According to the Global Wellness Summit’s Wellness Trends for 2023, one of the biggies is Indigenous travel and going to the cultural source for wellness.
Wellness and wellness tourism have long resembled Disney’s “It’s a Small World”: buffets of global experiences typically divorced from place. Yoga, born in India, is ubiquitous worldwide; ayahuasca retreats have departed their Amazonian homelands; you can get a Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage in Dubai. But with a new critique of wellness as a profound cultural appropriator, a rising social justice movement, and greater emphasis on authenticity, travelers are now seeking much deeper cultural experiences and showing interest in going to the source of ancient healing and knowledge to learn how they care for the land and for themselves.
Community-led Indigenous travel offerings are surging—from the boreal forests of Canada to the Australian Outback—and speak deeply to travellers seeking inclusive, sustainable and regenerative travel experiences. The fast-mounting interest in original cultures includes Indigenous wellness practices, from purification ceremonies to food and nutrition.
However, will this trend dilute our Indigenous treasures or open our heart and mind to our glorious heritage? Will it allow us to learn and incorporate these philosophies into our everyday, or will it commercialise the sacred?
According to Lonely Planet, to keep our Indigenous Cultures in tact comes down to respect and understanding. Here’s their sage advice…
Responsibly managed indigenous tourism provides a platform for meeting the world’s first peoples in a meaningful way, leaving you with a fascinating insight into and a greater respect for the cultural heritage of your destination. In turn, your participation helps to keep the communities’ arts, crafts and traditions alive for future generations.
From learning how Aboriginal Australians were guided by the dark spaces between the stars to practising the techniques used by the Inuit people of Canada to withstand Arctic winters, perhaps the best reason for experiencing indigenous tourism is the opportunity to learn from the ancient wisdom of the world’s first peoples. Particularly poignant amid the climate crisis is the lesson you’re bound to learn from any indigenous community you visit: we were not bequeathed the Earth, we are mere custodians looking after it for the next generation.
While indigenous tourism can greatly benefit the world’s first peoples, not to mention help to promote cross-cultural understanding, it also has the potential to disrupt the delicate social balance of indigenous communities. As demand for indigenous tourism experiences continues to increase, it’s essential to do your research to ensure that what you sign up for is truly respectful, and that indigenous groups are actually involved and will benefit from any operation.
In New Zealand, the national tourist board (www.newzealand.com) and Maori Tourism website (www.maoritourism.co.nz) both list a wealth of Maori-led tours. In Canada, the Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada website (www.indigenouscanada.travel) lists three- to nine-day experiences, from village stays to arctic wildlife tours, all run by indigenous-owned businesses. In the vast state of Western Australia, the Western Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Council (www.waitoc.com) is a great resource for Aboriginal tourism operators, while in northern Europe, the Swedish Lapland tourism website (www.swedishlapland.com), Norway tourism website (www.visitnorway.com) and Finland tourism website (www.visitfinland.com) are handy resources for learning about and booking Sámi tourism experiences in Lapland.
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