TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Mie Cornoedus left the table where her spouse and two children were having lunch at the ViaVia restaurant on Jalan Prawirotaman, Yogyakarta, for a conversation with Tempo. In the two-story building, which serves as a resto, bakery, fair trade shop, yoga class site, art exhibit space, and travel agency, Cornoedus explained the history of her business.
One of her daughters, still in elementary school, would occasionally come to her. "Mama, I got fried noodles tok," said the girl, adding 'tok' (only) in a thick Javanese accent.
The Belgian woman who has been a Yogyakarta resident for 21 years allocates her weekends for family. On weekdays, she is busy running her businesses, which includes a restaurant, guesthouse, and the ViaVia tour operator. In fact, at the time of the interview, Cornodeus had just returned from Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara, the first Indonesian region she visited 25 years ago, before she decided to stay in Yogyakarta in 1995.
She had gone to Sumba to find a location suitable for sustainable tourism, a concept she has been developing for some time and the focus of her tourism business, ViaVia Jogjakarta. Sustainable tourism, says Cornoedus, is a tourism concept that can endure because it is balanced on three aspects, namely the economy, social aspects, and ecology. "So the tourism will last. And not only the local culture is preserved, but the environment as well," said the 54-year-old woman.
To support local economy, for instance, travelers are invited to tour home industries in villages. Not all tourists will shop in these villages, but villagers still benefit from ViaVia, such as during Eid, for example. Furthermore, they are sometimes included in a variety of activities.
Cornoedus says their tour operators do not use plastic during tours an ecological plus. Local products are wrapped in leaves and plastic bottles are not used for water. Instead they use refill water dispensers.
To mind social norms, travelers are not allowed to wear shorts or tank tops. Her regulation is a sign of respect for the local culture in tour sites. Participants are invited to join in and assist in community activities.
"This is how each tour operates," said Cornoedus.
Cornoedus and the ViaVia crew's hard work has been recognized. Three years ago they won the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award for the Most Inspiring Tour Operator from WildAsia. In addition to offering unique tour packages such as adventure, gastronomic and cultural packages they considered ViaVia as contributing agent to the advancement of local communities. (*)
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