The 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.
The 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.