Immersive, Slow and Community-Led: Khusvegi English & Nomadic Culture Camp Case Study
Founder at Brown Gal Trekker & Equity Global Treks
Expert Team at TrainingAid
Khusvegi English & Nomadic Culture Camp
Sagsai Soum (village), Bayan Ulgii, Western Mongolia
- Human-to-human product. For a cultural tourism program to create meaningful impact, tourism should be used as a tool for fostering real human connections, rather than just a way for earning income.
- Slow and immersive experience. For a community initiative involving travelers to truly support sustainable development, travelers need opportunities to engage and connect with the local culture and traditions, rather than short visits made for photo ops.
- Stories told by - not for - the community. Cultural experiences should be based on the stories from the local perspectives, told by the local community members whose cultural traditions visitors come to learn. Language is a key tool in unlocking the potential for local storytellers to share their own culture and traditions, on their own terms.
- Non-extractive community tourism model. For tourism to work as a meaningful tool for long-term investment in sustainable local community development, the community must have full control and ownership of tourism development efforts, and not just receive support and expertise.
Getting Started as a Social Enterprise
The Khusvegi English & Nomadic Culture Camp is a community-led 30-day slow tourism initiative that invites a limited number of tourists to live with eagle hunting local families in Sagsai Soum (Bayan Ulgii, Western Mongolia), while teaching English to young nomads. The primary goals of the initiative are to foster local leaders within the community to lead tourism projects, cultivate storytellers and ambassadors from within the community to narrate their own stories to the world, and to help preserve eagle hunting and nomadic culture.
Khusvegi English & Nomadic Culture Camp started out as a tourism project idea that became a reality by being selected as 1 of the 10 finalists (out of 140 entries) at the 2021 Social Entrepreneurship Competition in Tourism, hosted by UNWTO, TUI Care Foundation, ITB Berlin, Travel Massive, Eberswalde University and SINA. As part of the competition, 10 weeks of mentorship was offered,followed by the finals round of the Pitching Competition. Khusvegi English & Nomadic Culture Camp was selected as the 2021 Winner of the Launch Track category.
A portion of the Social Entrepreneurship Competition in Tourism prize money supported the purchase of a computer and other accessories for the language program.
The culture camp itinerary is designed to deconstruct the idea of extractive tourism where tourists only spend a few hours or days in the village, snapping photos or taking videos of the eagle hunters without forging real human connections in the local community.
In addition to cultural immersion, a key aspect of the experience is tourists themselves contributing to the community members’ education and professional development, by working as English teachers. For the language education input to be effective, Khusvegi Camp carefully selects visitors (who must be native or fluent English speakers to participate), who join the 30-day camp and immerse themselves as part of the local community.
Participating in this program is a way for the visitors to meaningfully invest in the community and its long-term development, by providing high-quality English education to the young generation of Kazakh nomads.
Khusvegi English & Nomadic Culture Camp strives to create language equity so eagle hunters can be the storytellers of their own culture and traditions. By supporting their language skills development, tourism can be a tool for the local community to connect with tourists and to preserve their nomadic culture and identity by sharing their stories and heritage from their own perspectives. Doing so will enhance the relevance of the nomadic culture among the members of the community and for generations to come amidst the challenges brought by the modernities that the community now faces.
In addition to fostering storytelling skills among local nomads, English learning is also a means for the younger generation to have equitable access to job opportunities in tourism and beyond. By incorporating language education this way, Khusvegi English & Nomadic Culture Camp aims to create a more equitable and inclusive tourism model.
Ownership and Leadership
This model of immersive, slow and community-led tourism ensures the local eagle hunting community has full control and ownership of tourism development efforts. Within the tourism industry, development projects in Indigenous communities are often extractive; the local communities do not have full ownership of their own tourism development- and investment-related decisions, which leads to a for-profit tourism model that benefits outsiders.
To avoid such contradiction, Khusvegi English & Nomadic Culture Camp has worked on ensuring that the initiative is locally rooted in the community. As Khusvegi Camp's pilot program was launched in June of 2022, it gained the support of the local governments of Bayan Ulgii and Sagsai village, as well as the Mongolian Parliament in Ulaanbaatar. The community of 5000 or more eagle hunters in Sagsai fully supported the pilot program as the community members acted as camp managers, event organizers, and accommodation hosts, among a few other roles to make the program a success.
Lessons from the Pilot & Future Steps
The 30-day pilot program in 2022 successfully engaged 50 local participants of varying ages, who received support in English skills from native/fluent English-speaking guests. At the same time, the foreign teachers lived with nomadic families where they experienced the nomadic life and culture first-hand. Three local Kazakh teachers co-taught with the foreign teachers as a means for them to expand their English teaching skills.
The first group of 50 students noted that Khusvegi Camp helped them build confidence in learning English. Many of them saw a significant improvement in their language ability, prompting them to pursue careers that require the English language as a skill.
Khusvegi Camp will seek to maintain the first group of 50 students, while working towards growing the program. To increase the number of students in the future, more teachers (whose fees help fund the program) will be needed. Growing the program will help further expand upon the benefits that the local community of eagle hunters and nomads can receive in the future.
In addition to ensuring the sustainability and growth of the language program, Khusvegi Camp plans to build a joint eagle hunting museum-English library in the village to supplement the mission of helping preserve nomadic culture and creating language equity.
To achieve the mission, the key goal now is to establish a consistent network of supporters and participants for years to come; this includes spreading the word across the industry, building partnerships and raising awareness to reach a larger audience.
For those interested in supporting Khusvegi Camp, here are several ways to do so:
- Learn more. Get to know the story of this project better, so you can understand and relate to its mission and vision.
- Spread the word. Follow the news and updates on the Facebook page, and like and share Khusvegi Camp’s stories.
- Contribute. Support the crowdfunding campaign to build the Khusvegi Museum & English Library.
This case study has been created based on the Khusvegi English & Nomadic Culture Camp’s story submitted to the 2022 GLP Sustainability Storytelling Competition. Khusvegi English & Nomadic Culture Camp’s submission was the category winner for the “Communities & Culture” category.
In collaboration with GLP, TrainingAid is sharing the various lessons these stories represent as case studies.