THE travel trend known as philantourism – a mash-up between philanthropy and tourism – was predicted by experts to boom in 2021, but Covid-19 put a stop to virtually any travel trend becoming a reality besides trips to the local supermarket.
2022 could be different though, according to more experts. Vaccinations have been administered all over the world and are playing a vital role in combatting the virus’ severity and spread, and while we are not out of the woods yet, there seems to be a glimmer of hope that international travel could be on its way to recovery.
So, what actually is philantourism? This fast-growing travel trend is essentially a different kind of holiday during which tourists go out of their way to support a local community. It’s about helping whilst travelling, giving something back to the place you’re visiting.
This could be anything from getting your hands dirty and helping a stricken community with a project to lending a hand to wildlife conservation. It could even be as simple as looking out for independent businesses (hotels, tour companies, restaurants, cafes etc) that may have been hit hard by the pandemic.
This altruistic activity-based tourism comes in tandem with a general international push for more sustainable travel. Even before COP26 at the end of last year, the worsening climate crisis has been a progressively important consideration for tourists, with a huge rise in eco-tourism and eco-friendly wellness retreats.
After months of being confined to their homes, people want to make their travels count. They want to travel locally and contribute to the local economy.Sreejith P Nair, CEO of Kabani Tour, an organisation in Kerala that facilitates local tourism
What’s more, the tragic consequences of the ongoing pandemic have stimulated a humanistic response in a lot of travellers. Instead of taking a private plane to a luxurious island whose local people and produce could be at risk of exploitation, people are heading to unexpected and understated locations to provide some welcome support.
Sri Lanka is one such place that is not only one of DDW’s top 2022 travel picks but is also a location where philantourism is expected to thrive over the next few years. Volunteer organisation GoEco offers programs such as wild elephant conservation and research in the Wasgamuwa region, and family-friendly sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation.
For something a little more low-key, simply visiting a fishing village at Negombo Beach or exploring the ancient sites of Anuradhapura and Sigiriya helps bring money into the community.
Zimbabwe has suffered decades of unrest but is now a wonderful option for philantourism in 2022 as the government aims to boost its economy through a rejuvenated travel campaign. The landlocked country in central Africa offers hardcore adventures for adrenaline seekers – think white water rafting, bungee jumping and gorge swings – but it also has many safari companies run by locals that provide essential support to national parks in their bid to prevent poaching.
Another option is Australia – pipped to have a strong philanthropic year of tourism following the wildfires in late 2019/early 2020, the pandemic significantly slowed recovery. There are still tons of philantourism options in 2022 – the bushfire recovery project on Kangaroo Island is a great place to start, as is the Oceans2Earth program focused on wildlife rescue, care, and rehabilitation.