Impact tourism is tourism that makes strategic contributions of time, talent, and treasure to social and environmental projects in destinations. This includes tourism businesses, travelers, and organizations in partnerships with host communities.
Around the world, travelers and travel companies are donating resources to support everything from primary schools and scholarship funds to forest preserves, health clinics, and recycling plants. This emerging movement is helping to support and empower local and indigenous communities by providing jobs, skills, and lasting improvements in health care, education, and environmental stewardship.
Help Advance the Movement
We offer a variety of resources for destinations, businesses, and travelers.
In addition to the options below, view all of our resources.
As an update to our 2011 Traveler’s Philanthropy Handbook, our 2020 Impact Tourism Handbook takes a deeper look at the thoughtful and innovative ways that impact tourism is materializing around the world. In releasing it in a free, digital format on our website, we seek to make it widely available to all stakeholders interested in developing or supporting responsible impact tourism programs.
This seminal CREST publication marks the first comprehensive publication on travelers’ philanthropy. This 250-page Handbook includes original essays, case studies, and surveys by some 30 experts, plus a Foreward by Nobel Peace Laureate, Dr. Wangari Maathai. The Handbook covers the principles, origins, and growth of travelers’ philanthropy and offers practical “how-to” advice, dos and don’ts, and best practices for businesses, community organizations, and travelers interested in developing or participating in travel give-back programs.
This publication shares guidelines for travel giving. Travelers’ desire to help, interact, and learn from those they meet during their holiday is clearly positive. However, there are sometimes unintended consequences from these good intentions. Misguided contributions can perpetuate cycles of dependency, cause corruption, burden communities with unwanted or inappropriate donations, and require recipients to spend time and resources to handle “gifts” they didn’t request or cannot use. This straightforward guide provides guidance to ensure give-back efforts have positive impacts.
This 36-minute CREST produced film, directed by Charlene Music and Peter Jordan, profiles community and conservation projects in Costa Rica, Kenya, and Tanzania that are being supported by tourism companies. The filmmakers talk with community members, travelers, and experts about both the benefits as well as the pit falls of this relatively new form of development assistance. We are grateful to ProParques in Costa Rica and Basecamp Foundation in Kenya for underwriting the cost of this production.
Travel Business Programs
Here we feature a growing number of successful social development programs and conservation initiatives, which have been organized by reputable responsible travel providers. Check them out, make a donation, and consider visiting them yourself!
- Basecamp Explorer: Basecamp Foundation| Kenya & India
- Bodhi Surf & Yoga | Bahia-Ballena, Osa, Costa Rica
- Country Walkers: The Travelers Fund | Global
- Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp | Kenya
- Ecoventura | Galapagos, Ecuador
- G Adventures: Planeterra Foundation | Global
- Grupo Punta Islita: Villafranca-Zurcher Foundation| Costa Rica
- Holbrook Travel | Global
- Hotel El Ganzo: Centro Comunitario | Mexico
- International Expeditions | Central & South America, Africa
- Intrepid Travel: The Intrepid Foundation | Global
- Laguna Lodge: Laguna Community Care | Guatemala
- Lindblad Expeditions | Global
- MT Sobek | Global
- Myths & Mountains: Rural Education and Development (READ) Global | Nepal
- Rainforest Expeditions | Peru
- Titi Conservation Alliance | Costa Rica
- True Blue Bay Boutique Resort | Grenada
Managed by community-organizations, these programs bring together the greater travel industry and local businesses to host strategic destination-wide programs:
- CARE for the Cape & Islands | Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA
- Monteverde Community Fund | Monteverde, Costa Rica
Is your destination or business interested in leveraging travel giving to fund your community projects? CREST has hosted three travelers’ philanthropy conferences in the past, in the following locations: Stanford University, California, USA; Arusha, Tanzania; and San Jose, Costa Rica. We would love to bring our next conference to your destination! Contact us to discuss opportunities.
Start Your Own Impact Tourism Project
If your travel business or organization would like to ensure your environmental and social impact is positive, you might start thinking about how to give back through tourism. Once you have a strong relationship in place with the community and you are familiar with its needs, you have the building blocks to beginning a philanthropic project. Such projects can be funded in part by your operations and in part by the generosity of your guests, and may even include a portion in granted funds from outside, in whatever combination you deem appropriate.
The best way to start is by involving the community in the choice of what to do. Could the community use new schoolbooks? How about job training resources, advice and small capital for starting businesses, or better public infrastructure?
They should be given the control to decide what is best, and how any funds collected will be administered. There are many ways to make a positive mark, and each community is different.
If you are interested in pursuing ways to give back, check out our resources above that can help you outline and begin to achieve appropriate goals for strengthening the local community and making lasting improvements in livelihoods.
Not sure where to start?
CREST offers comprehensive consulting services to develop both company-based and destination-wide impact tourism programs. We understand each destination is complex and unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for implementing a travel giving program. However, we have a vast knowledge base of what has worked elsewhere and consumer giving trends, and we are sensitive to cultural nuances.
Working in close partnership with you, our unique skill set will set your program up for success. Contact us today to discuss your unique community, and we can tailor a program to fit your needs.
We need your help to spread the impact tourism movement further. You CAN make a difference to communities and conservation. Just make a note in the message section of the donation form that your donation is to support CREST’s Impact Tourism program. For an added benefit, dedicate your gift in the name of a friend or loved one. Include a dedication message and address with your donation, and we will notify your honoree!