teachers travel who tell us they wish to visit a local school. We organize this only when we know it will not disrupt children’s learning or valuable classroom time, and only if we can establish a direct benefit to the children. This often means that such experiences are more participatory in which our guests come with skills or knowledge that they can impart – with approval from the school’s leadership team in advance, naturally. Travel for us is not merely observing, but taking part and exchanging.
We do not support staged encounters that are solely for the benefit of tourist’s photograph albums. We provide our guests with our Responsible Travel Tips for Travelers, to guide them to be respectful and not unintentionally place their own cultural norms and customs as more relevant than those of the local people they encounter.
Festivals are a brilliant opportunity for guests to get to the heart of a community’s culture, when ancient rituals come to the forefront in a modern world, through religion, music, dance, sports, and other creative arts. We recommend festivals to attend that remain true to their heritage and those that welcome guests to share in the celebrations. When possible, we encourage our guests to attend festivities not just as observers but as participants, and our team are always looking for safe events during key festival dates that our guests can be involved in.
We work hard to promote local crafts and revive forgotten or dying traditions by seeking out guardians in the community.
We believe that travel, when conducted responsibly, can provide a sustainable solution to alleviating poverty. By operating in many developing nations, we can help support foreign wealth reach local communities in a dignified way, in which communities secure their own future, rather than relying on charity and goodwill.
We also believe that tourism should be developed to ensure a fair distribution of social and economic benefit to the local community, and improve quality of life, and be based on mutual trust and respect. We want to ensure that those working in tourism have the opportunity to have a regular income throughout the year, so that they are not made vulnerable due to fluctuations caused by seasonality and tourism demand. When it comes to our itinerary suggestions, we prefer to support local businesses, whether it is your accommodation provider or the activities you enjoy.
As a responsible tour operator, we are aware of the recent rise in vacations offering visits to orphanages and children’s home that have been dubbed by the media as “Hug an Orphan” holidays. We believe that children are best home with their family or within their community rather than in residential care, or if this is not possible then the next best thing are small family units headed by professional carers. Many orphanages are unlicensed, and a 2009 study by UNICEF showed that 77% of children in Cambodian orphanages were not actually orphans, as the issue of poverty alleviation has not been properly addressed. As a rule of thumb, we don’t include visits to any establishments that we do not have already have relationship with, as it is hard for us to vouch for their authenticity, funding.
Visiting one of the residential homes we support comes with the caveat that you have skills and qualifications that will benefit the children. We also ask that you do not favor any particular child during your visit, and that you are aware that many children are vulnerable and have had a traumatic experience. We do not support illegal workers, child labor, or any form of forced labor, and would never accept such behavior from any of our partners. We believe that sharing our values as a local voice can help prevent such activities within the travel industry.
Enchanting Travels supports The Code, which works to protect children from sexual exploitation and trafficking within the travel industry, and focuses on sustainable, responsible tourism.
We believe that all natural resources belong to all people, but should benefit the local community prior to being shared by guests and that it is the responsibility of our accommodation and activity partners to respect and help preserve or secure water, land, food, energy and biodiversity within the area they operate. We also believe that it is both the responsibility of our partners and guests to ensure that measures are in place to prevent resource depletion and environmental degradation in the future.
Just like our operations and trip coordination team who are from the destination you are visiting, we prefer to work with local guides as we believe they are in a unique position to represent their community and share native secrets that outsiders could not. This ensures a fairer distribution of wealth. We always encourage our partners to follow suit and employ local people. At times, you may not get the polished, white glove service of someone straight out of a hotel training college, but can expect genuine service with a truly warm welcome that creates a wonderful home away from home vibe.
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