“Hi Elena! Yes, you can spread the news: I have spoken with the other authors and we’re a go. If you want to move forward, let me know. Say hi to everyone at ITB for me. Janice.” Oh, dear Janice !! I am, quite literally, bouncing up & down in Berlin over reading these words concerning my upcoming book project on creative travel: Janice Waugh, who is the founder of the hugely successful, international “Solo Travel Society“, as well as the international travel book series called “The Traveler’s Handbooks“, the very series I am about to become a part of. In this very moment, and right at the start of the world’s largest, international travel trade show ITB in Berlin, my happiness knows no boundaries. I am now more than eager to start writing “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook“, as befits my entire travel mission & (creative) lifestyle to this present day. YAY! What a moment for me personally, especially after all these months & years of research, networking & enthusiasm spread around the world, to see a major life dream of mine come true. Well, kind of: I still have to write the book of course! “Like giving birth to my first baby child”, as I am explaining to you in my travel philosophy statement here.
“Making people realise the potential they have already got, is what empowerment is all about. We need to facilitate people’s skills, bring them to life! And that is where networks and the creative industries come into play.”
So here at ITB Berlin, let me tell you about moderating a very unique panel discussion (my first ever moderation!) on a topic so dear to me – the intersection of creative industries, tourism & community empowerment. It all starts with … Amitava Batthacharya, of Banglanatak.com, who is a most inspirational speaker swapping powerpoint statistics for passionate storytelling about “what matters most: Reaching out to people”. He does so with greatest passion and care, and within minutes, the audience is hooked. As the moderator of this international panel discussion on Community Empowerment through Creative Industries at ITB Berlin, I smile at his words, nodding in agreement and understanding. It really is all about reaching out to people, and making that positive difference to our lives as well as to those of others. So let me start by telling you about the positive difference my visit to ITB Berlin 2015 has brought about.
“So Elena. I spoke to Caroline Couret, of the international Creative Tourism Network, and she suggested you to moderate our UNWTO panel discussion on Community Empowerment through Creative Industries …”
Everything happens for a reason.
Oh. My. God. I remember my heart sinking, then beating fast with joy and happiness. A few weeks ago, Igor Stefanovic & Marina Diotallevi, of United Nations World Tourism Organization UNWTO, have contacted me asking me to become the moderator of their high-profile, international panel discussion on Community Empowerment through Creative Industries. “Exactly my topic”, I squeal with delight to anyone who would listen (and roll their eyes in happy consent: “Elena, this is you. We are so happy for you. You go ahead, it will surely be amazing!”).
But I am “only” the moderator. Listen to what this powerful panel of world-wide strategy leaders on community empowerment has to say, wrapped up & entertained by “CreativElena” at ITB Berlin.
- Amitava Batthacharya: “Tweak the story for people to see their own value!”
Amitava and his partner Debalina Bhowmick from West Bengal, India, have won my heart in no time. Their story is one of changing realities from “disadvantaged beggars’ villages” into flourishing “art residences”, what with several festivals throughout the year and “even the head of the Indian Navy coming to visit (and stay!) in the village together with his wife”, Amitava proudly proclaims. He has innovated the so-called “Art For Life” model that uses culture as a vehicle to address poverty alleviation, foster social inclusion as well as improve women empowerment and human dignity. His company, Banglanatak.com, is on Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and has been working on consultative status with UNESCO on Intangible Cultural Heritage since five years. I am deeply impressed, and hugely honoured, to meet such a cheerful and inspiring man while listening to beautiful Debalina sing, performing traditional folk songs from West Bengal.
- Jos Wesemann: “You might think being deaf is all about closing doors, when in actual fact, it brings people together – from all over the world.”
Dear Jos, who has grown up in a family of deaf people (“I am the odd one out as I can hear”, he likes to joke!), has created a travel company focused entirely on “deaf tourism” – Wesemann Travel (check out their amazing video & mission statement here!). He was always intrigued by how easily people of his own family could communicate with deaf people from all over the world: “Sign language, though locally adapted, is actually a universal language, and one that creates connection & understanding almost immediately.” WOW. I myself never thought of sign language in this form, but of course: There literally is no language barrier there!
Check out the following video, which will leave you both amazed & inspired, and turn your notion of what is advantaged or disadvantaged UPSIDE DOWN !!
- Keith Henry & Neville Poelina: “I became so happy the day I realised I didn’t need money!”
Neville speaks to us in his broad Australian accent, his eyes shining, with a big smile spreading on his face. He is a true Aboriginal Australian who has turned around his career as a pearl diver (!) to help raise the (cultural) profile of his people in the Western Australian Kimberley Outback: “Uptuyu Tours” are all about enabling his local communities to bring a deeper and more meaningful understanding of Aboriginal culture to international travellers.
Similarly, Keith Henry, who is the CEO of Aboriginal Tourism British Columbia, discusses important issues of Aboriginal tourism development in his home country Canada, led by authenticity, quality certification, cooperation across industry sectors, and international learning. “We have to understand that we live in a competitive world. Any product or service has to add value to consumers’ needs. And we need to reconsider our assets in order to facilitate such experiences, while maintaining our cultural authenticity at all times.”
Last but not least, my dear colleague & friend Caroline Couret, of the International Creative Tourism Network, adds her point of view of how creative travel acts as a facilitator for worldwide community empowerment through creative industries, drawing on a wide range of examples such as: Porto Alegre Turismo Criativo in Brazil, Loulé Criativo in the Portuguese Algarve reviving ancient handicrafts through interactive workshop opportunities, or hands-on cultural learning experiences near Bangkok in Thailand. Disadvantaged groups, she argues, are thus involved in communitarian programs that give them an opportunity to develop their skills and confidence: An observation I can only confirm from what I have seen during my recent #CreativElenaRTW trip around the world. After speaking at London World Travel Market on Creative Tourism, Caroline has provided our panel with even more reasons to look at “creative travel” as a tool for community empowerment through creative industries.
Word by such a fantastic, international panel discussion !!! I look forward to seeing you all soon again, dear speakers!
Check out dear Greg’s amazing strategy & video documentary project here & become part of it: