How Your Travel Choices Can Empower Women Around the World

One of my favorite days of the year is International Women’s Day which is held on March 8th.  International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity and improving the lives of women around the world. For years, I have written about the progress that has been made and the work that still needs to be done to help lift women out of poverty and improve their health, their lives and their livelihoods.

One area that can certainly help improve women’s lives is sustainable employment and as the travel industry booms around the world, there is a great opportunity for women to increase their livelihoods through sustainable tourism.

As travelers, we can use our travel choices and purchasing power to help enhance gender equity around the world and provide more women with sustainable employment through the travel industry. Travelers can support women’s jobs in the global hospitality industry by choosing women-led travel outfitters, employing female guides, supporting women-owned businesses and local non-profits in the places they visit.

Last year, on International Women’s Day I collaborated with the  Impact Travel Alliance, the world’s largest community for impact-focused travelers and travel professionals, to highlight six amazing female-run travel businesses and tour operators supporting women’s programs around the world.  This year, as a member of Impact Travel Alliance, we are sharing four tips you can help empower women through your travel choices.

Four Tips on how your travel purchases can empower women:

It is no surprise that the global travel industry is booming. Per the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC): In 2018, the Travel and Tourism sector experienced 3.9% growth, outpacing that of the global economy (3.2%) for the eighth consecutive year. Over the past five years, one in five jobs were created by the sector, making Travel and Tourism the best partner for governments to generate employment. In 2018, the global tourism industry contributed a record $8.8 trillion and 319 million jobs to the world economy.

Therefore, the opportunity for women to find employment in the travel industry is huge. However, only if we ensure that women are being hired. Of course, there are a lot of obstacles in the way such as gender biases, lack of education and patriarchal countries that make it difficult for some women to work, especially in the travel and hospitality industry. But women are persevering like Becky, East Africa’s first female overland driver. We too as travelers can make a big difference in supporting and empowering women by the choices we make when we travel. Check out these four tips on what you can do to make a difference and support women’s livelihoods when you travel:

Seek out female tour guides

It comes as no surprise that finding a female tour guide is a rarity. In fact, over all of my years of travel I probably only had a dozen or so female tour guides and not a single female tour guide on any of the multi-day treks that I’ve done. I remember when I was traveling in Belize last year with G Adventures, that we had one of the only female tour guides in Guatemala for our tour of Tikal. She was quite proud of her role and attributed it to her rare opportunity to go to a bilingual school where she was able to learn English. She was the only girl in her family that had this opportunity and it allowed her to lift herself and her family out of poverty.

Dos Brazos de Tigre Lokal Travel

Xiña leads the way to her jungle cabin with her walking stick ready. Lokal Travel in the Osa Peninsula.

I was fortunate to have traveled to the remote Osa Penisula of Costa Rica where I met Xiña, whose chance encounter with one of Lokal Travel’s founders, changed her life and launched her tiny business in the tourism industry offering traveler’s a chance to spend a night in her cabin up in the jungle.   Spending the night at her cabin in the Costa Rican jungle was one of the highlights of my trip and it also helped Xiña earn a much-needed income.

However, finding female tour guides can be a daunting task. Sustainable travel outfitter, Responsible Travel, does the work for you. Check out Responsible Travel’s amazing, curated list of women-led vacations ranging from Mongolia to Cuba. Adventures in Good Company also employs female-guides for their female trips.

Chose travel agencies and tour companies run by women

The great news is there are tons of fantastic travel agencies and tour companies run by women.  While most are based in North America, Europe or Australia or New Zealand, they still help empower and employ women around the world. I’ve highlighted some of these companies before in prior posts and added a few new ones to the ever-growing list. I’ve learned about all of these companies thanks to the Impact Travel Alliance and readers’ recommendations. So if you know any more to add to this list, please let me know in the comments.

Adventures in Good Company

Founded by Marian Marbury, Adventures in Good Company is an active travel company for women with adventurous spirits. Adventures in Good Company offers small group adventures that encourage women of all ages to (re)connect with their adventurous selves, physical abilities, other women, different cultures, and the natural world. From hiking to sea kayaking, backpacking to multisport adventures, their vacations are for women who love being active, whether they’re first time travelers or lifelong outdoorswomen. Destinations: Worldwide.

