Aleney de winter explores the emerging trend of philanthrotourism and the simple steps we can take to raise a new generation of responsible travellers.
Aleney de Winter explores the emerging trend of philanthrotourism and the simple steps we can take to raise a new generation of responsible travellers.
“Mummy, why aren’t you helping?” pleads my eight-year-old son as we pass a child begging in a quiet corner of Siem Reap, confused and concerned as to why his usually charitable parents appear to be turning their backs on a clearly needy child. It’s a good question and one that deserves a good answer.
We explain to our son that it’s natural when we see a hungry child to want to help, but handing over a couple of dollars only helps us to alleviate our own discomfort and can be one of the most harmful things we can do for a child in the longer term. In fact, the authorities in countries like Cambodia go as far as to request that people avoid giving hand-outs to kids because it encourages them – and their parents – to believe that begging is a more lucrative option than going to school, setting them up for an even more difficult future.
When my son asks what we can do to help, we head straight to the Angkor Hospital for Children, where my husband and I donate blood, demonstrating positive action through useful aid to our children. Still, my son’s compassion is fired up and when his birthday falls a few weeks later, he requests that instead of buying presents, his friends donate to a Cambodian children’s charity that will use the money on projects that help kids out of the cycle of poverty they’re trapped in. Everyone is richer for it.
It is through acts as simple and as small as these that we have begun introducing our children to the concept of Philanthrotourism.
Professor Sue Beeton, PHD and second vice president of Travel & Tourism Research Association explains, “Philanthrotourism is the idea of using our resources and skills to put something back into the communities we visit in a responsible, sustainable and ethical way. It is about looking outward to see how we can make someone else feel good, not about what makes us feel good.”
Travel from an early age teaches children an appreciation for diversity, without the impediment of political or cultural bias. Prof Beeton adds, “Travel can instil a philanthropic mindset in children as it allows them to develop an understanding of their privilege.”
Philanthopy on tour
Carolyn Childs of Mytravelresearch.com believes that tourism can influence and change a community, and it is up to us as travellers to ensure that it is done in a way to benefit its members in sustainable, useful ways.
“Do your research and reward companies that do the right thing. One of the simplest ways for families to give back on their travels is to travel with tour companies that have already done the research and are supporting communities with best practice, longterm projects.”
G Adventures understands the power of tourism for economic development and poverty alleviation. The company’s founder, Bruce Poon Tip, says, “I believe quite simply, when done right, travel could be the greatest distributor of wealth the world has ever seen and, I believe, the fastest path to peace. At G Adventures, we provide sustainable experiences by making sure as much money as possible stays in destination. By simply being conscious of where their money is spent, travellers can help preserve cultures, educate children and alleviate poverty”. G Adventures’ non-profit partner, Planeterra, is committed to investing in programs with start-up grants and capacity training to help some of the most underresourced individuals and families gain access to and benefit from tourism. The company has been offering social enterprise experiences as part of its trips for a long time, including on its Family tours, which incorporate visits to a G for Good project wherever possible so families can experience social enterprises first-hand, and connect with local people and cultures in a positive way for all concerned.
Amanda Dunning, brand manager for Family tours at G Adventures adds, “Teaching children to give back and travel responsibly at a young age helps to create a new group of global citizens, who are engaged and want to make the world a better place.”
Intrepid Travel is another operator working to support local organisations and tackle important community issues across the world, from conservation and wildlife protection, to education, health care and human rights. Dyan Mckie, Intrepid Travel family product manager says, “The values of giving back and connection to communities are crucial to raising the next generation. Our approach on family trips is to engage and be low-impact. We avoid plastic and use canvas carry bags. We give smiles rather than gifts, which can cause dependency. Intrepid teaches children basic language skills while on tour. We also live our value that wildlife belongs in the wild.”
Intrepid’s Family Holiday itineraries incorporate support for not-for-profit organisations that provide employment opportunities in poor rural areas, as well as assistance for animal sanctuaries and rescue and rehabilitation centres for mistreated animals.
“Our main purpose in life is to achieve happiness and travel is the perfect vehicle to achieve this, as well as accomplishing all sorts of other great things as we go” – BRUCE POON TIP, G ADVENTURES
01 Support charities that assist and encourage kids to stay in school © Stephane Bidouze/shutterstock.com 02 Supporting local businesses on an Intrepid Family tour of Morroco © Intrepid Travel
The company’s Intrepid Foundation receives money via donations and fundraisers, then doubles the contribution for twice the impact, giving 100 per cent of the funds directly to projects that empower local communities. One example of this in action is Bicycles for Humanity, a project created to help alleviate poverty in Namibia through sustainable transportation and employment.
Hotels with heart
Philanthropy doesn’t need to be complicated; giving back can be a simple as choosing where to stay. Accorhotels is one hotel group committed to not just reducing its negative impact on earth but also positively impacting on the communities in which it operates, implementing local programs that reduce its environmental footprint and give back to the people who live around its hotels.
In each country, Accorhotels partners with a local charity or NGO to ensure that its efforts have maximum impact. When its hotels choose a program to get involved in, the most important thing to ensure is that its efforts enrich communities with new forms of livelihoods and economic opportunities for the long term.
“We have to create viable solutions that allow communities to create income-producing businesses, and more and more we are looking at how our hotels can make these communities our suppliers to create a 360-degree approach to our efforts,” says Gaynor Reid, VP communications and CSR for Accorhotels.
Hotel projects range from poverty alleviation through education, health, nutrition, environmental protection and supporting the health care of abandoned children living with AIDS to sustainable farming projects that enable families to feed themselves and ensure their children have opportunities for a brighter future.
Perth mum Amanda Kendle and her eightyear-old son recently returned from Fiji where, under the guidance of Hands On Journeys, they assisted a hurricane-ravaged community start a tourism business.
Hands On Journeys offers small group tours based around the idea of “empowerment tourism”, working with local communities to help them develop sustainable business projects. Whether that be helping a Cambodian group set up a food truck at Angkor Wat, or working with the Nintiringanyi community in Queensland to develop a business offering cultural exchange experiences with tourists or assisting a Fijian community to develop cooking classes and cultural experiences for tourists.
Amanda agrees that it’s important to avoid “voluntourism” situations that are all about making volunteers feel better about themselves with scant regard for the actual needs of locals.
“It’s so tricky because you don’t want to set up an ‘us and them’ kind of situation where we privileged travel-lovers go off and give money to ‘the poor’. That’s what I loved about this experience: although we were clearly financially wealthier than these people, it was abundantly clear that they also lead very rich lives and had a lot to show and tell us about and we could learn a lot from them”.
Amanda believes there is a need to encourage more adults to seek out these experiences, and that the double impact of exposing their children to them is empowering. She adds, “For kids to grow up already having that compassion and desire to help others in appropriate ways will surely lead to a better world, right?”