What impact have you had on your clients and the tourism sector?
Exchange tourism leads to equity by helping marginalized rural communities rediscover their strength and by taking economically powerful urban communities out of their protective bubble. Both parties engage in a two-way equal exchange in which each side learns and contributes. The tourism revenue is invested in the marginalized communities' economic development, thus narrowing the gap further.
Since Zikra was established in 2007 it has carried out about 120 trips consisting of activities including tomato-picking, cooking traditional dishes, learning traditional skills such as, yoghurt making, bread making, basket weaving, Arabian eyeliner, produce handicrafts made of recyclable materials, and organizing environmental campaigns.
The trips have also succeeded in connecting inhabitants of Al Karak with people from the city, whom they had previously perceived as arrogant. City inhabitants have found reliable partners in Karakis whom they had often labeled as lazy. The groups have developed bonds with each other and collaborated to find different solutions to existing environmental problems, particularly through networks of professionals from the city. City inhabitants have helped the locals take legal action against a company which was polluting the water in their land. By interacting and working together, the rural and urban communities overcome stereotypes and create the potential for greater social change through cooperation.
The local community is more proud about its culture, as it showcases its art and traditions to visitors. Youth from Al Karak express their art and culture through crafts and film-making. By rediscovering Jordan through the trips and feeling that they can make a difference in their country, some young Ammanis, who were previously alienated, were encouraged to start initiatives of their own in Jordan at a time when they were considering leaving the country.
Zikra is implementing a comprehensive training program for local guides on the principles of exchange tourism, business planning, marketing, and environmental campaigns. Zikra has also added educational activities and art programs which both visitors and local children enjoy.
Zikra has established a number of partnerships with multinational corporations to direct their corporate social responsibility activities towards poor areas in Jordan, and to engage their employees in exchange tourism activities. Zikra has involved five citizen sector organizations working in five different areas to spread exchange tourism.
Zikra has created a program dedicated to the environment and the benefits of recycling and re-using, transforming plastic into handmade products such as handbags, water holders and much more. The Plast-eco enterprise aims to engage the community to care and participate in saving our Jordanian environment through entrepreneurship and innovation. The revenues will be directed back to the people of South Ghor in the form of micro-loans and university scholarships, hence creating job opportunities and much more.
In a few short years, Zikra will be generating US$1M per year, all of which will be invested by the local communities in the local communities, with a rigorous governance structure, and the support expenses of US$250,000 will be financed through corporate support.
Zikra’s model is being followed by others in Jordan. The Abraham Path Initiative has started shifting its traditional volunteer tourism activities towards equal interaction with the local community. Also, the Ministry of Tourism has approached Zikra to consider the applicability of his model to some of their programs.
Zikra is spreading the model in Egypt, Morocco and Lebanon by franchising it to local COs that work with the community, and training their personnel on exchange tourism activities.
What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.
In the next year, Zikra will replicate its model in another poverty pocket in addition to other impoverished villages throughout Jordan. In the next 3 years, Zikra will establish its program in Egypt with the help of Egyptian COs working with Bedouins on the Sinai Peninsula and Western Desert oases, improving their livelihood through the revival of traditional crafts as well as in Yemen through active young leaders.
To achieve this Zikra needs to highlight the importance of the exchange tourism in solving social problems, shattering stereotypes, generating money, creating an equal relationship where each party contributes. We will use different tools to achieve our objectives such as:
1) design a training manual and a franchise system to help our partners to replicate the model.
2) Produce different materials such as: books, documentary, features, print materials, etc. that stresses and highlights the richness of the “financially poor” people rather than their poverty level. Learn how to find the hidden treasures in each community and build on it.
3) Create partnerships with local social activists and entrepreneurs to replicate the model.
To achieve this Zikra needs to highlight the importance of the exchange tourism model and create a manual and a franchise system.
What would prevent your project from being a success?
We live in a region where the chances of war and instability is increasing everyday which is a tremendous threat to the region and the financial situation which in turn will affect and slow down the development of the project and will increase the financial gap.
New laws for non governmental organizations in Jordan and the region that restricts and limits the source of funding and gives the government power to control and interfere in the plans and strategies of NGOs.