The World Nomads Podcast: Sustainable and Ethical Travel

In this episode we discuss how to travel responsibly, avoid voluntourism and negative animal experiences. Plus, meet the man spearheading a happiness movement.


Photo © Brian Rapsey. Clay pot classes in Tanzania.

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The World Nomads Podcast: Ethical and Sustainable Travel

In this episode, we discover some of the most sustainable and ethical travel businesses in the market, encouraging travelers to experience the world without harming natural and cultural environments and ask, how happy are you?

What’s in the episode

01:47 Darrell Wade, co-founder of Intrepid

05:00 Tourism can have positive impact

08:38 Becoming carbon positive

13:23 Ben Pearson World Animal Protection

16:14 Shifting the way we look at wild animals

19:49 How do you travel ethically and sustainably?

23:31 Karen Flanagan from Save the Children discusses ‘paper orphans’

27:15 Empowering children and families

30:00 Mac Gaughan from

34:04 Measuring your success

35:53 Paul Rogers from Planet Happiness

42:51 Next week

Quotes from the episode

“We just started to think about that a little bit more as to how is it that our form of tourism does indeed have positive impacts and some forms of tourism don't necessarily. How could we extend that and really get the benefit of that both for the local community and for our travelers. It has to benefit everyone otherwise it's not going to work.” – Darrell Wade

“People aren't aware of how wild animals suffer in these entertainment venues. Once we start to explain it to them, the reality of what goes on, sometimes behind the scenes such as the way elephants are trained, they tend to realize, okay, that's not something that I should be involved in.” - Ben Pearson

“There are unscrupulous people who realize that children can be commodified because Westerners and wealthy people want to give money to them. So, they capitalize on that.” – Karen Flanagan

“…I think people will never do things because it's the right thing to do. Our message is that doing things in this way, having that kind of closer, better connection with people is just more enjoyable.” – Macartan Gaughan

Read World Nomads Responsible Travel Manifesto 
We believe your mindset, choices and purchases can have a big impact on the places that your travel.

Who is in the episode

Darrel Wade the founder of Intrepid Travel, the world's largest small group and adventure travel company.

Ben Pearson Campaign Manager of World Animal Protection Australia.

Karen Flanagan Principal Advisor for Child Protection at Save the Children and a founding member of ReThink Orphanages Steering Group.

Mac Gaughan founder of Clean Travel connecting travelers with immersive experiences supporting local communities.

Paul Rogers from Planet Happiness a global  grass-roots project of the Happiness Alliance, a leading nonprofit profit in the happiness and well-being movement.

Take the Happiness Index Survey 
Get your answers by domain and see how you compare to over 80,000 people who took the Happiness Index.

Resources & links

Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.

Make a micro-donation to one of these projects when you buy travel insurance from World Nomads with our Footprints projects.

Sally Hetherington is an Australian passionate about empowerment and sustainability in developing countries. After spending five years in Cambodia Sally is committed to developing projects to help Cambodians break free from the cycle of poverty through the charity Human and Hope. Read her story on how to be an ethical traveler.

To follow daily and monthly global carbon emission data, click here.

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About World Nomads & the podcast

Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.

World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips and specialized travel insurance for independent, volunteer and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world. Our online global travel insurance covers travelers from more than 135 countries and allows you to buy and claim online, 24/7, even while already traveling.

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You can get in touch with us by emailing [email protected].

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Phil: Don't skip, Phil and Kim with you delivering our latest episode of the World Nomads Podcast, and we're discussing sustainable and ethical travel.

Kim: Yeah, we took the podcast on the road, Phil to a recent travel day's conference featuring some of the most sustainable and ethical travel businesses in the market.

Speaker 5: Welcome to the World Nomads Podcast delivered by World Nomads, the travel lifestyle and insurance brand. It's not your usual travel podcast, it's everything for the adventurous independent traveler.

Phil: We're increasingly hearing about sustainable and ethical travel and that kind of catchphrases, but what do they actually mean? We'll have a go at it here, loosely explained, sustainable tourism is the idea of visiting somewhere and making a positive impact on the environment and the people whilst you're there. So making sure they get something out of it as well as you get something out of it. Ethical travel is about being mindful of the impact that we have on places and people as we explore the world.

Kim: I think you did good with that definition or well should I say.

Phil: [inaudible 00:01:00]

Kim: Travel, by the way, is reportedly now the biggest industry in the world, bigger than oil.

Phil: One in nine jobs globally or something like that, I think is another figure works in the travel and hospitality industry.

Kim: It is huge.

Phil: It is huge.

Kim: It is huge. So as we mentioned earlier, we will meet some of the most sustainable and ethical travel businesses in the market. We'll talk about volunteerism, the ethics of animal experiences, and as a bonus, this guy wasn't at the conference, but we met a man spearheading a nonprofit in the happiness and wellbeing movement.

