Interview to the Founders (B)
What is your work as a company?
We are a social enterprise which focuses on rural tourism and local products. Our work is to assist farmers and artisans to diversify their income, committing ourselves to the promotion of their local and genuine produce and processed products, and encouraging our members to make available their farms / workshops for rural tours.
How are you taking action to spread the word about a form of tourism which is responsible towards the community and the environment?
Although there is a growing trend where ecotourism and sustainable tourism are concerned, at the end of the day the most important expectation for tourists is that they enjoy themselves and get great value for their money. So that is our first priority - to make the experience enjoyable and worthwhile. At the same time, we include an awareness aspect within all of our experiences, where the guests are exposed to real local situations. These usually include agriculture, traditions, gastronomy, flora and fauna. Guests also get to experience these things first hand, sometimes literally with hands-on activities. This is today known as 'Experiential Tourism'.
What do you think about Malta as an eco-tourism destination?
The Maltese islands are ideal for such activities, but it has to be taken up as a long-term approach from everyone concerned; authorities, commercial bodies and the local communities.
Are you doing any projects to try to improve eco-tourism in our country?
After 7 years, we are still the only company which focuses exclusively on this segment, so we do our best to set a genuine and tough blueprint for others to follow. With each activity that we organize, and each project of which we form part, we try to share our knowledge and experience within the subject.
What are the potentials of our island as an eco-tourism destination and what are the constraints with doing your projects?
Potential aspects include the rich heritage and biodiversity, together with the proximity of the many attractions which surround us. This enables a visitor to get much more value from his/her trip.
Constraints include the mass-tourism mentality (which is also needed sustain the huge workforce which depends on this industry), the ever-expanding urbanisation, and the lack of proper marketing of the islands.
With your work as a company, what are you trying to achieve about eco-tourism for the future?
Our concept relies on the active participation of local people in the sector - namely farming families and artisans. Throughout the years we established the first rural network on the islands, and our model is now even researched and emulated abroad. One of the key ecotourism principles is to empower and sustain local communities. One of our main objectives is to raise awareness about the fact that our islands cannot simply copy other countries' models, but we have to adapt our own ways of promoting rural tourism sustainably. For example, we are against building more structures to allow for 'new' agritourism establishments. Our first focus as a country needs to be on sustaining real already-existing farmers, who in turn will be able to open their gates to visitors.
To bring in tourists, how do you attract and advertise tourists to come to our islands for Eco-tourism projects/activities?
We rely mostly on word-of-mouth - so, for example, TripAdvisor and our website are very important tools in this respect. However we also work a lot on content marketing - that is, creating valuable content on the web in the form of blog articles, awareness videos etc.