Staying with local people offers clients a more meaningful connection to the destination they are visiting while benefitting communities. Andrew Doherty profiles tours that leave lasting memories and help give something back.
Collette Worldwide’s Peru: Ancient Land of Mysteries tour offers a plethora of Indiana Jones-type experiences that take clients to majestic ruins and through tropical jungles to the shores of Lake Titicaca.
Yet product design manager Nadine Paulo explains that the homestay in the Quechua community is what helps to create lasting memories for its clients.
“One of the most impactful elements of Peru is its people – their kindness, hospitality and willingness to share their culture embraces you during each encounter.
“The interaction with the Quechua community creates a direct relation to the country far beyond visiting the top tourist sites. Their bright smiles, simplistic lifestyle and openness create a level of transparency for guests visiting. You see the true personality of Peru.”
Guests will take part in traditional textile and agricultural workshops, learn about the Quechua languages and sample a pachamanca dinner – in which food is placed on hot stones and buried in the ground to cook. Clients will also visit the Sacred Valley Brewing Company – a non-profit organisation created to support a local orphanage – where they will sample Andean-inspired beers.
Book it: Collette Worldwide has the 11-day itinerary from £2,639pp with 17 meals included. The tour is running from July 2018 to May 2019.
Tranquil waterways, tea plantations and stunning sunsets make Kerala an ideal spot for clients seeking inner peace. The southwestern Indian state is best known for its beaches and canals as well as the Eravikulam and Periyar national parks, which are home to elephants, monkeys and tigers.
Explore has a tour that includes a two-night homestay in which guests learn about Keralan life, take a cooking lesson and have the opportunity to dress as a local.
Glyn Thorneloe, product manager at Explore, says a homestay offers clients an experience often missed when staying in hotels.
“Our homestay experience is part of a community-based programme where we try to initiate responsible tourism by giving an extra income to the host families and their community. The families we help are farmers by nature and so our business provides them with extra income and support. We also take part in activities such as cycling and village walks, which involve other local people and provide them with a regular income and business.”
Book it: Explore offers the nine-day tour from £1,330pp with flights and selected meals included.
The village of Ngadas in central Java sits 2,150 metres above sea level and boasts spectacular views of Mount Bromo. Its inhabitants, the Tengger, act as protectors of the mountain and still practise the ancient rituals used by their ancestors to ensure prosperity and good fortune.
However, illegal logging activities and a dwindling younger population have had a detrimental impact on the subsistence agriculture here, resulting in lower crop yields and loss of income for the residents.
Lianna Kuchmak, product manager for south-east Asia at G Adventures, says the operator has teamed up with its charitable arm, the Planeterra Foundation, to create a homestay programme managed by the Tengger tribe that hosts 1,500 travellers a year, benefitting 498 households.
As part of G Adventures’ nine-day Best of Java tour, clients will travel to the Bromo Tengger Semeru national park, where they will stay in a traditional Tengger home and learn about local customs and traditions.
“We created a programme that allows the older generation to diversify their income outside of agriculture, which also offers an opportunity for the younger generations to reduce migration,” enthuses Kuchmak.
“Our many travellers who visit central Java to see Mount Bromo do not often have access to this type of experience. We find that, while getting a shot of the beautiful mountain at sunrise is an absolute must-do, it’s often the old couple that cooked dinner and opened up their home that makes our travellers look back on their time in Java with a smile.”
Book it: The nine-day Best Of Java tour starts from £919pp and includes the services of a full-time chief experience officer, eight nights’ accommodation, eight breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners.
Clients on Wendy Wu’s Magnificent China tour can expect to take in the best that the country offers, with an itinerary that incorporates the Great Wall, a trip to the gardens of the Summer Palace and the chance to see the famous Terracotta Warriors.
A highlight of the trip is a visit to the hutongs of Beijing, says Reema Shah, China product manager, Wendy Wu Tours. Here, clients have lunch with a local family residing in buildings in traditional siheyuan courtyards while providing additional income to those living with no modern amenities.
“The hutongs in Beijing are a perfect example of what life was like in bygone China. Daily life today in the hutongs does not really differ from the lives of previous generations that once lived there. The residents are so generous and hospitable, and so the time our groups spend in the hutongs, having a traditional meal, learning about Chinese culture and historic traditions is often the highlight of the holiday. The experience is really
like taking a step back in time to the old China.”
And the fun doesn’t end there – in Xian, guests will witness a Tang Dynasty dance show before visiting Chengdu Panda Conservation centre to learn about China’s most celebrated bears.
Book it: Wendy Wu offers the 22-day Magnificent China tour from £3,490pp with meals, flights, accommodation, excursions, national and local guides and Chinese visa services included.
From the buzzing street corners of Havana to the powder-soft sands of the island of Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba is synonymous with authenticity, culture and natural beauty.
Pedro Arevalo, product manager at Cuba Direct DMC, the ground handling division of Cuba Direct, says the operator’s Enchanted Cuba itinerary not only offers the opportunity to experience these Cuban highlights, but also the chance to spend time with a family in a casa particular (homestay) in the town of Vinales.
“Cuba is home to a wealth of cultural and natural attractions yet the true jewel in the crown is its warm, friendly and often hilarious people,” he says.
“Perhaps even more importantly, it’s an opportunity to give back. While it’s true that tourism is a vital source of income for the country, locals themselves see very little of it unless visitors opt to stay in privately owned homestay accommodation. This additional source of income is a godsend for families in a country where salaries are so low.”
Book it: Cuba Direct has the Enchanting Cuba tour from £1,475pp with flights, accommodation, transfers, representation services and a guided tour of Old Havana included. Offer 10% commissionable for agents booking with Cuba Direct.