Phil: Our first guest is Darrell Wade. He's the co-founder of Intrepid travel. We've all heard that name is the world's largest small-group adventure and travel company. Darrell, where did it all begin?

Darrell: That's a long time ago. So even longer ago, I went to the University of Melbourne and I met a guy on the very first day of orientation week who became a good friend and 10 years later, we started Intrepid together. So there's two of us, and we were good mates for that 10 years, and so I suppose because we had been such good friends, we had traveled together different times and got to know each other very well, and we knew each other warts and all, and we thought, "We can probably start a business together" because we know each other good and bad.

Darrell: So we did. So we went for the travel industry, knew nothing about the travel industry. So made lots of mistakes as a result of that but also got a few things right. I think because we didn't know much about the travel industry, we took a fresh look at what people actually wanted to do when they were traveling. So came up with a way of traveling, which at the time had never really been tried before.

Darrell: When we first took the product, our trips out to the market, we got a few looks as if to say, well, why would people want to travel like that? So we were thinking, well, either this is a good idea and because no one's tried it and it's an idea waiting to happen or it's a really bad idea, and we will go broke. Fortunately, it was the former, not the latter.

Kim: What do you mean, "I like that?"

Darrell: Well, I guess we'd both done a lot of traveling independently through Asia and so as a backpacker you hop on a train or a bus or a donkey hard or whatever's going. Then when you get someone you might stay in a guest house or it might stay in a national park lodge or whatever and that's fantastic. We loved it at the time and still do love it actually. But what we saw as the opportunity was people traveling in that way but if they only had one week or two weeks’ annual leave, because we knew what we were doing, we could travel really efficiently.

Darrell: So we could do in a couple of weeks what it would take a backpack to do in four weeks. Not because we're rushing, but just because when we got off the train, we'd have a vehicle to meet us. Or when we wanted to go trekking, we already had a guard sorted. Or if we wanted to go to a national park, we had the boat already ready to go. We didn't have to wait for a group of people to get the boat to go. So for us, it seemed terribly logical to travel this way with a small group of 10 people or so.

Darrell: But when we told our travel agent partners or what people who we hoped to be partners, they'd said, what you got to travel using local public transport and sign local accommodation? No one will ever want to do that. We thought, "Why? We like it." So it was just not accepted at the time. If you were in traveling, you'd start... You'd been a 40-seat coach or a ship or stay in a resort hotel or whatever. There were all kinds of things we hated.

Kim: I guess you wouldn't have sat down with a pen and paper and said we want to travel sustainably and ethically.

Darrell: No, those two words probably didn't even enter our head to be perfectly honest. Within three or four years I think we started to realize that, that actually was a feature of what we were doing, but it was more a fringe benefit almost rather than actually in by design. One of our relatively early leaders, she was based in Borneo for a few years she came back for a meeting once and she was just saying, what you do is really quite amazing in terms of the positive impact we have on local communities.

Darrell: We just started to think about that a little bit more as to how is it that our form of tourism does indeed have positive impacts and some forms of tourism don't necessarily. How could we extend that and really get the benefit of that both for the local community and for our travelers. It has to benefit everyone otherwise it's not going to work.

Darrell: When it all boils down now, our travelers are going on a holiday, they don't want to be burdened with guilt or burdened with worthy acts. They just want to have a great holiday. But you can have a great holiday by traveling sustainably. These things aren't mutual exclusively, they actually work well together if you design it properly.

Phil: Well, that's the whole thing about sustainable and responsible travel that I find that it's not actually being led by any particular business or movement into it. It's businesses reacting to actually what the travelers want. They've all woken up to that and they're demanding it.

Darrell: From those businesses, they're like ours, you get incredibly happy clients. What are happy clients do? They want to book with you again and they tell their friends and they tell their travel agents. That's how our business grew from clients not from us. We started with, well, we put 10,000 bucks each into the business and let me assure you that was not enough to start the business. So it wasn't great. So if the clients hadn't done the marketing for us the business wouldn't have worked simple as that.

Kim: Word of mouth. So you didn't set out to be sustainable and ethical, it was more mindset. But now, how would you encourage people to travel sustainably or ethically? I guess what is Intrepid doing to make sure that's the case?

Darrell: There's kind of two sides I think to that question. So one side is I don't really think it's up to us as a business to preach too much. We inform clients absolutely about what the right and wrong thing is because people like to be informed and they like to be educated I guess on some things they don't understand, like wildlife tourism might be an example, carbon emissions is an example. But people don't want to be hit over the head with a stick-on stuff like this.

Darrell: I go back to that point, people are on holiday, they want to have a great holiday, and they want to do the right thing absolutely. But the other side of the question is more internal in terms of us as a business, what do we do to ensure industry sustainability, to ensure that clients do have a better trip, to ensure that our impacts on local communities and the environment are sound as we go.

