In many ways, tourism can help build a better, more sustainable future. It can play a role in bringing new, more sustainable ideas to the market, including slow tourism corridors and hubs, working in partnership between local communities helping in promoting heritage conservation, localism, and biodiversity. All of which is great for the planet, and for us. In our new series, we have been talking to people in the industry, looking at a roadmap for a better future. In this series, we explore the role of tourism in nurturing local foods, and building materials, many of which are disappearing.
Aditya Mukharji, General Manager at Stok Palace Heritage Hotel, Ladakh
Natural heritage of a place, in a way, dictates its way of life and hence, the overall heritage of the land. Recognising this enables us to understand the region and the people better, and create the kind of tourism that is in line with this. Anyone can pitch a visit to a lake featured in a movie, or the thrill of a rafting adventure - that is easy. But building and then catering to an audience interested in heritage is more challenging. In the days ahead, the industry needs to think about recognising, understanding and creating travel experiences around the heritage of a region, be it natural, cultural, or the intangible.
We think rural, sustainable stay options are perfectly poised to enable an authentic experience of a region (which cannot but include local food habits and cuisine). To source everything locally and recreate the local way of life is an integral part of the experience at Stok Palace Heritage Hotel. Highlighting the food, and eating habits, of a region is another way to showcase the way of life of the people who live there. We have seen that several locally grown grains, recipes, and even traditional utensils and methods of cooking are disappearing. At Stok Palace, we highlight traditional, local ways of cooking and eating meals. For instance, a typical breakfast would not be complete without the overnight-fermented and wood-fire toasted wheat bread, or the home-made apricot jam. The traditional 3- or 4-course Ladakhi dinner in the palace's old kitchen is also something that is special.
Marcus Cotton, Managing Director, Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, Nepal
The natural environment is the bedrock on which everything is built. Therefore, it is imperative we respect and profoundly revere the earth and all diversity of life forms. Tiger Mountain was thus built using local materials with community permission and designed to reflect the local architectural vernacular in style and scale. Our bedrooms are ‘15 haat’, a local measurement approximating to a cubit and the normal size of a local farmhouse. The main lodge is of necessity larger but incorporates verandah and terraces in local style. The lodge activities are focused on wildlife and local culture through village, farmland and forest walks.
Eco stays can use locally sourced foods and ingredients, and showcase local cuisine. In fact, all tourism properties should source locally and highlight local culinary specialities as we do at Tiger Mountain (both for meals and in our cookery sessions for guests). We also enjoy exploring the fusion of different cuisines, for example taking South East Asian recipes and merging them with Nepalese herbs and spices to give a local twist.
Several local varieties of foods are disappearing with people opting for mainstream, mass ingredients. We believe that the hospitality industry can help nurture and sustain these. This is of vital importance. For example, the traditional rice variety found around the Tiger Mountain region is called ‘jetho budo’. It is a wonderfully fragrant fine rice, and even I as a non-native rice eater can tell if Chef Lalu is serving jetho budo or something else. We prioritise its use, buying locally from farmers. Similarly, pahele is a traditional yellow rice, very rare these days, that can be found here. We are encouraging its cultivation in the village. Another famous Pokhara variety is the ‘samundra pheyn’ or ‘foam of the sea’. Alas, we have not found it anywhere yet, but we keep trying to source it. It was grown in Pokhara specially for the Rana prime ministers in earlier days. We use several other traditional ingredients, such as stinging nettle in vegetable curries and make authentic local chutneys from the ‘bauhiba’ flower and hemp seed (bhang).