What makes Manisha Pande a Global Shaker?
Manisha Pande is founding Managing Director of Mumbai-based Village Ways, a responsible tour operator which has been operating since 2006.
Named best tour operator for poverty reduction in World Travel Market Responsible Tourism Awards 2017, Village Ways supports tourism that runs alongside, without displacing, traditional rural livelihoods — amid threats from outward migration, rural poverty, and threats from the climate crisis.
“We work in partnership with very special villages in India, Nepal and Bhutan to help sustain their village life through low impact tourism. Above all, the aim is to provide great holidays that inspire and delight our guests, whilst providing the village communities with a further income stream and job opportunities.”
On a profile on the Village Ways website, Pande is described as having a great knowledge of rural communities, particularly in the Himalayas, and combining this “with the creative skills to bring remote tourism enterprise to the international market.”
The organisation tries to limit environmental impacts at every stage by using local materials, local labour, when building new buildings or refurbishing older ones. They use low-usage water systems in areas like the Himalayas which are vulnerable to water shortages, and they use solar power for water heatings and lamps in communities that are off grid.
This commitment extends to farming: they encourage crop diversification so communities grow crops for guests, supporting them even as traditional crops fail because of drought. As travelers, they use rail rather than cars or flights wherever possible, which is a large part of the travel experience in India.
The travel they arrange isn’t reserved solely for fee-paying guests either: they provide ongoing training for everyone in the tourism enterprises, and arrange visits to other partner communities, which is sometimes the first time villagers have moved away from local areas. They also encourage gender equality and the representation of minority castes and peoples on committees that manage the enterprises.
The aim is to experience the “ancient rhythms of life in these special places,” letting people be hosted by communities and enjoying the local cooking. “In a time when many places are struggling with the challenges of overtourism, our communities would love to welcome more guests, who bring such benefits to the hosts.”
In an explanatory page, Village Ways sets out its belief that sustainability is key to the survival of rural villages, and that economic opportunity is best achieved by encouraging and building on villagers’ own strengths, skills and knowledge. They want farmers to keep farming, rather than dedicate themselves to tourism, for instance.
Each village sets up its own local tourism enterprise, and ownership is in the hands of villagers. A village-owned guest house is often at the centre of the enterprise, which is a kind of home-stay offered by the whole village. Local craftsmen use traditional skills and materials to build or restore guesthouses and incorporate energy saving tech, such as solar panels, for lighting and heating water.
They worked with the Responsible Tourism Partnership to monitor the local economic impact brought to the villages, and there’s a study of the impact created by one partner, the Binsar Sanctuary. The work was carried out by responsible tourism academic Harold Goodwin.
They also work closely with UK-based Inntravel, which sells a wide selection of Village Ways holidays to India (See Karl Watson profile).Tags: India, Responsible Tourism, Sustainable Travel, tourism