The recent news coming out of China aside, the global travel sector continues to grow at a faster rate than world GDP, according to at least one international travel group. That growth does not necessarily mean local citizens benefit. But thanks to factors including younger travelers’ interest in having a different experience, the power of social media, and surging environmental and social awareness, social impact travel is thriving.
When we say social impact travel, we’re talking about itineraries that seek to support local communities and are more responsible, sustainable and respectful of local cultures. The word has long been out that all-inclusive trips are often far from being “inclusive,” as the saying goes.
A partnership driving social impact travel
One company driving this trend is G Adventures, which for several years has worked with its nonprofit partner, Planeterra, to ensure that locals at tourist destinations worldwide can gain both income and new skills from tourism.
Planeterra has proven to be an indispensable partner as its staff has worked to launch community development projects in several countries where G Adventures runs tours. These projects have helped build wealth for local communities while offering travelers an experience they would have otherwise lacked.
The latest of these initiatives is what G Adventures calls Project 100. As the name suggests, the goal is to have at least 100 community tourism projects included within the travel operator’s various itineraries by the end of this year.
The opportunity for travelers to work on a project while they venture abroad is one way to build goodwill in local communities while offering a more meaningful experience for visitors. Many adventurers have the desire to work on a social impact project overseas but cannot make a long-term commitment akin to volunteering for a humanitarian relief organization, nor can they set aside a couple years for signing up for a program like the U.S. government’s Peace Corps.
The success of social impact travel is in the numbers
But taking a day or two to lend a hand with a community project can help satisfy that yearning to do good while in a different setting far from home. G Adventures and Planeterra say they are nearing their goal with 80 such itineraries on the books. The five newest projects are underway in Australia, Botswana and Madagascar (hosting a deforestation project, shown above), along with two in Malaysia.
“It’s our goal for 90 percent of G Adventures’ small group trips to visit a community tourism project that supports women and children, and indigenous culture," G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip said in an emailed statement to TriplePundit. "Now more than ever, we’re also looking at projects that empower local communities to protect their local environment at the same time. Our definition of community tourism goes beyond the projects themselves, as the ripple effect of positive impact travel extends into the local community, to our local suppliers and ultimately to our travelers."
According to G Adventures, more than 100,000 travelers visit a Planeterra project each year, which results in leaving an impact on the lives of over 60,000 local people. The company says these social impact travel itineraries are selected based on the largest benefit to a community resulting from traveler numbers — notably where women, youth and indigenous people are at a disadvantage by a lack of access to education, jobs and income opportunities.
Image credit: G Adventures
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.