I have to admit, blogging has slipped by the way side. I checked in here recently and was pleasantly surprised by my stats and that people are actually reading my posts, so I promise I will try to update more. So the last year and a half has been a whirlwind but is finally winding down to a calm. I was offered a job to manage a luxury boutique hotel in Zanzibar, Tanzania. It was a great challenging opportunity and something I will look back on fondly. We packed up our apartment in Hawaii and headed off to the great unknow. The hotel was a beautiful place located 40 miles from town and them 5 km off the most dusty bumpy coral ragged road I have ever seen in my life only to then enter the most peaceful oasis of calm. 11 luxury villas pearched atop a cliff over looking the most beautiful ocean and across from the barefoot luxury private island of Mnemba Atol where Bill Gates celebrated his honeymoon. After having just finished working the last 3 years for a big hotel corporation opening a new chain of resorts and working for a 500 room hotel in the heart of Waikiki- that ran like a well oiled machine, this was a huge change of pace to say the least. The 1st day of work I reported with my corporate checklist, looking back now is like a comedy show. Asking questions that now seem absurd, like does anyone know CPR- blank stares, do you have a fire safety and escape plan (considering we are out in the middle of bum fuck no where), do you have an accounting department-laughs, purchasing and store department- nope, human resources??? what is that? Ok, this is going to be a new way of doing things. The next day they introduced me to the staff. 33 members on board, who all came and sat around, looking at me expectantly. Talks of my high expactations and standards all were met with wispers to each others and , and who in the heck is this Mzungu “white lady”.
In the beginning, I spent the days getting the place in to shape. The offices and store rooms were a mess. As my body re adjusted the the hot Zanzibar heat, sweating buckets in the meantime. Contracting some weird skin rash a few weeks in were met with concerns from the staff who I found out half were from the neighboring village of Matemwe, and the other half lived in staff housing on site. Most lived with out running water, in the village in houses made out of coral stones and mud. I wondered to myself what it must be like to come to work at a place where the rooms are $300 a night equiped with modern amenities like air conditioning. The contrats between their lives and the luuxury travellers who stayed at the hotel was really a wake up call for me. It soon became apparent that I was responsible for this whole crew and the requests from the village, the school, the sheaha (government village offical) for requests of all kinds. I took on the challenge of training, educating, and mentoring the students who came to intern from a tourism training program. The staff took my daughter under their wing, which was a great experience for her and I think they all enjoyed having a child around. She would play games and help the house keepers clean the villas and helping behing the counter.
She attended a small international school nearby and I was very surprised at how easily she has adjusted. The staff members became like family. I learned many were also mothers who’s children were staying with relatives while they went to work in hotels. They worked hard long hours and were dedicated. I thought to myself what can I help to do to assist in their livelyhood, as unfortunately their salaries are notorious for being low. Thankfully measures are being taken by the government to put pay raise standards and labor organizations in place to assit the local work force but the disparity is great. I complied a list of efforts that can directly assist, and one implementation was advising guests upon arrival of the communal tip box that is a shared effort of the staff if they feel they had a pleasant experience and wanted to directly contribute. The other was offering for sale arts and crafts in the boutique made from the local villagers or other services such as a village tour, a tour to the local soap making cooperative, organizing dhow sails and snorkeling with the local fisherman as well as sourcing local vegetables, fish and items we could in the nearby village.
Sustainable tourism is something I am very passionate about and I am working on continuing my efforts to promote and educate the sector here as well as hopefully promote it to the international travelling community. There are little things you can do to make a huge difference and impact. The number one thing you can do if you feel to help in any way when travelling to a 3rd world country is ask to leave a tip for the staff to share if you feel the service was good. The money will directly impact their household and go to good use. You can also purchase local goods from the shop keepers when you arrive instead of stocking up at Walmart before you travel. Purchasing local arts and crafts, and eating at the local restaurants, buying fruits and snacks from the vendors, and participating in local tours. Many people asked to bring clothes or candy or pens for school, that are plentiful already here. Used clothes from America and abroad are saturated, being shiped from charities by the bales, so are not really needed. The biggest direct impact you can have is to support the local vendors, shop keepers and if you feel to make a donation, ask to give it to the hotel in a fund for the needs of the village or school. There is also a very good organization called Pack for a Purpose. https://www.packforapurpose.org/
MAKE YOUR TRAVELS MEANINGFUL.
Have a Big Impact in the communities you visit. Simply use a small amount of space in your luggage to pack supplies needed by community projects around the world.
You drop off your supplies from the list at the hotel drop off point and they will deliver to the organization in need. This is a great way to directly help an organization in need.
And here are some suggestions compiled from Thomas and Cook one of the very reputable tour operators doing business here in Zanzibar.
How to play your part
This section covers a few easy ways that you can make a very real and positive impact on the places you visit on holiday and help us to meet our sustainable tourism goals.
What Can Holidaymakers Do?
We’re passionate about the places we visit and want to protect and preserve them for future generations to enjoy. We’re sure it’s a passion you share so here are some ideas:
Look after the natural environment:
Leave anywhere you visit even better than when you found it. Dispose of litter carefully (fire is a serious hazard in hot, dry countries so be careful with that cigarette butt!) and recycle where possible.
Respect local traditions and people:
Observe any dress codes and behave appropriately. It may be your holiday but it’s their home. Try using a few words of the local language.
Always ask before taking someone’s photograph
Some people find this intrusive while others may ask for money for this small service.
Haggle with humour:
Do haggle – it’s part of the fun. But remember that what may be a small sum to you may be significant to the seller, so try to be fair, too.
Resist giving money or gifts to begging children:
It may make give you that feel-good feeling but you may be adding to other problems behind the scenes. Give to a local charity or school to ensure the money goes where it is most needed. Sadly the only English some of these village children know how to say is “penny for school or give me money”.
Buy locally made products and use local services:
Eat at local bars and cafes. Ask about excursions using local guides and drivers – they have insider knowledge! Putting money into the local economy helps local people and gives your holiday an extra dimension.
Reduce the use of natural resources and energy:
Take a quick shower instead of a bath; re-use towels; switch off lights and air con when out; try the local bus service, hire a bike or walk – you’ll see more that way!
Please don’t take ‘natural’ souvenirs away:
Wild flowers and plants, pebbles and sea shells, should all be left where you found them for others to enjoy.
Don’t buy products made from endangered plants or animals: