Participatory Action Research for Positive Change

Frida Heeringa

Frida HeeringaI believe when people move out of their own safe boundaries of their home-land and go to another country with an open mind for others, they can learn a lot about the other and, inevitable, also about themselves. When believing this, I can see a very positive outcome for tourism in this world. Unfortunately, tourism is not always a happy interaction between people. Here comes my interest in tourism from; how does this take place in non-Western countries, where the tourists are the Westerners?

I studied Cultural Anthropology at Utrecht University, which shows my curiosity and interest in how people live together in this world. So what happens when people meet each other and interact under specific, most of the time, in equal circumstances? This is very much visible in the researches I conducted during my study. My bachelor research was about Western migrants at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala and my master research about Voluntourism in Cusco, Peru.

Four years ago I traveled through Southern Africa and it made me open my eyes. Tourism in Africa is very much focused on high-class and is also very expensive (even for Western standards). The inequality is very much visible and therefore I am even more interested to be part of the Sustainable Tourism Challenge. The action research that we are going to use, made me become more enthusiastic. Solutions and ideas will come from local people when they start seeing their own talents, what they can do and how they can work together to achieve it. Here in Mfuwe, the second-most popular tourist attraction of Zambia, tourism increased a lot in the last decade, which led to migration of locals to the area. These two changes have a deep impact on the local community.

By switching tourism into a positive outcome for local people, I believe there can be a lot to gain for many people. In terms of gaining money and making the circumstances better for locals, but also in intercultural exchange on both sides. This can lead to understanding each other, learning from each other and hence more respect for the culture and the country that is visited. I am very excited being part of this Challenge and find out the possibilities!