Working with partner travel companies is incredibly important for Village Ways. In the UK, the specialists in walking trips, Inntravel, have been great supporters and vital partners. We are now very much hoping that our French travel partners, La Balaguère, will send lots of French guests to our partner communities in the years ahead.
In the past few weeks, our MD Manisha Pande has been accompanying a small group of French journalists to our communities in southern India, and we look forward to our trips being featured in French newspapers and magazines.
Key to providing good guest experiences will be the ability of our communities to communicate with our French guests, and our language training has been progressing, with guides most enthusiastic to learn important key phrases. Our guides in the Himalayas, especially those in Saryu and Binsar. Are now able to issue warnings of slippery paths - ‘Attention, glissant’ - basic greetings and farewells. The aim is to impart functional French and an ability to understand French-speaking guests to make them feel comfortable. It is yet another important skill for our guides, and yet another illustration of the importance we place on training.
From late 2013, Jérémie Fontvieille visted our partner communities to give French training to guides, covering Hacra, Binsar, Saryu, Hulgol, Pavinakurva and Mothakkara. Wherever he went, the guides were unanimous that he was a ‘good teacher’. This was partly due to his remarkable abilities to play the guitar and sing Hindi religious songs, which not only impressed everyone but also created a good ice-breaker for learning French!
This year, Katy van Haeften has been joining the guides to provide refresher training in French. Katy is from Cambridge and has taught French at schools. She also helped the children from the local school in Mothakkara with conversational English classes, after a special request from the headmaster, Mr Sughathan.
Katy traveled extensively around our communities in India and Nepal, using a training manual that was very kindly prepared by two Village Ways guests, Tony and Linda Riley, who met Jérémie in Hulgol.
Katy met Jérémie recently in France. He obviously enjoyed his stays in India, especially his final stop at Mothakkara, where all the guides are ladies. As Jérémie recalls: “Elles sont tellement accueillantes que quand les premiers clients sont repartis, ils en pleuraient tous d’émotion. C’était un très beau moment. Quand je suis parti j’ai vraiment senti que je quittais une famille. C’est l’effet Village Ways!“
[They (Mothakkara guides) were such hosts that when their first guests departed they cried with emotion. It was a beautiful moment. When I departed, I really had a sense that I was leaving my family. It was the ‘Village Ways effect’!]
Report by Keith Virgo