Why we charge money for our experiences
Born purely out of our love for travel, we are based in Mumbai, and are actively compiling and curating a list of experiences across Western and Southern India, and categorising them as historical, cultural and/or nature-based experiences.
While we would love these experiences to be free and run by gratitude only – we believe that socio-cultural and heritage based experiences need to be monetised to aid conservation efforts. Time and again, it has been proven that conservation and preservation of tangible and intangible history, bio-diversity and cultural diversity is only but beneficial to the world. It is human nature to conserve only what we need or deem valuable.
On the other hand, if locals make money through this exchange of heritage-based value/knowledge they will have further incentive to conserve their heritage. While this heritage could already be providing some value to the local expert’s community, we desperately need more conservation efforts, especially in India.
We are proud of the fact that in a few historical and cultural locations where we conduct experiences often, we have been approached by the authorities and community leaders who have asked us what efforts can be made by them to improve conservation of the heritage and infrastructure for visitors.
Our practices towards responsible tourism
- Rights of local expert: We do not believe that ‘customer is king’, especially when it comes to interactive, knowledge-sharing travel experiences. Tourism in India has traditionally focused heavily on hospitality, without clearly defined boundaries deciding what the ‘host’ or ‘guide’ is required to do. As a result, they are very often knowingly and unknowingly exploited by tourists. For us, the local experts are as important as our customers/participants. We see ourselves as a social marketplace in this regard.
- Recognition of local expert: The names of our local experts are posted everywhere when there is a public event (with a few exceptions, when there are multiple local experts involved). Even when the media calls us for pre-event interviews, we urge them to write the name of our local experts and give them a call as well. Once the experience is completed, we share the contact details of the local expert with customers and do not mind if future interactions occur between them directly. We focus on our work of providing co-curation and booking services, and we do not see the local experts as resources that can be exploited.
- Pricing: All prices are decided by the local experts themselves. We want them to learn how to set their prices based on how it impacts demand. We add a markup which includes our booking and marketing fees. Also, all prices are on a per person basis, so that our interests are always aligned and the local expert benefits from numbers as much as we do.
- Operational sustainability: Our heritage based experiences are entirely run by the local experts. No one from our team or from another region gets financially compensated during the operation of the experience.
- Content: Pictures used by Swadesee for marketing purposes are always clicked/created/acquired by a Swadesee team member or an affiliated local expert, with permission always taken in case the picture contains participants or other individuals.
- Review authenticity: We only ask reviews to be written by those who have been on our experiences.
- Plastic use: We do not generate any single-use plastic waste on our experiences. Initially, some of our experiences used plastic plates to serve breakfast or lunch, but now we have replaced those completely with steel and even encourage our participants to wash their dishes if they do not mind. Participants are generally given local, filtered water in case it the experience includes a meal.
- Carbon footprint: We encourage our participants to use public transport to arrive at our experience locations as much as possible, but we do not enforce it.
- IP rights of local communities: While we completely respect the freedom to information, we believe that certain types of heritage belong to local communities, especially when they can safeguard the sanctity of that heritage much better than commercial entities. As a result, we encourage dialogue during our experiences between participants and local experts about heritage ownership (IP rights and GI tags, for example). At times, these conversations just create awareness, and at times they develop into action.
- Tieups: We have tied up with other responsible tourism advocates such as yoga instructors, organic farms, tourism festivals, heritage consultants and public speakers for special events, when our mutual interests have aligned. Feel free to contact us if you are interested in collaborating with us.