Thank You, Intrepid Travel, for Changing the Rules of the Vacation Travel Game

21 Aug

Intrepid Travel, you are a game changer when it comes to the significant role that travel tour operators can and, many argue, should play in giving back to their trip destinations, the places that welcome you and your guests with open arms and ask for nothing in return.

Actually, these places do ask you for something in return. They ask that your company (and all others in travel-oriented industries) treat them – their people, their natural environment, etc. – with the same respect and kindness that you’d expect if the tables were turned.

And you are obliging their request in a game-changing fashion. Sure, like some other tour companies, you are doing it through the thoughtful planning that goes into developing eco-friendly, culturally sensitive day-to-day travel itineraries, along with the financial support you provide to nonprofit organizations and projects in your trip destinations.

But, unlike other tour operators, you are also doing something else that deserves our attention and praise here, something that sets you apart from most other tour operators and is changing the rules of the vacation travel game, so to speak.

You are not only supporting and trying to leave a positive imprint on the locales you visit on your tours; you are also encouraging (but certainly not pushing) the rest of us to develop what I have coined, ‘the vacation travelers conscience’.

What you and your local partners teach your tour guests about the social, cultural and physical assets and needs of their host vacation community, coupled with the authentic, often first-time experiences you enable them to have while there, leaves your guests with a sense of connectedness and compassion towards their vacation ‘home’ that they would not have, at all or at least not as strongly without your involvement.

You also take it a step further by letting your guests know about specific projects in the places they visit that they can support through The Intrepid Foundation, a safe, trusted resource that gives 100% of the guest’s donation to the project. But, amazingly, you don’t even stop there. You also match your travel guests’ donations to their chosen project on a dollar-for-dollar basis (up to AU$5,000 per donor each year).

Wow.

Understandably, not all of your guests act on their positive feelings about their travel destination with a financial donation. That’s not realistic, nor is it feasible for most people. You also can’t afford the risk of having people feel like they are being solicited or pushed to give money while on their vacation (key word) getaway.

But every time you provide your guests with a genuine understanding and meaningful connection to the place(s) they’re visiting, you are helping to cultivate a greater social conscience among all of us when it comes to vacation travel, i.e., a ‘vacation travelers’ conscience’.

We will maintain our newfound conscience long after we return from our fabulous trip with you. Thanks to you, we will return with awareness, not just of overwhelming needs but also of the many ways in which we can have a direct, meaningful impact on those needs. We will also return with confidence in our ability and, for some, even a sense of responsibility to extend a genuine (however modest) thank you to our host community and, in so doing, make a permanent, positive difference.

We will also share our vacation traveler’s social conscience – through our words and our behavior – with friends, family, colleagues, etc. Indeed, we will bring our greater consciousness and concern with us in the form of genuine interest and appreciation and, for many of us, a thank you in the form of a financial donation to the places we travel on vacation for countless years to come.

Just the other day I learned that more than 23 million US residents traveled abroad for leisure travel in 2011. What if even a quarter of these travelers gave just $5 to one of the places they visited? That would increase charitable donations by $29 million. Intrepid Travel, I believe that your company – through your socially conscious trips, and the altruism you compel from your guests, and the dollar for dollar match you make on their donations – is moving us so many steps closer to making this phenomenal possibility a reality.

So, Intrepid Travel, both for your own give back efforts and for cultivating a greater desire to give back among all of us who travel, I thank you.

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