Imagine a world where travel experiences are not only adventures for us to see and experience the world around us, but also serve as a force to solve some of the most pressing issues. Sustainable tourism — tourism that positively impacts the economy, environment and community one visits — can do just that. By choosing to book tours and experiences abroad through companies that support local communities, travelers can have a tremendous impact on their destination. For all of our purpose-driven travelers, check out some of our favorite booking sites with sustainable tours around the world:
An online booking platform that allows you to search for local, off-the-beaten path experiences around the world (most of which are family-owned or rural-based adventures), Lokal makes it easy to find immersive experiences with locals that would otherwise be difficult to research. Lokal’s handpicked experiences offer travelers an opportunity for a one-of-a-kind experiences (my trip to Costa Rica with them in 2016 was easily one of the best trips of my lifetime). Whether it is trekking through the Costa Rican rainforests or visiting with native tribes in northern Thailand, their large and growing community of travel partners offer unforgettable experiences. Since the company works directly with locals to arrange your stay and activities, and only takes a small booking commission, the majority what you spend goes directly back into supporting the local economy.
Another of my favorite online booking platforms, Visit.org makes it insanely easy to positively impact the community you’re visiting. Through partnerships with local nonprofits and organizations, Visit.org has a library of experiences and tours you can book directly with their local partners. The site offers authentic travel experiences with organizations and groups that reinvest the revenue back into the local communities. Visit.org has a mission to facilitate interactions between tourists and locals in a way that positively impacts all involved. They promise to make socially responsible travel fun, easy and accessible, and tours range from experiences like a cooking class with immigrants in New York City (one of my personal favorites) to an immersive five-day tour in Kyrgyzstan (on my bucketlist). Organizations register with the site and once they pass a vetting process, advertise their offerings on a beautiful and intuitively-designed website. Administration of the website is paid in part by the fees you pay when you book and also by an institutional grant.
Urban Adventures hashtag is #LocalsKnow, and I couldn’t imagine one that’s more fitting. Travelers can book tours with locals around the world and get an inside look at what makes a city tick — the best local bars, restaurants and more, all with an immersive history lesson throughout. UA has tours offered in locations all over the world, so it’s dead simple to find a way to spend an afternoon learning more about a city. My recommendation? Book an Urban Adventures tour on your first or second day in a location so that you can get a lay of the land. Urban Adventures is a huge advocate of sustainable and responsible travel, and makes fun experiences an easy way to positively impact the destination you’re visiting. As a part of Intrepid Travel, the group provides services to over 70,000 guests annually. Want to learn more? Check out a behind-the-scenes of a tour with my blog post on Urban Adventure’s East Village Prohibition tour.
A company that’s often touted as the grandfather of eco-tourism, Intrepid was formed in 1988 by two young and intrepid travelers. Bored with commercial and mainstream travel, they sought out the most remote destinations and vowed to immerse themselves in a cultural experience with each new adventure — and the rest is history. Book small group travel with Intrepid to stay under the radar and find the best local gems. The company offers more than 800 separate itineraries, so there’s a bit of something for everyone. If you’re not sure what destination you want to head to, check out their themed section to find travel for wildlife, cycling, sailing, family, food and more. Intrepid supports their sister nonprofit, The Intrepid Foundation, which supports more than 50 projects worldwide.
For an immersive and in-depth experience, look no further than G Adventures, a socially and environmentally conscious company that organizes longer-term trips to destinations all over the world. The company offers trips that allow you to get close to the planet in ways you could have never imagined on your own, like a 17-day volcano trek through trip Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, or a multisport adventure across Patagonia. Specializing in small group-travel, the company seeks to offer enhanced security, greater access and camaraderie in their unforgettable destination adventures. G Adventures offers authentic, life-changing experiences that positively impact travel destinations through sustainable tourism. The icing on the cake? G Adventure works directly with local organizations through its foundation Planeterra to minimize the impact on the destinations, and to promote sustainable solutions and economic growth for communities.
Bonus – World Nomads Footprints program
While it’s not a tourism booking platform, it’s worth noting that another incredibly easy way to positively impact the community you’re visiting is by opting in to add on a micro-donation through aWorld Nomads travel insurance policy. You can opt to round up the value of your purchase, and select to fund a local social impact project around the world through their Footprints program. The Footprints program is a beautiful example of how the small actions of many travelers around the world can make a huge impact. To date, the organization has raised more than $3 million through donations that are usually around $2.