World Responsible Tourism Awards – Winners Interview Series

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Exclusive Interview: Dominique Callimanopulos, Elevate Destinations

Founded in 2004, the World Responsible Tourism Awards allow people the chance to celebrate the heroes and share the stories of the most exciting and enduring responsible tourism experiences in the world.

Elevate Destinations just won the Gold Award for ‘Best Innovation by a Tour Operator’

The best innovation by a tour operator category is for a tourism business with an innovative and successful approach to responsible tourism. They were looking for an inspirational tour operator which is successfully addressing community, cultural or environmental issues in tourism in a new and innovative way. What the judges wanted was an inspiring example of innovation by a tour operator, with measurable success in providing responsible tourism experiences which can be replicated across the industry.

Elevate Destinations is a socially responsible luxury travel company that designs unique and transformational customised travel for families and individuals, as well as foundations, corporations, and nonprofits committed to making a difference. Established in 2005, Elevate Destinations has become an industry leader in designing travel that gives back, pioneering innovative ways to connect altruistic resources and travellers with communities in need worldwide.

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    Elevate Destinations was recognized at the awards for its forward-thinking Buy a Trip, Give a Trip’ initiative. Like other one-for-one conscious consumerism models, such as TOMS Shoes, money from trips booked goes towards excursions for disadvantaged children, a first of its kind in the travel sector. This innovation has led Elevate Destinations to provide trips for almost 500 young people, democratizing travel and allowing them to experience the cultural and natural highlights of their own countries.

    The donated excursions provide under served youth with the same kind of stories and memories that the world’s leisure travel elite takes for granted. These heartwarming tales are chronicled on Elevate Destinations’ Global Stories’ blog.

    The judging panel expressed hope that many others would follow suit. Indeed, the concept has already begun to spread. Following the leadership and success of Elevate Destinations’ initiative, several other operators have started to replicate the model and adopt it as a part of their brand.

    Based on this interest and enthusiasm, Elevate Destinations will lead the way in forming an alliance with any travel provider that wishes to replicate the model. This alliance will work together to expand the reach of one-for-one giving in the travel sector, share best practices, and spread the message of conscious consumerism to the mainstream traveling public.

    We interviewed Dominique Callimanopulos, Founder of Elevate Destination, to find out more.

    Elevate Destinations recently won a World Responsible Tourism Award. In 140 characters (a tweet) or less – why do you think you won such an important award?

    We are pioneers of the first one-for-one travel platform — using conscious consumerism to give under served youth a chance to travel.

    What was the driver for creating Elevate Destinations specifically – what gap does it fill?

    Elevate Destinations fills a need at the crossroads of altruism and luxury travel. We incorporate giving back into all our trip design. We also work with international organisations to design donor travel to their projects in the field.

    Who is/are Elevate Destinations primarily for?

    Our trips are “luxury with a purpose” aimed at adventurous travelers who want to leverage their wealth in a positive, respectful way.  Our trip design includes meaningful interaction with local people, support of local conservation initiatives, and stays at lodges that celebrate and protect their environments.

    What difference does Elevate Destinations want to make?

    Elevate wants to provide thought leadership for responsible, sustainable travel — from carbon offsetting our trips to integrating worthwhile volunteer experiences to supporting the right lodges, activities, and conservation initiatives on the ground. Excitingly, several other major operators have followed our example and adopted their own versions of our ‘Buy a trip, Give a trip’ model!

    What are the barriers to making that difference?

    Shared awareness and bottom line pressures that most industry stakeholders face.  There is also tremendous variability of sound practices region to region, making unified and unilateral standards very challenging.  There is also a reluctance on the part of consumers to pay more for greater social and environmental value.

    Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?

    Growing sustainability and ethical awareness in the travel industry that is reflected in product is slowly changing destination landscapes. Conscious consumerism has raised awareness and provided travelers with more positive products and impacts.

    Is the tourism sector doing enough to deliver a sustainable travel and tourism?

    A lot is changing among small and large operators alike, however companies have to take a leadership role even when they are not supported by consumer demand, and that can be challenging. I think there has been a shift towards collaboration and partnership by everyone in the industry, as we all realize that we need to preserve both the natural and culture components of destinations in the face of environmental threats and unchecked tourism.

    How can people find out more about Elevate Destinations?

    Visit us at www.elevatedestinations.com, or engage with us on social media
    Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ElevateDestinations
    Twitter https://twitter.com/elevatetravel
    Instagram https://www.instagram.com/elevatedestinations/