In travel, it’s often discovering the icons that make a destination memorable. For me however they are only part of the story. The other vital ingredients of the places we visit are the people, I believe it is the residents in a destination who actually are the most powerful creators of memories and everlasting impressions. The Trafalgar team’s mission is to bring the world of travel to life for our guests, to ensure that they enjoy an experience that will move them emotionally, one that they will remember throughout their lives. Additionally, we strive to support the local communities that we encourage our guests to explore. As the two merge, it is these moments that are so powerful, mind broadening and even at times become life-changing.
Looking back, the innovation behind our “Be My Guest” experience is the Trafalgar brand creation that I am most proud of. I absolutely love this concept; thanks to this our guests have the chance to intimately get to know and appreciate the places that we visit. Through their hosts, guests are able to gain a more meaningful understanding of the lives of the locals, by being given the opportunity to pause, to learn and share, not merely observing on a superficial basis and then moving on. The result: a genuine appreciation and relationship is formed between both travellers and local communities. This generates a tourism industry that is able to grow and develop in a way that is a win-win, as it showcases the local culture, protects traditions and heritage, and inspires pride and values – the reasons why so many travellers seek to visit in the first place
This is a vital full circle. Trafalgar guests feel like true insiders, understanding more of the customs and lives of the locals and similarly the hosts form a greater understanding of their visitors too. Breaking down barriers and supporting local communities, proves to be a powerful combination.
Today, this is undoubtedly part of Trafalgar’s DNA. It’s an aspect I fully appreciate and enjoy immensely and find it rewarding to see there is a significant amount of commentary from leaders of our industry that serves to reaffirm the importance of what we are doing.
This spirit of community cooperation was recently reinforced by Taleb Rifai, the UNWTO Secretary-General, when he spoke at that this year’s UN World Tourism Day focusing on the theme of ‘Tourism & Community Development’:
“there can be no real tourism development if it damages the values and culture of host communities, or if the socio-economic benefits generated by tourism do not trickle down to the community level.”
And David Scowsill, the President and CEO of the WTTC, in Lima at the WTTC Americas Regional Summit said:
“It is the reason so many of us travel the world. We search out authentic experiences that bring new understanding and meaning to our lives. Sensitive partnership between culture and commerce ensures that we all value and enjoy the extraordinary world that we inhabit.”
I thought I would share just two examples, of the hundreds from the world of Trafalgar, where guests are discovering more of the destination and we are making a difference to the local communities:
Our ‘Highlights of Vietnam’ trip includes a special luncheon at the KOTO restaurant, in Ho Chi Minh City. Behind the great menu of local delicacies is a very special project. This restaurant actually provides training in the hospitality industry and essential life skills to street children and disadvantaged young people. KOTO is an acronym for ‘Know One Teach One’, and it has completely changed the lives of hundreds of Vietnamese adolescents as well as their families, and has achieved a 100% success rate in placing its graduates in employment. By including KOTO in our programme we make a valuable contribution to improving the lives of these young people.
In the Loire Valley in France, near the extraordinary Chateau de Villandry, our guests meet Beatrice de Montferrier and her daughter, Alexandra. They live in a 17th century Manor Farm (that until 1790 was only inhabited by nuns), which she and her late husband dreamt that they would inhabit in their later years with their children.
Trafalgar’s trips to Beatrice’s working farm with our guests, allow her to keep this wonderful fragment of French patrimony alive – for not only does it serve to maintain the charming 17th Manor Farm, an architectural gem, (and which up till 1790 was only inhabited by nuns), – but also to maintain the Loire valley tradition, of raising goats in order to produce the delectable Ste Maure cheese, for which this area has always been known. Indeed, our guests taste the fruits of Beatrice and her neighbor`s hard work, as they savour her delightful “chevre” during dinner. See more about Beatrice and our Be My Guest experience here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7XbbZBFRrg
These two remarkable experiences are indicative of many we offer, that capture the hearts of travellers, creating memories that go far beyond any photographs that can be taken of the iconic sights. It is their stories, the meaning, which matters most; not only providing great holidays, but also enhancing local tourism communities across the world.