Social enterprises are on the rise around the world, and travelers in the know are seeking them out to do some good with their travel dollars – and deepen their travel experience in the process.
Social enterprises take many forms: but in essence they are organizations that use commercial strategies to make money, which they then reinvest back into the local community. So, instead of all the profits going into a company’s back pocket, the funds improve the quality of life for local communities, help protect the natural environment, or help people hold onto their traditions and cultural identities.
Social enterprises are yours to discover, all over the world. It could be a shoe shop in LA, which popularized the one-for-one social enterprise model (TOMS matches every shoe purchase you make with a gift of a pair of shoes to someone in poverty); a restaurant in London that employs women from refugee or migrant backgrounds; or a guesthouse run by locals living in the slums of India. Tours with local guides can also bring you closer to understanding how life is in the places you visit, whilst creating an income for the people you meet on your tour.
“Travelers often say the social enterprise visit is the highlight of their trip,” The Intrepid Foundation General Manager Amy Bolger says. “Whether it’s supporting the crafts of female Syrian refugees in Istanbul, or meeting marginalized youth working at a café in Peru, giving back to the local community gives back to our individual travelers just as much, if not more.”
Sounds good, right? So, how can you find them?
There are all sorts of social enterprise tours and experiences you can take or visit when you’re traveling. Travel companies such as G Adventures have more than 250 social enterprise tours and experiences for travelers. G Adventures has also set up an organization specifically to contribute money to social enterprises, called Planterra Foundation.
“By choosing to visit a social enterprise café, handicraft shop or hostel, the dollars you spend are being reinvested into the local community,” explains Planterra Foundation Program and Communications Manager, Alanna Wallace. “In return, a traveler gets an authentic experience connecting with local people, giving back to the place they are visiting in a meaningful way.”
Intrepid Tours is also regarded as a social enterprise pioneer. This adventure tour company gives travelers the chance to visit and stay at social enterprises.
You’ll find the world’s largest database of social enterprise experiences and companies on Grassroots Volunteering, a site dedicated to empowering travelers to connect with local communities when they travel.
Research the social enterprises you’ll support before leaving home, by all means, but sometimes the best way to find out about deserving enterprises is to ask around once you’ve reached your destination.
Travelers can now support seven social enterprises empowering disadvantaged young people in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar – just by eating out.
Meaningful travel experiences needn't cost the earth. With world tourism in flux, it’s time to plan how we can become more responsible travelers.