Sustainable Itineraries Designed To Help the Planet
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1. Stepped Up Sustainability
Sustainable travel is hardly a new concept in the industry. Even pre-pandemic, leading travel companies were increasingly incorporating attempts to tread more lightly when exploring host destinations, while also aiming to strengthen the benefits local communities and cultures received from visitors. The pandemic, however, laid brutally bare just how much more needed to be done with regard to protecting the planet and a year of COVID-19 lockdown allowed for a great deal of introspection within the travel industry and among its leaders. Now, as the world reopens, travel companies and tour operators are announcing a variety of innovative and intriguing itineraries, many designed to take sustainability and destination regeneration to the next level. Here are some of the newest or most notable itineraries that showcase an increased focus on taking care of the planet and supporting destinations and local cultures.
2. Intrepid Travel: Decarbonized Itineraries, MEET Itineraries, and Social Enterprise Support
Intrepid has long been an industry trailblazer when it comes to environmental stewardship, wildlife protection, and supporting local cultures. In 2018, the company became the travel industry’s largest B Corporation, a designation recognizing businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance. So it should be no surprise that Intrepid has also been one of the leading voices during the COVID pandemic, calling on the industry to rebuild far more responsibly. In recent months, Intrepid has announced a variety of new tours designed with this focus mind, including expanded efforts to support local communities and environmental conservation. The company also recently unveiled more than 40 decarbonized tours, which feature new or amended itineraries with lower carbon footprints.“It’s more important than ever to ensure that as we begin exploring the world again, we do so in a regenerative and beneficial manner for the places we visit,” Intrepid said when announcing some of its new tours.
3. Croatia: Sibenik & the Kornati Islands
Intrepid’s five-day Croatia journey allows travelers to explore the less-visited historic city of Sibenik, engaging in activities designed to support off the beaten path businesses, communities, and artists. The trip also supports regional conservation efforts. Intrepid partnered with the non-profit organization MEET (Mediterranean Experience of Ecotourism) to develop ecotourism activities for the itinerary that take place on the little known Kornati islands. Highlights include enjoying lunch with a local family and learning about the importance of olive oil production in the Dalmatia region.
4. Cycling the UK’s Lake District, Walking Yosemite National Park & Trekking the Larapinta Trail
Intrepid’s low-carbon itineraries focus on walking, trekking, and cycling-based journeys, which are some of the lowest-carbon-output trip styles. Notable options include trekking the Larapinta Trail in Australia; cycling the UK’s Lake District, and walking Yosemite National Park. Altogether, the company has added 25 new walking tours, and 15 new cycling tours. Equally notable, many of these trips include a focus and respect for area Indigenous communities that have historically stewarded the places being visited.
5. Highlights of Scotland
On this unique eight-day tour, launched in early 2021, Intrepid has included a walking exploration of Edinburgh that’s run in partnership with Invisible Cities, an inspiring social enterprise that supports and trains people who have experienced homelessness, teaching them to become tour guides in their own city. Travelers see top sights from a different angle, including the Scottish Parliament buildings, the Royal Mile, and Canongate Cemetery, while also giving back to the community by participating in the tour. One-hundred percent of the tour’s net proceeds are reinvested in developing the guides further with education or new opportunities.
6. Global Family Travels: Learn, Serve and Immerse Itineraries
Global Family Travels founder Jennifer Spatz has long been ahead of her time when it comes to crafting itineraries designed to support and give back to the destinations that GFT visits. But when the pandemic hit, Spatz didn’t miss a beat stepping up these efforts and rolling out even more innovative and conservation-minded trip offerings. In addition to the rich variety of local service elements available to travelers when visiting such destinations as Bali and Costa Rica (including spending time at local environmental and conservation projects and working to support their efforts) GFT travelers can also opt to take part in new regenerative travel itineraries in the United States.
7. The Power of Community Gardens with the Black Farmers Collective
One of the newest offerings from Global Family Travels is an educational day trip to the Seattle-based YES Farm, which is part of the city’s Black Farmers Collective. Participants on this day trip learn about the intersection between urban farming, race, inclusion, and food access–all particularly timely topics amid the current American political landscape. The enriching community experience provides a powerful way to learn about how the Black Farmers Collective has developed creative solutions to systemic land injustices, including how land acquisition is an important part of food justice. Tour participants will also engage in volunteer work on the farm, participating in such tasks as removing weeds, building farm infrastructure, or planting and harvesting crops.