Darrell: So we start by employing people who know a lot more about this than I do like anything. We've got a responsible business team who work in the office and they design practices and policies that are pretty much unseen by a client but ensures that we do the right thing on the ground, and that's everything from carbon emissions through the animal welfare policy, human rights policies, and so forth.

Kim: So you're doing the thinking for the traveler?

Darrell: Yeah. Well, I think you got to lead by example, don't you? It's all very well to get on a sandbox and preach and complain and all the rest of it. But I think you've really got to get your own house in order first. If I can complain one thing about our industry, generally speaking, it is a little bit too passive on this issue as an industry. Sometimes you'll see people making lots of noise and whatnot about it, but have you really done your homework and have you actually done the real gritty hard yards and ham to make sure that what you're doing is right.

Phil: Well, tell us about that because the entire business is carbon neutral, carbon positive now, I tend that?

Darrell: [inaudible 00:08:40] How long have you got all boys silly?

Phil: Well, no, I mean was it hard?

Darrell: Look, I think I'm going to say no. It's a qualified no.

Phil: You don't scare the host is here.

Darrell: I'll kind of run you through early days of that journey to fill you in. I was just saying to someone before how it started for me as a personal journey and this was a bat. I think it was like 2004 and we just won a fairly major award from the World Tourism Travel Council and for our responsible tourism practices. I feel like pretty pleased with ourselves, it was so cool best in the world and all the rest of it. I was heading off to Botswana with my family for a holiday and at the airport I thought, "Dear, I don't have anything to read."

Darrell: So I went with my eldest daughter and got a book, which was Tim Flannery's, The Weather Makers and Sophie said, "So dad what is it about?" I said, "Well, it's about climate change. I don't really know much about it, but apparently there's a bit of an issue, there's too much carbon in the atmosphere and blah, blah, blah." She goes, "Dad, that sounds as boring as anything. Can't you get an interesting book like a novel or something like that?" Anyway, so a week later, I remember I was under a tree in Botswana, lovely scene and I was about halfway through the book and the penny dropped for me that not only is climate change a major problem but we as a company we're contributing significantly to it.

Darrell: Because if you think about what a tour operator does and particularly a global one like us, we take people from one corner of the world to another corner of the world in order to have fun. How do you do that? You get them in a plane and you emit huge amounts of carbon to get to your destination and then you travel around that destination using planes, trains and automobiles emitting more carbon. So I guess I thought, well far be it for us to be seen as some kind of environmental hero, we're actually environmental vandals almost.

Darrell: I came back quite worried, in fact, so I got our leadership team together said, "Hey, we've got to do something about this. First of all, you got to read this book." Then about that time or a bit, I think it's about six months later, the inconvenient truth with Al Gore came out. I was lucky enough to have a dinner with Al Gore, we talked about tourism and whatnot. So we made it our mission to get carbon neutral.

Darrell: So for the next couple of years, we went out to measure all our emissions. By that I mean every train [inaudible 00:11:08] or tuk-tuk so accommodation and whether the accommodation is air conditional fan-driven is different carbon emissions. So we did this across about a thousand itineraries around the world and came up with a level. We then started to reduce or manage those emissions. So in certain places, we would take a flight out of an itinerary and use a vehicle if it wasn't too inconvenient for travelers.

Darrell: So we got that down and then finally we mitigated those emissions by offsetting the whole lot by investing in wind farms in Turkey. I remember that was an early one particularly. So four years later after that journey started, we got signed off by Ernst and Young, the accountants as being carbon neutral. So we'd done the work. So that was 10 years ago now, have been ever since.

Kim: Was Al Gore priest?

Darrell: Yeah, I was seeing him a few times since then and yeah, I look, I think he is. But I guess he's got bigger things to talk about and be worried about than us.

Kim: Well, again Darrell, when you sat down with your mate at Uni, you wouldn't have been talking about carbon offset either.

Darrell: We sure wouldn't have.

Kim: Had you have known that you would have a business that would be turning over $500 million would you have finished that degree?

Darrell: Yeah. Look, I did finish the degree but I didn't take think deep much for, maybe. But my partner is one of the few arguments we've ever had actually. In fact, we've never had an argument at work, which is pretty amazing in 30 years. But one fairly heated conversation we had one night I remember is well, because we did the same course at Uni whether our commerce degree actually was useful for us, I maintained it was completely useless. He maintained, we learned a lot. I'm not sure who was right.

Kim: Well, lovely to hear what you've got to say. Congratulations on the company-

Darrell: Thanks.

Kim: ... congratulations on being carbon positive.

Phil: Yeah, and thanks very much for having a chat with us, it has been great fun.

Darrell: Great to be here, cheers.

