We, as individuals or organizations, all have the potential to shine and to enlighten our world. The inner spark that can transform us into influencers, celebrities, advocates, or gurus, is within all of us. But how can we unleash the power of our personal and business brands?
And, what purpose will motivate and irradiate our journey towards achievement and fulfillment?
On Nov. 22 and 23, 2018, U.K.-based Business of Brand (BoB) School hosted their inaugural class in Korea, aimed at teaching entrepreneurs how to design, build and activate a brand led-growth plan.
The class was hosted by Seoul-based agency Asiance, and Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL, Founder & CEO of Millennium Destinations was part of this maieutic (and even chaotic) expedition.
After this two-day process, she was able to declare the purpose of Millennium Destinations, which is (roughly) : "to connect people and communities together to reach harmony and progress".
On Nov. 10 to 14, 2018, Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL, Founder & CEO of Millennium Destinations, carried out a short fact-finding mission in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in order to collect information on innovative inititiaves in the fields of community-based tourism and education, and share ideas and insights with relevant stakeholders in these areas.
This was an opportunity to work together with French Visual Artist Ulla REIMER who is currently living in Cambodia where she is offering creative workshops for visitors and locals.
The mission started with a meeting on Nov. 2, with Ms. Sophea SOK, an Ecotourism and Community-Based Tourism (CBT) Expert, who has worked with Cambodia Community-Based-Ecotourism Network, and is now serving as Quality and Standards Expert at the Regional Secretariat for ASEAN Tourism Professionals. The discussion focused on the opportunity to mainstream CBT and to change the business model of CBT so that local communities really benefit from tourism. Moreover, it appeared necessary to work closely with community-leaders to overcome language and culture barriers. Check the ASEAN Community-Based Tourism standards here.
This meeting was followed by a visit of Light of Mercy Home, a center for children with disabilities (deaf, blind or hindered by old illness), founded in 1997 by two sisters, Sr. Marie-Adelphe, Providence Sister, and Sr. Denise, sister of Mercy. Nowadays, 31 children and youths live in the center.
Ulla REIMER has been working with these children - even the blind ones - to teach them art photography as an empowerment tool. At the same time, the purpose is to promote the different eco-activities of the center, for example through the newly installed Aquaponics system for urban farming, combining pisciculture with soilless plant culture (hydroponics). Many of the children appear to be smart and talented, both artistically and technically, but are usually not offered satisfactory career options.
On Nov. 14, Catherine and Ulla paid a visit to Ms. Anne CHAPALAIN, Deputy-Country Director of the Agence Française de Développement (French Development Agency - AFD)'s office in Cambodia.
Tourism has been identified as a key growth driver for Cambodia, which has welcomed 5.6 million foreign tourists in 2017, i.e. a 11.8 % increase, mostly concentrated in Siem Reap (Angkor Vat) and Phnom Penh. To reach the target of 7.5 million tourists by 2020, the sector would need 500.000 additional professionals. It seems indispensable not only to diversify the offer with new, dispersed experiences, including ecotourism, but also to develop more skilled human resources throughout the country.
Against this background, AFD is supporting a 20-year project (2015-2035), through the financing (loan and grant) of two components:
In September this year, France and Cambodia have expressed their willingness to strengthen tourism cooperation through an MoU, based on the French know-how in tourism engineering and destination development, management, and promotion.
On the same day, a meeting was organized with Mr. Songthoul FERNANDEZ, Founder and CEO of Kennary Tours, a Phnom-Penh-based travel agency established in 1999 with a strong commitment to solidarity and social responsibility. Around 180 houses have been built in poor areas thanks to the donations of Kennary's clients and supporters.
Mr. Songthoul highlighted the need to diversify inbound markets, to increase flight connections with Cambodia, to increase the duration of the stays, and to develop new alternative destinations. Whereas game tourism in Sihanoukville has become a key tourist attraction for the Chinese market, Cambodia offers many unique intangible assets that would appeal to Westerners.
Moreover, a better organization and management of tour guides is required in other to secure the best level of services to visitors. Catherine mentioned that Cambodia has the potential to become a key tourism destination, based on a strong vision shared by all stakeholders, a branding strategy focused on quality, sustainability, and inclusiveness, and a bottom-up approach considering the needs and interests of local communities.
