Who is a traveller? Is it someone who passionately collects memories and photos from distant places? Or is it someone who passionately collects travel miles…
But what are the consequences of travelling? Not for your soul, your wallet or your hard drive exploding with photographs. For the people, the ones who live there, yes, in the country, region or village you visited. I am wondering what impact tourism has on local people.
Can there be a good impact of tourism for locals?
There must be examples of a good impact. I can think of one. When I visited Vietnam, I was amazed by the beauty of the people and the landscape in Sa Pa, a village in the very north of the country. The region is home to numerous ethnic minorities who still live in a very traditional way. Do not be bothered if they have mobile phones or Facebook profiles. They are still dressed in traditional clothes, they speak their own languages and have their own beliefs.
I went on an organised trekking around the rice fields and our guide was one of these women. With colourful clothes and long black hair, I found her really beautiful. The scenery we walked through was breathtaking. Green rice fields, children running around barefoot, riding water buffalos… And the whole time while walking we were accompanied by a dozen of women who spoke English surprisingly well and were telling us stories from their lives.
And I started thinking. This is such a wonderful way of including locals into the tourism business. They can be such an inspiration. We can learn from them and hopefully, they can learn something good from us.
Women have an important role there. Many tribes are matriarchal and it is often women who ask the man in marriage. Children take on the surname of the mother. They seem so strong and full of energy and they all have these amazing smiles on their faces. All. The. Time. With the rising flow of tourists visiting Sa Pa, they very quickly learned English. They make scarves, pillowcases, bags, clothes and jewellery with traditional patterns that they then sell to the visitors. This way, the money people pay for their products goes directly into their hands.
These women work from dawn to dusk and they never complain. THEY are the very example of powerful women.