Is Doing A Good Deed The Right Deed To Do?
An interesting debate broke out recently among a group of travellers following our visit to a remote village in Fiji.
The trip was part of an initiative promoted by the award-winning Sigatoka River Safari to get tourists to interact with local clans. A portion of the money from ticket sales goes back to 18 local villages for community improvements, such as footpaths, generators, kindergartens and the like.
Which all sounds like a win-win situation, right?
Tourists get the genuine, cultural experience that is all the rage right now and the local communities get to improve their day-to-day lives. Some of the American children in our group had brought gifts for the local kids – toys, games, crayons, etc – and some of the adults left cash donations.
So, what was the debate about, I hear you ask, particularly as the reception we received was above and beyond courteous, incredibly enthusiastic and typically Fijian?
The debate centred around whether we should have been there at all…
Some felt we could have simply donated money to the village and left them to the way of life they’ve known for hundreds of years, without exposure to the vagaries of modern “civilisation”.
Others thought the tour went on too long and that walking around the village, staring into people’s homes while waving and shouting ‘Bula’ at the kids we met, began to feel a bit like a visit to some kind of human “zoo”.
On the other hand, many could see the intrinsic value in bringing cultures and people together to promote mutual harmony and understanding, perhaps particularly relevant after the isolation of the pandemic years.
Indeed, it melted several hearts to see a toddler (female) in our group embraced by a toddler (male) from the village.
As for me, I was somewhat caught on the fence. I could see the benefits cash injections would bring to the community but could also appreciate how this might lead to problems down the line. Would they want more and more “stuff” as years went by until the village no longer retained its original authenticity?
I was still pondering this when I met Wise Kurikoro, who has started up his own car rental, tours and transfer service called Debs. He picked me up one morning to take me into Denarau.
We got chatting and I told him about my experience on the Sigatoka tour. He asked me which village I had visited.
“That’s my village!” he said, a big smile etched across his face.
He told me that the locals were extremely grateful for the opportunity to bring in some extra funds and that they were totally comfortable with the arrangement. He added that seeing foreigners in the village wasn’t a distraction – it was simply to show us a way of life that they believe in and have no desire to change.
I guess the upshot of all this is that you simply judge it case by case. Travel for good obviously needs to be more than a marketing slogan and there are several companies who know the good from the bad and the downright ugly.
Sigatoka is one of them, striving to strike a balance between tourism and the village’s traditional ways.
As a Wise man once said, if the locals are happy then everyone’s a winner.
INSIDE THIS MONTH
We’re up, up and away as we explore the Drakensberg Mountains, the highest mountain range in South Africa. There’s a balloon ride, some champagne and plenty of rock art paintings along the way.
The Mauricie region of Quebec offers authentic experiences for visitors. During a whistle-stop tour we check out an eco-resort, get a taste for maple syrup and find out what some enterprising monks are up to in the forest.
It’s one of the blockbuster hit movies of the year. Now visitors to Abu Dhabi can follow in the footsteps of Tom Cruise and sample the locations used during the filming of the latest Mission: Impossible film.
Another great selection of prizes and trips on offer for travel agents this month with cruises to Antarctica and Northern Europe, gift cards, a tour to New Zealand and the ‘Expedition Big 5’ all up for grabs.
JENNY EVANS spends seven days in Phuket with her son and his mates. What could possibly go wrong…?
It seems the way we are choosing and booking our holidays is changing as we become more socially and environmentally aware. To that end, a new charity has just launched aimed at helping travellers give back to locals.
Planes, trains and a yacht instead of an automobile. Belmond have launched lux journeys through Asia, there’s a host of private jet adventures for 2024 from Captain’s Choice and a new way to enjoy Vanuatu.
We’ve gone straight to the very top for this month’s recipe, calling on Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen to tell us how to create some of his favourite dishes.
We’ve got the exclusive story on a new partnership that promises big benefits to Australian travel agents. There’s also news on a multi-million-dollar boost for tourism and an airline increasing flights to Australia.