Tourism could put forgotten regions back on the map

By Mirjam Minderman | August 10, 2018 | 3 min read

Full-time MBA students Iliana Todorova and Pompina Singh, at TIAS School for Business and Society, each interviewed a founder of an ecotourism business for a study project. The businesses Gabi Tour and Kite Manja help forgotten regions in Bulgaria and India, respectively, to profit from tourism, and put these areas back on the map. 

Gabi Tour is a company delivering ‘wildlife, nature and adventure’, in the eastern Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria. For a long time this region has had little industry, a high rate of unemployment and a poor infrastructure. At the same time the Rhodope Mountains havestunning nature with diverse bird and animal population. What’s more, there are picturesque little villages where the inhabitants live as they did a hundred years ago.

Adventure in Bulgaria

Mihaela Kircheva was born in this region and saw opportunities for developing tourism. She got the idea of starting an ecotourism company and founded Gabi Tour. The event calendar of Gabi Tour is chockful with adventures: they organize hikes and mountain bike trips,rafting trips and wildlife spotting, and it’s possible to stay on a farm. All activities are based on the principles of sustainable tourism, and the region profits from the tourists as well.

Hundreds of (forgotten) tribes in north-east India

Jnandip Borgohain is from India and also had the idea to start a business in ecotourism: ‘The Arunachal Pradesh region in north-east India is one of the most remote areas of the country and it’s beautiful. Hundreds of traditional Indian tribes live here, and they all have their own cultures and dialects.’ But the region also has very limited infrastructure, which makes it difficult there. Furthermore, there are very few places for tourists to stay.
That’s what gave Borgohain the idea to make camping tents available. Tents that could be used by the tourists in a nice spot in nature. When the tourists leave, the tents are taken down, to preserve the beauty of the environment.

The second idea that Borgohain had for his business Kite Manja was to organize a ‘Cultural Village Tour’. He trained a few unemployed residents as guides, so they could take the tourists round the area they know so well. Soon this led to more activities, such as lunch at residents' homes in a nearby village, which is of course an amazing experience for the tourists.

Tourism that brings added value to the area 

Gabi Tour and Kite Manja have a lot in common. The main reason for both founders to start their businesses was to let locals profit from tourism, for example by creating jobs. North-east India is a very poor region, so tourism is a highly promising venture, if done in a sustainable way. Furthermore, Kite Manja needs cooks and carriers for the treks, alongside the guides. The region was totally remote and actually also forgotten in India, but now people from all over the world can enjoy the cultural diversity and fantastic nature, without destroying the latter. In fact, both the environment and locals benefit.   

The same applies to the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria: Gabi Tour attracts tourists and creates vibrancy and economic activity in the area. That makes it an inspiring example for the local community, by showing what you can achieve with entrepreneurship. 

TIAS MBA students interview sustainable entrepreneurs for AIM2Flourish 

The interviews of TIAS MBA students Iliana Todorova and Pompina Singh with the founders of two ecotourism companies are part of a study project in which business and society perfectly come together. The students who participate in the study project have to get in touch with companies that contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. They interview the founders and/or directors of these organisations – wherever in the world they may be – and then write articles about them. 

The stories are published on the site AIM2Flourish, an international platform supported by the UN. All articles on this platform are about profitable companies that have a positive impact on human wellbeing and a healthy world. In this way, AIM2Flourish is supporting the shift to a Business for Good mindset. You’ll find a lot of inspiring business stories there, including from the TIAS students. 

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