Sustainable Travel Adds Meaning

In these activist times, clients may demand more sustainable travel options By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2018 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2018 TravelAge West

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Watching the news the other day, I was struck by how many stories were about ordinary people taking action. Whether we’re talking about high-school kids who are tired of grown-ups failing to protect them, or scores of women getting into politics because they are fed up with not being heard, we are in an age where patience has been replaced by self-determination. I don’t know if this is a result of divisive political times or the power of social media to unite people — or a combination of factors — but whatever the cause, people are realizing that they have the power to affect change.

Given this attitude, it’s not surprising to see activism also spill over to how people choose to spend their travel time and money. In this issue’s cover story, “Finding Meaning in Jordan” (page 18), we examine a recent effort to give more power to local communities who want to directly benefit from the tourism around them. Rather than let travel companies and governments negotiate deals that often sidestep residents and put profits in the pockets of the few, this new initiative is designed to appeal directly to advisors, tour operators and travelers themselves in order to change the economics of tourism.

As you can read in the story, Jordan has taken the lead in this effort with its new “Meaningful Travel Map,” but the concept of social enterprise travel is sure to take root in other destinations, as well. This type of tourism is in sync with the activism people are experiencing throughout society.

Surveys have shown that the majority of travelers care about how their travel spending affects a community. Consumers are no longer going to be satisfied with lip service from travel suppliers who say they support locals but do damage to the places they visit. Travelers will ask the hard questions and hold operators accountable.

Clients want to be proud of the trips they are taking. They want to enrich their lives through authentic experiences, while also lifting up the communities that welcome them. This is the true power of travel, and if a travel agent can’t deliver it, people will take matters into their own hands and find an advisor who can.

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