GLP Films (GLP) is an award-winning content creation agency. Our filmmakers, writers and photographers are all leading experts in sustainable travel and positive storytelling. GLP writer Catherine Mack shares her thoughts on the importance of storytelling in the sustainable tourism movement.
I had an editor once who told me, “Our readers don’t need people’s stories in travel articles. We only want to know how beautiful the beaches are, or how luxurious the hotel is.” That was over ten years ago and, thankfully, the travel world has changed its tune. I believe that the people who live in a place are what make the place, unless you are travelling to a desert island.
Storytelling and sustainability are a content win-win
Local people are also the guardians of the gorgeousness of the destination. They are stewards of its sustainability. Which is why, at GLP, we love people’s stories. In this article, we provide you with 6 reasons to include sustainability in storytelling.
In this article
1. Swap jargon for joy
In the world of sustainability, everyone argues about terminology. Sustainable is grittier than green, or regenerative rules over responsible. As far as we’re concerned, when you put people who live in and care about destinations at the centre of your travel content, you don’t need the jargon anymore. Their innate joy in sharing their stories and their passion for place says it all.
In our film Thai Wisdom and Wellness we see Supan Inthachai. He is founder of Baan Rai Kong homestay community in Thailand’s Chiang Mai region. He hits the nail on the head talking about local and organic food: “We use food as medicine. When your heart is full, you’re not stressed.”
2. Look through the lens of local people
The time of rich western travellers telling less well-off destinations what they should be offering tourists is long gone. We need to lose the language of ‘destinations’ and ‘locals’. They are places that are precious homes to real people.
At GLP we strive to show a place through the lens of the people who live there. People who create experiences for visitors. Those who are fully committed not only to giving visitors a great time, but also preserving their homes for generations to come. We also encourage them to speak in their own language, and we add subtitles. It’s their voice that counts, after all.
In our film “Joseph Ole Koyie”, part of the ‘120 seconds to change the world’ series we see Joseph. He tells us why he changed from being a Maasai warrior to Maasai wildlife guide in Kenya’s Masai Mara. You can read all the academic articles you want about Mara conservation and sustainable tourism. But when you hear Joseph talk, it all starts to make sense. “Every guide has a responsibility. To be an ambassador: to conservation and to the community. And, in terms of return on investment (ROI), this content also makes you want to walk with him in his beloved lands.
3. Get off the beaten track
Educating travellers about how to explore off the beaten path is not only a key aspect of supporting the sustainable tourism movement. It can also be a springboard for great content. Some tourist boards get lazy about promoting all the same old routes. While local people and communities with great tourism products are striving to be seen and heard.
You are the subject matter expert for your destination. Tell the stories that only you can tell. At GLP we specialise in seeking out the secret stories, revealing other routes into a place.
In our film the Salkantay Inca Trail, we see Dalmiro Portillo. A trekking guide at Mountain Lodges of Peru. “The first time I saw Salkantay up close, it had a great impact on me. I felt like part of the mountain, the environment. By being there you don’t need words, the feeling is overwhelming. You can smell it, feel it, see it, but to describe it in its size is difficult. I want the enjoyment to be collective, to share the emotion with the travellers”.
4. Storytelling is collaborative
You can’t help but collaborate when you create content with stories. And collaboration with all stakeholders is a sure-fire way to embrace sustainability. We research our films by looking into corners other content creators in tourism might not even know about. We seek out the best guides to chat to, the homestay hosts from heaven or the secret conservationists.
GLP tells their stories not just for tourism turnover or trends, but to put some of the true beacons of sustainability in the spotlight. Consequently, people also want to collaborate with us because they know we get to the heart of things. And with collaboration comes change.
5. Sustainable tourism is soulful
According to tourism research company Skift, the new generation of travellers is moving away from a need to get Insta-hits from travel. They are going in the direction of being ‘destination-decisive’. And not just jumping at the latest special offer or trending trip.
They want to immerse themselves in real life experiences. And celebrate cultural exchange and discover a world of travel that is more ‘soulful.’ Our approach to content has always tackled tourism from this angle, because we believe it is the best way to do it. So, thankfully, we are at last on trend!
6. Tourism Strong
We have over a decade of experience meeting, filming and writing stories about experts in sustainability on the ground. Sustainability is all about survival for generations to come. Thus, it’s not surprising that tourism organisations who get this, really get this, have survived the world lockdown.
It was an honour for us to celebrate these survivors in our #TourismStrong series of films. So many people say that it’s time for tourism to be sustainable now. But we know that so many people out there have been banging that beautiful drum for a long time. It’s just that the world is now ready to hear the beat.
For example, Maria José Andrade and Jorge Pérez, co-owners of Tierra del Volcán in the highlands of Ecuador. When you watch them horse riding or cycling through the cloud forest and hear them say:” I can guarantee you that we will survive.
We have to look at our community and environment and find ways to promote healthy, emotional ways to sustain each other,” these words hit home. When you hear them say that “Sustainability is our soul,” you sit up and listen. These are the people whose voices we value at GLP.
A very strong statement, “Sustainability is all about survival for generations to come.” Here in Tanzania we have a similar slogan, “tumerithiswa, tuwarithiswe na kisasi kijacho”, meaning you have inherited, ensure the next generation can also inherits.