With such a fantastically diverse world out there just waiting to be explored, it’s not surprising that more and more people today are choosing to travel. What is surprising perhaps is that the benefits of travelling with local, independent companies have not yet been highlighted to a greater degree. When you have the chance to replace your generic, mass produced holiday with a more unique, personal experience and simultaneously support the very area and community that inspired you to book your trip… It seems worth shouting about!
Whether it’s an active holiday we are looking for or a cultural tour, we all want to get the very most out of our trip. By travelling with local and independent operators we instantly put ourselves in contact with the experts of the area. These are the people who have spent their lives discovering the aspects of a region that may not even feature in the guidebooks! So who better to help us get to the heart of a place and really find out how it ticks!?
When I am on holiday yes, I absolutely want to know about the monumental landmarks of an area. I would however also be thrilled to learn about the restaurant on the corner loved by the locals for its spicy fish soup, the best spot to watch the sunrise in the mornings, or the hiking routes that lead to breath taking views usually only seen in calendars. This is the type of knowledge that I truly value in a guide and this is the type of knowledge that comes only from local insight.
It’s clear that travelling locally can really make a difference to our holiday experience, but we are not the only ones who can benefit from our choice to go local. By making an active choice to travel with local businesses we are directly supporting local people and their business development. A great deal of the money generated by tourism never actually reaches local communities. Travelling locally gives our money the best chance of reaching the people who really deserve it – the people living in the area who make the place what it is.
The positive impacts of our local travel can stem further than simple economic gains though. When we visit a community-run surf school or stay in a locally owned Nepali tearoom, we are expressing our appreciation and recognition of what they stand for. In a market where more and more hotels across the world are beginning to look identical, places offering unique and traditional character are becoming harder to find. By choosing to stay at an independently run accommodation we are saying that we don’t want every hotel to look the same, we want to be able to find the charm and personality that comes hand in hand with an independent business.
Consumer demands are what shape tourism development. For this reason making the choice to travel local is vital to ensuring that local people have the support to successfully run their fantastically designed individual enterprises. Communicating our admiration for things such as their natural environment or traditional modes of transport creates a powerful incentive for local people to continue protecting their local environment and retain their cultural character within their business models.
Another reason why choosing to travel local is such a great idea is that it increases the opportunities we have to interact with local people. This allows for an exchange of knowledge from both sides. When we take a holiday with a larger company that is not local to the area, chances are we will remain much more of an outsider looking in, rather than really getting to know the area and its people. Loosing this personal level of communication on the one hand prevents us from gaining a fuller understanding of what life here is really like and on the flip side also restricts what these people can learn about our lives and homelands. This to me seems very much like a missed opportunity!
So next time you are looking to book a trip, whether that’s an active holiday, cultural expedition, luxury travel, or whatever it is that gets your excited, take the opportunity try local travel… You won’t be disappointed!