David Krantz from the Centre for Responsible Travel (CREST) speaks with Blue & Green Tomorrow about its Travellers’ Philanthropy programme – where tourism businesses and travellers are going to extraordinary lengths.
This article originally appeared in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Philanthropy 2014.
How would you define philanthropy?
When we refer to philanthropy, we’re really talking about giving back through time, talent or treasure. Time and talent refer to volunteering, which could be manual labour such as maintaining a nature trail in the case of time, or a voluntarily applying a developed skill in talent. Treasure could be cash donations to a charitable organisation or donated goods (used or new) to a charitable cause. With these forms of give-back, the idea is to improve the world around us.
What is Travellers’ Philanthropy and what does it mean for the global travel industry?
Travellers’ Philanthropy is tourism businesses and travellers making concrete contributions of time, talent and treasure to local projects beyond what is generated through the normal tourism business. This form of strategic giving has tremendous potential for the global travel industry. All over the world, travellers and travel companies are giving financial and material resources as well as volunteering time and expertise to further the wellbeing of local communities and conservation in travel destinations.
Travellers’ Philanthropy is not about collecting loose change for charities; rather, it is about integrating tourism company and visitor support for local communities into the core definition of responsible travel. Travelers’ philanthropy helps support and maintain the unique communities/environments travelers want to visit, which ensures their ability to remain and prosper into the future.
Where does CREST’s interest in philanthropy come from?
Our interest in philanthropy stems from our desire to use travel as a mechanism for stewardship of the Earth and its people, which is at the core of responsible travel. We’ve found that donations and volunteerism here and there at a travel destination do not create a reliable and sustainable form of support, as well-intentioned as they are. But there is a huge desire on the part of tourists to give back, so we’re trying to harness that good will and use it to drive change. In order for travel giving, in all forms, to have lasting impact, it must be strategic.
What challenges are you seeing in philanthropy?
We’re seeing increasing evidence that consumers want to give back. We also know from research for our recent publication, The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics, 50% of global consumers are willing to pay more for goods and services from companies that have implemented programs to give back to society, according to a 2013 Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility poll of more than 29,000 online consumers in 58 countries. This represents a 5% increase over a similar poll in 2011.
How can philanthropy add value to ecotourism or sustainable tourism?
Travellers’ Philanthropy is a value added for tourism businesses and their guests. When tourism businesses donate a portion of their profits, for example, they earn good will in the community. Then when the business needs something in the future from those who live nearby, they are more likely to get a positive response. Community members are also more likely to warmly receive visiting guests from a company that gives back.
From the traveller perspective, it feels good to know that your holiday is about more than just taking for yourself. You’ve come a long way to enjoy a particular place on the planet, and making sure your holiday destination stays wonderful enriches your experience on this trip and the next.
When westerners go abroad, we’re likely to see things we may not be used to seeing at home, such as poverty, illiteracy, pollution, and environmental destruction. This can elicit feelings of guilt, which one typically isn’t looking for on their next vacation. So having a structured way to ‘do something’ about what we see, makes us feel less like voyeurs and more like part of the solution.
How can tourists and tourism businesses get involved in Travellers’ Philanthropy?
Where and how to get started isn’t necessarily obvious. A good first step would be to contact us at the Centre for Responsible Travel, as we can advise tourism businesses (lodging providers, tour operators, restaurants, etc) on which steps to take first and how to move from there. Soon, we can add the business to our database of companies that are giving back and provide an online giving platform to collect and make secure donations that make a difference.
One first step we often recommend is to take a company policy decision to begin giving back. Start a small task force of staff members or assign one person who will be responsible for any Travellers’ Philanthropy initiatives, then give them the space and support from the top to begin working on it. The annual or quarterly budget review can be a good time to start, as senior leadership might elect to dedicate a certain percentage of profits to a charitable organisation, or to match donations made by employees.
What are your predictions for the future of philanthropy?
CREST has seen strong growth in Travellers’ Philanthropy since we started looking at the issue over 10 years ago, and we see no reason why the growth shouldn’t continue or accelerate further. It has become both more widespread and more professional over the years, and we expect this to continue.
David Krantz is CREST’s programme director and facilitates a variety of the centre’s projects.