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We need to take the stories we tell seriously. They embody power.
We need to think about the stories we tell in the itineraries and places we recommend and market. We need to have more diversity in the experiences and stories we tell. We need to take responsibility if travel is to broaden the mind rather than reinforce prejudices. Only through storytelling can we realise the ambition of Responsible Tourism to provide “more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues.”
It is through stories that we make sense of the world. We use stories to understand our lives and those of others. Anthropologists tell us that storytelling is fundamental to our existence as humans. Stories enable us to make sense of our world and to share our understanding with others. To control the narrative is to shape our understanding and, consequently, our actions and behaviour. Narratives play an important part in politics shaping our understanding of why the world is the way it is, how it works and how it might be changed.
At the heart of Responsible Tourism are the values of respect and the aspiration to create meaningful connections. Respect does not require the denial of difference. A meaningful connection is best achieved through the exploration of difference, through conversation, dialogues and debate.
The Black Lives Matter movement has reminded us of slavery and the enduring power of racism, the aggression of daily encounters with it and the deep structural racism that shapes our societies. The anger justifiably felt by people of colour about the statues of the beneficiaries of slavery in British cities has been heard. These statues are rightly seen as celebrations of the lives of men who profited from slavery. A reminder to so many of our fellow citizens of the pain inflicted on their ancestors. These same statues are a reminder of our engagement in the slave trade. When Britain abolished slavery in 1833, the slave owners were compensated. A loan of £20 million was raised around 40% of total government expenditure in 1833. That loan was only finally paid off in the last decade. That story has not been widely told.
Some stories and experiences get pushed to one side, denied and omitted from the tourism offer. As Gai explains, the "whitewashing" of history is an issue is contemporary America using Charleston as her example. Surely we should incorporate the truth and tell the whole story? Interview with Gai Spann of Spanning the Earth Tours
JoAnna Haugen of Rooted Storytelling explains why storytelling is important as a way of dealing with facts. Storytelling is a powerful way to connect with others and to understand the other. JoAnna argues that storytelling is undervalued and underused in tourism. We talk about tourism as a force for good, but we communicate it poorly. We can use stories to connect with tourists and to help them to understand how they can make the world a better place. We need to set aside the jargon and tell stories about experiences that have meaning and make connections.
In conversation with Joanna about how storytelling can make for better guest and host experiences, creating a better world of tourism for all. video
Mejdi Tours is “founded on the belief that tourism should be a vehicle for a more positive and interconnected world.” MEJDI translates to both “honour” and “respect”, the business was established to “change the face of tourism through a socially responsible business model that honours both clients and communities.” Travellers engage with a diversity of views about the places they visit, multiple narratives. Aziz Abu Sarah "For more tolerance, we need more ... tourism."
Mejdi have pioneered dual narrative tours to, amongst other places, Israel and Palestine and Northern Ireland. Their two-guide model equips groups with two local guides, each representing unique cultural, religious, political, and ethnic narratives.
Nidhi Bansal Group CEO. 2023 will see the fifth edition of the India City Walks Festival which promotes Inclusive, participatory and responsible tourism Pan-India.
City Explorers are building a pan-India community as part of ‘Storytellers of India®,’ with an endeavor to give locals a network to get skilled, trained as storyteller and become a bridge for their own community to also benefit from touristic endeavors. India City WalksTM ® Story Tellers of India®
The India City Walks Festival™ (ICWF™) is in line with the ‘Vocal for Local’ and ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ mission of the Hon'ble Prime Minister to celebrate the unique and diverse character of India. 'India has a new story to share at each step, an ancient tradition to relive at every nook and cranny, a legacy to upkeep at every turn of the road.' As Nidhi says they 'create a deeper understanding of city discovery by engaging local population. We ask locals about their interests to decide what they value from the past and support them in developing skills that further increase wellbeing, boosting local economies and creating jobs within the tourism sector.’