8. Olympic Peninsula: Regenerative Salmon Habitat and Experience Tribal Culture
This unique and unforgettable itinerary is focused on salmon habitat recovery and tribal culture in Washington state. The three-day experience blends education, service, recreation, and cultural immersion. Global Family Travels and First Nation Tours partnered with such organizations as the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and the North Olympic Salmon Coalition to craft the innovative new tour, which takes place on the Olympic Peninsula. Trip highlights include four hours of service learning work focused on salmon habitat recovery, facilitated discussions with community members about the recovery work, and an afternoon of cultural activities with tribal citizens.
9. Costa Rica: Learn, Serve, & Immerse
A legendary eco-tourism destination, GFT’s itinerary in Costa Rica includes fun adventures in rainforests, as well as time spent at wildlife reserves. There will also be immersive experiences and opportunities to work on community conservation projects designed to promote positive change at either the Sarapiqui Learning Center or Tirimbina Reserve. If all of that’s not enough, there's also a range of cultural activities included on this itinerary such as chocolate making and pottery workshops.
10. Bali: Learn, Serve, & Immerse
GFT’s Bali itinerary has been specifically crafted to support the work of a handful of nonprofits and local communities, while also shining a light on critical global issues aligned with key United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, such as access to quality education, clean water, and gender equality. The 12-day trip includes such highlights as helping schoolchildren to practice speaking English and completing service projects alongside local people, such as assisting villagers with a community-wide litter cleanup. Participants also take an herbal walk to learn about how native plants in Bali are used in traditional medicine.
11. Natural Habitat Adventures: Climate Conscious Departures
Natural Habitat Adventures is another company that has long been making a name for itself with innovative efforts to protect the planet. Perhaps most notably, back in 2019, Natural Habitat Adventures announced the world’s first Zero Waste itinerary, which aimed to divert 99 percent or more of all on-trip waste. More recently, Natural Habitat Adventures unveiled Climate Conscious departures, which are special itineraries featuring climate scientists and leaders, says Court Whelan, Natural Habitat’s director of sustainability and conservation travel. “Whether it’s understanding whale migrations as affected by a warming climate; the future of the polar bear in the Arctic, or other examples from Africa and elsewhere on our planet, this trip series intends to use the rebound in travel to draw further attention to one of the planet’s most pressing issues,” says Whelan.
12. Greenland: The Fate of the Arctic in a Warming World
Natural Habitat’s Climate Conscious Greenland departure–The Fate of the Arctic Warming World, allows participants to explore the Arctic wilderness as part of a small-group immersion. You’ll stay in a luxury camp that only accommodates 12 travelers, an approach to visiting the destination that has a far different impact than arriving with hundreds of other travelers aboard a cruise ship and all going ashore together. The experience also includes evening lectures from expert Arctic naturalists.
13. Churchill: Polar Bears in a Changing Arctic
Billed as “the world’s most coveted small-group polar bear expedition” this Natural Habitat Adventures trip is another small group getaway (about 16 travelers maximum), one led by an expert naturalist guide. In addition to spotting polar bears, the trip includes opportunities to meet revered elders of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis cultural groups in Churchill. Participants also have the opportunity to meet a local musher and his team on an authentic dog sled ride through the boreal forest.
14. OneSeed Expeditions
Recently featured in The New York Times for its noble efforts with regard to sustainability and regenerative support, OneSeed Expeditions focuses on economic development in the destinations where it operates. This includes allocating 10 percent of its proceeds to provide zero-interest loans to local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in places like Nepal and Peru. The NGOs in turn, use that money to provide micro loans to community businesses. “Travel is slowly coming back, and there are so many regions of the world that rely on sustainable tourism,” says OneSeed’s Kate Mason, head of marketing. “This is our chance to prove that travel can leave a positive impact.”
15. Croatia Multi-Sport
OneSeed’s newest itinerary, Croatia Multi-Sport represents the company’s entrance into Europe and the Western Balkans region. In addition to the benefit of providing microloans to entrepreneurs across the Western Balkans, the trip involves such low-carbon activities as hiking, biking, kayaking, and swimming in the crystal blue waters along the Dalmatian Coast. Participants cover nearly 60 miles on foot, by bike, and sea kayak during the weeklong adventure. Downtime is spent exploring small villages and enjoying local cuisine.
16. Essential Patagonia
An itinerary that was revised in response to COVID-19, OneSeed’s Essential Patagonia now features camping options that not only provide more personal space for participants amid the pandemic but also lower environmental impact on the destination itself. Additional highlights include trekking Patagonia’s famous Torres del Paine National Park and climbing through a stunning Lena forest to the base of the Las Torres Towers. And like other OneSeed trips, 10 percent of revenue from the trip is invested in small-scale entrepreneurs in the region.
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