Happy World Tourism Day!
This year’s theme, “Sustainable Tourism – A Tool for Development” (while a little wordy) is very close to our heart.
Talanoa Treks is founded on the belief that tourism can play a part in supporting sustainable community development… if done in the right way.
In 2013, during our talanoa sessions in each of the four communities, who work together as part of our multi-day treks, we were all clear that establishing small tourism enterprises in places that tourists currently didn’t know about, to attract hikers to a country known to many around the world only for its beautiful ocean and beaches, would take a lot of hard work and commitment on the part of everyone involved. We knew that income generated from tourism would only be a small supplement to agricultural income. We knew that building a reputation and credibility would require investment in training and building the confidence of guides to understand that their stories, their culture, their lives were of interest to people from around the world.
But we also knew that the experience itself – the hikes, the cultural experience, the games of cards or vidividi, the talanoa – was something unique.
We will always be a work in progress and there will always be things that can be improved. We work hard to ensure that we do not overly disrupt community life. There will always be many more important community events – weddings, funerals, fundraisers – than our treks. As much as possible these are built into our calendar as times to avoid. And when unexpected events arise the partnership between the communities has enabled them to help each other to keep the hikes going – with guides from neighbouring villages stepping in when others are unavailable.
Miraculously, we’re still here. We all survived the unwanted visit of Winston in 2016 (the strongest cyclone Fiji has ever faced) and your hikes helped to ensure that income started to flow back to communities three weeks after the event. This was maybe a small in the grand scheme, but nevertheless useful source of income – and perhaps distraction – as farms, houses and lives were slowly rebuilt. The tourism committees in each village meet regularly to discuss upcoming trips, their accounts and upcoming expenditures. Income generated through tourism is being reinvested by community enterprises in track upgrades, improved infrastructure, education, Sky TV, smartphones, laptops and meeting some of the communal obligations of the village in order to reduce the burden on individual households.
We’d like to say a big vinaka vakalevu to all of you that have believed in us*, including all of our guests who believed us when we said that Fiji has great hiking!
*Special thanks must go to NatureFiji-MareqetiViti staff and their trustees, Resort Support, the Market Development Facility, Tourism Fiji, the Ministry of Forestry, and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism