The increasing popularity of philanthropic tourism has led some critics to question its effectiveness as a form of humanitarian aid or if it even qualifies as a truly charitable pursuit. Critics have raised concerns that the desire for ‘traveler experiences’ will overshadow more practical considerations such as the social-economic and environmental impact on disadvantaged communities.
What is Philanthropic Tourism?
“Philanthropic tourism is a term used to describe traveling,” says Maxim Gorin, with the intention of donating money or resources usually, on a large scale. It can include traveling to impoverished areas needing economic support, volunteering to fund local projects, or simply donating necessities to a struggling community. It means travelers are looking to benefit others through their travels in some way.”
People using their hard-earned vacation time to give something back to those in need seems like the best of both worlds. At its finest, travel philanthropy is seen as a form of direct development assistance, an initiative flowing from the travel industry and travelers into conservation initiatives, community projects, and charity organizations.
The notion of “doing good” by “giving back” while engaging in leisure or travel is a desirable proposition. However, critics have raised concerns because, in reality, we often fail miserably to understand our role as individuals traveling into unknown lands altogether. The goal should not be just to throw money around but to empower people to make communities and lives sustainable in the long term.
Philanthropic Tourism vs. Volunteer Tourism
Philanthropic tourism is not to be confused with volunteer tourism, in which travelers visit a foreign country to contribute time and skills toward community service projects. “While both forms of travel do aid in developing impoverished communities,” says Max Gorin, “philanthropic tourism’s primary concern is donating financial support that could help whole communities, like sponsoring a new school. Volunteer tourism operates more through the provision of labor or expertise.”
Philanthropic Tourism Improves Local Economies
There are many ways philanthropists can support disadvantaged communities abroad without traveling, but going on a trip can be an enriching experience for all involved. Many people enjoy this type of tourism because it allows them to get up close and personal with an international culture amongst locals while experiencing day-to-day life. Through the efforts of these tourists, communities can become more economically stable, benefit from better education and healthcare, which drive increased employment opportunities to build and maintain a sustainable infrastructure.
Philanthropic Tourism Can Improve Infrastructure
While many people can spend a few weeks on a volunteer vacation without too much disruption to the communities they’re helping; more consideration is often needed for those looking to do long-term philanthropic work.
Maxim believes “, It’s important that locals maintain their autonomy and don’t rely on external sources of support. By donating materials such as tools and building supplies, tourists can help disadvantaged locals establish sustainable infrastructures.” Philanthropic tourism offers a mutual benefit to travelers who want to help and local communities who desperately need it.
Is Philanthropic Tourism Ethical?
Philanthropic tourism is only ethical when it helps empower disadvantaged communities to help themselves. This means that not all philanthropic travel is considered equal, and voluntourism, in particular, should be approached with caution. Just because someone wants to see the world doesn’t mean they’re entitled to go anywhere or do anything they please – this attitude often leads volunteers astray. Work with tourism companies that have researched a community’s needs before offering services. Travelers should always attempt to improve the lives of locals instead of expecting them to serve them.
How You Can Get Involved
Trying to make your travels ‘worthwhile’ can be daunting, but there are so many ways to get involved. The most common way people give back to disadvantaged communities is by donating money, which ensures aid gets where it’s needed the most. Many tourist destinations accept donated goods that will be sold in local markets or used for artisanship. You may also decide to volunteer through an established organization that has existing projects in need of assistance.
The bottom line is that there are many ways you can benefit disadvantaged communities abroad while traveling, and it’s okay if one doesn’t resonate with your personal beliefs or travel style! Exploring new cultures and meeting like-minded individuals is sure to be a rewarding experience no matter how you choose to give back.