The National Council of YMCAs of Sri Lanka and the YMCA of Matara hosted the 4th GATN Managers Training held on 25-28 April 2017 in Matara, Sri Lanka. Ten (10) GATN Managers both from the sending and receiving YMCA joined the said activity to share experiences, learn new things and welcome new challenges that would further YMCA Alternative Tourism (AT).
The three-day training allowed the managers to share information and activities that reduce their carbon footprint. From this, the diversity of the projects for each alternative site can be noted which allows the YMCA to offer varying experiences. Similarly, the concept of water footprint was shared to the group as part of the goal of the GATN to be a sustainable and responsible tourism thereby challenging the YMCAs to also work towards the reduction of their water footprint.
Geared more towards improving and taking the quality of GATN to a higher level, topics such as community-based tourism, expectations of the sending YMCAs and, review and improvement of the GATN Code of Conduct were among the discussion. Mr. Na Hyo Woo from Good Travel also challenged the YMCA to go out of its box and ensure its quality so that it can match the ones already in the market. Moreover, he also encouraged the importance of collecting stories and telling the stories as part of the marketing for GATN. One of the highlights of the Managers Training was the discussion on GATN Certification which will help maintain the standards of the AT programs.
In the end, the training served as an avenue to share current programs and practices of the different YMCAs and it gave an opportunity to reflect and learn more about how the programs can be improved. The training also gave a wider perspective on why alternative tourism is significant because it is not merely about providing a different kind of tourism experience for the people but it is more about contributing to the community and the environment.
Finally, the warm welcome of the host YMCA was appreciated. They showcased their culture through the food served and the dance shown during the welcome program. Yet more than this, it is inspiring to see the efforts they are doing in the community. The short visit to the school and to the organic farm that provides food to the twenty-five (25) local families who manage it is an inspiration to improving and expanding the GATN programs.
Indeed, it was a learning experience to witness this training as it also paved the way to better understanding of the program, its significance and how it affects the community. Most of all, seeing the impact it leaves to people who have been part of the program, whether as a sending or a receiving YMCA, is a motivation to continue making change through the GATN.