We travel to enjoy other peoples’ places, the brochures and websites show us images of their natural and cultural environment the buildings and cafes the landscapes and wildlife. Increasingly those images include local people and of people like us engaging with people like them. For many travellers and holidaymakers it is those encounters with other people, people whose lives are different from our own, that create the memories we share. When I was working with Robin Heath at the University of Zimbabwe on the national parks and tourism research project I mentioned the dominance of encounters with other people in the memories we have of our travels. She was a good academic and suitably sceptical. A good enough academic to test the theory, invited to the final reception for a Smithsonian group which had spent two weeks enjoying the best wildlife experiences, Robin worked the room asking each tour group member for their best memory of the trip. Almost without exception the best memories had been generated by the visit to a school at Hwange.
You do not need to travel far to experience “the other”, to encounter the exotic, to see a “new” part of the city though or with different eyes. The Migrantour initiative has developed tours for locals, domestic and international tourists in Turin, Valencia, Rome, Paris, Marseille, Florence, Milan, Genoa and Lisbon. These tours contribute to generating dialogue and understanding and to reducing alienation. Can tourism do more?
Unseen Tours offers walking tours of London hosted and led by homeless and formerly homeless people. An opportunity to see London from a very different perspective; to meet and talk with a homeless person who, for an hour or so, becomes your guide or teacher, a chance to see London with fresh eyes and to engage with “the other.” Unseen Tours is a social enterprise which grew out of the Sock Mob a group which engages with the homeless in London by cutting through the misconceptions, prejudice and fear that often accompany stereotypes of rough sleepers and other vulnerable groups in the city. Unseen Tours spoke during the guiding “conversation” on the Responsible Tourism stand at WTM and drew a large crowd.
You don’t need to leave your own city to have a different experience of it, to see it with fresh eyes,
You can discover Camden’s iconic cultural history during a tour led by the young people who know it best. Set up to create learning and development opportunities for young people, whilst allowing them to tell their own story of their experiences of Camden Town. They provide unique, youth-led, and engaging tours that look at Camden through the eyes of the young people who really know the area.
The exotic can be encountered close by….. why not experience it?