Parts six and seven of an eight-part series that examines how Bodhi Surf School ranks as an ecotourism destination, read part five here
This blog series has investigated how Bodhi Surf School has measured in respect to ecotourism, using the template of Martha Honey’s seven essential qualities of ecotourism from her book, “Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise?” This blog will explore two principles that Martha Honey lists as significant components of real ecotourism destinations, analyzing the ways in which Bodhi Surf School currently fulfills these qualities, which are:
- Providing financial benefits and empowerment for local people, and
- Respecting local culture.
A meeting-place of cultures
Respect and empowerment are inextricable qualities. When asked about why he started Bodhi Surf School, co-founder, Travis Bays, says that he was encouraged to mold a business from his passions, which included community development and surfing. Today, Bodhi Surf strives to be a leader in the world of sustainable surf tourism, steadily building upon their business model and encouraging empowerment for individuals and local businesses in their community and beyond.
Martha Honey Writes, “…if ecotourism is to be viewed as a tool for rural development, it must also help to shift economic and political control to the local community, village, cooperative, or entrepreneur, (Honey 31). Bodhi Surf employs three locals who, combined, have lived in the area for more than 50 years. Each of these three individuals has been trained by the Bodhi team primarily for assistance with cooking, cleaning, maintenance, and childcare. Employment is empowering for obvious reasons, and Claudia, Mary Cruz, and Henry regularly interact with guests, which also facilitates communication and respect for local residents. All members of the Bodhi Surf team speak fluent Spanish, the language native to their community, and have adapted to local customs in various ways other ways as well.
Facilitating cultural exchange
Bodhi guests are not isolated or given an “all-inclusive” experience. On the contrary, Bodhi encourages community engagement and opportunities that elicit cultural exchange, such as visits to supermarkets, local restaurants, service events, etc. At least one night during each surf and yoga camp, Bodhi includes a dinner out at a local restaurant. This is a financial opportunity for local establishments, as well as a cultural exchange, as foreigners and locals intermingle. Often, two or more of the Bodhi co-owners will join guests for these meals. Guests at Bodhi are also given opportunities to rent bicycles or cars from local operators. Furthermore, when co-owner, Adrianne Chandra-Huff patronizes the weekly farmers’ market and purchases from local suppliers for the kitchen — guests frequently accompany her and purchase their own items.
The folks at Bodhi Surf have networked extensively throughout recent years, extending countless threads to local entrepreneurs and businesses within their local community of Bahia Ballena and beyond. The Bodhi team developed their community walking tour, training Noilyn and Wayner, two local entrepreneurs in the ecotourism field, who now run the tour for each guest that stays at Bodhi. The community walking tour fosters respect and financial opportunity for Noilyn and Wayner, and for others living in the small community of Bahia Ballena, as it highlights and promotes the nearby establishments, such as the artisans who sell their handmade products in town, the small store Tatiana’s, and the Marino Ballena National Park. The tour also explains the environmental challenges and journey of the community. As Noilyn volunteers with local non-profit, Geoporter, the tour discusses recent changes, such as government-issued trash and recycling bins that have been installed in areas where garbage was a major problem. The tour is included for Bodhi guests with each surf and yoga camp. Bodhi also hires out services to local tour operators. If guests wish to go snorkeling or scuba diving at Caño Island or visit the Mangroves of Sierpe, Bodhi refers them to Bahia Aventuras or other local businesses.
Helping other local entrepreneurs
As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others. – Bill Gates
Bodhi mentors businesses in Caminos de Osa, an initiative that was founded on preserving local culture and integrates indigenous populations. Travis was present for consultation and mentoring during the training of individuals for this program. Representatives for this project attest: “One of the most fruitful alliances we formed for this project was with our mentors to include a mentoring component to the formation of our entrepreneurs. During the length of the project, besides the training workshops, each tourism entrepreneur received support and guidance from a local mentor with more experience in the tourism industry.” With the development and implementation of their recent plastic audit, Bodhi plans to further mentor businesses involved in Caminos de Osa to go “plastic-free”.
Finally, Bodhi offers opportunities for service learning and community service to community members. One way that they do this is through Service and Surf Saturdays. The Bodhi team lists their goals for this monthly event as:
- Keeping trash (specifically plastic) out of the ocean
- Setting a positive example for beach-goers, community members, and visitors alike
- Promoting environmental responsibility, especially to the younger attendees
- Highlighting corporate responsibility
- Teaching ocean awareness, safety, and ultimately how to become a surfer
- Bringing people together: community members & visitors
- Having fun and doing something positive at the same time!
Bodhi Surf respects local culture by employing local individuals, intentionally involving their guests in the local community, supporting and mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs, and encouraging community members to be involved in service learning. As their business grows and develops, more opportunities are emerging for Bodhi to emerge and step forward as leaders in the world of ecotourism.
Look our for the final blog in this series, which will look through a critical lens on the ways that Bodhi supports human rights and democratic movements!
Read the series conclusion here
Written by Sam Rose