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Supporting Cultural Heritage

Date: March 30, 2017 | By: bigfive | Category: Travel Blog

Spirit Big Five LogoEach day, more than three million tourists cross international borders, and every year more than one billion people travel abroad. Simply put, travel and tourism combined are now one of the world’s largest industries. To make sure that the power of travel is harnessed as a positive force for people and the planet, the United Nations has declared 2017 The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The three key pillars of Sustainable Tourism are:

  • Environmentally-friendly Practices
  • Support for Protecting Cultural and Natural Heritage
  • Social and Economic Benefits to Local People

At Big Five, our longstanding commitment to sustainable tourism runs deep, and we are proud to be the only travel company to have won the prestigious Virtuoso Sustainable Tourism Leadership Award, not once, but twice (2014 and 2016). We know that experiencing an outstanding vacation and supporting the pillars of sustainable tourism can go hand in hand. We are proud to share with you how traveling with Big Five can help to support cultural heritage, protect endangered species, deliver local economic benefits, and further cross-cultural understanding and peace in the world – all wrapped together into the journey of a lifetime.

Cultural heritage is about our legacy to the world. It is the culmination of those intangible attributes, knowledge, traditions and ideas that have been handed down to us by our predecessors, which in turn will be ours to pass on. The importance of our global cultural heritage was recognized in 1972 when the General Conference of UNESCO adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

In 2001, UNESCO began raising awareness concerning intangible cultural heritage and encouraging local communities to protect important forms of cultural expressions. The movement toward preserving and sustaining our priceless cultural heritage continues to expand. By 2011, there were 936 UNESCO World Heritage Sites: 725 cultural, 183 natural, and 28 mixed properties, in 153 countries.

Big Five supports properties such as Napo Wildlife Center Amazon Lodge, Yasuni National Park, Ecuador, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, where an ancient culture is striving to survive. The Kichwa Añangu Community own and operate the lodge here. Travelers experience one of the most bio diverse ecosystems in the world and, at the same time, explore its ancestral culture. In addition to protection of the land, the Kichwa also provide leadership for preservation of a way of life that is all but vanishing from the earth. This mission becomes all the more important because Yasuni National Park sits atop some 800 million barrels of crude oil, 20% of Ecuador’s reserves. You can experience and help support the extraordinary cultural heritage of the forest on a visit in our President’s Pick: Ecuador’s Galapagos & Amazon.

Deep in the heart of Jordan’s mountainous Dana Biosphere Reserve, at the end of a rugged track, is the magnificent Wadi Feynan. Feynan is special for the insight it offers into the traditional lives of the Bedouin, the desert-dwelling semi-nomads. Some 40 to 50 families live spread out in tented camps throughout the valley. There’s a small church and mosque but those are the only permanent structures other than the ecolodge. Feynan Ecolodge blends into its craggy surroundings. The lodge is on the western edge of the reserve, the largest nature reserve in Jordan. All the lodge’s staff are local Bedouin, mostly young men, who do not have to move away to find work. That is one of the most enabling aspects of these properties located in such remote areas. Traditions are easily lost when taken out of the context of their place. Being able to stay in their villages and with their families helps keep communities stable. The benefits spread out further to the drivers, a local woman who makes bread for the lodge and others who create handmade items to sell in the lodge shop. You can meet members of this ancient culture and exchange stories with local Bedouin during our Jordan & Oman: Trails of The Caliphs.

The first settlements in Hampi date from the 1st CE. In northern Karnataka, India, many communities living here have had historical ties with the region. Indigenous communities include Kurubaru (shepherds), Vaddaru (stone masons), Gollaru (cowherders) and Madagiru (dyers and fishermen). Certain indigenous tribes who’ve been sheltered from the mainstream, practice a way of life that is syncretic with that of the wildlife in the region, rather than with the outside world. According to one theory, after the fall of the Pallava empire many kurubas settled down in South India as small land owners and farmers, while some kurubas took to hiding in the forests of South India and adapted their lifestyle to their environment, where they developed their own culture and traditions different from others due to their prolonged isolation. Originally hunter gatherers, Kurubas switched to agriculture and later to collection of minor forest produce and weaving baskets. Today they work as small farmers around the forests and sell their goods to properties such as Orange County Hampi. You can explore the rich and ancient culture of the region on our President’s Pick: Southern India’s Vijaynagar Empire.

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