Kim: Well, Ben Pearson is campaign manager of world animal Protection. Ben says, all over the world animals are suffering needlessly in their billions, including as we know, and we hear stories almost daily in the travel industry and it's only getting worse. So I wanted to know why it seems so hard to convince people that animal experiences aren't always good experiences.

Ben: I don't think it's hard because in most cases it really is just ignorance. People aren't aware of how wild animals suffer in these entertainment venues. Once we start to explain it to them, the reality of what goes on, sometimes behind the scenes such as the way elephants are trained, they tend to realize, okay, that's not something that I should be involved in.

Ben: The thing that works for us is that most people who go to these venues to see wild animals do it because they're animal lovers. That's why they are there. So when we expose the fact that, say that elephant has gone through a brutal training process, that the tiger they just had a selfie with was separated from its mother as a young age and will probably end up in a traditional medicine jar somewhere at the end of its life, then they start to very quickly come around to the fact that they shouldn't be engaging in those kinds of experiences.

Kim: Why isn't there any accountability though on the ground?

Ben: It's difficult in a country like Thailand. We're respectful of the fact that in some cases the tourism industry is a very big earner. It's a very big earner of export dollars. We are working very hard with venues in countries like Thailand and Sri Lanka to transition towards models, which don't involve cruelty to the animals, but it's still profitable and still provide jobs and income for the local communities.

Ben: But we have frequently lobbied the Thai government to improve standards for both elephants and tigers because Thailand is very much a hotspot for both of those species. We've had mixed success. So we think at the moment the answer really is travel companies not promoting or selling tickets to those venues and tourist just not going to them. They've done the right thing on elephant riding. They're not selling that. But we also need to get that next step.

Ben: We have Sea world in Australia. It's one of the biggest dolphinariums in the world. Those poor animals has intelligent, beautiful dolphins are in those small pools to 50 years or more. It's completely unacceptable that they treated that way. No travel company that wants its brand associated with things like sustainability as this current conference's talking about should in any way be promoting or selling tickets to a venue which keeps dolphins in captivity.

Phil: A lot of businesses will try to greenwash what they do in a way by purporting to be involved in conservancy in some way or other. How do you tell whether if that's legitimate or not?

Ben: In most cases, it's just not. The dolphins that you see up at SeaWorld, for example, they were bred there, most of them were bred there for the purposes of living their lives in a small pool to provide entertainment of a tourist. There's no conservancy work there. Those dolphins also aren't endangered. The species up there is not under threat in the wild whatsoever. I will salute the fact that SeaWorld does do good work rescuing injured animals who become stranded or hit by boats or things like that.

Ben: They do good work on that and they've in many cases managed to get those animals back to a state where they can be released. We'd certainly like to see them continue to do that work. But primarily the idea that these venues are really playing any meaningful role in the conservation of those species just isn't true. We've really got to go through a bit of a fundamental shift in the way we look at wild animals that wild animals or wild animals. They belong in the wild. They're not a photo prop for someone's selfie.

Ben: It's not appropriate to have them in a little tank in the side of a cafe so that you can have a little look at them and maybe feed them on the half-hour. They're not there to be ridden or swam with or any of those things whatsoever. They are wild animals. If you want to go and see a wild animal, there are plenty of ways you can do that in the wild. You get a much more natural, normal experience of the animal and it's behaviors and you do so in a way which doesn't promote cruelty. So that's really what people need to be doing.

Ben: One of our major campaign pushes is actually on the whole issue of exotic pets. A species like African gray parrots, people love to have them. They're quite a prized status symbol in some countries. They're even bred in Australia. What people don't know is that these beautiful animals live in these big rich family groupings in the wild. So they're taken from that or bred away from that. They're kept in a small cage. They live for a 100 years-

Kim: Wow.

Ben: ... in this tiny cage. So we see way too much of that going on with exotic animals being used as pets or entertainment props and the like, it really has to stop.

Kim: I met a Russian pop star that had an alligator as a pet. She just likes two things.

Ben: Now wait a minute-

Kim: Russian pop star-

Ben: ... Russian pop star.

Kim: ... in Vietnam. I met a Russian pop star in Vietnam.

Ben: I was concentrating on the alligator for a moment and then I realized what was going on, that crew would it be funny.

Kim: Np. I've been also in the news recently and Jeremy Circus is now giving kids the experience of animal experience using holograms.

Ben: That's so great, isn't it? Why not? This is great myth that kids need to go and actually see a live animal in a zoo to feel some kind of attraction to it. That's just not the case at all. I've got kids and I know that when they watch a David Attenborough documentary, they are just filled with wonder and amazing about these animals. That the point is often made that you think about what animal kids like the most, it's dinosaur. They've said you've never seen a dinosaur in the wild or in this [inaudible 00:18:04] that's appropriate given the theme of this conference. So you don't need to see the physical animal in a cage to be filled with a sense of wonder and awe for that animal.

