This year the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Summit (YSEALI) was held in Luang Prabang and the Fair Trek team had the honor of participating as a guest speaker.

Launched in 2013, this initiative is one of the main programs that seek to develop leaders, networks and strengthen the relationship between South East Asia and the United Sates of America, with the main objective being to nurture the ASEAN community. The program includes educational exchanges with main universities in the U.S, cultural exchanges, seed funding and other networking strategies that seek to expand opportunities for these entrepreneurs. Around 198 young leaders  from 18–35 years old, from Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Laos, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam participated.

The YSEALI Summit 2016 main topic was “The sustainable development and bridging the rural development gap in ASEAN “.  Fair Trek, as one of the main local companies with experience in the subject led a presentation about Sustainable Community-based Tourism as a Driver for Rural Development.

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The Fair Trek team led by Markus Neuer (CEO of Tiger Trails and founder of Fair Trek) and Gregorio Rojas (Program Manager of Fair Trek) led a discussion that challenged the students to solve a community based tourism case scenario. Once the participants had the chance to view the case study from different points of view (the tourist, the tourism agencies, the community and the volunteers), they were able to realise the numerous challenges and the intricate relationships that have to be taken in to account when working with communities.

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The participants understood that a Community based tourism project in order to be successful has to include the community with all the components of its complexity (their cultural beliefs, history, political structure, etc). It also has to be a long term project that allows the community to forge a relationship with the companies leading the projects. There has to be a high level of commitment between all parties involved, a commitment so strong that will insure solving together every problem or detail that may appear in every stage of the work. The project has to have fluent channels of communication with clear and transparent information with constant feedback. These are lessons and knowledge that the Fair Trek team has gathered from years of experience and even though they are only some of the main aspects to be considered, the participants were able to relate these aspects with their own projects and recognize the value in these lessons.

One crucial part of the discussion with the participants was the difference between the tourism labels. Fair Trek shared with the participants that either Eco-tourism, Sustainable tourism, Responsible tourism, the label is the least important issue.

As long as you make sure to use tourism as a positive force for the environment and the society.

The Fair Trek team is very grateful for the opportunity of sharing our experience with the multiple projects we have led in Luang Prabang in over 15 nearby villages. It was a very interactive and nurturing session with interesting questions and even better conclusions. We are sure this presentation and discussions will be useful for these young leaders when they start their own projects benefiting their region, their countries and in the long run, the world.

This  article was written by Juliana Gutierrez G.