Ever feel like saying ‘Thank You’ to the place that just provided you with a fabulous vacation?

21 Aug

Let’s say, for sake of conversation, that you reside in the United States and take a vacation every summer, be it alone or with friends and/or family, to anywhere in the world. What if you made a $5 donation to address a major social or environmental need in the place that just provided you with a fabulous vacation? Consider it a ‘give back’ of sorts to a location that just welcomed you with open arms. If you travel to countless places throughout the year, and giving $5 to each one is not feasible, what if you chose just one, two, or even three of those places?

Would you do it?

Have you ever felt inclined to say ‘thank you’ to your vacation destination? An island, city, mountain range, or anywhere in between. Near your home or far, far away. If not your destination, maybe it’s the tiny town where you stopped for lunch on the way, i.e., that shoebox-size restaurant where were blown away by the delicious food, the kindness of the people, and the beauty of the surroundings. Or, the national park en route where you spontaneously stopped for a hike.

What if you knew that your ten dollars would provide a hot healthy meal to three families at the local soup kitchen, or that your modest donation, when pooled with modest donations from other vacationers, will help prevent tidal flooding that ruins homes and businesses. Or, it will support development of a water irrigation system that ensures clean drinking water and prevents water-born illnesses. How about basic school supplies for 100 children at the only local school? Or, funds that will pay for blankets at the local orphanage? Etc.

There is definitely power in numbers. If you give your $5-$25 to a trustworthy, reputable nonprofit charitable organization, and you encourage your friends and family and even strangers like me to start giving a modest donation, the multiplier effect would increase giving in a truly phenomenal way to so many places across the globe where social and environmental needs prevail and the opportunity to improve conditions exists.

According to the Department of Commerce’s Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, approximately 23 million people in the United States went abroad for tourist travel in 2012.[1]  This means that if just 50% of these people gave $5 to one of their travel destinations (or somewhere en route), it would generate approximately $58 million in charitable donations on an annual basis.

A noteworthy figure, don’t you agree?

For you corporate travelers, it’s understandable that when you travel for work you want to get in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible. As socially conscious as you may be in your everyday life, when it comes to business travel, there’s simply no time, and perhaps no inclination, to give back to the place you just visited.

But, what if all you needed to do was click on a website and select, from a simple list of your travel destination’s needs and worthy projects, the one you want to support, and then your employer makes the modest donation? Better yet, what if your employer gave you a stipend each year to make a donation to your favorite business travel destination(s)? You can decide if you want to give your whole wad to one place or spread it across the many locales you visit on your business trips throughout a given year.

Your efforts are a win-win for you and your company. The company strengthens its reputation and stands to capture greater market-share of an increasingly socially conscious customer base through a marked increase in the geographic reach and greater diversity of causes that it supports. Also, as studies attest, engaging employees in grant making efforts leads to a notable increase in engagement and morale. You, on the other hand, get to go to sleep each night with the knowledge that you (yes, you) are playing a pivotal (yes, pivotal) role in making the world a better place.

So, would you do it? Would it be with pride, or out of social pressure because some of your colleagues are doing it?

The notion and practice of ‘travel philanthropy’ is not new. Thanks to individual trailblazers like Michael Seltzer, and game-changing travel-oriented companies like tour operators, IntrepidTravel and Elevate Destinations, and retailers Patagonia and REI, giving back to vacation destinations is gaining momentum.

But, there is still so much more that we, as individual travelers, can do. And it doesn’t have to break the bank. We can ‘give back’ in a modest way on our own and also encourage our friends and family to do the same.

Making a modest donation to the places we have come know and care about through recreational and corporate travel seems such a simple way to feel a little better about ourselves and improve the world while we’re at it. Together, we have the power to generate the public will necessary to make a ‘give back’ to the places we visit – on vacation and for work – not only common practice but a social norm.


[1] This figure may include repeat travelers, in which case the total number of unduplicated travelers would be lower. At the same time, it is also the case that this figure does not include recreational travelers who traveled within the United States during 2011. Adding this pool to those who traveled internationally increases the actual total figure by a substantial amount. Thus, for purposes of this piece, 23 million is considered a reasonable estimate to make the general point that a modest donation of $5 among even 50% of annual recreational travelers would increase giving by a substantial amount.

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