Sustainable Travel Going With A Conscience

2016-11-29

by Vivian Vassos

#GivingTuesday. The buzzwords now in travel are giving back, leaving a smaller footprint, and most often heard, sustainable travel.

Sustainable travel. According to Gavin Tollman, Global CEO of Trafalgar, we can make a difference in the destinations to which we go. The buzzwords now in travel are giving back, leaving a smaller footprint, and, most often heard, Sustainable Travel.

A monastic school in Yangon supported by Trafalgar Cares

In Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon), for example, the company’s itinerary includes a visit to a school for children run by a monastery. “The only way we can break the cycle of poverty is around education, and not everyone can afford education,” notes Tollman.

“It’s a basic belief and fundamental to our program, Trafalgar Cares(www.trafalgar.com/can). It is an initiative designed to see how we can be better corporate and global citizens.” The core of the program, he adds, includes sustaining local businesses, local artisans, and working in small communities.

And he’s not alone in his belief.

“We strongly believe that tourism can be a force for good, the greatest form of wealth distribution the world has ever seen,” says big sustainable travel believer Bruce Poon Tip, the Canadian founder of G Adventures (www.gadventures.com). “Tourism is one of the largest industries on earth.”

His claim is backed by recent figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council: worth US $7.6 trillion, tourism represents 10 per cent of the global GDP and employs 277 million people (1 in 11 jobs).

“When done correctly,” he adds, “it can create employment opportunities and breakdown the barriers of inequality and poverty.” (For more on Bruce, click here to watch his inspirational talk at ideacity 2016.)

Merit Travel, says Lori Copeland, director, product development and groups, has a preferred relationship with the aforementioned G-Adventures and Planeterra. And, although, G has historically been very popular with youth travelers, says Copeland, “They are also very much a great fit for active mature travelers, and have programs like “Local Living” that are perfectly suited for this demographic.”

Merit has also partnered with WaterAid Canada (formerly WaterCan) in support of their goal to ensure clean water and proper sanitation around the world.

“The organization has attracted many influential Canadians, including their honourary president, Margaret Trudeau. (Read more about Margaret and her initiatives here.) Louise de Grandpré, Sr. VP of Merit Travel, visited a Water Aid Canada project in West Africa two years ago

.

“The opportunity to witness first hand the difference WaterAid projects bring to a community is incredibly powerful. Having a source of clean water and proper latrines changes the lives of the entire community; babies have a better chance to survive the first few years, girls can attend school regularly, women no longer spend hours walking to the nearest well and animals are better cared for. Water is the source of life and WaterAid works with local organizations to ensure the success and the continuity of the projects it funds.” www.merittravel.com

As an Africa specialist, Mary Jean Tully of Tully Luxury Travel is particularly passionate about the continent. “Supporting tourism,” she says, is key, and one of the most compelling reasons to visit South Africa.

“Without tourism, the communities and the wildlife suffer greatly. She’s also passionate for personal reasons: she considers herself a conservationist, and is involved in the protection of wildlife, particularly where poaching continues to threaten Elephants, Rhinos and Big Cats.

In addition, Tully was nominated for an Innovation Award at We Are Africa for My Wild Africa (www.mywildafrica.com), her award-winning social media accounts (@maryjeantully), where she tells personal stories about her experiences across Africa. www.tullyluxurytravel.com

“You can bring people into the small towns and the communities, and you can budget what their needs are accordingly,” says Tollman, on the advantage of group travel. Like the supplies for this school in Myanmar. The company isn’t just supporting existing schools, either. “We are building our second school in Ecuador,” Tollman explains.

“Our first was in Kenya.” Trafalgar is also working with the Susan B Komen foundation to help raise funds for breast cancer research specially created itineraries benefitting the foundation.

It just may be better to give than to receive. For Tollman, giving is about breaking down the barriers through travel. Yet I felt that I was the one on the receiving end. Having the opportunity to engage with the children was the true gift.

 

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