Is it a calling or coincidence that some of the most marginalised communities, endangered animals and vulnerable habitats of the world are found in dream holiday destinations. Masai Mara tribe of Kenya are deprived of basics, Orangutans remain synonymous to Borneo and are threatened with the illegal pet trading and habitat destruction from illegal logging, and the Amazon rainforest is fast disappearing from booming industry in Latin America. If tourism, the fastest growing industry on the planet, ever considered it a coincidence, its most compassionate form, INSPIRED travel is certainly making it a calling. A calling that responsible tourism is used as a tool to lift marginalised people out of poverty, save endangered animals and ease the destruction on vulnerable habitats.
Since 1979 the iconic images of Sir David Attenborough’s first encounter with a family of wild mountain gorilla were broadcast on the BBC’s Life on Earth series, thousands have been inspired to visit rainforests of Uganda and Rwanda in the hope of recreating similar magical moments for themselves. Today, it is not nearly enough just to travel and tour, people want an inspired experience. Albeit, their own “life on earth” moment in time. What if your life on earth moment gave back to the local people that lived at the foothills of the mountain you climbed or along the trail to Machu Picchu? A sense of responsibility to give back to the host destination is giving rise to a new breed of traveller.
A truly responsible travel experience should be designed to channel much needed funds through to conservation or community development projects. This new brand of travel can help people use travel to mitigate the damaging effects on marginalised communities, endangered species and their habitats. We call it INSPIRED. Making a difference at the destination you travel to. INSPIRED travel can be a great movement, within the tourism industry, where all holidays feature some degree of the traveller “giving back” to the destination they are essentially “taking from”.
The INSPIRED travel movement is about everyone taking responsibility for their actions, from tour operators to local governments, to the host communities and tourists themselves. The INSPIRED travel company work alongside local communities to create positive and equal benefits from tourism and create sustainable livelihoods. INSPIRED travellers seek meaningful experiences through learning from, respecting and understanding of local communities, minimising their environmental impacts and accepting their surroundings for what they are. It involves having an open mind, preparing yourself well beforehand, being ready to learn from the host community. Here are some traits to help you spot the INSPIRED travel experience. You know you are an INSPIRED traveller when your motivations for travel include these elements, making a difference, cultural immersion, seeking camaraderie, having an educational experience, adventure and personal gain.
A cause at destination is an environmental and/or social need. Destinations have become synominous with causes. Saving rain forests with the Amazon, saving orang-utans with Borneo, plight of tigers with India, pandas with China, tribal experience at the Mara. How can you wrap travel around these causes so that tourists can emphathise with the cause as well as enjoy the experience of being privilege to either spectate or participate in the cause?
As an INSPIRED traveller it is imperative that you are able to balance the understanding of social and environmental issues that may take the form of charities, local NGOs, and wildlife centres, local villages etc as well as the commercial features of tourism such as hotels, coaches, and attractions. As an INSPIRED traveller you have the challenge to ensure your money is distributed fairly to the social and environmental issues that have become the attraction as well as the local operators and tourism stakeholders like hotels and travel agents. Everyone has a fair slice of the pie and in some cases one can not survive with out the other.
What is important at this point is to fix a local donation to the cause within the package price of the travel product. A fixed local donation is the reward the community or conservation project can gain from accepting to open their very sensitive world to everyday people from overseas. It is a prime motivation for causes to build a level of hospitality into their challenging work. The result is a hybrid service of insightful and authentic guiding or even local facilitation. A local facilitator is someone who hosts travellers to play a temporarily active part in the cause without compromising or hindering the work of the providers of the cause. Unfolding an altogether "under the skin" and authentic experience of the destination.
Furthermore, the enlightened traveller back home will tell all their friends about their meaningful trip. This word of mouth is powerful, not only to inspire others to travel to that destination, but also to encourage them to be part of the experience by donating to the cause independent of experiencing it themselves. One traveller can influence 5 people back home to donate to the cause. Local donation is a connection to the cause and serves as a pulling factor to get the donor to be a traveller in future.
An INSPIRED travel can provide a far more superior holiday experience than a traditional trip. A structured engagement between you, the responsible traveller and the local villager or the endangered animal encounter delivered in a way that makes a difference to these causes, delivers a meaningful and inspirational travel experience.
By Afzaal Mauthoor, Inspired Escapes
Now become an inspired traveller and join on a featured Inspired Escapes trip:
- Philippines Five Islands Adventure : Discover the South East Asia's best kept secret on one of our signature escapes as we invite you to explore Bohol Island and witness its towns on the path to recovery and participate in rebuilding their communities with a trusted NGO. With a mix of adventure and charitable work in this wonderful place, this might well be for you!
- Philippines Paradise Islands : Experience the freedom of living at sea in this island-hopping adventure aboard a traditional Filipino Paraw. Get your hands dirty at Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm, and fundraise for their efforts to pull people out of poverty by teaching them how to become social entrepreneurs.
- Sea Turtle Challenge Malaysia : A balanced cocktail of leisure and adventure, this trip serves two purposes: to save the endangered sea turtle who was once a ubiquitous fixture on the island, and to give you access to one of the world’s lesser known, most idyllic paradises.
- Machu Picchu Trek : What makes this trip special is the combination of the spectacular trek to the ancient Machu Picchu with a 2-day stay at Awamaki's local community project in Patacancha.
- Uganda Water Safari : This 7-day water safari explores some of Uganda’s most scenic and breath taking sites, including the famous Luwero Triangle, Murchison Falls National Park, Murchison River, the River Nile, and the Budongo Forest. Fundraise for 500 Need Water Uganda, a rural project working to create a source of clean drinking water in these areas.
- Maasai Mara Safari : When you’re not out spotting the ‘Big 5’ of the Savannah, you will become guests in the Maasai community, immersing yourself in their culture, learning about their customs and getting involved in the building of Mara’s first secondary school for girls.
- The Alternative Mount Kilimanjaro Experience : Summit the famous Mt Kilimanjaro via the Machame Route and support a local literacy project with Empower Local Schools - Tanzania