 

Adventures in Good Company

Adventures in Good Company hiking trip

Andeana Hats

Andeana Hats is a female-owned company that operates sustainable tours for travelers to support Quechua weaving community in rural Peru. Through their partnership with the non-profit organization, Awamaki, Andeana Hats provides sustainable tours that not only are fun and educational, and provide a positive impact in the Quechua communities. Destination(s): Peru

Andeana Hats (Photo credit Laura Grier)

Andeana Hats (Photo credit Laura Grier)

Community Homestay

Community Homestay in Nepal provides local women the opportunity to become entrepreneurs and ready their homes to house guests. Select a homestay online and meet with the local women and communities in Nepal. Community Homestay also offers such cultural experiences as cooking classes, jungle walks, wildlife viewing and more. Every tour helps local women and their families. Destination(s): Nepal

Courtesy of Community Homestay

Picture of Village in Patlekhet Homestay. Courtesy of Community Homestay

Fernweh Fair Travel

Fernweh Fair Travel is a women-led nonprofit organization working to empower women, mostly young widows, and bring sustainable development to communities in India through responsible tourism. Fernweh Fair Travel offers authentic travel experiences along with mountain adventure sports in the majestic Indian Himalayas. Their goal is to empower and support communities through travel that makes a positive impact on the local economy, culture, and environment. Destination(s): India

Homestay Team. Photo Credit: Fernweh Fair Travel – Uplifting Communities

Girls Trip Tours

Girls Trip is a transformative travel experience focused on female empowerment. Girls Trip Tours hosts trips to various African destinations with the goal of empowering future female leaders through mentorship while taking in the sites and dining around town with high profile businesswomen and local industry leaders.  Destination: Africa

Girls Travel Tours

This mentorship day photo was taken at the giraffe center in Nairobi and is credited to Samantha Kendi.

Global Family Travels

Global Family Travels’ was founded by Jennifer Spatz with the mission to “Learn, Serve and Immerse.” In partnership with community-based partners, schools and non-profit organizations, Global Family Travels creates and offers service-learning tours for families which include a unique mix of cultural and educational activities, homestays and participation in local service projects aimed at improving the lives of people in the communities they visit.  Destinations: Worldwide

Global Family Travels

Reading to new friends. Photo credit: Global Family Travels

GOOD Travel

GOOD Travel’s mission is to make it easier for travelers to have a positive social, economic and environmental impact on the places they visit. They do this through tours as well as advocacy, research and events focused on influencing tourist behavior for GOOD. GOOD Travel’s tours are carefully researched and designed to create unique, impactful and transformative experiences for travelers to have a positive impact on the destination being visited. For each trip, all accommodations and tour companies are carefully selected due to their focus on sustainability and community, and $100 per person is donated to a local project. Destinations: Bali, Iceland, Thailand, New Zealand, Zanzibar, and Peru (a mother-daughter trip).

 

Mother Daughter Trip to Machu Picchu

The girls enjoying the view at Machu Picchu

Purposeful Nomad

Purposeful Nomad runs female, small-group adventures around the world designed to empower women through responsible community engagement. Purposeful Nomad was created to inspire, challenge and bring together women from around the globe. Trips can include meeting leaders in sustainable tourism,  helping with community projects, living like a local and helping your host family harvest, feed animals or cook, engaging with women working to restore native alpaca customs and more. Destinations: India, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Ecuador, Orcas Islands, Guatemala, Morocco, Iceland, and Tanzania.

Cloud forest Ecuador. Working at Mashpi farm sorting cocoa seeds from the pods. Photo credit: Purposeful Nomad

Wild Women Expeditions

Wild Women Expeditions is a global leader in women’s adventure travel offering adventurous trips all over the world ranging from canoeing, cycling, and paddleboarding to kayaking, yoga, and hiking.  Their trips are founded on a love of the outdoors, a sense of adventure, and the joy of sharing a new experience with other spirited women. Wild Women Expeditions is passionate about environmental conservation and also seeks out opportunities to support programs that foster female empowerment, by partnering with social justice and women’s rights organizations in an effort to make a difference both locally and globally. Destinations: Worldwide.

Photo courtesy of Wild Women.

Book with travel companies that support nonprofits empowering women in the communities they visit.

Another fabulous tip is to book your trip with a travel company that supports nonprofits empowering women in the communities that they visit. Thankfully this is a growing trend in the travel industry and one that I love to see. Two stand-out travel outfitters that I have personally used include G Adventures and Intrepid Travel who both make it part of their mission and trips to support local nonprofits in the destinations that they travel to.

