These days it’s impossible to pick up a magazine, peruse the newspaper or read a blog without running across buzzwords synonymous with sustainability. Words such as renewable, eco-friendly and green living are appearing with more and more regularity. This is also true for sustainable tourism, as its various forms include green travel, ecotourism and conscious travel.
But other than being a trendy term, what does sustainable tourism actually look like in the real world? And just as important, what does this mean for you?
With Discover Corps, make no mistake, the principles of sustainability are far from just pie in the sky concepts. In fact, these core values direct the way we conduct business with a commitment to the well-being of people and the planet. As such, we are continually guided by the following 7 sustainable tourism practices:
Ethically Responsible Partnerships
For all the wonderful moments created by travel, there can also be many negative aspects to globe-trotting if it’s not responsibly managed. This can result in the exploitation of animals, the degradation of nature or the overuse of natural resources.
For these very reasons and more, Discover Corps meticulously seeks out partnerships with ethically responsible individuals and organizations. For example, in Thailand, we work with ethical elephant sanctuaries to ensure the elephants are treated with a high level of care. This includes a strict “no ride” policy. While this may be disappointing to some initially, after learning of the harsh conditions “ridden” elephants are often subjected to, our travelers are more than happy to take part in other beneficial activities, such as bathing these lovable creatures.
Additionally, we strive for a long-term impact by partnering with organizations that have established relationships in the locations where we volunteer. So even though our trips are short-term, there are genuine ongoing connections already built within the community.
What it means for you: Discover Corps travelers are consistently welcomed with open arms by the communities they visit. Also, when traveling with Discover Corps you can be confident the places you explore and the activities you take part in are thoroughly vetted to ensure ethically sound practices. The elephants you help bathe in Thailand will be treated with the utmost care, just as the sea turtle hatching areas in Costa Rica will be methodically surveyed and children of Tanzania are not disrupted by tourism, but instead positively engaged by those from other cultures.
Meeting Community Needs
Discover Corps believes travel should be transformative, and this extends far beyond the travelers that chose to adventure with us. We purposefully seek to meet the needs of the communities we visit. Through this process, we are mindful to avoid a “one-size-fits-all” mentality for community assistance.
With the help of local experts, we identify the unique and diverse needs of the locations we spend time in. Our trips include purposeful work such as teaching English, building classrooms, improving water systems, creating eco-friendly homes and more.
What it means for you: As a volunteer, it’s common to make deep personal connections during your travels. This can lead to you and your family members becoming advocates for the communities you bond with. Our Croatia: Dolphins & Islands Expedition trip is a perfect example. There, your actions are immediately put to use as you gather data on dolphin behavior and health of the dolphin population. This data is used by institutes to request funding for conservation projects and initiatives for the Adriatic dolphins and marine life in the future. Your efforts make a direct impact!
Preservation of Cultural Heritage
Truth be told, many of us have our favorite restaurant chain or coffee shop we’d love to see on every street corner. Knowing we can have our favorite item on demand is quite enticing. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, much of the thrill of travel is experiencing the unknown. This can mean trying new foods, but also involves embracing other cultural differences along the lines of customary clothes or special ceremonies. To celebrate this, Discover Corps offers unique experiences, which include out-of-your-comfort-zone classes in sushi-making, intricate calligraphy, and guided meditation.
What it means for you: Commercialism can stifle cultural diversity. By choosing Discover Corps for your vacation, you are voting to preserve beautiful global differences. We intentionally break away from mass-produced travel experiences to take you off the beaten path. Your family’s unique adventure will go a long way toward maintaining priceless traditions. This also has the added benefit of allowing local residents to rediscover their own heritage by sharing things with you!
Our beautiful planet is the lifeblood of our business and Discover Corps has vowed to help protect it. A few of the environmentally-friendly programs and processes we’ve implemented include:
- Reduction of egg poaching through our Costa Rican Sea Turtle Initiative
- Collecting field data on manatees for conservation efforts in Belize
- Frequently utilizing eco-friendly lodging
- Encouraging reusable water bottle usage
- Promotion of many low or no environmental impact activities
What it means for you: Witness first-hand the pressing environmental issues we face, while also learning about conservation efforts currently underway. Through hands-on participation your kids can understand the importance of conservation, an education they can someday pass on to their children.
Doing Business Locally
In a world where multinational hotel chains have properties in every country — but profits accumulate in only one — we’re proud to select businesses owned by people who live in the destination country. Examples of this are women’s groups teaching traditional recipes, family-run transportation companies and village cooperatives that offer one-of-a-kind tours of their community.
We channel our funds into local, small-scale suppliers who provide excellent experiences for our travelers. It’s important to know, the funds we spend on behalf of our travelers go to putting children through school, building homes and starting small businesses.
In addition, many of the lodges we partner with share the same sentiment. On our Oaxaca: Women’s & Girls’ Empowerment trip, we stay at a social enterprise hotel which reinvests the funds they earn back into the community.
What it means for you: The money you spend will stay in the country you’re visiting. It sounds like an obvious statement, but far too often money spent on vacation is diverted to large corporations overseas. Our company’s intentional structure means your monetary support can preserve the lands you visit and enhance the lives of the people you meet.
Simply put, we pay all of our team more than the minimum wage in each country we work. We believe in enhancing the lives of all involved with our operations, which includes staff. When our team members feel fairly compensated, they’re more than happy to provide great service that comes from the heart.
What it means for you: Possessions rust, breakdown or completely stop working, but relationships often stand the test of time. Our travelers frequently build special relationships from shared experiences with their in-country guides or the team members of our partners. Accordingly, we can assure you that the guides you bond with are being justly paid for the hard work they put in.
We take our role as a positive change maker so seriously, we’ve been certified to do so. Discover Corps is proud to share the fact that we are a Benefit Corporation, or B Corporation (B-Corp), as recognized by the State of California for providing a social good.
This means we have passed a rigorous independent audit of our social, environmental, and legal practices. As such, we:
- adopted a clear set of responsible travel guidelines
- create trips to improve the lives of people in the communities we visit
- support the integrity of the places we travel, which allows them to retain their distinctive characteristics
What it means for you: Doing business with a B-Corp speaks volumes. It means you believe corporations should be held to a higher standard. Organizations should be structured in a way that benefits people and the planet, both of which shouldn’t be sacrificed for the singular pursuit of profits.
Share with us! Have you been on a trip that practices sustainable tourism? What did you find most rewarding?