Phil: Actually the word zoo, I find them terribly sad. I've visited a few, but I always come away disappointed with the experience of feeling a little bit grubby. How do we feel about zoos? So what I will say is a shout out to the fact that those zoo's like Taronga and Melbourne do a lot of really good work in conservation. We talk to them quite a bit. The truth, of course, is that in the future we don't see zoos existing as they are now where a non-endangered species in a small enclosure is just not acceptable to us.

Phil: So in the future, you would have zoos where there's much more of an education focus and yes if there were animals that are there as part of a kind of conservation breeding program we're open to that idea. But certainly, the idea that you just have a whole lot of species that are not endangered being bred to live their lives in small enclosures is not something we support.

Kim: I don't do enclosures anymore after I stepped on an endangered butterfly.

Ben: I'm taking it was an accident, right?

Kim: Totally it was an accident. Ben, you do great work and I think the message is getting across. Thanks so much for being on the podcast.

Phil: Thanks Ben.

Ben: Thanks so much for having me.

Kim: Can you not judge on a butterfly, okay?

Phil: Okay.

Kim: I've learned a lot since then. No enclosures for me.

Phil: All right, look, just a quick pause right now to give ourselves a pat on the back here at World Nomads because just recently we won the Best Travel Safety Initiative at World Nomads for our travel safety section which is pretty extensive. The announcement was made at the Global Youth Travel Awards in Lisbon.

Kim: [inaudible 00:19:47]

Phil: Pretty good. Look, we also reached out to ask you how you travel sustainably and ethically and we got some answers. Helen says she minimizes flying uses public transport or her own two legs. Avoid staying in accommodation, which displaces local residents, so that means staying in small family-run hotels rather than big large chains.

Phil: She ops for fans instead of air conditioning, avoids large cruise boats, travels in small groups rather than on mass. Each local food show some respect to the local customs and religions, of course, talks with local people. I love talking with local people. I have got the local language. I've just remembered all my high school French recently by necessity and relish the fact that things just aren't like they are back at home.

Ben: A big tick Helen doing travel world.

Phil: Ali that works with us here, she's a scuba diver and she says doing Island stay instead of a Liveaboard. She says she always does an Island stay because there's always less packaging for food and you don't need fuel to run the thing and you can explore the local land area as well. When it comes to tour providers she says, go for the small over large groups, family-owned business and local employees over big multinational operations obviously.

Phil: She said she often gets in touch upfront to check on certain things like the dive planning and safety standards, what species they'll be introduced to and what else to expect on the dives. She says it's good to check out their website, social media and others, social proof is always very important of course. Because that gives a good indication about their practices, like a diving practice is someone standing on corals or touching the fish? What initiatives do they do? Like cleanups and things like that and fish feeding.

Phil: Do you see the guide feeding the fish with chicken or bread? We heard from Dave who says in Europe he tries to take advantage of Rio and Sao deals. Getting the train to a ferry port and then crossing over to the other side of the ocean on a ferry, which is a leisurely and a bit exciting too. I agree with him I like traveling on boats. It's good and of course, it's more sustainable. [inaudible 00:21:55] Dave.

Kim: Dave is a fan of buses as well. So awesome great tips that you can share yours at [email protected]

Phil: That's it.

Darrell: Karen Flanagan, is principal advisor of the child protection at Save the Children. She's also a founding member of Rethink Orphanages steering group. Now, she works to make sure children are kept safe and protected from harm through all aspects to save the children's work across 120 countries. We checked in to see how that works exactly.

Karen: Well, thank you very much for having me. What we're trying to do is not make people feel bad about trying to do good. So it's an awareness raising journey. Most people when they realize the harms of institutional care on children, particularly when children have been taken away from their families for profit, are horrified. We make the assumption that all people want to help children, but we just feel at the Rethink Orphanages message has to reach people who are interested in doing the right things when they travel.

Kim: Explain the how it works for profit.

Karen: It's a business model. There are unscrupulous people who realize that children can be commodified because Westerners and wealthy people want to give money to them. So they capitalize on that. So it's just another form of human trafficking. We know we have evidence from many countries where children are trafficked from families and communities into the so-called institutions and orphanages and their identities, they're de-identified. They become what we call paper orphans.

Karen: They're told to say to the tourists that their parents are dead and if they don't, they could be harmed or the parents could be harmed. So we've got extreme cases and evidence of those situations where children have been knowingly trafficked. Their parents don't realize what's going to happen to them, they think they're going to a better life or a good education and then they never see or hear from them again. A couple of the people in our group Rethink Orphanages had those experiences fast hand and realized that the orphanage they set out to run and was doing a lot of harm and that the children actually had parents. So they set about reuniting them all and they've done that.

