Vacations that Give Back   

Luxury travellers can make a difference while exploring the world

Sunlight glints through the window of the Church of San Francesco delle Donne in Perugia, Italy illuminating artisan Marta Cucchia as she sits behind an antique jacquard loom. She directs slender threads of magenta yarn to weave an intricate pattern inspired by a painting by artist Pinturicchio.

Vacations that give back

In Perugia, the Giuditta Brozzetti Cooperative, a heritage project supported by the TreadRight Foundation, is hand-weaving dining linens reviving ancient Etruscan designs. Photo: Insight Vacations

“During the Renaissance, woven fabrics were among the most valuable items owned by the nobility and the Church,” explains Cucchia. “They expressed power and wealth.”

From the 15th century onward, Italy’s weaving workshops produced most of the world’s luxury fabrics. However, after the industrial revolution they began to shut their doors. Today, the Giuditta Brozzetti Weaving Cooperative is one of Italy’s last remaining hand-loom weaving workshops. “Hand weaving is at risk of becoming a lost art,” she says.

But there is hope for the future thanks to support from the TreadRight Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that connects travellers to community-based projects through its Travel Corporation family of brands such as Trafalgar, Insight Vacations and Lion World Travel. The tours provide valuable cultural and economic support to the artisans and their families.

Social impact travel is an emerging trend in sustainable tourism. There is a growing interest in travel that sustains local communities, their economies and the environment.

For luxury travellers, it’s an opportunity to experience a destination beyond the usual sightseeing itinerary and to give back to the communities they visit.

Vacations that give back

Meet artisanal weavers in Peru
Photo: TreadRight Foundation

Preserving World Heritage

While visitors to TreadRight-supported projects in Italy meet artisans at the Giuditta Brozzetti Weaving Cooperative, in Peru they learn about ancient Andean weaving traditions.

“Our mission is to make sure that the communities we visit remain vibrant for generations to come,” says Cris David, President of Lion World Travel. “Our focus is on exploratory local experiences.”

For travellers who want to get even more involved, it’s also possible to book ME to WE Immersive Volunteer Trips as custom tours or as extensions to existing itineraries. During these culturally immersive experiences, travellers can stay among local communities in India, the Ecuadorian Amazon and with the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

Wildlife and Habitat Protection

Vacations that give back

TreadRight Foundation has forged partnerships with leading wildlife organizations to support the conservation of endangered animals
Photo: TreadRight Foundation

Other compelling sustainable tourism projects are focused on promoting positive change. In Africa, where 95% of the rhino population has been wiped out in the past decade due to poaching, the TreadRight Corporation partnered with the Wilderness Foundation-Africa. Special grants have helped purchase aircraft for anti-poaching operations, increased public awareness about at-risk species and reduced demand for black market goods through education. “Our family of brands has also examined the animal-related experiences on our trips to ensure they are in keeping with the principles of wildlife protection,” says David.

This means controversial practices such as riding elephants have been substituted with less exploitive practices and experiences that showcase wildlife in an authentic way.

Wildlife encounters offered by Travel Corporation brands now include experiences such as visiting a camel research facility in Bikaner, the desert city of Rajasthan, India where guests have the opportunity to learn about the interrelationship between people and “ships of the desert.”

Vacations that give back

Volunteers and students contribute to the maintenance of the community garden
at Granville School near
Montego Bay Jamaica
Photo: Michele Peterson

Community Development in the Caribbean

For luxury travellers headed to the Caribbean, there are also a growing number of opportunities to experience more than just sand and sea. Visionary resorts are finding ways to help guests connect with local culture and change lives at a grassroots level.

Vacations that give back

Vegetables harvested from the Granville School garden are used to educate students on food production and preparation
Photo: Michele Peterson

In Montego Bay, Jamaica, luxury resorts Hyatt Ziva and Zilara Rose Hall launched a community initiative that is actually transforming lives. The Granville 404 project (named after the number of students) takes place at Granville All-Ages School, an elementary school located within a marginalized community 30 minutes from Montego Bay. Suffering from declining enrollment and limited resources, the school’s neglected playground had actually become a dumping ground for garbage.

Now, thanks to volunteer efforts and donations, Granville School has become a source of pride. A new community garden is producing fresh vegetables plus there’s a greenhouse, a nurse’s station and even a soccer field. The project has also raised awareness of environmental stewardship and has helped teach children about caring for the planet.

Vacationers interested in assisting the Granville 404 project can donate supplies as well as volunteer to work in the community garden or participate in environmental initiatives.

Pack for a Purpose

Another way luxury travellers can make meaningful contributions to communities they visit is through the Pack for a Purpose program. This not-for-profit international organization encourages travellers to make space in their suitcase for donated supplies to help with health, education and child or animal welfare.

Vacations that give back

Sandals LaSource Grenada is one of several
luxury resorts participating in the
Pack for a Purpose program
Photo: Michele Peterson

It’s easy to support this worthwhile program. Participating hotels and tour companies list needed supplies on the Pack for a Purpose website. Travellers select the items they wish to donate (from soccer balls to first aid kits) and then drop the items off upon arrival. The hotel or tour company takes care of delivering the supplies to the project.

Some participating Pack for a Purpose luxury hotels, such as Sandals Halcyon Beach Saint Lucia, even offer the opportunity for voluntourism. With the Sandals Foundation’s Reading Road Trip Program launched in partnership with tour operator Island Routes, travellers can donate education supplies such as crayons, books and flash cards as well as visit a school and assist children with their literacy, comprehension and vocabulary skills.

Cruise ship travellers can also participate in the Reading Road Trip experience during Island Routes’ shore excursions in the Turks and Caicos. This unique opportunity to enhance the lives of Caribbean children is part of the Community Routes Program. In addition to reading a story to a small group of students, participants can donate a new or gently-used book to the school library to be enjoyed for years to come.

Whether travellers opt to learn about rich cultural traditions or help promote a love of reading, there are many meaningful ways to make a positive impact while exploring the world.

Travel Planner

The Travel Corporation: The Travel Corporation family of brands includes Trafalgar, Uniworld River Cruise, Insight Vacations, Lion World, Red Carnation Hotels and more.

TreadRight Foundation: The TreadRight Foundation is the philanthropic arm of The Travel Corporation and has worked with international partners such as Just a Drop (Cambodia), Wildlife SOS – India, National Geographic Society and Laboratorio Giuditta Brozzetti (Italy).

Pack for a Purpose: This not-for-profit organization supports projects throughout the world.

Granville 404 Project: Guests at the all-inclusive Hyatt Ziva and Zilara Rose Hall Montego Bay can support community development work at the Granville All-Ages School by contacting the hotel concierge prior to arrival in Jamaica.

Sandals Foundation: In addition to supporting community and environmental programs throughout the Caribbean, the Sandals Foundation offers the Reading Road Trip voluntourism initiative for guests at various locations. Book through Island Routes Tours.

Michele Peterson is an award-winning travel writer who specializes in food, drink and sun destinations. Her work has appeared in major magazines, guidebooks and travel anthologies. You can get travel tips, discounts and recipes on her A Taste for Travel blog or via Twitter/Instagram @atastefortravel