Finally the mission was concluded by a dinner with colleagues and friends met at the 2016 Mekong Tourism Forum in Sihanoukville: Ms. Nancy Jaffe, Director and Head of Strategy & Research of Mango Tango, one of the leading advertising agencies in Phnom Penh, Ms. Marissa Carruthers, Southeast Asia-based freelance journalist and editor of AsiaLife Cambodia, and Ms. Katerina Kim.
Millennium Destinations will plan a mission during the first quarter of 2019, within the framework of the Herost project, aimed at developing an innovative CBT business model in South East Asia.
On November 9, 2018, the Korea Forest Service hosted a meeting at its headquarters in Daejon Government Complex, in preparation of the 28th session of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC) and 4th Asia-Pacific Forestry Week (APFW), two major events of the Food and Agriculture and Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which will take place in June 2019 in Songdo, South Korea.
Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL, Founder & CEO of Millennium Destinations was appointed Member of the Advisory Group for the Organization of these 28th APFC and 4th APFW. Since one of the five tracks of APFW is focused on "Harmonizing people and Forests", she mentioned it could be a great opportunity to discuss issues related to ecotourism and community-based tourism in forest environments. She added both FAO's events could used as a platform to promote CBT experiences in South Korea, as well as the country's tangible and intangible cultural heritage in relation with forests and timber.
In 2021, FAO will have its XV World Forestry Congress in South Korea, which is expected to bring together 10,000 forestry experts and supporters from 160 countries.
The Korea Forest Service is an independent agency specializing in forestry that is overseen by the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
On Nov 6, 2018, Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL, Founder & CEO of Millennium Destinations, gave a two-hour lecture on "Community-based tourism spillovers" at Sejong University, Korea, to an audience of tourism government officials from Mongolia, Myanmar, Peru, and Sri Lanka,
The lecture was part of the 2018 Intensive Training Program for Working Level Tourism Leaders, an ODA project implemented by the Korea Tourism Organization, Sejong University, and Hyundai Research Institute.
During her lecture, Catherine insisted that tourism experiences are local by nature, and rural / urban Community-based Tourism has the potential to be mainstreamed as the most sustainable and desirable paradigm for tourism.
On October 26 to 30, 2018, Catherine Germier-Hamel, Founder & CEO of Millennium Destinations, carried out a mission in Northern Vietnam, together with Dr. Béatrice Bellini, Director of the Positive Business Chair of Paris Nanterre University in France.
The mission started with a one-day tour to Bai Dinh Pagoda, or Bái Đính Temple Spiritual and Cultural Complex, a popular Buddhist pilgrimage destination located in Ninh Bình Province. This large compound covering an area of 700 hectares was built between 2003 and 2010 by local construction company Xuan Truong. The construction materials include locally quarried stone and timber from Ninh Bình, and artisanal works from local handicraft villages were selected for the interior.
On Oct. 27th, the International Conference on "New Tourism - Local to Global Initiatives" took place at Bai Dinh Hotel, and was organized by the Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality of the National Economics University (NEU) in Hanoi, with the support of Hoa Lu University in Ninh Binh.
The conference included two concurrent sessions: Session 1 on Responsible and Sustainable Tourism, and Session 2 on Tourism Business and Initiatives.
Dr. Bellini gave a keynote speech on "Analysis of sustainability-branded tourism products in Vietnam: an exploratory study", and chaired the Session 1, together with Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pham Truong Hoang, Dean of the Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality of NEU.
As one of the speakers of session 1, Catherine Germier-Hamel gave a presentation on sustainable smart tourism development and promotion, with a focus on local communities as key stakeholders and right holders. She mentioned that the growing phenomenon of "overtourism" was often a matter of perception from local residents and visitors as well, and she took this opportunity to introduce the 2018 Global Campaign "Fair Travel Living Together" with Millennium Destinations and the Positive Business Chair as partners.
In conclusion, she suggested that while sustainable tourism could be defined as a strategic vision, a business model applicable to any form of tourism, and a lifestyle, it could also be seen as a spiritual system which requires not only faith and principles but also daily practice.
Session 1 also included presentations on: "New view on public-private cooperation for sustainable tourism development in Cambodia" by , "The Development of spiritual tourism in Thua Tien Hue province, Vietnam", and "Developing urban tourism product in Vietnam: facts and directions".