Kim: Fabulous. So what's the impact on the individual, on the child?

Karen: Well, the evidence is overwhelming that taking children away from family units is really bad for them. Even children who live in dysfunctional families still will do better than children who grow up in institutional care.

Kim: We see that in Australia.

Karen: Absolutely. Why have we got a deinstitutionalization policy? Because we know it's not good for children. So we would advocate foster care or local adoption for children who seriously cannot be looked after in their own families because it's too risky or harmful. We want to do the same in developing countries. We want to say if institutional care is not good enough for white children, it's certainly not good enough for you either.

Karen: We need to work with those governments, which is what I do in my role at Save the Children. I advocate with the policy and law enformers to get policies and laws enacted and resource to protect children by not sending them to an institution, but by demanding and supporting families to take better care of their own children. So we want to do the same in developing countries.

Phil: Is there any way that there's some sort of support given to those families as well, so they've got a better choice?

Karen: Yes. So we say first and foremost, stop looking to Australia for example because the Australian government is no longer funding it as much as it used to do. We're saying to the governments in Indonesia and Thailand, in Cambodia, these are your children. You need to do better for your children. Don't look to other countries to support you. We will technically support you, but we just don't have the dollars anymore.

Karen: So my job is to go in and teach them the evidence about the harms of institutional care, help them rewrite their policies and their laws and work with other local organizations to mobilize around these issues, but most importantly, educate parents and communities. Now we're getting the governments to redirect the funding that they used to put into institutional care, to family support and social protection.

Karen: So we're trying to do all of those things. It's quite sophisticated, but I work at all those levels. So we call it system strengthening. So national government reform right through to the local families educating and empowering them. No family wants to send their children away. They think that's been marketed to them, that it's a good thing for your children and we have to get that message out.

Kim: What sort of success are you having? You must be making an impact.

Karen: Of course, I have to believe that. Of course, I know we are, but I haven't got a lot of hardcore evidence because we don't have a lot of funding to do proper research. In my programming work at Save the Children, we monitor and evaluate all our programs. Absolutely, I can tell you that even just teaching people positive parenting, have fun with your children, don't use physical harsh discipline with them. Do not send them away with people who offer you a better life because it won't be children need to be with you.

Karen: If you're poor, let's advocate to get you a job locally, let's tell the tourists that come to your community or better still you tell them what you need for a sustainable community. So we're empowering and enabling families, children to know what's good for them for their own protection and wellbeing and most importantly what's sustainable for generations to come. So I know we're making a difference that way.

Kim: What happens inside that orphanage once the tourists have left?

Karen: Well, either another busload arrives in and we have cases and stories of children being hugged by 20 strangers a day. We have cases where children have been literally bused from one organization to another to keep up with the demand of tourists that need this orphanage experience.

Karen: The new clothes, the new toys, the food that you've brought for them will inevitably end up in the orphanage operator’s home. Or we even have cases where they've bought cars, built homes with the money that well-meaning foreigners have donated. So you need to do your due diligence if you're supporting any organization. So if it's not better than linked into local government and accountability mechanisms, I would say don't support them.

Kim: What happens when there's a used by date. Where do the children go? What happens to them?

Karen: Well, this is why it needs to be so sensitively managed because the longer a child has kept away from their community, the less chance of reintegration there will be either just by not having the knowledge of where to bring them back to or in awful cases where children have been trafficked for sexual exploitation purposes. The community knows what happened to them and they don't want them back. Even their own parents reject them sometimes because they're like dirty, damaged goods, and it's horrific.

Karen: We've had to work so hard to say to communities, these children did not ask for that it was done to them and we have to look after them. But yes, the older the children are often they might end up on the street, they might end up having to do exploited work, harmful labor, sex slaves, you name it, to survive and they might end up on the street. Then the longer they're away, the less chance of a successful reunification. So that's why we have to get in as early as possible.

Kim: So as traveling, you might have good intentions, but you need to do due diligence.

Karen: Absolutely, always. It's like shopping around for the best flight deal, if you want one of these feel-good experiences, ask yourself who's needs am I meeting here? Is it my need to feel good about myself, or do I really believe I can make a difference that's sustainable? Doing no harm to whether it's the environment an animal or a child.

Phil: Great question to ask yourself. Well said, Karen. Mac Gaughan is the founder of, which is a fantastic name, says what it is on the [inaudible 00:29:59] Mac tell us more.

Mac: So Clean Travel is two things. It's a marketplace for locally-owned ethical tours and activities around the world and it's also a platform for these locally-owned organizations to manage the business and sell more.

Phil: Locally owned is the way that-

Mac: Locally owned is a big part of what we do because it does a very commonly quoted statistic from the UN [inaudible 00:30:22] percent of dollars that are spent in the country leave the one that they're spent in. Our focus is on giving the local organizations the tools and access so that they can compete on a global market and reach these travelers directly.

