This panel of innovators included Beks Ndlovu from African Bush Camps, Aziz Abu Sarah of Mejdi Tours and Kat Lo from Eaton Workshop. They are all using travel to build community, elevate critical perspectives, and redistribute power.
Regenerating Travel Can Be Transformative
If start to travel and experience destinations in a different light, there is huge potential to create social movements and transform misconceptions about the places we visit.
Aziz Abu Sarah, the founder of Mejdi Tours, invites us to challenge the way we travel to educate ourselves and lay the groundwork for a transformative experience. By seeking a different perspective, asking different questions and visiting less frequented areas, we can help to transform the narratives of counties, cities and cultures.
“Travel can push us to see, to understand, to experience what we didn’t know before. Travel is an opportunity to overcome our misconceptions about destinations we visit.” By overcoming misconceptions and embracing the opportunity to welcome new perspectives and narratives, we present ourselves with a powerful catalyst for social change. In traveling mindfully and reflectively, Aziz suggests that we ask ourselves: “What stories are missing?”
By looking for the hidden stories, tourists and travelers can build a deeper understanding of the politics, history, culture and context of a destination rather than simplified images traditionally presented by the industry. This can be an immensely powerful catalyst for promoting social change and educating those who travel. These travelers will in turn share their knowledge with their own communities.
Education Is A Key To Change
It is key for a destination to educate those who visit on the particular challenges an environment or community faces by showcasing its beauty and making visitors care.
Beks Ndlovu employs this principle in African Bush Camps. He focuses on educating those who travel with them to build an appreciation of African nature and culture. Beks also works to empower the local community to grow economically and within regenerative practices. He states that “We believe education is our principal driver. We believe we should be influencing future generations and introducing them not only to the beauty of Africa, but also the challenges that we have that we would like to partner with them on for the long haul.” This not only impacts those who visit the camps but also the indigenous peoples and the local community.
“It’s no longer about just employment, but it’s about how we can impact the communities and bring them along with the initiatives that we’re setting out to do.” Beks does acknowledge that he, his competitors and much of the rest of the world all face the major issue of shrinking biodiversity. He states that the responsibility lies with all of us to make the changes to combat it.
Travel Destinations Can Become Communities
When we think of a travel destination, we tend to think of somewhere we visit and leave behind. By transforming how a destination can serve those who visit, we create opportunities for a travel destination to be a catalyst of change.
Eaton Workshop presents Washington DC and Hong Kong-based utopian creations from Kat Lo, aiming to offer visitors a sense of belonging within an urban community context. The concept behind her venture is to use hospitality to deliver what she likes to see as a community center with a triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. “Our vision is this better world where we provide the optimal conditions for people and communities to thrive. We do that by using the platform of hospitality as a force for creativity, community, and social and environmental change. We are trying to go beyond the typical corporate social responsibility by focusing on building community and cultural spaces that reflect the evolving public shifts of our age. We provoke change by providing a platform for underrepresented groups as part of our commitment to progress.”
Using a travel destination as a platform, Kat aims to cater for an intersectional range of issues such as underrepresented groups like women, the LGBTQ+ community and different racial identities and environmental injustices along with other social movements.
Eaton’s utopian mission demonstrates how a destination can work with place to benefit the local community and make community members part of the project rather than outsiders, which is groundbreaking in its nature and something that has huge potential to be applied in other locations too.
This panel discussion was part of the 2021 Regenerative Travel Summit.