With (from left) Dr. Pham Truong Hoang (1st), DR. Chuk Chumno, Director of Department of Tourism Development and Director of Division of Tourism Management and Development, Ministry of Tourism of the Kingdom of Cambodia (2nd), Dr. Béatrice Bellini (3rd), Catherine Germier-Hamel (4th), and Dr. Tran Huy Duc, Head of Department of Hospitality Management (last)
In the afternoon, the conference was followed by a boat tour in Trang An landscape complex in Ninh Binh, inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.
As mentioned in UNESCO's website, there are about 14,000 residents living in Trang An, a mixed cultural and natural property contained mostly within three protected areas: the Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, the Trang An-Tam Coc-Bich Dong Scenic Landscape, also known as “Halong bay on land”, and the Hoa Lu Special-Use Forest.
Trang An covers a surface area of almost 5,000 hectares and is most famous for its over 1,000 row boats owned by Xuan Truong company and managed by locals. Xuan Truong is in charge of aspects of conservation and tourism management in the Trang An-Tam Coc-Bich Dong Scenic Landscape area, and there are four small private tourist resort operations within the property.
Although the tourism boating industry in Trang An has generated new job and income opportunities for the local community, and therefore contributed to the elimination of poverty in the area among many other positive direct, indirect and induced effects, the site might become a victim of its growing popularity and eventually suffer from overtourism if the flows of tourists are not carefully planned, managed and monitored.
In 2017, Ninh Binh Province welcomed over 7 million visitors, up nearly 10 per cent against 2016, of which international visitors were nearly 860,000 (Ninh Binh Province Tourism Department). One of the three boat itineraries offered at Trang An landscape complex now includes a stop at the filming location of Hollywood blockbuster "Kong: Skull Island" (2017), an attraction that may not be compatible with its status of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A responsible, smart, and participative management of the site is of utmost importance for the sustainable development of Trang An landscape complex.
On Sunday 28, the team participated in a tour to the Perfume Pagoda near Hanoi, locally known as Chua Huong. The tour was organized by Dr. Nguyen Van Thuy Anh from the Faculty of Human Resource Management and Economics of NEU. The Perfume Temple, also known as Chua Trong (Inner Temple), is located at the centre of the complex, in Huong Tich Cave. It is accessible by foot or by cable car.
The Perfume Pagoda is a very popular pilgrimage destination, and during the Huong Pagoda Festival, the longest and most elaborate annual festival in Vietnam, thousands of pilgrims and tourists are flocking from across the nation.
Monday Oct. 29 was dedicated to strategic meetings with local and international stakeholders in Hanoi, in preparation of upcoming initiatives and events aimed at co-creating and promoting innovative and responsible tourism experiences, businesses and contents in Vietnam.
In particular, key representatives of the Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality of NEU expressed their interest in hosting an international conference on smart and responsible tourism, in partnership with Millennium Destinations and the Positive Business Chair of Paris Nanterre University, that would include a Sustainable Smart Tourism Forum, and would connect academia, experts and tourism professionals from the public and private sectors.
On Oct. 30, a visit was organized at Animals Asia's Bear Sanctuary in Tam Dao, where moon and sun bears are rehabilitated and cared for and where bear teams gather evidence of the effects of bile extraction, usually operated by the bear bile farming industry.
According to Animals Asia, "more than 10,000 bears are kept on bile farms in China, and official figures put the number suffering the same fate in Vietnam at about 1,000."
Too many Traditional Medicine practitioners, especially from China, Japan, and South Korea, are still consuming bear bile, often illegal trade.
Bear bile has been used in Traditional Medicine for over 3,000 years, to treat fever, swelling and pain in cases of trauma, liver conditions and sore eyes. The Bear Sanctuary is promoting herbal substitutes as responsible alternatives.
The Vietnam Bear Sanctuary plays a crucial role in the areas education and research, through several knowledge sharing and awareness-raising activities. It also provides direct employment for Vietnamese people in areas such as bear care, horticulture, food preparation and security, and many local people are employed indirectly through services and construction.
The sanctuary is not open to general public on a daily basis in order to maintain its integrity but open day guided tours are available upon request on specific days each month.
Beside the bear program, Animals Asia in Vietnam has an ethical elephant project in Daklak, developed as an eco-tourism initiative aimed at replacing elephant exploitation and rides with observation and learning.