By Kayla O’Neill
Travel is a means through which we can explore the issues and need areas of places throughout the world. Making up nine percent of the world’s economy, tourism is a huge economic boom for places like Nepal, Costa Rica, and South Africa. But with the mountain climbers, rainforest adventurers, and safari seekers, there are well-documented issues like pollution, “poverty tourism,” self-advantageous “voluntourism” programs, and overconsumption of local resources.
So what better way to affect change than through a travel-focused social enterprise? Between nonprofits that look specifically at building sustainable employment opportunities and tour companies that participate in peacebuilding through personal connections, there are some amazing examples of social enterprises paving the way for responsible travel.
Keep these enterprises in mind as you plan or dream about global co-op travel, spring break trip, or post-grad adventures.
This certified B Corp provides alternative tours that explore the many perspectives of inhabitants of places like Israel and Palestine or the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Co-founder Aziz Abu Sarah is a Palestinian activist who, with the aim to connect people, choses to focus on honoring clients and communities and rejecting commercialism. With an emphasis on including multiple narratives, these tours feature the voices of people from what are often seen as oppositional faith backgrounds – Jews and Muslims in the Middle East or Protestants and Catholics in Ireland.
Currently operating in Rwanda, Uganda, Congo, and Costa Rica, the Atlanta-based business Vayando simultaneously facilitates local experiences for tourists and provides opportunity for entrepreneurs in emerging economy. The founders are a pair of Peace Corps volunteers who have scaled the organization enough to attract the interest of partners and backers like the National Peace Corps Association and Mentor Capital Network. The types of experiences offered range from a canoe trip lasting a couple of hours to a multi-day island excursion.
Vayando makes use of the technologies that local micro-entrepreneurs have available. They use SMS to notify the micro-entrepreneurs about a requested booking, rather than relying on less accessible internet-based solutions. The best part for foreign travelers is that the activities and excursions are a reasonably priced option for many, with deals like $18 per person for a 3-hour basket weaving workshop in Rwanda.
Have Fun Do Good
This for-profit volunteer travel company took the idea behind college alternative spring break and made it accessible to 21 to 35 year olds. Plenty of companies have commoditized volunteer opportunities, but Have Fun Do Good has gone further by making it accessible to more people thanks to their reasonable prices. Costs are kept low due to their use of retrofitted school buses with beds and other cheap accommodations. They also pioneered the idea of a Random Acts of Kindness scavenger hunt to introduce visitors to a city. Rather than just hitting the landmarks like Time Square and the Statue of Liberty, on their first day of a weekend-long New York City getaway travelers run around, interact with fellow humans, and practice empathy in a fun and adventurous way.
Pack for a Purpose
This volunteer-run nonprofit enables travelers to provide meaningful contributions to the destinations they visit. They have forged 476+ partnerships in Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Oceania, Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. These partners collect and distribute items such as school supplies and children’s clothing to meet ongoing community needs. Their slogan, “Small Space. Little Effort. Big Impact” concisely explains why this is a great fit for busy business travelers or people who regularly schlep across the globe with unused space in their carry-on bags. While coordinated aid efforts scramble to fill the gaps in need, this concept allows a small number of privileged people to give just a small amount of time and resources to a worthy cause. It may not be revolutionizing the system, but it manages to expertly match the “haves” with “have-nots.”