Travel goes hand in hand with sustainability and charity. After all, we are the Hospitality Industry and with that comes responsibility to the local communities in the form of economic development and volunteering. We travel to many places because of their natural beauty and that must be preserved as the visitation and tourism increases. We also travel to experience new cultures and what better way to make an impact in a community than to volunteer.
The trend to give back as you travel is only growing. We have all seen countless studies about Millennials being the most giving generation and that includes the younger crowd donating not just money but their time. Millennials also are leading the way with volunteering while on their vacation. A whopping 81% of them have volunteered, according to a study from Tourism Cares.
There are so many great charitable organizations but I wanted to call out a few in particular. In addition to commissioning research about volunteering, Tourism Cares is an organization driven by the actual travel and tourism industry itself. This group provides advocacy, volunteer opportunities and grants to destinations and charity projects that rebuild plus protect at-risk tourist destinations such as New Orleans after Katrina.
Habitat for Humanity builds houses around the globe and offers travelers a way to give back plus see the world. The leading organization dedicated to responsible tourism on a global level is WTM Responsible Tourism, which is bringing together leaders across many countries to tackle serious issues threatening the travel industry. WTM announced that 60% of the travel trade believes that responsible tourism will increase over the next three years. They also recognize best practices on sustainable tourism with their World Responsible Tourism Awards. WTM tries to inspire and surprise tourists and travel industry professionals alike by calling out true innovation.
I must recognize Expedia and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital for inspiring us all with their Dream Adventures program. Expedia sent their staff on four amazing adventures and had them capture the essence of each trip so that the children at the hospital could experience the sights and sounds with virtual reality. Children battling life-threatening diseases are rarely able to travel to the ends of the earth. Expedia’s team of explorers took those trips on behalf of these children and the passion showed. This is a fantastic program and I would challenge Expedia and St. Jude to figure out a way to scale so that they could touch hundreds or thousands of children instead of just four moving forward.
You might be wondering how you can get involved. There are a variety of ways to help from raising awareness for charities and causes to actually volunteering. You can also donate frequent flier miles or loyalty points to various charities. Many airlines have setup programs for their frequent fliers to offer miles to worthy causes. We as a travel industry need to support organizations that preserve the environment and protect the very tourism assets and attractions we promote.