Tourism is often a force of destruction when it comes to local development, but a new wave of eco-tourism may turn out to be a great help for local ecology.

(San Francisco, CA) Non-profit organizations from all over the world are trying to change the way people travel. According to the World Tourism Organization, the tourism industry is growing into the largest industry in the world. By 2010 over 1 billion people are expected to travel abroad. Non-profit organizations, both large and small, are hoping to use this fact to their advantage and encourage more people to get involved with the local community when they travel. This involvement can take the form of teaching English, monitoring elections, or assisting in restoration and development efforts.

One organization trying to make a change in people’s travel habits is the Cultural Restoration Tourism Project (CRTP). CRTP works to restore buildings of cultural importance around the world. Mark Hintzke, the Managing Director of CRTP, says the tourism industry might hold the key to resolving many global issues. "Hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent on tourism every year, but less than 10% of the money spent ends up in the hands of the local people. Large hotel chains, cruise operators and tour corporations receive the lion’s share of the tourist dollars. It is our hope to redirect some of this money into the pockets of the local community."

Innovative projects, like CRTP’s effort to restore a Buddhist temple in Mongolia, not only redirect the tourist’s funds, but give the tourist a deeper understanding of the culture and customs of the local people. Every summer, for the next several years, "volunteer-tourists" will be visiting the temple site from around the world to enact the restoration of this temple. The temple was destroyed by the communist regime in the 1930’s. The restoration project has been going on for the last two summers, and Hintzke says that he has already seen a big impact.

"The impact on the local people is quite evident. We are creating jobs, we are restoring community pride, and we are helping the locals to regain a part of their heritage that was brutally taken from them."

Even so, the impact on the individual tourist may be even more profound. For a donation, volunteers on the Baldan Baraivan restoration are allowed to participate in the reconstruction right alongside the local crew assembled for the project. For two to three weeks volunteers stay at the site, living in traditional "gers" (yurts) and enjoying the tastes of the local cuisine The volunteers are immersed in the culture and traditions of the Mongolian countryside.

Why would anyone pay good money to work at a primitive construction site while on their vacation? Past volunteers seem to think it was well worth the cost. Mark Collins, a volunteer from Canada says, "...what ultimately made this such a fantastic and positive experience was how this project was affecting the Mongolians. Being able to provide a solid income and 3 meals per day for so many Mongolians is really important for me."

Collins adds, " was very touching how thankful (the locals) were of us for coming to help their cause." Guido Verboom, a volunteer from the Netherlands, says, "I came to realize that (even while) enjoying myself I did contribute something really worthwhile. In some way, we were giving these people a part of their history back. (Giving back) a part of their identity, which had been stolen by seventy years of communism."

Hintzke says, "We are taking an industry like tourism, that in the past has been run by-the-wealthy, for-the-wealthy, and giving it to the locals. Not only are we changing the views of the tourist’s towards local communities, but we are changing the local’s views of foreigners." Munkhbat, a local man who has been working on the project for two years expressed his pleasure with the help. "It is greatly appreciated that foreigners come to help. Not just with money, but if they lay even one stone it will be a great help for Mongolia."

Changing traveler’s viewpoints, redirecting tourist funds to the community and affecting real change is what these projects are all about.


Source: Xpress PressNews Service

For more information about CRTP’s project in Mongolia contact: Cultural Restoration Tourism Project, 722a Liggett Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94129, (415)563-7221, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., website: