What makes Ko Doo-hwan a Global Shaker?
Ko Doo-hwan is CEO of Fair Travel Korea, a social enterprise in South Korea that aims to support local communities through sustainable, people-focused travel.
This is travel for ‘doing’, rather than simply ‘going’ somewhere. It values relationships over consuming; inspiring experiences with local people; and valuing fairness by avoiding activities that harm local people or animals.
Fair Travel Korea arranges a vast array of trips, including travel opportunities for youth and a peace tour, connecting disadvantaged children in Korea, from the Great East Japan Earthquake, and children of Syrian refugees. As part of a domestic tourism programme Fair Travel even ran an urban regeneration project in an old town, in the centre of Daejeon city, Korea. The trips use local guides, facilities and public transport, participating in environment protection projects when possible; and learning about local history and culture.
Fair Travel also runs training and consulting for fair travel companies, policy officials and civil society organisations, using responsible travel as a way to encounter good examples of revitalised communities, local ownership and Fair Trade.
In an interview with HankooKilbo, Ko explained how experience as a volunteer in Thailand and the Philippines inspired him to pursue responsible travel. He was shocked to see local, farming-reliant people in the Ifugao region in the Philippines, world famous because of the ‘Staired Rice Field’ UNESCO World Heritage Site, getting poorer even as demand for tourism shot up. Realising there needed to be a solution, which protected farming and traditional ways of life, he worked with the NGO Ifugao Terraced Rice Field Protection Movement on a fair travel programme.
This included support for workers to restore rice fields destroyed by tourism, to eat local cuisine, and to stay at a worker’s house and donate accommodation expenses. Despite initial pushback from wary locals, the programme was so successful that Ko decided to set up Fair Travel when he returned to Korea. The organisation continues expanding and is now a social enterprise which manages 50,000 visitors.
Writing on the website, Ko quotes chef Jamie Oliver, who says that cooking makes people happy and becomes the seed that changes the world. “I also think that people learn a lot and feel happiness, joy through Fair Travel, and it becomes the grounds of positive change of society,” he adds.
He explains that his travel philosophy goes beyond focusing on the scenery and the comfort of staying in a top hotel, to “think more about the destination and what kind of culture they have.” He says doing so brings “more valuable experience than we expected,” and that even in preparing for the trip, people’s lives start to change.Tags: Fair Travel Korea, Responsible Travel, South Korea, Sustainable Tourism