G Adventures

G Adventures is a social enterprise that provides responsible, sustainable small-group tours around the world. G Adventures spreads good around the world by working with local businesses and guides, promoting animal and child welfare, responsible travel with indigenous cultures, and other projects. G Adventures offers tours for families, solo travelers, age groups, classic tours, active tours, adventure tours, local living tours, National Geographic tours, and more. As a key funder for the nonprofit, Planeterra, in 2018 alone, G Adventures contributed $500,000 CAD to its nonprofit partner Planeterra to support community development in 42 countries, reaching 64,250 people and directly supporting 2,043 women, 491 youth and 2,758 community members around the world. In 2018, over 98,000 travelers visited one of Planeterra’s projects around the world and G Adventures has integrated the project visits into most of their tours. In my opinion, it is an excellent way to travel and do good. (To read about my visit to one of G Adventures G for Good projects in Belize click here). Destinations: Worldwide

San Antonio Women's Coop Belize

At the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative in Belize watching a Mayan woman show us how to make corn tortillas.

Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel -one of the world’s largest adventure travel companies – is changing the way we see and impact the world. With over 1,000 tours in 120 countries, Intrepid has done wonders to promote responsible tourism and help make a positive impact on where they travel. Intrepid is committed not just to treading lightly, but to making a real difference – by investing in local communities, human rights initiatives, wildlife conservation projects, and the environment. Intrepid is all about operating in a responsible manner and incorporating principles of sustainable tourism and development into the way they provide our travelers with real-life experiences.

Intrepid is committed to promoting gender equality, both within our business and without, which is why Intrepid is striving to double its number of female leaders by 2020. From Zina in Morocco,to Channa in Cambodia, Nadia in Iran, and Sana in India,  Intrepid is paving the way to empower women tour leaders.  I traveled with Intrepid to Jordan this past October and felt good knowing many travel dollars were supporting these causes.

Oval Forum, Jerash, Jordan

Me in Jerash, Jordan.

Intrepid also has a wide variety of Women’s Expeditions where you can break down the cultural barriers of traditional tourism” with their amazing range of all-female adventures ranging from such fascinating trips as Israel and the Palestine territories to Pakistan and India and more.

Break down the cultural barriers of traditional tourism with our range of all-female adventures.

Join and support female travel communities online

Another great way to support women in travel is to join female travel communities online. Thankfully there are tons out there and most provide a global community of women who love to travel and share their tips. We are Travel Girls is a community created to inspire, connect, educate and empower female travelers. They also launched Travel Girls Giving to raise money and highlight charitable organizations around the world and they host impact trips as well for women to see different inspiring projects in the field. The Travel Women is another online resource for women who love to travel and share their tips, stories and more online. Unearth Women is an online media outlet where feminism meets travel. Check out their list of over 40 Feminist Guides that give tips on how you can support women in cities around the world.

Like it? Why not PIN for later?

Travel Companies Empowering Women Through Travel

 

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Global Family Travels

Global Family Travels: Life-Changing Travel Experiences for the Entire Family

Have you ever wanted to travel in a more meaningful way and together as a family?  For me, I personally find the trips in which I’m traveling sustainably and giving back to the local communities I visit, to be the most rewarding trips of my life. From that first trip to Nepal in 2010 where I raised money to build a rural reading center to my climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro to raise funds for Solar Sister and bring solar electricity to Sub-Saharan Africa, I have always believed in the power of travel to make a difference.  So what if you could combine this kind of transformational, meaningful travel with a family trip and bring your kids? That is the very concept behind Global Family Travels, a travel company that offers enriching cultural immersion experiences for families to “Learn, Serve, and Immerse”.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Jennifer Spatz, founder of Global Family Travels, and here is what she had to say.

When were you founded?

Much more than a traditional tour operator, Global Family Travels (GFT) was founded by Jennifer Spatz in 2010.

What inspired you to found Global Family Travels? 

There were two things that inspired me to start Global Family Travels: An inspirational quote and her own family travels.

The inspirational quote was by Jeffrey Sachs and I found it on of a Starbucks Coffee Mug, “The Way I See It #262”:

“We are the First Generation in history that can end extreme poverty. That is our good fortune, our challenge, and our responsibility.”

