A dilapidated and underused administrative building was converted into the Zanzibar Serena Inn, seen at bottom left, as part of a broad programme of social, cultural and economic development activities on the island. AKDN promotes the development and growth of tourism and a range of ancillary services and craft industries in ways that contribute to economic growth that is environmentally and culturally sensitive.
Photo: Gary OtteThe essence of the act of travel is necessarily hopeful. It is an expression of interest in different cultures. At its best, it allows the diversity of the world to be experienced at first hand – through food, architecture, music, language, customs and rituals. In the process, travellers begin to understand the differences among cultures while coming to know their common humanity.
In many cases, however, the most alluring locations are also the most fragile. The great numbers of visitors, and the infrastructure required to accommodate them, have often burdened local environments to unsustainable levels. As an antidote, AKDN encourages the development of specific forms of tourism that highlight environmental and cultural assets while providing local people with alternatives to the degradation of these assets.
“We believe that in the decades ahead the process of physical change in the Islamic world will benefit from not only looking at best practices, but also thinking of excellent practices. This emphasis on excellence means making people aware of the exceptionality of quality – not just best practice …”
His Highness the Aga Khan at the Winners’ Seminar of The Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Aleppo, Syria, 7 November 2001The AKDN approach has several defining attributes: recognition of the surrounding culture and environment as assets that are the principal draw for visitors; a long-term investment that assures a sustained interest in preserving the local culture and environment; and a commitment to sustainable environmental practices that reduce the ecological footprint of a tourism property.
Working within these principles, AKDN agencies work to leverage cultural and environmental assets in poor areas where these assets are the only means to raise incomes. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, in particular, promotes tourism by building, rehabilitating and managing hotels and lodges in remote and underserved areas as a way of stimulating investment and the creation of jobs.
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