by JoAnna Haugen
When travellers leave home, they may set their personal problems behind for a bit, but challenges exist wherever they choose to go on holiday. Rather than hiding these challenges from travellers, a growing number of companies are using tourism as a vehicle to support social initiatives addressing them.
Image Credit: Shu Lin dejashuu. A community-run teahouse on the river in Aït Benhaddou, Morocco, that provides local women with a living income. Included in Intrepid Travel tours.
In 2016, Sam McManus founded YellowWood Adventures and began offering trips to Ethiopia. He immediately incorporated an opportunity for travellers to support local clinics assisting young girls suffering from fistulas. As the company expanded, so did its outreach. “I became more aware of the different social and environmental challenges of each country as I went,” McManus said. In addition to supporting communities by hiring local guides, YellowWood is establishing partnerships with charities and NGOs in regions where it operates.
Images: YellowWood Adventures
YellowWood isn’t the only company doubling down on this aspect of its business. Intrepid Travel recently enhanced several of its itineraries by adding 22 new impact initiatives, defined by the company as “activities that directly support environmental or wildlife conservation, preserve Indigenous culture, or support marginalised social groups.”
Image credits; Intrepid Travel - Mark Glassner, North Sailing & Lavin Home
Inhabit, a new wellness-focused hotel in London’s Paddington, has partnered with more than 20 local social enterprises. And Charitable Travel, founded in April 2020, is a social enterprise and travel agency that makes a donation on behalf of every traveler. It also established the Charitable Travel Fund, which is a UK-based charity that specifically supports aid to communities that depend on tourism revenue but have minimal governmental support when that income is threatened or lost due to unexpected events like natural disasters or pandemics.
“I felt there was a place for us to create a fund and awareness of the instances as they occur, and to be able to grant aid support to communities dependent on tourism to help in immediate recovery from injury and illness, to help with deprivation and hardship, and then to help with regaining tourism income as quickly as possible," said Melissa Tilling, CEO of Charitable Travel and trustee of the Charitable Travel Fund.
Image Credits; Charity Travel
These developments not only position tourism to be that proverbial “force for good” but travellers increasingly expect tour companies to proactively align themselves with social causes. According to Booking.com’s 2021 Sustainable Travel Report, 83% of survey respondent think sustainable travel is vital and 76% want to ensure the economic impact of tourism is spread equally throughout all levels of society.
“Not only is this something I want to do and gives the company meaning, but I think it’s demanded from clients now – or at least it should be,” McManus said. “And if it isn’t, we can educate them in that. Because, I think travel has changed forever and most likely changed for the better."
About the Author
JoAnna Haugen is an award winning writer, speaker, and solutions advocate who has worked in the travel and tourism industry for almost 15 years.
She is also founder of Rooted, a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, social impact, and storytelling.
A returned U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, international election observer, and intrepid traveler, JoAnna is always on the hunt for her next great adventure.