Global Family Travels Zimbabwe

Jennifer Spatz, Founder of Global Family Travels visiting School in Zimbabwe

From the age of 6 months old, when I was transported to Europe on the S.S. Independence I was given the gift of traveling abroad with my own family. Those special bonding experiences as a family sharing enriching and cultural learning experiences are etched in my heart. (examples – Riding through the rice paddies of Taiwan with my mother in a small Datsun to celebrate the harvest moon festivities with our friends; or hauling a small Christmas tree in a small village in Austria and decorating it with candles and traditional wooden ornaments) These experiences also instilled values of compassion and understanding for different cultures and something I wanted to recreate for our travelers.

Global Family Travel trips offer the opportunity to strengthen your own family bonds and experience the joy and fulfillment of meeting new people, discovering other cultures while reaffirming what matters most…our shared values and connectedness. 

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Wadi Rum

The Best Sustainable Travel and Adventure Companies

Grab a cup of coffee or tea! This post is going to be a long one but I’m hoping it will be greatly appreciated. You may want to bookmark it for later as I’m certain that this constantly evolving list of the best sustainable and travel adventure companies in the industry will be an invaluable resource for future trip planning!  Enjoy!

The Treasury at Petra.

Love at first sight. The Treasury at Petra.

Although I have traveled all my life, sometime in my late twenties I became a traveler. For most of my life, I had been more of a tourist trying to rush around the world seeing as much as I could possibly see, never fully understanding what it all meant. It was in my twenties that I went on my first truly eye-opening trip to Peru. Within the first half-hour of being on the ground, I was mugged inside a taxi and it was at that point I realized that the world is not a giant playground for me to explore yet a place for me to search for answers and try to understand. Since then, I have continued to follow my promise to be a good, responsible traveler as best as I can.

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Saddle Skedaddle

Saddle Skedaddle celebrates a landmark 25 years with exclusive new cycling trips

As the demand to explore the world in a unique and sustainable way increases, there is terrific news for cycling enthusiasts who seek adventure. Saddle Skedaddle, a world-class cycling operator with nearly 25 years of experience curating diverse itineraries and cycling tours, has launched its new 2020 tours, exploring far-flung corners of the world by bike. Ranging from such off the beaten path destinations like Jordan, Ethiopia, and Borneo, Saddle Skedaddle is bound to stir up those who seek to see the world a little differently.

Biking trips offer a unique way to explore pockets of a destination that can often be off the common tourist route, and also provide a way to travel and do good by being environmentally-friendly and supporting local communities. Better yet, by traveling in a small-group on two wheels you truly have the freedom to experience and get to know a destination, its people and culture intimately. While I have not yet had the opportunity to do a cycling trip myself, it is something I would love to experience someday especially given my love of hiking trips.

In my quest to feature different sustainable adventure travel outfitters, I reached out to Paul Snedker, Director and Co-Founder, of Saddle Skedaddle to learn more about their mission and of course their amazing trips.  Here is what Paul had to say. 

When were you founded, by who and why?

My friend, Andrew Straw, and I founded Saddle Skedaddle nearly 25 years ago after our own cycling adventure in Chile. One night, while trapped on a mountain pass during a snowstorm, we got to talking about how much we had been able to see and experience while traveling the country on a bike. We hatched an idea about bringing this kind of travel to other people—pedaling through, not passing by, as they say—and with that, Saddle Skedaddle was born!

Today, Saddle Skedaddle is the UK’s leading independent cycling vacation specialist that is all about doing something wonderful on two wheels. Our team of experts has searched far and wide for nearly 25 years to bring you some of the world’s most incredible locations and enchanting cultures to enjoy at the speed of the bike. It’s time to really meet a place, and its people, you’ll never want to forget.

Saddle Skedaddle

Travel in Morocco

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Natural Habitat Adventures

Natural Habitat Adventures Paves the Way in Eco-Tourism and Wildlife Conservation

As the desire for up close and personal wildlife tours increases, concerns have grown about how to help protect animals in the wild especially in the face of climate change, irresponsible wildlife encounters, and an increase in poaching of certain species. Thankfully the demand for ethical wildlife tourism is on the rise and Natural Habitat Adventures, a global leader in responsible nature travel is helping pave the way.

