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Slow Tourism

August 4, 2009

Started in 1999

6-15-2-912  Ojima, Koto-ku, Tokyo 136-0072

The concept of ‘Slow Tourism’ began within the Sloth Club as we explored a more meaningful, interactive and ecological way to experience new places and cultures than conventional ‘package’ tours.

Soon after the launch of the Sloth Club in 1999, we began the search to create a form of ‘engaged tourism’ where participants are not just ‘looking at’ a new country or environment or culture but actually become involved and immersed in their experience.  Our ultimate aim within the concept of ‘Slow Tourism’ is for these tours to be ‘life-changing’ in a positive way and unique to every participant (including the leaders) of the tour.

As most ideas and concepts within the Sloth Club are constantly evolving, so too is the definition and experience of ‘Slow Tourism’.

Our first experiences with ‘Slow Tourism’ began in the late 1990s when the founders of the Sloth Club organised and participated in study tours to Ecuador.  We visited key environmental ‘hot spots’ and areas where local communities were actively working to protect their lands from destructive development.  Along the way, we incorporated new ideas to deepen the impact of the experience. During these first tours we did things like beginning the tour with an authentic welcome ritual led by local indigenous peoples. We incorporated ‘deep ecology’ workshop processes like regular ‘sharing circles’  and immersion experiences in nature, to help participants feel fully present in their experience. We encouraged all tour participants (including the leaders and guides) to set a personal intention for the tour experience that could be shared with and supported by the group.

As leaders and guides of these tours we were deeply moved to find that these experiences transformed people’s lives. All we do is guide a process that provides inspiration, new direction and  lifelong connections between participants and local people. Whole tour groups became involved in  campaigns to support local initiatives for sustainable development – most of which continue to this day.  Moving from pre-packaged “coffee-table book” destinationtours to a meaningful journey, we felt a new genre of tourism was born.  We aim to provide positive impacts on the lives in our participants and herald a radical shift to sustainable lifestyles.

As our experiences have expanded in bringing groups to different countries and communities (both developing and over-consuming) a, we have added new leaders and guides, each of whom bring their knowledge, experience and intention to each Slow tour.

We  chose the word ‘Slow’ to describe this new form of tourism – despite the fact that ‘Slow Tourism’ does not mean always mean slow paced.  More often these tours reflect many features of the ‘Slow’ movement.  For example, Slow tours support and are often initiated by local communities, we try to eat local food (slowly) and we attempt to reduce our environmental impact during the tour to the best of our capacity. We aim to contribute to tourism that is truly ethical – supporting communities, respecting cultures and experiencing lifestyles completely different to our own without judgement.

Slow Tourism also tries to acknowledge the dilemma and  contradictions involved in modern travel, including  airplanes, fossil fuels and carbon emissions.  We know that ‘Slow Tourism’ can have a heavy ecological footprint. We try to mitigate that by supporting local environmental initiatives in the communities we visit and planting trees as carbon offsets (as often as we can we plant these trees as part of the tour rather than just paying someone else to do it). However, most importantly, we hope participants will make lifelong changes in their lifestyles that will reduce their environmental impact.

In the words of a tour participant on a ‘Slow Tour’ to Australia:

”I really enjoy staying, visiting, studying permaculture, and feeling  mother nature. When I go back to Japan I will live in a different way (than) before this tour. And I am sure I will never forget my many experiences in Australia.”  (Aiku Waku, May 2006)

We have realised that a new approach to tourism can provide participants with true ‘self discovery’ and offer opportunities to help us shift from old destructive patterns.  Slow Tourism can be an opportunity to be inspired and re-energized. It can help us expand our support networks i as part of the process of creating  an engaged, enlightened, happy and sustainable culture.

(written by Anja Light July 2009)

Slow tourism manifesto:

1.Slow tourism means reconnecting.
Feel  nature, then study, protect and enjoy it.  Our goal is to reconnect people, and provide a trip that  rediscovers connections between people and nature.
2.Slow tourism is a cultural trip.
Experience  and appreciate local cultures in all their  diversity

3.Slow tourism is  ecological.
Airplanes, automobiles… we understand these travel necessities have a big impact on the ecosystem.  So, we do something small to make the world a better place, like planting a tree, or picking up trash instead of creating trash.

4. Slow tourism is  fair trade
We visit and support indigenous people and producers who engage in  organic agriculture and are building a sustainable economy and society.

5. Slow tourism changes you.
What can you bring back to your life? Everything starts from the moment you come home from a  slow tour.
Slow Tour is made by YOU!


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