Kim: So how is that, that you can spend $100 but only five of it stays in the place that you visiting?

Mac: Because if you're visiting a country, say you're going from Australia to Tanzania or whatever, sometimes oftentimes you're going in an Australian company and you're staying with, in an internationally owned hotel chain or eating in a restaurant where they might employ people locally, but the profits are leaving and going elsewhere. So that's why we really focus on maintaining the same level of quality, the same level of service, having a great time, but that not only the money that people are being employed locally but the profits are staying there to be reinvested.

Phil: This is not a charity we're talking about, this is something that actually makes travel businesses work better.

Mac: Hard to resent because I think sustainability has always been an issue in travel, but it's never been as much of a hot topic as it is now. A lot of travel brands are starting to really emphasize how sustainable they are. They're leading with that. It's part of the puzzle because sustainability is inherently part of having an authentic experience because to continue to have that authentic experience, you have to infuse sustainability into everything you do.

Mac: By being a local organization naturally, you're going to hire local people. There's a presumption assumptions on there as well. Your suppliers are local, your communities are local that you're putting the money back into and it's a ripple effect.

Kim: We spoke to Darrell Wade from Intrepid Travel and he said people don't really want to be, or travelers don't really want to be hit over the head with the idea of sustainable travel or ethical travel. So how do you achieve that without telling people this is the way you should be trying to [inaudible 00:32:12].

Mac: I can't agree more and I think people will never do things because it's the right thing to do. Our message is that doing things in this way, having that kind of closer, better connection with people is just more enjoyable. It's more fun because not only do you get this amazing personal experience from you and you gain, but you have this intangible benefit and feel-good factor from knowing that you're really making a real contribution.

Phil: Because it's quite possible to wake up in an internationally owned hotel and not know which city you're in.

Mac: Yeah, exactly. That's part of their appeal for so long, that it was... McDonald's did it [inaudible 00:32:47 well, in terms of the standard of big Macs are the same everywhere, but in travel often you're looking for the opposite. You're looking to travel tens of thousands of kilometers to see something differently.

Kim: Would the three pillars of sustainable travel be or the benefits be economic, environmental and social?

Mac: I would say economic, environmental and hopefully cultural. We want to make more money stay in the local country because that's where [inaudible 00:33:13] But it's not about the money per se, it's what the money gives the people, the freedom and the agency to make their own decisions. Often in terms of the cultural conversations, they have control around what they, how they want to display it, how they want to showcase it, and having the freedom to do that.

Mac: So, I'm from Ireland as I'm sure you can tell, I'm very proud of my Irish culture. I play Irish music, I speak the Irish language and I love seeing that in other cultures that they're proud to share what they've learned. Because I strongly believe that humans are the same everywhere with that little layer of culture is the spice of life and it makes travel what it is.

Kim: Well, Nomads has an office in Cork Ireland.

Phil: I was just going to say shout out to all the Nomads and Cork.

Mac: In the Republic of Cork as they like to call themselves.

Kim: They do.

Mac: They have a very, very independent mindset in that part of the country.

Kim: Interesting. So how do you measure the success in a plane travel?

Mac: First, we don't want to complicate it too much. Sometimes I think in this space people can get very kind of bogged down in different metrics. A lot of times we look at simple things like when we start working with partners, we look at, we do a baseline survey. We see how much revenue they're getting per year, how many local people they're employing, the mix of men and women or people from kind of disadvantaged background. Again, where they're getting suppliers for, and then we pick a couple of those KPIs that make sense to those guys and we try and track them over time every three to six months.

Kim: Cool, are you learning much from the conference?

Mac: I'm learning that it's on the tip of everyone's tongue, sustainability, and that it's becoming a much more hot topic because it's, people like Darrel and Intrepid. That was their differentiator for a long time about how sustainable they are and now it's becoming the norm and it's now kicking on to one of the next step. I think for us, we're very much feeling that sustainability, it's great to have it as part of your division or an arm of your organization, but it should be in your blood.

Mac: It should be just part and parcel baked into what you do. The beautiful thing about travel is if you spend a lot of time overseas, naturally, you develop an empathy for other people and you realize that yeah, you go anywhere. It's a common quote, but hard work and skills and intelligence are equally distributed around the world, but opportunity is not and that's where travel can have a really powerful force to do.

Kim: Thank you, Mac and congratulations. selected Clean Travel as a participant in their 2019 Sustainable Tourism Accelerator program.

Phil: Hey Kim, have you ever heard of Gross National Happiness?

Kim: I'm glad you asked. Yes, I have. When we launched our episode on Bhutan who did some ground, that can work-

Phil: Oh, how could I forget?

Kim: ... yeah, with the UN and they passed a resolution on happiness, didn't they?

