The Sim­plic­ity of Style

You can do your part for needy com­mu­ni­ties while en­joy­ing a get­away from your hec­tic sched­ule, says Karen Fong.

Pinnacle (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

Fa­mous Bel­gian ar­chi­tect Jean-Michel Gathy talks about his de­sign phi­los­o­phy.

Lux­ury ho­tels and travel agencies con­stantly en­deav­our to make ex­otic and iso­lated lo­ca­tions ac­ces­si­ble to those ea­ger to ex­plore the world.

Re­cently, a grow­ing sense of en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness and so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity within the in­dus­try is see­ing many com­pa­nies look for ways to give back to the very ar­eas they have es­tab­lished them­selves in. And as it turns out, trav­ellers have proven ea­ger to con­trib­ute and make a dif­fer­ence too, whether mon­e­tar­ily or via a hands-on ap­proach.

“We are see­ing big growth among tour oper­a­tors of­fer­ing phil­an­thropic travel or ‘vol­un­tour­ing’,” says Tim Rus­sell, Di­rec­tor for Sales and Mar­ket­ing in the Asia-Pa­cific for Re­mote Lands, a be­spoke lux­ury travel agency. He adds: “We and our clients gain an enor­mous amount from meet­ing lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. With­out them, we would not be able to of­fer many of the unique ex­pe­ri­ences that make our trips so spe­cial. It is only right that we give some­thing back and spread the mes­sage that tourism isn’t just a one-way street.”

Giv­ing back can be as easy as book­ing a trip. Soul Sanc­tu­ar­ies, a Hong Kong-based agency, has a pro­gramme called Give A Lit­tle Soul that works with cred­i­ble char­i­ties like Bali Kids and An­gels For Or­phans, who re­ceive a per­cent­age of the to­tal pay­ment. For those who pre­fer get­ting into the

thick of the ac­tion, agencies like Re­mote Lands can ar­range tie-ups with the Ti­betan Vil­lage Project, a Re­mote Lands-af­fil­i­ated NGO lo­cated an hour’s drive from Lhasa. Vis­i­tors can help vil­lagers build green­houses and hik­ing trails, per­form site clean-ups, and con­struct waste bins.

Lux­ury re­sorts are also get­ting more in­volved with so­cial ini­tia­tives, and travel agents have been quick to lever­age on this. Light­foot Travel col­lab­o­rates with In­done­sian re­sor t Nihiwatu, which sup­por ts The Sumba Foun­da­tion’s com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment and fund­ing ef­for ts in the area. Trav­ellers who visit the foun­da­tion can help with the dis­tri­bu­tion of eye­glasses, the re­pair­ing and paint­ing of lo­cal schools, and the feed­ing of mal­nour­ished ba­bies.

At other lux­ury re­sor ts in Asia, trav­ellers are pre­sented with the op­por tu­nity to learn more about wildlife and the ecosys­tem. Re­sor ts like Coco Collection in the Mal­dives em­ploy res­i­dent ma­rine bi­ol­o­gists, who con­duct reg­u­lar ses­sions for guests to learn about ma­rine bio­di­ver­sity in their vicini­ties.

Coco Collection’s en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly fish­ing ex­pe­di­tions al­low guests to em­bark on re­search fish­ing ex­pe­di­tions to help mon­i­tor and doc­u­ment ma­rine species in the area, and its Co­ral Nurs­ery Project sup­ports co­ral reef care and re­growth. Chiara Fu­ma­galli, the group’s ma­rine

bi­ol­o­gist, says: “Hav­ing guests dis­cover that some of their usual ac­tiv­i­ties or prac­tices may be harm­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, and prompt­ing them to then ask what they can do dif­fer­ently or how they can help pre­serve the Ear th, is a fab­u­lous thing.”

In north­ern Thai­land, the Four Sea­sons Tented Camp Golden Tri­an­gle part­ners with the Golden Tri­an­gle Asian Ele­phant Foun­da­tion (GTAEF) to give guests the chance to get up close and per­sonal with these ma­jes­tic mam­mals. Guests can also help with re­search ac­tiv­i­ties in­ves­ti­gat­ing ele­phant be­hav­iour, and this in turn en­hances GTAEF’s abil­ity to care for the an­i­mals.

Other re­sorts go the ex­tra mile to en­sure that their op­er­a­tions meth­ods are aligned with con­ser­va­tion ef­forts in their vicini­ties.The Song Saa Pri­vate Is­land Re­sort in Cam­bo­dia, which has 27 lux­u­ri­ous vil­las, adopts a “triple bot­tom-line” busi­ness model which mea­sures the com­pany’s suc­cess in rev­enue as well as the pos­i­tive im­pact it has had on the people and the en­vi­ron­ment. This in­volves run­ning sus­tain­abil­ity pro­grammes such as es­tab­lish­ing the coun­try’s first ma­rine pro­tected area, and teach­ing lo­cal fish­er­men sus­tain­able meth­ods that will en­sure fish pop­u­la­tions re­main healthy.

But even as jump­ing onto the do-good band­wagon be­comes in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, Bren­ton

Whit­taker, Project Co­or­di­na­tor for Bali Kids, warns trav­ellers to be wary of scams. Some “or­phan­ages” around the world are re­ported to be seedy op­er­a­tions that prey on tourists’ ea­ger­ness to give back. It has also been dis­cov­ered that some “or­phans” were bought off their par­ents to pop­u­late these pri­vate ven­tures. “Do your home­work first and do not make vast out­lays when vol­un­teer­ing,” says Whit­taker, who ad­vises that re­li­able be­spoke agencies of­ten have di­rect con­tact with the char­i­ties and ini­tia­tives they sup­por t.

It is im­per­a­tive to ex­er­cise dis­cre­tion when choos­ing travel agencies, or you could end up caus­ing more dam­age in­stead of help­ing. A study done by Bri­tish and South African aca­demics sev­eral years ago re­vealed that shor t-term phi­lan­thropy mis­sions could ac­tu­ally be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive – af­flu­ent trav­eller-vol­un­teers may pre­vent lo­cals from get­ting paid jobs; or­phans or abused chil­dren may suf­fer additional trauma from sev­ered emo­tional con­nec­tions when their bene­fac­tors leave for home.

Scams and ill-in­ten­tions aside, how­ever, this sort of travel al­ways prom­ises greater re­wards than the get­aways them­selves – when un­der­taken cor­rectly, of course.You would, af­ter all, have played a part in mak­ing the world a bet­ter place.

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01-05 Coco Collection in the Mal­dives ed­u­cates guests about ma­rine life dur­ing their stays in lux­ury vil­las with breath­tak­ing views of the ocean.

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06 Trav­ellers get to find out more about ele­phants at the Four Sea­sons Tented Camp Golden Tri­an­gle in Thai­land. 07 Wind down on the lux­u­ri­ous grounds of Nihiwatu af­ter help­ing out with com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment ef­for ts in the day.

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