Village Ways is an example of Responsible Tourism in action. It is a shared value enterprise which since 2005 has been working to support economically poor villagers in Binsar in the foothills of the Himalayas. The idea is simple, delivering it less so.
Village Ways works with village communities to create community-owned Village Tourism Enterprises (VTEs) through guesthouses providing accommodation, food and beverage, guide service and the opportunity to sell art and crafts to international and domestic tourists who walk accompanied by local guides from village to village.
The purpose is to create additional income for villages and to create economic opportunities which provide significant additional incomes and remove the necessity for out-migration by young people in pursuit of a livelihood. A fundamental principle is that the business should be commercially profitable from the VTEs upwards, to assure sustainability. It is equally important that this income through tourism does not displace traditional livelihoods, or create dependency. In Binsar tourism provides 14% of village income.
The Village Ways Partnership provides training and works through partnerships with the travel industry and national and international development agencies to support the development of Village Ways and the work of the trading company Village Ways based in Uttarakhand with an office in Mumbai.
Part of their response to the pandemic has been to develop “virtual tours” offered online through Zoom. The first took place in Almora in Uttarakhand last weekend with 70 guests. This is a short edited video of the experience.
I was not one of the Founders. However, the Founders invited to chair the Advisory Council, charged with ensuring that Village Ways adheres to its founding principles and the fulfilment of its social objectives defined in its Charter.