Phil: Yeah. Now I want you to meet Paul Rogers who talks more about that and explains what his organization, Planet Happiness is about.

Paul: I've been a tourism planner for the last 20 years advising governments in developing countries on how to develop the tourism sector to get as much benefits in terms of income and employment and other benefits to the environment and communities as possible. I was fortunate to after working in Nepal where I did a Ph.D on ecotourism in the Everest region, I was very fortunate to be invited to Bhutan where I, this was in 2002 and had a good introduction to Gross National Happiness and alternative approaches to development that focus on happiness and wellbeing rather than a gross domestic product.

Paul: Over the years as a tourism planner and going back to Bhutan again and again and understanding more about the way the country works and this philosophy of happiness and wellbeing, in 2012 to the UN with the support of Bhutan passed a resolution on happiness and wellbeing that was followed by a high-level meeting on happiness and wellbeing with government representatives from around the world. Speaking to this agenda of happiness and wellbeing, stating what their countries were doing in support of this agenda.

Paul: This was a really eyeopening meeting to understand what is happening at a very high level of government. The seriousness with which our happiness and wellbeing agenda is being taken. This is something that you don't normally read about in the media. So through the networking that I did at that meeting and looking to see how this agenda could move forward with the support of the tourism sector, if you like, we came up with this project planet happiness, which is basically about deploying a survey, which we call the happiness index, which is based... It's a subjective measure of individual happiness and wellbeing that a colleague developed looking at the best practice of what they've done in Bhutan to measure happiness and looking at what other countries are doing.

Paul: So people can go online, they can take a survey and in 15 minutes it gives you your personal happiness score across 11 domains of happiness. How happy you are at work, your psychological wellbeing, your health, your satisfaction with the environment around you, social community networks, this type of thing.

Paul: Now with the tourism agenda proceeding the way is with many destinations around the world starting to suffer from over-tourism, it occurred to me that by deploying this survey in world heritage sites, we could not just get the individual scorecard of individuals and their interpretation of how happy they are. We could get a destination scorecard of the host community. That was quite a long [inaudible 00:39:18].

Phil: It's fascinating because it addresses so many of the problems that we're facing in the travel and tourism industry. Obviously over-tourism is a problem and places like Barcelona and Dubrovnik and Iceland are complaining about how tourism is having a bad effect. You have to find that right balance between being allowed to develop tourism for your own economic benefit, but it not ruining your cultural happiness. So I think this is an amazing tool for that.

Paul: Yeah, I'm pretty excited with the whole thing. I've been doing this work for 20 years and looking... tourism if it's not... we all know that we need to reduce the environmental impact of tourism, particularly on national parks and try and create models of tourism that support the conservation objectives. But we also need to be increasingly mindful. The tourism has to benefit the host community. Whilst the income and the employment is what creates the momentum for the tourism to move forward, we now need to be looking and finding new creative ways of ensuring that the tourism delivers broader benefits to the host community. So that you don't end up with a situation like you do in Venice where the residents start to move out of the area.

Phil: We did speak about the happiness index when we did our episode on Bhutan as well, but what a fantastic way, if this could be integrated into all sorts of planning and development by government, not just tourism as well, but taking into consideration the happiness of the people as important as the money. What a great state that would be?

Paul: Yeah, I totally agree.

Phil: The other thing that I think might be useful as well, these results are taken from the various sites publicly available, is that right?

Paul: Yeah.

Phil: So as a traveler, then you can go and have a look at these and go, well I can see this is a place that's under stress and I can either go somewhere else or travel in a different way and contribute to being the solution not the problem if I go that.

Paul: Absolutely. So responding to those comments. Firstly, what's nice about the surveys that anybody can take it and in 15 minutes, you get your one-page summary scorecard, which compares your happiness to everybody else that's taken the survey. Then coming on to answer your question that Phil, what we will do with destinations, what we're starting to do with destinations is bring up their collective happiness scorecard for the destination.

Paul: As this project gains momentum, yeah visitors will look at the happiness scores of host communities. They will see what interventions are being designed to increase the collective happiness of those communities. It will give visitors the opportunity to engage in those programs and develop a closer relationship with the host community.

Paul: There'll be individual programs that tourists can engage with. There'll be all sorts of opportunities to contribute, for tourists to contribute to in a more mindful way to those host communities which is what... Well, this is the way that the sector is going, its visitors being more mindful and respectful and wanting to give something back to the communities they're visiting.

Kim: We will share a link to the survey and Planted Happiness in show notes. I love it. Can't help but say that with a smile on your face. Next time you tune in a return to our destination episodes as we explore Poland.

Phil: By the way, look out for our responsible travel manifesto on and we'll put a link to that in the show notes too.

Kim: All right, see you.

Phil: Bye.

Speaker 5: The World Nomads Podcast, explore your boundaries.



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