It’s been difficult to watch as the global pandemic continues to debilitate the tourism industry. Having spent the past four years sharing stories of those whose lives had been so positively impacted by tourism, and then to watch as friends and partners face extensive losses in income and livelihood is truly heartbreaking.
A friend of mine from Bali reached out to me the other day with concerns he would be unable to feed his family this week. That text, those words, were one small glimpse of what life is like for many of the estimated 100.8 million people whose jobs have been lost or threatened by border closures and lockdowns.
According to Statistica, the Asia Pacific region has been the most impacted by the closures, losing approximately 63.4 million jobs. Followed by Europe who is forecast to lose over 13 million jobs.
When an industry that directly or indirectly provides employment for 1 in every 11 people on the planet is brought to a halt, what is the next move? How can we begin to reverse the economic devastation caused by this pandemic?
In this article, I will highlight some ways that global organisations and individuals are coming together for those inadvertently impacted by COVID-19, and how you can show your support.
Planeterra’s “Turn Travel into Impact from Home” Campaign
GAdventures Plenettera Foundation launched the ‘Turn Travel into Impact from Home’ campaign calling on travellers and organizations around the world to offer their support to help communities in need. Funds raised by the campaign will go towards the release of emergency grants across their 85 projects, which supports the livelihoods of 65,000 individuals globally.
President of Planeterra Jamie Sweeting, says that fragile communities need the support now more than ever to ensure they are protected and can continue to offer life-changing experiences when travellers return in the future.
“Our global team is working overtime to support our projects, with grants to purchase food and medicine already going out to communities in Morocco, Belize, and Botswana. We’re encouraged by projects that are helping one another and their communities, and we hope this fund will provide some relief and help to ensure jobs and organizations remain intact for when travellers inevitably return,” Sweeting continues.
Click here to read more about projects that have benefited from the community grants.
Tourism in Need
In May 2020 Ameer Virani, a travel professional, and Robert Powell, a consultant and travel enthusiast launched Tourism in Need with the aim to lessen the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on some of the people and places most sensitive to the decline in tourism.
The website lists purpose-driven organisations and offers links where users can donate directly to the organisation. With a focus on responsible tourism, the website includes social businesses that help underprivileged youth, organisations that support community development, and NGOs that contribute to wildlife conservation and environmental protection.
Ameer states, “We know that many travellers stuck at home are concerned for the people and organisations that make going on holiday so special. We want to help them find and support those in need to lessen the impact of the crisis. “Give Today, Go Tomorrow” and help create better places for people to live in and for travellers to visit.”
Follow their Instagram, and use the hashtag #GiveTodayGoTomorrow to share how others can support this great initiative.
The #SupportYourTravelGem Campaign
Gemtrack is a slow & sustainable travel platform on a mission to inspire people to travel in a more conscious way, but the global pandemic has impacted many of their local partners.
Gemtrack’s #SupportYourTravelGem campaign seeks to connect travellers with methods for supporting their favourite travel gems. Every travel gem that has a profile on Gemtrack’s website now contains information, as well as ways in which people can support them in this difficult period, whether it is buying post dated vouchers or donating directly, or simply sharing their profile widely so that they can gain more visitors once the crisis recedes.
“Ultimately, we’re a community that needs to stick together as we all depend on tourism in some way. Luckily for us, this is a community that is made of conscious individuals and groups that dare to care. With our collective reach and voice, we can connect to a whole lot of travellers who are searching for ways to help” – Rosa and Ash from Gemtrack.
Support sustainable businesses by sponsoring a profile on the Gemtrack Travel website or sharing the hashtag #SupportYourTravelGems.
I Like Local
Sanne Meijboom, founder of responsible tourism marketplace I like Local shares her perspective, – “What is taking place worldwide is far beyond what anybody could’ve possibly imagined. From the rapid spread of the coronavirus to the cultural misunderstandings and conflicts we are seeing unfold worldwide, it is an incredibly challenging time for humanity. And in our partner communities throughout Asia and Africa, the impact of this crisis has been particularly devastating. Their tourism income has vanished, and with it, we have seen an uptick in harmful activities such as petty crime, illegal wildlife poaching, deforestation, overfishing on coral reefs, and more. With no end to the crisis in sight, we have been determined to fill that gap for local entrepreneurs and communities worldwide to help provide them meaningful opportunities to get through this challenging situation.
At the onset of the pandemic, we tapped into our global network of industry partners, international organizations, and government partners to truly understand the extent of the situation on the ground and explore potential solutions to support local community-based tourism. We have participated in webinars to bring these issues to light, such as one with the United Nations World Tourism Organization on enhancing digital skills for rural tourism and even some focused on more specific destinations such as a talk we held with industry players in India’s community-based tourism sector. At the moment, we are putting in the resources to design unique virtual travel experiences with our local hosts and build the capacity to onboard even more local community partners who have had limited access to the online tourism market during this time. Our income generation model remains the same with our online experiences, where 100% of what hosts request for their listings they receive. Furthermore, we are focused on preparing and educating our hosts on how travel will look like post-COVID by providing the framework and resources to ensure that travellers are safe when tourism resumes.
