Purposeful travel by design: Can tourism lead the way to a


Aay­usha Pra­sain lays out her vis­ion for pur­pose­ful travel and why the tour­ism industry should lead by example.

It’s a “Good Tour­ism” Insight. (You too can write a “GT” Insight.)

Pur­pose­ful travel involves more than just the joy of exploration. 

It encom­passes a mind­ful approach that pre­serves the envir­on­ment, empowers loc­al com­munit­ies, pro­motes eth­ic­al prac­tices, and ensures a sus­tain­able future. It’s a way to learn and grow while mak­ing a pos­it­ive difference. 

When we, as tour­ism industry people, travel respons­ibly and with pur­pose, we lead by example. We encour­age oth­ers in the industry and the trav­el­ling pub­lic to do the same, cre­at­ing a bet­ter future for everyone. 

Don’t miss oth­er “GT” con­tent tagged ‘Respons­ible travel & tourism’

How can we travel respons­ibly? And, by exten­sion, how can we design and pro­mote respons­ible travel options?

It is easy to use buzz words and phrases like ‘sus­tain­ab­il­ity’, ‘respons­ible travel’, ‘women’s empower­ment’, among oth­ers, to present a feel-good option to our cus­tom­ers. But how do we give mean­ing to these ideas through our actions? 

Supporting local communities

Respons­ible tour­ism emphas­ises the sup­port of loc­al communities. 

One of the best ways you can sup­port loc­als is by choos­ing com­munity-based accom­mod­a­tions for your­self and for your cli­ents; accom­mod­a­tion like com­munity homestays that are truly led and owned by loc­al people, where you can live with your hosts and learn their way of life. 

Purposeful travel. Practicing Ranjana Lipi strokes at a workshop organised by Community Homestay Network.
Prac­ti­cing Ran­jana Lipi strokes at a work­shop organ­ised by Com­munity Homestay Network.

Immers­ive exper­i­ences like cook­ing with loc­als with ingredi­ents that have been sourced loc­ally, or invest­ing your time to learn ancient script and art, among oth­ers, opens up oppor­tun­it­ies for trav­el­lers to explore the loc­al cul­ture and have a mean­ing­ful con­nec­tion with loc­al people. 

Based on my own exper­i­ences trav­el­ling and liv­ing in diverse com­munit­ies, I have come to appre­ci­ate that under­stand­ing a cul­ture means get­ting to know the blend of ele­ments that is shaped by their lan­guage, his­tory, geo­graphy, and food. 

I per­son­ally believe that food serves as one of the best ways to learn the true essence of loc­al communities. 

Food-related exper­i­ences with loc­als, like learn­ing how to cook thenthuk in a Sherpa com­munity or savour­ing ghongi in a Tharu com­munity, has always brought me joy and deepened my under­stand­ing about the com­munity, such as how geo­graphy plays a huge part in shap­ing their lifestyle. 

If you are trav­el­ling and design­ing trips for your cus­tom­ers, try to find organ­isa­tions that are genu­inely pro­mot­ing loc­al products and experiences. 

Gov­ern­ments have a role to play. They can cre­ate oppor­tun­it­ies for com­munit­ies to act­ively par­ti­cip­ate in and bene­fit from the tour­ism industry, includ­ing offer­ing train­ing pro­grams, skills devel­op­ment ini­ti­at­ives, and fin­an­cial sup­port to pro­mote entre­pren­eur­ship and mean­ing­ful involvement.

Promoting ethical tourism practices 

Pro­mot­ing eth­ic­al tour­ism prac­tices is essen­tial for ensur­ing sus­tain­able and respect­ful inter­ac­tions between trav­el­lers and loc­al communities. 

In my exper­i­ence, I have seen that travel and tour oper­at­ors play a cru­cial role in this endeav­our by imple­ment­ing strong child pro­tec­tion and safe­guard­ing policies. 

Don’t miss “GT” con­tent tagged ‘Eth­ic­al tourism’

Travel agents and tour oper­at­ors like G Adven­tures and Roy­al Moun­tain Travel among oth­ers, have guidelines and policies designed in such a way it helps to pre­vent any exploit­a­tion of chil­dren and vul­ner­able indi­vidu­als through tour­ism, ensur­ing their safety and well-being.

Sim­il­arly, wild­life pro­tec­tion is anoth­er crit­ic­al aspect of eth­ic­al tour­ism. Tour oper­at­ors should pri­or­it­ise activ­it­ies that do not harm or exploit wild­life. This may include avoid­ing attrac­tions that involve cap­tive or mis­treated anim­als and pro­mot­ing respons­ible wild­life view­ing prac­tices, such as main­tain­ing a safe and respect­ful distance.

