Members of Hébergement Vezo, the homestay association of the remote village of Andavadoaka in southwest Madagascar, have proven their determination and drive from the very start of their ecotourism venture just under one year ago.
Welcoming their first Blue Ventures volunteers into their homes informally in December 2016, and as part of an official programme from the start of 2017, it wasn’t long before they became officially registered within the Velondriake Association − the governing body of the local marine conservation area. This enabled them to pursue broader tourism opportunities, and with their usual enthusiasm, Hébergement Vezo soon took the exciting step of offering tourism packages to clients beyond Blue Ventures.
On 7‒8 November, representatives of Hébergement Vezo and Blue Ventures travelled to Antananarivo to meet with the Ministry of Tourism and tour operators. They discussed a range of community-based tour packages and locally guided eco-tours designed for international tourists interested in community-based conservation and development initiatives. Hébergement Vezo aims to offer ‘something different’ to classic tour packages: sustainable tourism with the chance to experience a unique cultural exchange.
The representatives met with the General Secretary, Chief of Staff and Director of Sustainable Tourism and Development at the ministry. They expressed their support for this initiative and committed to visit Andavadoaka as part of an official tour to experience at first-hand this unique community-based programme, and to promote tourism in the chronically poor southwest region of the country.
The visit finished with an interview on national TV channel ‘DreamIn TV’ where Marcellia (the Hebergement Vezo representative) and Jacks (Blue Ventures’ Community Liaison and Homestays Programme Coordinator) explained what visitors to Andavadoaka can look forward to, and how sustainable tourism is transforming lives in the area.
Offering homestay accommodation to travellers provides coastal communities with an opportunity to diversify their livelihoods, and helps to ensure that the economic benefits of tourism go directly to local families. Blue Ventures supports our partner communities to set up homestay initiatives through providing financial and technical assistance and essential training, enabling hosts to develop their businesses autonomously.
In 2010, Blue Ventures’ began working with the Sarteneja Homestay Group to develop a pioneering homestay model for our volunteer expeditions in Belize, which has provided more than US$300,000 in income to date. This year, we expanded the approach in both Madagascar and Timor-Leste. Across these three very distinct cultural and economic contexts our homestay programmes have evolved slightly differently, but all provide a rich cultural experience for Blue Ventures’ volunteers, and the chance to really understand the lived experience of their host community.