Dreaming of traveling again? Me too! Even though the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, and safety restrictions are still in place in many locations globally, it’s a great time to start the research and planning process for future adventures. The best part is, there are now many companies that are taking steps to be more conscious of how people travel and finding ways for tourism to be maintained long-term without harming natural and cultural environments.
This idea of sustainable and responsible travel may sound overwhelming and expensive, but many companies have worked to keep ease of use and budget travelers in mind. Below are just a few unique tour operators and booking tools I’ve found online that take a sustainable and/or responsible approach to travel.
Booking and Hospitality Tools
Kind Traveler’s Give + Get booking platform provides a rather effortless way to give back to communities and causes around the world. Upon making a $10 nightly donation to a local charity in the destination visited or to a charity of choice, you unlock special rates and perks for their hundreds of partner hotels. 100% of donations go to the chosen cause.
Kynder’s easy-to-use platform features kind, eco-conscious and community-loving hospitality establishments all in one place. Every establishment on their site has been carefully handpicked to ensure they care about you, their staff, their community and the planet. Users can first search by location. Within each destination, users can choose to look at a number of recommendations, such as Eateries, Bed and Breakfasts, Sweet Shops, Retreats & Hostels and more.
For adventure seekers
Take a wolf safari in Italy or a bison safari in Romania! According to their website, this travel agency combines adventure, a dedication to nature conservation and support for local communities. Travelers can experience some of the finest nature in Europe while learning about and contributing to rewilding (restoring an area to its natural uncultivated state). 5% of your booking goes directly to the Rewilding Europe organization to conserve the wild places visited.
Looking for an active experience in the great outdoors? Much Better Adventures offers hundreds of unique outdoor experiences, from a canoe expedition across Scotland to surfing in Morocco, in over 50 countries around the globe. They work with local guides and hosts to create hassle-free adventures. The company has instituted a transparent carbon reduction plan, and 5% of its revenues go into the Much Better Foundation, focused on conservation, reforestation and rewilding projects.
You can visit some of the world’s most iconic mountains, such as Mount Kilimanjaro, with Adventure Alternative. Started in 1991 by adventurer and mountaineer Gavin Bate, this company guides climbing expeditions, trekking holidays and wildlife safaris, school trips abroad and charity treks in many countries worldwide. What makes this travel company “alternative” is their award-winning responsible business model, aimed at protecting as well as promoting the destinations they travel to and embodying the best principles for sustainable tourism.
For water lovers
Prefer the water? No problem! AdventureSmith Explorations books travelers on expedition cruises and wilderness adventures around the globe focused on creating meaningful connections with each destination and its people. The company uses small ships, yachts and lodges that are rooted in a region’s environment, hire local people and purchase local goods. The company offsets all carbon emissions from cruise passengers through their Carbon-Free Cruising campaign and plants trees through their partnership with Trees for the Future for all land-based trips.
For small group experiences
Intrepid Travel, the world’s largest travel B Corporation, has been leading small-group tours around the world for over 30 years. One thing the company does is work with communities to develop new experiences in destinations that otherwise wouldn’t see the benefits of tourism. They have taken steps to address the climate crisis, such as planting the first travel-powered forest in Kenya, and gender inequality, by committing to doubling female tour leader numbers globally by 2022. Additionally, Intrepid Travel was one of the first carbon-neutral tour operators and was the first company to drop elephant rides from its trips in 2014.
With Pura Aventura, you can experience nature-based trips in Spain, Portugal, Latin America, or Antarctica. Since 1999, this company, also one of the first specialist tour operators in the UK to become a B Corp, has put both its customers and the planet first through thoughtful small-scale tourism. Marketed for their “personal and planet positive” holidays, the company measures the carbon footprint of each traveler per trip — via road, air, boat and/or train — and offsets 160% of it. Pura Aventura also works directly with its partners to ensure they receive a fair local wage.
For LOTS of options
Responsible Travel calls itself an activist company, working to create a kinder, more responsible travel industry that supports communities and preserves nature. Started in 2001, the company offers over 5,000 adventures, from cruising the Arctic to snorkeling in Fiji, by destination or holiday type. One of Responsible Travel’s core values is reducing carbon emissions by taking fewer but longer trips by air (reducing the number of flights) and traveling by train when possible. The company has created a low carbon holiday section as well as a flight free section. Responsible Travel was also one of the first travel companies to offer carbon offsetting in 2002.
The G in “G Adventures” stands for good, which represents the company’s belief that travel can be a force for good. At the heart of this company is the goal of creating a sustainable and unforgettable life-changing experience for everyone, including travelers and the local communities visited. G Adventures offers authentic adventure travel itineraries to every continent. It helps develop community-based rural tourism projects and uses small, locally owned companies. G Adventures also introduced the Ripple Score, which tells travelers how the money spent on their travel package stays within the local community visited.
For personalized trips
Rather than choosing from a list of pre-organized tours, Better Places Travel – the first travel organization in the Netherlands with an international B Corp certification – specializes in customized, individual long-distance trips. According to their website, they put you directly in touch with travel experts around the world, and together, you create your perfect trip. This way, it’s easy, affordable, and you have peace of mind knowing all the insider tips. Because you book directly with a local organization, the destination benefits and you’re able to personally create a special travel experience.