The Traveling Kind: Philanthropic Habits Revealed

When I first met Mike Rea, the CEO of Tourism Cares, he was only a week into his job, but he had already begun to articulate a vision for the role he believed the organization needed to play in our industry, and it centered squarely on philanthropy. In fact, he ended our interview by stating that there were only a handful of things in this world that have the power to transform for good. Travel being one and philanthropy being another.

With the release yesterday of their landmark study called “Good Travels: The Philanthropic Profile of the American Traveler,” Tourism Cares has taken a major step forward in defining the relationship between travel and philanthropy and establishing a strong case for why our industry needs to fully embrace the notion that doing good is also good for business.

The study, conducted by Phocuswright, revealed that more than half (55%) of the Americans surveyed say they have given of their money, time or goods to a destination they had visited while on vacation over the last two years. This surprising prevalence of “giving back” was even stronger amongst Millennials, families and affluent travelers.



In a similar vein, nearly half of all travelers think it is very or extremely important for their travel dollars—whether travel spend or donations—to benefit the communities they visit. Of those who gave back, 86% did so by donating money. Seventy-eight percent made in-kind donations in their travel destinations and 64% spent some time volunteering. Indeed, 4 out of every 10 travelers who gave back made a deliberate effort to interact with people in the places they visited.

While price remains the dominant criteria in travel purchase decision making, a third (34%) of travelers also consider a company’s commitment to social responsibility and a quarter (25%) factor in the company’s ability to provide experiences where giving is integrated into the travel experience. 

Amongst those that do give back, 42% cite causes that address issues related to the provision of basic necessities such as food, water and shelter as their top priority. And 48% of all giving is done to directly support individuals and families.

Perhaps most significantly for travel brands, a traveler’s satisfaction with a trip is directly boosted by their charitable-giving activity, with more than 6 in 10 saying that their trip was enhanced by giving. And, in a positive sign for the future, a third of those who currently give expect to increase their travel-related giving in the next two years, and a quarter of those who said they don’t give when they travel expressed an interest in learning more about giving, a number that rises to a third for Millennials. 

The study is filled with a wealth of interesting findings, including Millennial travelers emerging as the most “generous generation” of all the age groups. On average, they gave two and a half times more hours, nearly three times more cash and four and a half times more in-kind as compared to over 55s. They also place much higher value on suppliers’ commitment to community and societal good with 39% citing commitment to social responsibility as a factor in their supplier selection. 

Families with children are another audience that has embraced philanthropy and they gave more time (73%) and in-kind (82%) than the average traveler. Nearly three quarters of all families said giving created a very positive trip experience.

Travel philanthropy also stands out amongst affluent travelers (annual HHI of $100,000+) with 6 in 10 indicating that volunteering was very or extremely important to them and more than 7 in 10 saying the same about non-monetary donations. Nearly 55% of these affluent travelers say it is very or extremely important that their travel spend and giving benefit local communities. Not surprisingly, then, corporate social responsibility is a major consideration in the purchasing decision for those in the high-earning group with nearly 4 in 10 saying it plays a part.

The study is highly recommended reading for everyone in travel and Tourism Cares is offering a free white paper detailing the key findings at

By quantifying the interest and importance of giving back and connecting it squarely to travel, Tourism Cares has shown there is a huge audience looking for these kinds of travel experiences and philanthropic opportunities, and that the desire to do good and give back is influencing their purchase decision and, ultimately, enhancing the quality of their trip.

Now it’s up to our industry to find ways to better create, communicate and deliver these philanthropic opportunities and use it as a platform that affirms the traveler’s desire to preserve, protect and enrich the very destinations, cultures and communities that they long to see.

If Mike Rea’s goal was to place Tourism Cares at the center of the travel philanthropy discussion, he has succeeded.

They’ve made it clear we all need to be thinking about the traveling kind.

1 comment about "The Traveling Kind: Philanthropic Habits Revealed".
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  1. David Searby from BeachCorps, September 29, 2015 at 5:53 p.m.

    Gary: Thanks for the great article. I agree that that Tourism Cares article is very important.  Since 2008, I have been working on BeachCorps, a model for promoting quality voluntourism from great hotels in the Dominican Republic, where I have twice served with the US Embassy.  I have made great progress in April and August trips to the Dominican Republic, where I now have a solid base of support from senior officials in hotels, destination management companies (DMCs), non-travel companies, nonprofit organizations, industry associations, media, and government ministries to launch BeachCorps.  

    The only real limitation I have is a lack of a US partner with experience in the travel business.  My plan is to work with that partner and Dominican DMCs to craft a working website with actual trips.  See for more info.

    The BeachCorps model will change the nature of volunteer work to make it broader, more fun, and more flexible while working directly with worthy 501c3 charities in the USA supporting volunteer activities in the Dominican Republic.  We will require our clients to make separate, direct donations to these 501c3 causes, improving transparency, accountability and sustainability.  

    If you like that idea, please follow BeachCorps on Facebook and on Twitter (@GoBeachCorps).


    David Searby
    Founder, BeachCorps

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