Spreading Opportunities, Not Crowds: Sustainable Tourism Through Dispersion

At Wicked Adventures, we believe sustainable tourism is all about traveling in a way that benefits local communities while protecting these special destinations. It’s so much more than just using less plastic! We’ve learned that real sustainability means making a positive impact through tourism. On the places we visit…and on our guests.  That’s why we incorporate an idea called “tourism dispersion” into how we plan our trips. It’s not just a concept – it is part out of business: https://wickedadventures.com/sustainable-business-model/

Let’s chat about what tourism dispersion actually means. Instead of only promoting the most popular destinations, with the most crowds we highlight lesser-known, small and local businesses across a region. This approach has several benefits for the communities we visit, including supporting local shopkeepers, farmers and artisans. 

In many ways this technique can help maintain local traditions, crafts, music, dance, food, and architecture. In places where mass tourism happens – there can be a cultural homogenization. Yes, a big word. But mass tourists can have little interest in the complexity of local culture and just look for the stereotypical product (Sombrero? Eiffel tower keychain?). Rather than turning a culture into a commodity – big words again, sorry. But we try to work with communities, to listen. To share the stories. Most of our guides are FROM these communities. In small groups, our guests can learn more about the intricacies of the location from the people that live there. WE try to reinforce the pride and value that these unique stories create.  For example, Wicked Adventures’ focus on community-based tourism can help preserve Flores’ cultural heritage by providing authentic experiences for travelers while supporting local communities. By offering cultural tours, cooking classes, and handicraft workshops, Wicked Adventures can help promote Flores’ rich cultural diversity.

Perhaps one of the aspects of tourism dispersion that everyone can appreciate – is reducing environmental degradation from overcrowding popular natural sites. Love these big words? Really, it means that there is physical damage from hundreds or even thousands of people taking the same path to the same selfie spot. Or locations – waterfalls or viewpoints for example – can suffer from lack of facilities for garbage or toilets. If large numbers of visitors only visit a single place in a single park it not only makes it crowded, but also brings attention and revenue to that one spot…not the surrounding areas. Hiking, birdwatching, and snorkeling tours in lesser-known areas, with people from the community Wicked Adventures can help promote sustainable tourism that benefits both travelers and the environment.

Tourism dispersion can help empower local communities to have greater control over tourism activities in their region. By enabling more equitable partnerships between local people and tourism companies, tourism dispersion can allow sustainable tourism that benefits communities. For example, Wicked Adventures’ efforts to support local communities in Flores can help foster community ownership of tourism activities and promote sustainable development. By involving local people in tourism planning, decision-making, and revenue-sharing, we help create a more inclusive tourism industry.

Fresh coffee

-A very simple example of this in action is at a waterfall that is rarely visited on Flores. A small family has a farm near the base, and to access the waterfall, visitors need to go through their farm. Visitors are infrequent, but it can damage crops and be a bit annoying to have random people walk through your farm. In talking with them, we suggested making a little “welcome hut” and visitors need to sign a guest book and ring the bell before going through the farm. Now the family has a small basket with snacks and drinks that they grab as soon as they hear the bell and come out to make a little extra cash. If you order some on the way to the waterfall, they will have a homemade ginger coffee when you come out! Even more amazing – that is coffee grown on their farm, organically, picked, roasted and ground by this family. (Warning – they like their coffee STRONG) 

When we look at the issue of overtourism – tourism dispersion means being a responsible guest. That is not shifting the burden to our guests, it shifts the burden to us – the tour operator. We need to make choices. Wicked Adventures believes in traveling in a way that spreads benefits, not burdens. A way that empowers local voices, not silences them. A way that preserves nature’s gifts for future generations to enjoy.

-One example of this in action: We often stop for lunch or snacks at local “warungs” or simple restaurants. They may not have much on the menu – if they have a menu at all. They might not be able to provide the quick cooking in modern restaurants. They may not be able to offer western foods. However, we have brought income, while also learning about what the local cuisines and tastes are. And, in many cases, we find that THEY will take selfies with us! We become the attraction ? 

Of course, sustainability requires an ongoing commitment. These actions and choices are not a one time thing. We continually evaluate our impact and work with local partners to improve. Our guides, out guests all provide important feedback as well. 

But most importantly, we recognize that people and nature are not commodities or photo opportunities. Our guests are visitors, coming from other places to see, experience and enjoy. Where we travel, what we see, how we meet and our understanding of these places – they are hosts, we are in their homes, on their land. When we travel with respect, care and curiosity, the rewards are immense – for local communities, the environment, and for us as travelers.

There is one important aspect to these choices. Wicked Adventures visits many different places around Indonesia – it is a HUGE country. And in some of the popular spots, Bali for example, where there can be hundreds of visitors a day, we can make small differences. But in the more remote areas like Flores our choices can have a major impact.

At Wicked Adventures, we take pride in doing our small part to protect these magical places. To us, sustainability means being grateful guests. It means traveling from the heart, not just the head. We hope you’ll join us on this path – let’s wander wisely, give more than we take, and nurture the bonds between people and nature. The next adventure awaits!