The motivation behind setting up Lisu Lodge was to provide visitors with the opportunity to be close to the community in a safe, clean and authentic setting and, at the same time, ensure that the community is the happy host of the guests. The lodge works closely with the nearby Lisu hilltribe villages to offer memorable experiences of rural Thai life that are fascinating and real, as well as environmentally and culturally sensitive. As well as offering visitors a unique insight into Lisu life, it aims to ensure that the communities it works with are economically secure, vibrant and able to maintain their culture and traditions, and to respect and restore the natural environment. It is a wonderful example of how hilltribe visits do not have to be exploitative or demeaning but can actually enhance and sustain their unique cultures.
To minimize any negative impact on their way of life and on the natural surroundings, local people have been involved from the start in the development of all the tours offered by the lodge. For example, it worked with them to develop a village tour where a Lisu villager shows tourists around while the shaman shares his knowledge about Lisu traditions. In this way, guests can obtain fascinating insights into Lisu culture in a respectful way, without invading their privacy.
Any tourist activities that may affect the local community are discussed beforehand with the village representative. One example was the need to find water supplies for the lodge – it was agreed that the lodge would take it from a small lake nearby which was not used by the village, so there is no competition for supplies.
In addition, the lodge plays an important role in supporting the local economy. Villagers are trained and employed to take care of guests during their stay and are paid to help maintain and repair the lodge, such as by rethatching the guest cottages. Underpinning the lodge’s community projects is its contribution to the Village Bank, which is owned and operated by the Lisu villagers exclusively. It donates a certain amount of money from its operation to the Village Bank every year, which can be used to support the projects the villagers consider will benefit the whole community, such as small loans and garbage collection operation.
It just goes to show that the right approach to community based tourism can create multiple benefits and a great experience for visitors and host communities alike, and we are very pleased that this was recognised with a 2013 Responsible Tourism Award for “Best in Community Engagement and Development”.
- Location: Chiang Mai
- Activities: Hill Tribes, Community engagement, Hiking
- Trip Tip: Can be easily added to your stay in Chiang mai