Wesemann Travel is the first company in the world that focusses on community based travel for deaf and hard of hearing people, with sign language as our primary language. The founder of The Long Trail, mr Jos Wesemann, learned sign language as his primary language from his parents, who are both deaf. He realized early on that being fluent in sign language is a great advantage when travelling, since the language - albeit with variations - is used by deaf people across countries and cultures. Based on this insight he started sign-language based tours in 2010 and Wesemann Travel into a succesful company. Today, Wesemann Travel is the leading travel brand for deaf and hard of hearing and is active in over 20 countries worldwide, and expanding.
The Long Trail is a social enterprise specializing in community based tourism and social development projects. The organization was founded in 2021 by combining existing projects and activities, some dating back as far as 2010. For about twelve years, the founders of The Long Trail have been developing, organizing, and marketing community based tourism programs in countries all over world, and managing social development projects with local communities, mainly in East Africa.
Community based development is not a simple process; it requires time and effort to engage with the communities to help them take responsibility for their role and gain a position in the value chain; there is no shortcut to success. For that reason, we have chosen the name The Long Trail, symbolizing a hiker who deliberately choses the longer route instead of the shortcut, but on the way enjoys the experience and will arrive at the destination with much more satisfaction. For us, this symbolizes that we are a social enterprise. We measure the success of our organization not only in terms of financial gains, but in terms of social impact. We choose to involve local communities rather than limit ourselves to standard business models in tourism. This allows us to create more value for the communities we work with, and ultimately, we arrive at our destination: sustainable development through a sustainable enterprise.
The Long Trail has two main specializations from which we develop and manage our brands and projects. Our travel brands aim to develop, manage, and market community based tourism programs for specific destinations and niche target groups. Our community based nonprofit development projects utilize our experience, connections and trust in the local community to be durable and effective.
For a schematic overview of our activities, you can download our company profile (PDF)
Connect and cooperate
We have the ambition to grow into one of the world's leading social enterprises, specializing in community based tourism and connected development projects. Next to successfully developing commercial and nonprofit activities, we also intent to become an international knowledge center to share our knowledge, experience and expertise in the community based tourism and small scale sustainable community development. We are actively looking for cooperation and collaboration with new partners who share our philosophy and goals and are looking forward to have meaningful conversations about the fields we work in with anyone who is interested.
One arm of The Long Trail focuses on small scale community development projects. Typically, these are nonprofit projects with vulnerable groups aimed at societal development and creating opportunities for work and income.
Since 2018, The Long Trail has been the leading force behind the Sports and Physical Activity Trainer (SPAT) project, aimed at providing young people with a disability the necessary education to become professional sports instructors. The project was originally set up in Ethiopia by a number of Dutch NGOs; in 2019, The Long Trail, with our strong ties to the local community, has taken over the management of the project and further expanded it to Kenya, allowing us to build on the experience and achieve economies of scale.
Kwale Deaf Centre
The Long Trail is responsible for the management as well as the programs at the Kwale Deaf Centre, a community centre for deaf people in the southeast of Kenya. At the moment, about 20 deaf youth live here and participate in the social support programs we provide. We are currently developing community based travel programs in Kwale county and have set up a guesthouse facility for tourists in the town, providing employment to some of the center's youth. Learn more about the Kwale Deaf Centre on YouTube
Lalibela Social Fund
The Lalibela Social Fund provides monthly financial assistance to impoverished elderly and disabled people in the city of Lalibela in Ethiopia. It is an economic experiment, researching the effects of social security for vulnerable people in one of the poorest areas in the world. The project has been initiated by the New York State Intergenerational network (NYSiGN), an NGO from the United States, for which The Long Trail provides the local management and coordination. Learn more about the Kwale Deaf Centre on YouTube
The Ethiopia Deaf Experience
A group of deaf actors in Ethiopia provides workshops and performances to increase awareness about deafness, deaf culture, and sign language. The group gives workshops to individuals and tourists and offers a popular team building session to companies and organizations, as well as an adjusted program for children in school settings.
Why do we believe we have something to offer the travelling public when the market is already over-saturated with travel companies? Because the boutique experiences offered by The Long Trail are something you just can't find anywhere else.
In Eastern Africa, we have a history of trust and accomplishment, leading experience, insight in and deep connections to the local population that other travel companies just don't have. We have invested the time and resources in the communities we target and delegate responsabilities to local people, who become stakeholders in our success. By the same token, we lean into our long standing relationship with the traveling public, such as the deaf community, offering unique travel experience that reward us with a loyal following.
Below you find an overview of the brands we use to connect the traveling public to local communities.
Umoja travel was set up in 2020 to offer community based tourism programs in Kenya and Tanzania, two African countries that are highly popular with the traveling public in Europe and the United States. Umoja is currently developing programs throughout the region, with the emphasis on the area of Kwale in the southeast of Kenya, where The Long Trail is involved in several community based social development projects. Umoja has been experimenting with different kinds activities and programs throughout the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021 and preparing for a rapid expansion in 2022.
The Ethiopia Experience, or TEX for short, is a country specialist dedicated to community based tourism. True to the spirit of The Long Trail, it has developed programs accross the country, engaging different (niche) communities such as long-distance runners, coffee farmers and coffee connaisseurs, religious communities and the members of specific tribes. We work directly with the local communities and with local tour operators and other suppliers to develop and manage our programs. Since 2015, we have accommodated well over a thousand guests and we are currently preparing an ambitous expansion of the brand for the post pandemic period, with new programs and highly targetted marketing.