31 January 2012
Bulletin number 4: Palm wine, wedding blessing, switch off save big and more
Jo Baddeley, Thomas Cook"s Sustainable Destination Manager, gives a candid view… of how it works in a destination - tourists and all!
Update from the field no.4
The crew from greenguidestravel.tv finally went home last week after a fantastic week of being out and about and getting 10 HOURS of footage which they need to condense into much shorter programmes.
I'm really sad to see them go actually, we had such a good time and fitted so much in and I think they'll definitely come back for a holiday at some point. There was a time where I thought we were doing animal pornography as every male baboon that we tried to film at Makasutu Cultural Forest seemed to be in the habit of exposing themselves as soon as the camera was pointed at them. We were surrounded by them at one point and weren't sure if they were classing the camera as the evil eye so, we made our move towards the edge of the forest valiantly accompanied by Sheila the dog. From there we got loads more footage of mum and baby baboons and a good few acrobatic shows in the trees, it was really fabulous .
We almost got ourselves drunk on palm wine as we had to do the take 7 times, the guide kept putting the bottle in the wrong place, or saying the wrong thing...my phone rang in the middle of one perfect take so we had to do it again. As there were no tourists around I had to drink it and it's not exactly my favourite tipple. It all worked out in the end though.
My friends wedding blessing on 9th December was lovely and I'm really glad I was here for that. We had a little ceremony around the pool and then went to a karaoke bar where Janice works. My 2 friends from the UK were also invited and they've loved every minute of being here, they were quite amazed by the age difference between some British and Gambian couples and never really realised all that went on. They've loved the food though, the people, the culture and the destination as a whole and are already desperate to come back for another holiday.
Bryan, our manager moved into a hotel closer to the office last week. When using the shower for the first time he couldn't work out why he could hear water running but nothing was coming out of the shower head, he turned the cold water on and that was fine but no hot water. He shook the showerhead, tried other methods of making it work and then suddenly saw lots of water coming towards him on the bathroom floor....it turns out that the hot water pipe hadn't been properly connected to the shower and was just coming out of a hole in the wall instead!!
I've had to change my car for some reason and have now been given something even bigger but this one has indicators that work and a radio with a 'cassette player', I haven't used a cassette for years! It's definitely a better car but the passenger side window doesn't quite close fully and the man tried to give it to me with outdated insurance from Aug 11, he must have thought I was a bit soft.
So, real work... I'm off to the Hoteliers Association Meeting today to find out what goes on there and to get my hotel appointments for Switch Off Save Big, then it's off to meet the buyer for Gambian Top Shop, she has 3 shops in hotels and we're hoping that she will become one of the important buyers for the craft products.
We're just about to put some new excursions together and do a new planner, I'm waiting on some good photos from the TV team. I've put together a customer feedback questionnaire for the Roots event, we really want to know what our customers think about each aspect of the trip and we want to analyse how much is being spent at each stop and therefore going directly into the local economy. We really want to know what people think about the Children's Centre and other aspects that have been funded by the Travel Foundation as well, so these will now go out on the event and be collected in by the guide.
We're off to the opening of the Gambia's first theatre on Saturday night, it's been built with the eco-brick technology used at Sandele and looks amazing on the picture. The first performance is going to be dedicated to the slave trade in the Gambia and we're quite looking forward to it. Me and Bryan are on a special list of invitees and there is a cocktail for an hour before hand, the Vice President is also expected to be there so it's a very good thing to be seen at. Very much looking forward to that and hopefully some chill out time on Sunday somewhere lovely and quiet.
Met some Thomas Cook Belgium retail staff the other day, they're here on a FAM trip to Gambia and Senegal and hopefully will be selling more Gambian holidays to the Belgians. I also met our contractor Ils who is lovely, so it was a nice impromptu meeting of group colleagues and an opportunity to sell the sustainability message to more people. They were really impressed with what we're doing and Ils has asked me to keep her updated, so another green champion for the fold.
I was also invited to be on the panel of the Brighton University students presentations at Safari Garden on Sunday. They've been here for a week and were looking at sustainable development of the Kartong area, some of the presentations were really good. I found out then that one of the girls on the course is actually a high season Thomas Cook rep, so that's another green champion for us as well. She's hoping to go to Greece or Turkey this year and will make sure that she coordinates some Make Holidays Greener activities for us which is great news.
All in all, it's all going well. I wish we had a camera in the office to be able to play everything that goes on here back to you, The Only Way is Gambia would just be hysterical!
Next bulletin next week...
As part of my six week stint in the Gambia this winter I've been working together with The Travel Foundation, Sandele Eco-Lodge and Rupert & Lynne (our craft experts) to promote a brand of jewellery, crafts and textiles that will be recognised by customers for its committment to natural products and to a fair working ethic for the producers involved.
During the last 12 months everyone has been working very hard here in the destination to develop new innovative designs and products that will meet all customer's needs and pockets. The 8th December was agreed as the launch date of the 'Guaranteed Gambian' products and we were generously offered promotional space at the beautiful Gaya Art Cafe. A range of buyers and other interested parties were invited to the event, resulting in some fabulous feedback and interest for orders. Following the launch, myself and Rupert met with Anna from Top Shop who has shops at three popular hotels, she has become our first Guaranteed Gambian customer and is placing orders for all of our items within the catalogue.
For many of the producers of our crafts, this is going to be the first time that they've ever had any kind of real employment and opportunity to make a decent living from tourism.
The respect that will come from having this opportunity is something that I can't even put a value on for them...instead of bumstering their wares on the streets they now have 3 confirmed outlets for their work. With next year's work focussing on marketing and building brand awareness of Guaranteed Gambian I know that the producers will really feel very proud to be part of it and to say that their work is sold under this label.
It guarantees a fair wage for their products and the time that they have put into making them. The story boards of the producers will help to tell the story to the customer and bring life to the brand as well as awareness raising of sustainability as a whole. We'll be able to fully report on stats this time next year to demonstrate the difference this has made to the income of the producers.
I remember when I met a marabou (fortune teller) here the first time I came to do H&S 5 years ago, he told me that I would always come back to the Gambia and that I would bring wealth to people of the destination, I never believed a word of it, as far as I was concerned I was doing a one off trip there and never knew that I'd even come back. As soon as we got the Top Shop agreement it struck me that this could be exactly what he was referring to all that time ago! Scary that someone can know these things so far ahead of time
Of everything that I've done so far in this job, this is probably the highlight and the most amazing achievement yet. There's a lot of special people working on this project here and it's such priviledge to be part of it. I just wanted to share the good news!
Jo Baddeley is the Sustainable Destinations Manager at Thomas Cook UK and Ireland and has been in the role for almost four years. She recently graduated from Leeds University with a Masters Degree in Responsible Tourism and was highly commended for her personal contribution to sustainability at World Travel Market in 2010.
Jo is passionate about bringing sustainability to life in destinations for customers, suppliers, local people and Thomas Cook's own employees. Making it part of an improved customer experience is the best way to get people involved. Some of Jo's favourite overseas initiatives have come about as a response to the Travel Foundation's 'Make Holidays Greener' week and include ongoing children's activities and promotion of new local products and events.
The opportunity to travel, to spend time with people and to develop an understanding of the flavour of different destinations are the highlights of the job. Jo hopes to continue to encourage more and more people to become involved with sustainability and to enjoy the many benefits it brings.
Sustainable Tourism Report Suite more info : HERE