Doing good doesn’t require traveling through multiple time zones or long stays. New initiatives like Kind Traveler, which launched in 2016, aim to make each trip, however short, an opportunity to improve local lives. The hotel booking website offers discounted rooms to users who make a $10 donation to a charity affiliated with the hotel. Hotels are vetted for their sustainable practices, including environmental and community impacts. The company now offers hotels in 30 destinations in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica and the Caribbean and plans to add hotels in Aspen, Colo., Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va., this spring.
Day trips that take place in communities often give back to them. Ninth Ward Rebirth Bike Tours in New Orleans, for example, donates $5 of its $65 fee to local charities. Oyster hauling or crabbing with Virginia Watermen Heritage Tours provides a secondary source of income to fishermen in a string of coastal communities. The tour booking site Visit.org allows users to search for experiences by interests, including women’s empowerment and human rights.
When it launched its Experiences tours in 2016, Airbnb added social impact programs; 100 percent of the fees go to nonprofits and entrepreneurs highlighted in each tour. They may include an outing in Venice with the founder of a community garden, a LGBTQ history tour of New York with an activist or an experience making notebooks in Prague with the founder of a nonprofit that works with artisans challenged by mental and physical disabilities.
For those who have the time, tour operators offer myriad ways to contribute to social causes.
It’s not uncommon for safari companies in Africa to add community tours to their itineraries, often to show off how they’re spreading the wealth locally via education and health care. This year, andBeyond introduced Travel With Purpose trips, which spend more time visiting conservation and community projects based on the interests of millennial travelers interested in philanthropy.
“Only when you actually get your hands proverbially dirty by rolling up your sleeves and engaging in these projects and initiatives can you really learn and understand the issues and how we can make an impact, however small,” wrote Joss Kent, chief executive of andBeyond, in an email.
Many high-end tour operators such as Audley Travel and Scott Dunn partner with Me to We, the travel arm of the We Charity devoted to sustainable development, to offer social impact trips. African Travel, Inc. offers ME-to-WE Adventure to Kenya (four days from $2,195) in a Maasai Mara community, including learning traditional beading and helping to build a school. Me to We executives say half of its net profits go to the charity.
At Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort in British Columbia, guests can pay to attend its 10-day May guide school alongside resort guides. For each paying traveler, the resort will sponsor training for an indigenous youth from the area. The program, launched this year, is already sold out, but the lodge plans to offer it again in 2019 (5,000 Canadian dollars, or about $3,910).
Village Ways, named best tour operator in the poverty reduction category in 2017 by Responsible Travel, a travel agency that specializes in sustainable travel, guides trips in Bhutan, India and Nepal that focus on village life. New this year, the company will offer trips with the Anwals, migratory shepherds in the Indian Himalayas, walking with them for two days as they drive their sheep to the high meadows. The rest of the time, guests walk from village to village, staying in local guesthouses (10 days from £1,052, or about $1,480).