If you think that your family is enjoying their vacation at an ordinary and crowded holiday destination, think again, because your kids are probably really bored! Have you ever considered a vacation to a natural place that also provides your kids an education about life in the village? Hester Basoeki has developed just that, an exciting educational and vacation program for kids based on the simple philosophy: “we all come from the village”.
Hester Basoeki never thought to build the Hester Basoeki Garden Guesthouse, also known as Kampung Cinangneng. She had initially bought a small area of land in Cinangneng village to use for family vacations. As time went by, and thanks to a flagship program “Poelang Kampung”, or Back to The Village, the place slowly evolved into a tourism site.
“Initially, we did not consider the business aspect because back in 1991, there was no business like this around here. It was neither interesting nor viable. Originally we bought this land as family vacation plot, and decided to manage this land with its owner, so no one feels displaced. Then the notion of providing a new holiday concept for youths was raised with the idea to respect the village and its culture,” Hester said.
Hester chose Cinangneng village because it still maintains the customs and traditions of its forefathers. Despite rapid modernization and globalization, the traditional customs are still preserved. In this small village in the district of Bogor in West Java, Indonesia, traditional arts are still encountered, such as shadow puppets, Sundanese dance, various ceremonies and rituals as well as local cuisines, farming and gardening.
“We want to invite visitors to get in touch with village life and experience harmony in the exotic allure that Cinangneng Tourism Village promises. We want to convey to the international community that both tradition and modernity can coexist harmoniously in Indonesia, “Hester said.
Beautiful Kampung Cinangneng offers nature, with its surrounding mountains, rivers, gardens, paddy field, as well as various flora and fauna. There are also activities combining the village environment with cultural tourism programs. All activities are open for anyone. “This place offers various kinds of educational activities for families, especially kids. Visitors can experience and understand how to plant, maintain, and harvest some plant products. The most interesting aspect is that children will understand how to plant the paddy, maintain, dry, and grind the rice. That way, children will realize that the rice they eat requires a complex process,” Hester explained.
“It turns out that foreign visitors are more interested in the natural scenery. For them, a view of nature is interesting, even the simplest ones,” Hester Basoeki revealed. Contrary to the typical stay at a five-star hotel, a very different experience awaits those who come to the HB Garden Guest House, where visitors will be invited to stay and participate in the “Poelang Kampung” program. Visitors are invited to experience what makes village tourism different from other typical tourist destinations.
“My guest will eat, breathe, see and actually feel like they live in the village, and I aim to introduce as much information as they want about the lifestyle of the local community, religion, and culture. We do not invite visitors to watch the villagers, but rather we look at the potential that exists in this village, so as to create synergies between villagers and visitors,” Hester said.
Hester Basoeki Garden Guesthouse provides ten rooms for visitors and Hester has no intention to increase the total number of rooms. “We rely on the tranquility of the surroundings, if there are 50 rooms here then the place will be crowded and we will lose our natural environment,” Hester said.
Particularly noteworthy is how Hester succeeds in the involvement of local communities in managing the tour package. The villagers feel a sense of ownership of the entire process, much more than just being objects, part of a tourist’s activity, like what typically happens at other tourist sites.
“We do all the work together. Even for some tourist packages, we always involve the villagers, so they feel ownership. This is a partnership that we apply in order to involve all stakeholders,” Hester said. In addition to the salary they receive, they also gain valuable knowledge about managing a clean and nice guesthouse, and take pride in being part of the stakeholders, able to show off the inherent beauty of their village.
Hester intentionally engages young people in the village as guides, facilitators,and waiters for the guesthouse. “I never teach them to smile because they already had that smile. What I emphasize is that they should be confident, because we do not deceive our guests. We deliver what we promise,” Says Hester. And the result? Children and visitors from big cities sit quietly, listening attentively to explanations on village life. Excellent!
Today, the Hester Basoeki Garden Guest House employs more than 40 people, all of them villagers. This project is a case study for the best form of tourism practiced in a village where such a mutual relationship benefits all concerned. Hester has succeeded in inviting local stakeholders in the village to harness the advantages created by tourism, sharing in the financial as well as practical advantages brought about by this partnership.