Purposeful travel. Guests interact with the host at Barauli Community Homestay, part of the Community Homestay Network.
Guests inter­act with the host at Barauli Com­munity Homestay, part of the Com­munity Homestay Network.

Gov­ern­ments can play a sig­ni­fic­ant role here too, by mak­ing it a pre­requis­ite for the main­stream travel industry as well as com­munity-based enter­prises to have com­pre­hens­ive eth­ic­al tour­ism policies and oper­a­tion­al guidelines in place as pre­requis­ites for doing busi­ness in their jurisdictions. 

Indeed, I believe gov­ern­ment policies should expli­citly address child pro­tec­tion and wild­life con­ser­va­tion. By set­ting such require­ments, gov­ern­ments can foster respons­ible tour­ism prac­tices and safe­guard loc­al com­munit­ies and their resources. 

By col­lect­ively focus­ing on strong policies, train­ing, and empower­ment ini­ti­at­ives, the travel & tour­ism industry can foster eth­ic­al prac­tices, pre­serve loc­al cul­tures and resources, and ensure that tour­ism deliv­ers pos­it­ive out­comes to com­munit­ies as well as enrich­ing exper­i­ences to travellers.

Helping travellers make responsible travel decisions

As we work in the travel industry, we under­stand that the respons­ib­il­ity of choos­ing respons­ible travel options should not be solely placed on indi­vidu­al travellers. 

The industry needs to design and pro­act­ively pro­mote respons­ible options. 

Trav­el­lers need to be made aware. It is very dif­fi­cult to be ration­al about sup­port­ing loc­al causes once one is out there travelling. 

Wheth­er book­ing a trip through your organ­isa­tion or buy­ing a souven­ir from a shop you take them to, it will be a more enrich­ing exper­i­ence for your trav­el­ling cus­tom­er if they feel con­fid­ent that you have done the appro­pri­ate research about who bene­fits most from the money they spend. 

Hence, tour­ism author­it­ies, travel agents, and all rel­ev­ant stake­hold­ers along the value chain, should take stronger actions to help trav­el­lers take wise steps. 

A path to purposeful travel and responsible tourism

Enga­ging in pur­pose­ful travel fosters per­son­al growth and cul­tur­al enrich­ment through immers­ive exper­i­ences, mean­ing­ful inter­ac­tions with loc­als, and a deep­er appre­ci­ation for diverse ways of life; without adopt­ing a ‘saviour mentality’. 

Pur­pose­ful, respons­ible tour­ism is as much, if not more, about the entire travel industry mak­ing an effort to design and pro­mote such travel than it is about respond­ing to indi­vidu­al trav­el­lers’ demand for it. 

Don’t miss oth­er “GT” con­tent tagged ‘Cor­por­ate social responsibility’

By act­ively sup­port­ing busi­nesses and organ­isa­tions that pri­or­it­ise sus­tain­ab­il­ity and respons­ible prac­tices, tour­ism stake­hold­ers can become agents of change, pro­pelling the industry towards a more sus­tain­able future, and allow­ing our cus­tom­ers to enjoy their travels and appre­ci­ate their des­tin­a­tions without fret­ting about their choices.

A col­lect­ive industry-wide effort to be respons­ible will trans­form ‘pur­pose­ful travel’ and ‘respons­ible tour­ism’ from mar­ket­ing buzz phrases, or niche con­cepts deman­ded by a few, into a real­ity; a real­ity that secures a sus­tain­able future for our unique and pre­cious des­tin­a­tions, the people who live in them, and the trav­el­lers we serve.

What do you think? Share a short anec­dote or com­ment below. Or write a deep­er “GT” InsightThe “Good Tour­ism” Blog wel­comes diversity of opin­ion and per­spect­ive about travel & tour­ism because travel & tour­ism is everyone’s business.

Fea­tured image (top of post): A wel­come at Barauli Com­munity Homestay. Image sup­plied by Com­munity Homestay Net­work.

About the author

Aayusha Prasain
Aay­usha Prasain

Aay­usha Pra­sain leads the Com­munity Homestay Net­work (CHN), a Kath­mandu-based Nepali social enter­prise that “works with grass­roots com­munit­ies to devel­op attract­ive tour­ism exper­i­ences through a value-chain approach”. As CEO, her role includes “bring­ing stake­hold­ers into align­ment with CHN’s vis­ion, mis­sion, and goals”. 

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