Since 1985, Natural Habitat Adventures has been a leader in sustainable adventure travel and ecotourism.  From polar bear tours in Churchill to small-group Galapagos cruises, Natural Habitat Adventure’s journeys reveal the planet’s most extraordinary nature destinations. As the world’s first 100-percent carbon-neutral travel company and the conservation travel partner of World Wildlife Fund, Natural Habitat Adventures offers eco-conscious expeditions from Antarctica to Zambia with a multitude of adventures in between.

I had the opportunity to interview Court Whelan PhD, Natural Habitat Adventures’ Director of Sustainability and Conservation, and here is what he had to say.

When were you founded, by who and why?

Natural Habitat Adventures was founded in 1985 by Ben Bressler, with the intent to bring ecotourism to places where economic infusion could help make habitats and wildlife worth more alive than harvested as resources.

As a young boy, Ben spent endless time exploring nature right out in his backyard in suburban New Jersey. Though Ben had no idea then that his life’s work would take him to the planet’s most far-flung wild places, he discovered early on the life-enhancing power of exploring nature. And his experiences would spark something bigger: the inspiration for a nature travel company that would become his life’s work and a global leader in conservation travel.

Natural Habitat Adventure’s (Nat Hab) first trip was to see baby harp seals (“whitecoats”) on the ice floes in Quebec. We worked in collaboration with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The idea was to replace seal-hunting dollars with seal-watching dollars, supporting the local economy by taking tourists to view and photograph adorable furry white baby seals instead of clubbing them for their pelts. The approach synched with the newly emerging concept of ecotourism. In 1989, Nat Hab expanded further with brown bear viewing at Alaska’s Brook Falls, small-ship voyages in the Galapagos Islands and mountain gorilla safaris in Rwanda.

Emerging as a global leader in responsible nature travel, Nat Hab earned an alliance with World Wildlife Fund. Establishing an innovative partnership in 2003, Nat Hab became WWF’s conservation travel partner, adopting the tag line “Discovering Our Planet Together” in a shared mission to explore and protect the world’s wildest places.

Natural Habitat Adventures

Photo credit: Sean Beckett

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How Intrepid Travel is Changing the Way We See and Impact the World

Intrepid Travel -one of the world’s largest adventure travel companies – is changing the way we see and impact the world. With over 1,000 tours in 120 countries, Intrepid has done wonders to promote responsible tourism and help make a positive impact on where they travel.  As part of the Intrepid Group which includes fellow tour operators Urban Adventures, Peregrine, and Adventure Tours Australia and runs The Intrepid Foundation, Intrepid is on a mission to change the way people see the world by delivering sustainable experience-rich travel products while also harnessing the power of travel to benefit the places and people they visit.

As a global leader in sustainability within the travel industry and a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact, Intrepid is dedicated to being a company committed to purpose beyond profit. Some of Intrepid’s accomplishments in responsible travel include becoming a carbon neutral business in 2010 and becoming the first global travel company to ban elephant rides on its tours in 2014. By 2016, Intrepid’s philanthropic fund distributed more than AU $6 million towards healthcare, human rights, child welfare and environmental and wildlife protection programs in the communities in which it operates. In June 2018, the company launched vegan tours and most recently, in August 2018, Intrepid became a certified B Corporation making Intrepid the largest Travel B Corp in the world.

I heard about Intrepid Travel by fellow travel blogger Alison Armstrong, the beautiful mind behind Adventures in Wonderland  who has written about her own experiences traveling with Intrepid to China last year. Wanting to learn more, I reached out to Rebecca Shapiro, the Senior Editorial Manager of Intrepid Group North America. We talked for over an hour about all the amazing work that Intrepid is doing to change the face of travel and improve the world. Here is what she had to say.

Intrepid Travel Tour in Iran.

Intrepid Travel Tour in Iran. Photo courtesy of Intrepid Travel

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Experience Life in A Village with Duara Travels

Have you ever dreamed of getting a glimpse into the life of a villager in a far off place completely off the grid?  Duara Travels is a social impact tourism enterprise that connects travelers with the opportunity to experience village life, living alongside locals in villages in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tanzania, Ghana, Nepal and Kenya. When you book a village experience through Duara Travels, you get to visit places out of reach for most travelers affording a unique opportunity to meet local people and see real village life. Furthermore, these visits are a great way to support local communities and provide a sustainable income that helps the entire community while supporting sustainable tourism.

