While the global pandemic continues to debilitate the tourism industry, those who relied so heavily on tourism for development have been the most affected. Award-winning sustainable tourism platform I Like Local has been one of the first companies to pivot their model to accommodate the new climate we live in. Guests can now enjoy a virtual version of a number of I like Local’s tours.
“At I Like Local, we brainstormed on how we could best serve our local partners during this time. One of the things we felt had potential was testing out virtual experiences to connect locals with the international travel community at home.” – Sanne Meijboom, Founder.
I Like Local has always been a company with innovative principles that prepare for a different, more sustainable way of doing business. In 2019 the company was one of ten sustainable tourism startups awarded grants from the 2019 Booking.com Booster Program – I Like Local were recognised for their role in empowering communities through tourism.
Since foundation, the platform has connected over 1300 locals in 19 countries with over 14,000 travellers and offered them the chance to connect through experiences, such as farmstays, homestays, cooking classes, treks, handicraft workshops and more. Read about my market tour in Chiang Mai, Thailand, or my walking tour in the streets of New Delhi, India.
More recently, I Like Local have opened up a number of online experiences and I had the joy of attending one more recently with the Nomads Giving Back! team.
The Bali Herbal Tour with Wayan
One evening in late September I sat at my laptop in my Sydney-based apartment and joined Wayan on a tour through his village.
Wayan joined us on his smartphone from a small village located a short distance outside of Ubud, Bali. We were here to take a virtual walk with Wayan and learn about traditional herbal medicines passed down through generations.
The tour reads: “Hi, I am Wayan and I will take you on a Bali virtual live herbal tour through the lush jungle surrounding Ubud in Bali. Indonesia has the greatest diversity of herbal medicine anywhere in the world, and through the centuries, we have maintained our ancient and symbiotic relationship with the natural world. It is such an indispensable part of our life and culture.”
As my friends joined the call we each introduced ourselves to Wayan, his big smile lighting up the (virtual) room. In the background of his screen, we could see the familiar green rice fields representative of Bali. Feelings of nostalgia washed over me.
Wayan started walking through the village, stopping along the way to show us different species of plants and herbs and explaining to us how they are used in traditional medicine. “This is the cat whiskers plant, it is used for high blood pressure,” he explains. “How do you know this?” asks a member of our team. “I followed my father since I was very young, learning knowledge about plants. Now when I run tours I use google translate to learn the names of the herbs in English. We live off this land, for food and for medicine.”
I’m inspired by Wayan’s knowledge and the Balinese way of life. I have been to Bali before but watching him walk through the village, seeing the children smile and wave, the vast rice fields in the distance, I was reminded of the laidback Balinese way of life, the slower pace and the deeper connection to the land. While the experience may never be as real as standing there with him, my virtual experience certainly stirred some emotion.
I took the opportunity to ask Wayan how this pandemic and the loss of tourism had affected him personally. “It’s been hard,” he said. “So many Balinese have lost their jobs and returned to their villages. There is a sense of anxiety in the air. Some are worried they won’t be able to afford basic needs, but we are resilient – we know how to live from this land and have done so before.”
His words paint a clear picture that loss in tourism has greatly effected the Balinese people, but Wayan is hopeful for the future. “I never wanted to be a farmer,” he explains, “but after working in Ubud I changed my mind. I wanted to find a way to combine farming and tourism, to share this knowledge with the world. These virtual tours are keeping this dream alive and soon we will get tourists again.”
Wayan’s virtual tour is just one of the many virtual tour options available on the I Like Local website. Money generated from these tours allows people like Wayan to stay in business and ride out this pandemic with income that supports their livelihoods.
Have you participated in a virtual tour? How did you find it? Click To Tweet Start the conversation on Twitter.