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New horizons

Splurging cash in snazzy tourist joints — does that sum up tourism for you? Well, think again. Responsible tourism, which promotes tourism in a region without exploiting its human or natural resources, is rising in the popularity meter in India and abroad.

“It’s tourism that respects the environment, culture and the people,” says Diana McIntyre-Pike, CEO, Countrystyle Community Tourism Network, Jamaica. Tourists visit a place as guests to the community living there and experience their kind of life. “It’s not adapted to suit the visitor — rather the guest must adapt to the local life,” insists Jem Winston, managing director, Rosalie Forest Eco Lodge in the Caribbean island, Dominica. Most of the money earned goes directly to the hosts and is used for their own development — in agriculture, education and the like.

Here’s a recce of the hot community tourism destinations around the world.

Kerala

Shaded among palm trees and a stone’s throw away from the Arabian Sea, lies the Marari village in Alappuzha, 75km from Cochin airport. Homestay in cottages over 15 acres is a unique experience. You’ll love the homemade Kerala cuisine and the warmth of the family you stay with. Going fishing with the local fishermen or paddling in canoes is just right for those who love the water. You can explore the nearby coir and toddy-making factories on a bicycle or even opt for an elephant ride.

Hot ticket!

Arakal Heritage offers accommodation in AC cottages at Rs 5,500 per day on a double occupancy basis, including breakfast and dinner. For a non-AC cottage, the price is Rs 5,000. A day of Ayurvedic massage for each person is free if you stay for seven days. A 2-hour elephant ride will cost Rs 2,000. Mail to: abi@arakal.com. For other Kerala homestay locations, visit http://www.keralatouris-m.org/homestay/.

Ethiopia

Trekking through Ethiopia’s third highest massif in Lalibela is quite a challenge. Sightings of scrambling Gelada baboons or bird-watching just make it more special. About 110km away lies Mequat Mariam, Ethiopia’s first responsible tourism site. Take time out to visit the Grain Bank set up here to support its members through periods of grain shortage and inflation. While you enjoy your stay in the tukuls (thatched cottages) and sample the enjera bread, you can also take part in farming or catch the carpet weavers at work.

Hot ticket!

TESFA (Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives) has a 5-day package at $50 per day for a minimum of two people, which includes accommodation in tukuls, meals, guides and pack animals (for luggage). An additional $160 will be charged for transfer by cars. Mail to: Info@community-tourismethiopia.com.

Dominica

Life in this small Caribbean island is simple and rural with most people cultivating barely enough for their own sustenance. It’s a unique experience to combine scuba diving or whale watching with a day of fermenting or roasting of coffee and cocoa beans or even discovering herbal medicines. You’ll enjoy lending a hand in the village school. Coconut and bamboo harvesting are significant occupations here and you can have a go at making crafts at the workshops.

Hot ticket!

The travel agency 3 Rivers has a week-long package in Dominica with a six-night stay in a jungle cabin or tree house and a one-night stay with a local family. The cost per person is $1,400 and $700 for each extra person. The package includes all meals, surface transport and taxes. Mail to: info@3riversdominica.com.

Jamaica

The Jamaican South Coast with its sun-kissed beaches, traditional fishing villages and century-old holiday villas, is a treat to explore. You can visit the magnificent seven-tiered cascading YS falls, sample the famous south coast peppered shrimps or learn to make bammy (cassava bread) while relaxing in family farms. A special experience would be visiting the historical Accompong Village, founded in 1739 after the Maroons (runaway slaves in the West Indies and America) signed a peace treaty with the British, and where they remain till date, largely isolated.

Hot ticket!

Countrystyle International and its Community Tourism Network offers a seven- day package to Mandeville and the South Coast at $1,680 per couple on a double occupancy basis, guides, all meals and taxes included. Transportation charge is extra. Mail to: countrystyle-tourism@yahoo.com.

Sri Lanka

From beaches to jungles, mountains to blue seas, our neighbour in the south has it all. Visit Balapitiya, a fishing village with golden beaches — two hours from Colombo. A community centre here helps the locals recuperate from tsunami-inflicted destruction and trauma. Participate in fishing and farming or pick up some traditional medical or culinary skills. The ‘Shramadana Weekends’ offer the opportunity of volunteering to work with the villagers to help create a new facility like a pre-school or irrigation channels.

Hot ticket!

Sarvodaya Community Tourism Initiative offers a 7-day package to Balapitiya at $900 per person. It includes accommodation (in local homes or a hostel), surface transport, and meals. Mail to: communitytourism@sarvodaya.org.

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