I learned about Duara Travels by fellow Impact Travel Alliance media network member of The Altruistic Traveller. Reading her beautiful article on her homestay experience in Manikhel, Nepal through Duara Travels, inspired me to learn more about their work. I had the opportunity to interview Annika Järvelin, one of the co-founders of Duara Travels, and here is what she has to say.

When were you founded, by who and why?

Duara Travels was founded by three women from Finland in 2015. We were inspired to start Duara Travels after doing a fair amount of travel to Asia and Africa where we realized it was challenging to get to know locals and understand their everyday life, especially if we didn’t share the same language. The concept of providing village stays was our way of connecting tourists with this unique way of travel that otherwise would be almost impossible to find. We also wanted to ensure that the money spent on travel in developing countries would benefit locals – and not some wealthy expat. That is why we founded Duara in 2015 after an impact startup hackathon which we participated in and won. We realized we would make a good team as we had backgrounds in design, marketing, tourism, business and development organizations.

Where did you get your name Duara Travels?

Duara is from Swahili and means circle. That is exactly what we create in our villages by connecting families with each other, to offer tourists experiences that last for a lifetime. We currently have 28 villages in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tanzania, Nepal, Kenya, Vietnam and Ghana.

 

Kenya village visit with Duara Travels

Kenya village visit with Duara Travels

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Traveling Off Season with Off Season Adventures

We all know about the cost saving benefits of traveling off season however what about the more intangible benefits such as the ability to positively impact the local economy while avoiding some of the pitfalls of overtourism during high season to popular and ecologically sensitive destinations? Meet Off Season Adventures, a sustainable adventure travel company that curates immersive experiences designed to delight and empower both the traveler and the destination. I learned about Off Season Adventures in my research to create an ever-growing list of amazing sustainable travel organizations that are working to change not only the way we travel but the world.

As the United Nations estimates that nearly 2 billion people will be traveling worldwide by 2030, it is more important than ever to seek sustainable travel options that make the world a better place not worse. To conserve and protect our planet, it is critical to try to mitigate the damage especially when traveling to popular destinations or environmentally-fragile ecosystems. Traveling off season is yet another way to fight overtourism and protect wildlife, culture and landscapes of some of the world’s most beloved places.

I had the opportunity to interview Tanner Knorr, the founder of Off Season Adventures and learn more about their sustainable tours. Here is what he had to say.

When was Off Season Adventures launched and Why?

I launched Off Season Adventures in 2017 after completing my master’s degree in Administrative Studies (with a focus on Economic Development and Tourism Management) at Boston University. I was inspired to start my travel company after a trip to Tanzania through my university and by the sustainable tourism research of Megan Epler Wood who published the book “Sustainable Tourism on a Finite Planet: Environmental, Business and Policy Solutions“.  I was one of her teaching assistants for a Harvard Extension class which covered her book. Off Season Adventures partners with tour operators to showcase some of the incredible destinations around the world in a sustainable way.

Off Season Adventures

Visiting Tanzania. Photo credit: Off Season Adventures

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United for Hope India

United for Hope’s Sustainable Village Tours and Guesthouses in Rural India

Have you ever dreamed of exploring rural India and making a difference?  United for Hope is an international nonprofit that offers intrepid travelers the opportunity to discover the real India through their social tourism venture in Tirmasahun, India. Alongside their development work in education, social entrepreneurship and community programs, United for Hope’s social tourism is helping to truly transform the lives of both the villagers and the travelers who meet them.

Strategically located less than 30 minutes away from the popular tourist destination of Kushinagar (a famous Buddhist pilgrimage site) in the Uttar Pradesh region of India near Nepal is the tranquil village of Tirmasahun. Here tourists can enjoy the comforts of a guesthouse or do a day trip to the village through United for Hope’s social tourism program. This unique program is pioneering sustainable development and tourism in one of India’s poorest regions. During each visit, travelers will be able to embrace village life, enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal and experience meaningful cultural exchange, while also nurturing positive environmental and social impact in the community.  The impact of these visits is powerful, creating a socioeconomic ripple effect throughout the entire community while also affording travelers a magical glimpse into rural Indian life.

I had the opportunity to interview United for Hope about their sustainable tourism project and here is what they had to say.

Tell me more about United for Hope.  

