Impact Travel – a step ahead in sustainable travel

In 2000, the world united to address the concerns of negative impacts the developing activities were creating on environment, culture, society, and people. Eight goals, called as Millennium Development Goal (MDG), were set to be achieved by the year 2015 with an agreement of UN members. After the successful completion of MDGs, the world again came together to progress towards creating holistic development by 2030. These are the new 17 goals UN members have set, known as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  By agreeing on SDGs, government bodies, various organizations, industries, and also individuals are working towards holistic development of people and creating a better future for the next generation.

Innovation in tourism – Need and solution

SDGs goals are interconnected. Meaning, development focused on achieving one goal can open up new opportunities to work on and contribute to other SDGs. If any organization is working for women empowerment by creating employment opportunities, it is strengthening the women on the economic front. But the improved economic status also creates indirect positive impacts. When women are economically independent, they can have the access to better health care facilities, will be treated equally, and their decisions would be valued. If tourism practitioners are aware of the indirect impacts of their activities, they can meaningfully contribute to the SDGs. To make tourism industry more inclusive, there is a need of implementing innovative ideas in product development, collaborations, execution, and monitoring. Impact Travel is an innovative approach emerging in tourism practices. It means to have an inclusive approach to travel with a purpose to create a positive impact on the destination. The industry is evolving and being more conscious about the psychographic attributes, creating movement and developing business models based on innovative concepts.

Environmental consciousness, community development, cultural preservation, economic benefits have been a part of global sustainable tourism discourse. But the focus of many sustainable tourism projects have always been on not leaving behind any negative footprints. On environment, community or culture. Many concepts such as Ecotourism, Community-Based Tourism, Responsible Tourism were evolved under the umbrella concept of Sustainable Tourism. These concepts and its operations were mainly based on being conscious about nature, community, traditions, and cultures when tourists visit any destination. But rarely these tours based on ‘Sustainable Travel’ define the purpose of visit to bring out the tangible positive difference at the destination.

To bring out a significant change in the limited time that we have, tourism has to be practiced not to just mitigating the negative impacts but creating sustainable solutions that will contribute to achieving SDGs. Impact travel in the sustainable tourism domain goes beyond the mainstream approach of sustainability and focus on creating mutual positive benefits for tourists and destination.

What is Impact Travel?

In Impact Travel, tourists and the destination are the two most important stakeholders. It gives purpose for tourists to travel to a particular destination and destination gets benefited by getting a sustainable solution to their challenges.

Impact travel can be described as an interaction between tourists and communities, designed in a way that it leads to creating a sustainable positive impact on both of them.

Impact travel experiences are based on skills, culture, knowledge that tourists as well as culture, tradition, and environment of the destination. It uses these assets to create tangible or intangible solutions to the challenges in the region. In return, this unique interaction with the local community, new destinations, and experiences is a way for tourists to understand different lifestyles and cultures. Tourism businesses practicing Impact Travel place the tourist’s expectations and destination development at equal priority. Purpose of visiting a destination is clearly defined in such operations. Communities and tourists are completely aware of this purpose and activities to fulfill it.

Impact Travel Operations

This innovative approach is practiced efficiently by two tourism organizations. Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) and Intrepid Travels design their tours to create tangible impacts and give strong purpose to their tourists to visit some unique destinations. GHE designs their impact travel expeditions such as carbon change expeditions for the electrification of the remote villages in the Himalayas.

These are carbon reduction projects that provides solar electrification infrastructure to the communities.

The expeditions are based on impact travel provide global travelers with a once in a lifetime experience. Participants travel to remote unexplored communities of the earth and provide them with tangible social infrastructure. GHE believes, best treks in the world are not conquering the most difficult mountains, but trekking in mountains with a positive purpose to it.

Impact Adventure Travel is an organization in Nairobi whose operations are based on Impact Travel. Their tours are focused on creating real connections between travelers and locals by visiting the communities during safari tours. Travel for Impact is an organization that builds partnership to reallocate funds from the tourism industry back into community initiatives. Other purpose driven operators such as Singita Eco-Lodge in South Africa aims to achieve long term goals in wildlife conservation.

Purpose driven travel brings the leadership and impacts together to create tangible or intangible positive benefits to the destination. Growing demand for ethical, sustainable travel options are attained by impact travel experiences.  This is a way to unite different segments of the world and move forward to achieve SDGs.