As travellers, we know that there is so much that the world has to offer us. That’s one of the inherent reasons why we travel – for the wonderful scenery, immersive cultures, new experiences and other such delights we take away from a location when we return home. Thanks to the Internet and great review sites such as Trip Advisor it’s become easier than ever before to consider how our travel plans impact the world and how we can plan trips that give something back, not just to us, but to the global community too.
Even for the busy workers with only a few days of annual leave every year or the family who needs plenty of action, there are lots of options available. We’re not talking about big projects with long periods of volunteering, but instead some smart, conscious travel decisions that can help make the world a better place.
For those planning a holiday that gives something back – or those just looking to take a regular getaway – start by researching what type of holiday you’d like to have. Here are some examples:
These are holidays based around ecological conservation including endangered habitats, fragile environments and undisturbed natural sites such as national parks.
This kind of tourism focuses on making a positive impact on your destination including environment, society and economy. Even if not purely attainable, small decisions like carbon offsetting your flights can contribute to a sustainable future of tourism.
A type of sustainable tourism, humane tourism specifically focuses on empowering local communities through small business operations and providing locals with positive economic opportunities.
Non-Government Organisation associated tourism is an attractive option for some travellers as NGOs often have strong support networks, structure and ties to academics, journalists and regulators that can assure accountability.
Whilst some tour operators flaunt their ethical credentials, a bit of online research via Trip Advisor should help you to separate the genuine from the not-so-genuine.
Going on a trip that will give something back is a fantastic way to make your holiday memorable, but remember that you will still need a great travel insurance policy like TravelCare. We don’t cover volunteering, however we have researched great alternatives for your next trip that would be covered by our award-winning policy, subject to the standard policy terms and conditions of course. So what are you waiting for? Go and have a holiday that gives something back and leaves you feeling great!
For the Family
Chenqdu research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, China ( Sustainable Tourism)
There are as few as 2000 giant pandas left in the world, making them one of the most endangered mammals still in existence. Habitat destruction, pollution, shrinking food sources and human development has led to the construction of the Chengdu Research Base, which began in March 1987 as a research centre for giant panda conservation.
The centre is home to 50 giant pandas across four reserves covering around 1500km2 and focuses on species breeding, scientific research, conservation and tourism. Visitors to the site can tour paths along natural panda habitats, learn about other endangered animals such as red pandas, and of course, tour the base itself, which includes seeing giant pandas. There is also a giant panda museum making the whole experience a top pick for families.
Visiting the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding will not only give something back to visitors through conservation education, priceless experiences and once in a lifetime photos, but money raised directly by the centre is funnelled into further efforts to keep the giant panda alive. You can also make a donation and you’ll no doubt be spreading the cause by word of mouth when you return!
If you think the family might need a bit more action, there are lots of sustainable tourism options available throughout closer destinations such as in the pacific islands. Eco-Resorts in Fiji, Turtle sanctuaries in Vanuatu, environmentally friendly surfing tours in Indonesia, and plenty of other sustainable tourism options are available. The great news is that no matter where you choose to go, dependent children aged 17 and under are covered when travelling with their parents or legal guardians.
African Greenland Safari Tours (NGO Tourism)
We often hear travellers say that there are few greater destinations in the world than the African safari. Whilst many diehard travellers will have already made the pilgrimage to see ‘The Big 5’ out on the open savannah at some point in their life’s itinerary, those looking to do so in the future can rest assured that there are tours that offer sustainable, safe experiences for adventurous individuals. African Greenland Safari Tours operates in partnership with Swiss NGO help2kids to provide safari tours in various regions of Africa, with the cash flow from tourism contributing to buying supplies of medical equipment and medicines to the Lake Manyara Chemchem Clinic.
By request, the tours can include cultural visits facilitated by help2kids to give tourists an insight into local life whilst introducing you to the many and varied faces of the local children. Alongside this, there are the magnificent encounters with wildlife in tour options including Tanzania, Rwanda & Uganda and Malawi & Zambia. Whilst TravelCare does not cover volunteer work, you can make a donation on site if you wish to. The operation is run by Swiss couple Adriana and Urs.
Traidcraft (Humane Tourism)
Traidcraft is a UK-based global leader in fair trade. The organisation focuses on building long-term relationships with producers in developing countries to support people to trade their way out of poverty. Along with independent tour operator Saddle Skedaddle, they have been operating their reputable ‘Meet the People’ Tours for the past 20 years.
These tours focus on humane tourism and operate around the world as package deals that usually include: flights, accommodation, tours, permits to national parks, local attractions and the chance to shop at fair trade markets.
Tours operate to destinations including Thailand, Kenya, Peru, Northern India, South Africa, Malawi and other developing countries. These tours are much more than just a holiday as travellers get to meet local communities, purchase genuine goods and hear the stories of the people they are helping. You’ll give your time and money in exchange for new perspectives, craft and experiences that really give back to the global community.
Sinharaja Ecolodge, Sri Lanka ( Eco Tourism)
Going on a trip that gives something back doesn’t mean you have to forgo any of the luxuries of travel. Take for example the Sinharaja Ecolodge in Sri Lanka, which is nestled next to a rainforest and biological reserve. The lodge itself consists of 16 chalets that have been constructed using recycled materials and are adorned with “every amenity possible.” The structures are created by using two and a half recycled shipping containers and the interiors are decorated with recycled bamboo panelling with recycled railway sleepers for the floor and deck.
These design choices stem from the lodge’s best practices including: best practices in design and management, community outreach, supporting conservation, raising awareness and building strategic alliances with academic professionals, cultural institutions and conservationists and independent evaluation of environmental and socio-economic sustainability.
When staying on site you can also take part in the EcoAdventures offered including bird watching and trekking or tour the Enselwatte Tea Estate bordering the South-eastern side of the reserve. Additional to the lodge’s eco-first approach, Sinharaja also has a sustainable community development program with long-term objectives to improve the quality of life of the neighbouring tea estate community. The tea worker community consists of 37 families which Sinharaja offers employment, social rehabilitation and basic facilities.