United for Hope was founded by Tara McCartney in 2014 and is a registered tax-deductible NGO in Germany, France, India and the USA. Motivated by her love for development work and certainty that she has the skills to drive real change in rural India, Tara quit her corporate career to found United for Hope. The organisation launched its first pilot Smart Village in Tirmasahun, Kushinagar district (UP) in 2014. Just like in other areas of the world, rural populations here face a complex web of challenges: access to health, education and energy, income generation, lack of infrastructure, corruption, and bad governance. These aspects are all inter-connected and cannot be addressed separately. For this reason, after a process of testing, improving and learning, we developed a structured approach which aims to tackle all these issues.

Tell me a little more about Tara’s background.

Tara McCartney is an ex-corporate manager turned social entrepreneur with multiple projects and companies based out of India. From basic services for the rural poor such as water, solar energy and clean cooking stoves via her non-profit United for Hope and its partner for-profit, Shakti Empowerment Solutions to sustainable farming and dignified working conditions for farm labours via Grow Good Farms to ethical textile production for European retailers through her full service agency, Fairfactia, Tara has an in-depth knowledge of the challenges and the opportunities of social entrepreneurship in India. She has extensive experience in holding workshops, giving presentations, contributing to panel discussions and speaking to the media. Tara also works as a consultant for other international agencies.

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Above Safaris

Earth Day Travel Guide: Top Tours that Help Protect Wildlife Around the World

On April 22nd, the 49th annual Earth Day is being celebrated around the world. This year’s theme – to protect the Earth’s endangered and threatened species – could not be more important. The world is facing unprecedented climate change and a mass extinction of many of the amazing species of plants and wildlife that make our planet so incredibly unique. Unlike the extinction of the dinosaurs 60 million years ago, the devastating changes to our planet are driven by us. As concerns grow, there is still hope that we can fight climate change and reverse the mess we’ve made of our planet. As travelers, we have a choice on how we spend our money and we can make a difference by supporting travel organizations that help protect the environment and its wildlife.

In honor of Earth Day’s Protect Our Species campaign and as a member of Impact Travel Alliance (the world’s largest community for impact-focused travelers and travel professionals), I am highlighting some of the amazing tour operators working to help travelers responsibly visit and protect wildlife around the world.

“Seeing wildlife in their natural habitat can become some of our most vivid travel memories. I was deeply impacted by a trip to Uganda where I watched gorillas go about their daily lives in the Bwindi National Park and I bonded deeply with elephants while interacting with them at a conservation park in Thailand,” said Kelley Louise, Impact Travel Alliance founder and executive director. “It’s important to take the time to research and book wildlife tours that put the animals and their environment first.” As an avid traveler and nature lover, I could not agree more. Whatever we can do as travelers to make a difference is better than not doing anything at all. By choosing to travel with an ethical organization, we are making a big difference in hope that these incredible animals will be around for future generations.

Photo credit Playa Viva and Dave Krugman

Leatherback Sea Turtles on the shore of Playa Viva, Mexico. Photo credit Playa Viva and Dave Krugman

Here is a list of sustainable tours that help travelers see and protect Earth’s wildlife:

Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura’s mission is to inspire wonder and curiosity about the incredible world we all share by offering unique trips, sharing stories, holding events and fostering a global community to create a comprehensive database of the world’s most wondrous places and foods.

Atlas Obscura offers some pretty fabulous trips such as tracking wild bumblebees in the wild with expert biologists. Travel to Sequoia National Park with Atlas Obscura and expert biologists to track, conduct research on and help protect wild bumblebee populations and explore this peaceful landscape. You will learn firsthand about the plight of the humble bumblebee while also supporting them.

Atlas Obscura

Giant sequoia grove near auburn california trees, nature landscapes. Photo credit: Atlas Obscura

Playa Viva

Playa Viva is a unique yoga retreat destination where you will enjoy the rugged, unspoiled beauty of Mexico in the guilt-free luxury of an environmentally conscious resort. Become immersed in nature, volunteer in the turtle sanctuary, give back to the local community, engage in a workshop, or just relax completely.

Stay in Playa Viva’s sustainable hotel in Mexico and participate in the Playa Viva Turtle Sanctuary’s efforts to protect leatherback sea turtle eggs from predators.

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Conservation/Environment Global Issues Sustainable Travel Organizations TRAVEL RESOURCES
New Zealand Good Travel

GOOD Travel: Transforming the Tourism Industry into a Force for Good

Did you know that tourism is one of the largest industries in the world, employing 1 in 11 people and generating US $7.2 trillion annually? Imagine what can happen if we harness this powerful, global force with positive social, economic and environmental impact in the communities around the world we travel to. That is the vision and mission behind GOOD Travel, a social enterprise focused on changing the face and experience of travel in an effort to create a better world for all.

