The traditional village of Wae Rebo lies in the heart of Flores island, East Nusa TenggaraIndonesia. Perches high on the cool Todo forest, Manggarai, Flores, one of the unique offers of this village is its professionalism on handling tourists. This is result of an advance understanding and implementation of community knowledge management: turning knowledge into community asset.
Previously unexplored, the village holds probably the only traditional houses in Flores. These houses are not the oldest but built by following original design and following traditional norms. The village – as in other areas in East Nusa Tenggara province – is bound to tradition and culture.
Building these houses were not cheap. Keeping the traditions along the houses are no cheaper. The poor village had no ideas on how to maintain the houses and keeping the traditions while they still struggled for basic needs. Therefore, UNESCO supported the renovation existing houses and development of new houses. Further, this development is built on a community-led tourism enterprise platform.
The goal was clear: to provide alternative income for the village and to provide funds to maintain the tradition and culture.
During a short trip to the village, I experienced a completely different environment compared to other tourist villages I’ve visited before: documented tourist regulations, friendly (not overwhelming) villagers, and informed village staffs were among the few.
Bapak Frans, chief of tourism foundation established to manage tourism in this village, shared with me that before the village officially opened for tuorists, the whole villagers participated in tourism capacity building programs. As the result, villagers were aware that they have traditions and culture (read: knwoledge) to offer to tourists and at the same time had to manage income from tourism to keep these traditions and culture sustained.
The villagers now have their traditions and culture as community asset, instead of social burden.