If these times have revealed anything, it’s that the tourism sector needs to desperately revamp its economic model to ensure that local communities worldwide can reap the benefits of tourism to their countries, which up until now has not been the case. If you are interested in using tourism as a tool to empower local communities worldwide, we invite you to join us and explore the world through the eyes of a local. “
Support for the Siwa Community
Egypt has been significantly affected by the loss of tourism, an industry that accounts for 12% of its GDP. I recently learned about this fundraiser that is helping the Siwa community, a Berber ethnic group based in Egypt.
“When the Coronavirus pandemic hit in early April, tourism to Siwa abruptly ended. Over the last 3 months, Fathi has not received any tourists and unfortunately has received no help from the government and will not be getting any in the future. Without any revenue from tourism, Fathi has been unable to support any of his staff or even keep on running his camp. The money raised through your donations will help support Fathi and the Bedouins who work for him and his camp, and help him get through this time of uncertainty.”
Bali C19 Solidarity
The Bali C19 Solidarity group is a community group working together in solidarity to support one another and the broader society in Bali during the COVID19 crisis. They are offering support to those impacted through proactive initiatives in the region.
These words from Bali C19 Solidarity member Mai Trebuil sum up the devastation occurring on this island paradise.
“Bali is struggling in plain sight.
In conversations that trail off – extended silences, women going door-to-door at villas or homestays to look for work, men idly sitting outside their homes and empty stores. Economic hardship is just as threatening and contagious as this virus here. We can keep an eye on the numbers of infected, deaths, recovered or people under observation, or not. All the same, we all have the ability to observe what is happening right under our nose. I cannot keep my mind off this woman who came to my homestay looking for work. When in a shaky voice she confessed she did not have any petrol left in her scooter and I gave her some money to fill up her tank, the equivalent to my daily lunch, she broke down in tears. I didn’t feel like I could do or say more, I felt helpless. But seeing all of the food package delivery efforts and mask production efforts on Bali C-19 Facebook group reminds us how impactful turning our attention to solutions rather than problems can be. In the face of trauma, there are solutions and we are a part of them – just as much as some may think we are part of the problem.”
Related Reading: How to practise responsible tourism during COVID-19
Impact Travel Alliance
As the world continues to stay home amid the coronavirus pandemic, Impact Travel Alliance is unveiling a virtual event series that introduces travellers to the sustainable mindset and helps them deepen their practices while at home.
“Prior to the coronavirus, headlines around climate change and overtourism plagued the news surrounding travel,” ITA Founder and Executive Director Kelley Louise said. “It’s our hope that these events will arm travellers with the resources, tools and inspiration to support a stronger industry once tourism returns.”
ITA’s ongoing events will highlight other issues, such as identifying (and avoiding) greenwashing, supporting indigenous community-based tourism efforts, as well as celebrating LGBTQ+ culture and travel. All events are free, but attendees have the option to donate to at-need tourism projects that ITA is supporting, including Planeterra Foundation, Second Look Worldwide and Miles4Migrants.
Support wildlife with Biosphere Expeditions
Last year I spend 10 days with semi-wild elephants on a citizen-science research project in Northern Thailand. The project was facilitated by Biosphere Expeditions, an award-winning organisation that runs wildlife research and conservation expeditions around the world.
Their conservation partners were hit hard by the border closures and ultimately lack of funding and visitors, with project funding coming from the citizen scientists who join the expeditions.
Projects like the Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary (KSES) in Thailand lost almost all of their funding, income that was used to care for and feed the elephants. Kerri, the co-founder of KSES, explains how many of the elephant projects in Thailand have been forced to close – “I’m sure some of you are already aware (although the numbers aren’t confirmed) that there have been many closures of elephant projects in Thailand because of the impact of this virus. This is very bad news for the elephants as there are little options left for them to go. We don’t want KSES to become one of these and we need to keep fighting to prevent this happening and to ensure we can continue to provide for all of our elephants.“
KSES are not the only project impacted, but all of Biosphere Expedition’s other partner organisations including the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR). “Our centre is funded through visitor entry fees, which have collapsed because the reserve is now closed to visitors. As part of the Arabian sand gazelles monitoring programme this year, we planned to purchase GSM-GPS collars (EUR 1,750 each) to study gazelle ecological requirements. Please help us to raise funds for four collars for better management of the reserve and the species,” says a DDCR representative.
The GLP #TourismStrong Video Series
#TourismStrong is an uplifting video series celebrating the resiliency of the travel industry through positive tourism stories amidst the COVID-19 global pandemic. At a time when community means everything, we’re reaching out to our family of over 150 global film partners spanning 50 countries, to check in and reconnect. The result: a series of hopeful and honest conversations to inspire you as they’ve inspired us.
Do you know of any initiatives helping those in need during this time? Share them with me and I will include them in this post.
I’m also creating a space on my blog to highlight causes or individuals in need so that my community can offer support whether it be through donation or simply a connection.