If you believe in having a positive impact on the places you visit, connecting with the communities you meet and learning through your journey, then GOOD Travel has the perfect trip for you.

I had the opportunity to talk with Eliza Raymond, one of the Co-Founders and the Director of Operations at GOOD Travel. Here is what she has to say.

When were you founded, by who and why? 

GOOD Travel was founded in 2013 by four women from Peru, USA, South Africa and New Zealand. Our vision is to transform the tourism industry into a force for GOOD. We believe that change needs to happen at a variety of levels for this to be achieved – our focus is on travelers. 
 

A Booking.com report concluded that while 46% of global travelers consider themselves a sustainable traveler, only 5% of travelers believe it is easy to travel sustainably. GOOD Travel exists to directly address this gap and to make it easier for travelers to have a positive social, economic and environmental impact on the places they visit. We do this through our GOOD tours as well as advocacy, research and events focused on influencing tourist behavior for GOOD. Our tours are carefully researched and designed to create unique, impactful and transformative experiences for travelers to have a positive impact on the destination being visited.

What is your mission?

Our mission is to inspire and empower travelers to have a positive social, economic and environmental impact on the places they visit.

What are five of your best trips?

Iceland

Iceland, September 23rd-28th, 2019– Discover stunning waterfalls and glaciers, support one of the world’s first eco-villages, explore your creativity with artist Baron Wright and experience Iceland’s famous (and secret!) lagoons. 

Good Travel Iceland

In Iceland, we’ll explore stunning waterfalls, national parks and glaciers. Photo Credit: Traveller of GOOD Travel

Sustainable Travel Organizations TRAVEL RESOURCES

How Ecotourism is Helping Protect Endangered Howler Monkeys in Belize

The Yucatan Black Howler Monkey is the largest monkey in the Americas, and found only in a small section of Central America. Originally called baboons by the locals, the Yucatan Black Howler Monkey has been listed as an endangered species since 2003 and its population has declined over 60% due to loss of land, hunting and disease. Yet an innovative, community-led grassroots project called the Community Baboon Sanctuary located in the Belize River Valley outside of Belize City is doing wonders to conserve and protect both the monkeys and the local community who support them. It was the first place I visited on my trip to Belize with G Adventures and was the perfect way to start off a week of adventure and sustainable travel.

I arrived in Belize City on a non-stop morning flight from cold, wintry Minnesota. The moment I walked off the plane, I was greeted with the sticky, thick humidity of the tropics. A smile instantly came across my weather-worn face. I was ready for some sun and adventure, both which would be coming over the next eight days in Belize exploring the jungle, ancient Mayan ruins, and marine life in the world’s second largest barrier reef.

After gathering my luggage, I was greeted by a representative from the Black Orchid Resort where I’d be spending the first two days of my trip. Located next to the mangrove banks of the Belize River near the tiny village of Burrell Boom, it was the perfect alternative to staying in Belize City. The Black Orchid offered peace, beauty and nature yet was not too far away from the major tourist attractions and very close to the Community Baboon Sanctuary where we would be spending our first full morning.

After an evening of settling in at the hotel and meeting my fellow group of travelers with G Adventures, we were ready to depart for a morning tour of the Community Baboon Sanctuary (CBS). I was extremely excited to visit the CBS because I love monkeys and I am passionate about seeing sustainably run conservation projects on the ground. We arrived around nine and were met by our guide Robert who would first give us an overview of the project and then take us on a wonderful nature walk within the sanctuary where we would learn about the flora and fauna of the rainforest and be able to observe the monkeys in the wild.

The CBS is an exemplary community-led grassroots conservation project that works to protect the natural habitat of the endangered Yucatan black howler monkeys while also working hand in hand with the local community through education, community development and sustainable ecotourism practices. The CBS was founded by American primatologist Dr. Robert Horwich in 1981 after he identified the region of the lower Belize River Valley as one of the largest habitats of black howler monkeys in North Central America. Working with the local community of private landowners, the pioneering idea of creating a voluntary sanctuary for the monkeys was formed. Property maps were drawn up for each landholder and they were asked to sign a voluntary pledge that outlined the management plans for conservation.

Belize Central America Conservation/Environment Sustainable Travel Organizations TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION