We’re not like other travel companies. At Elevate Destinations, we believe that the act of travel is sacred. It has the power to transform lives and landscapes. Our goal is to use that power in the most positive way imaginable.
This vision is a part of our company ethos and extends to our vendors and partners in all of the destinations we travel to. Our Social Impact Journeys fall into a specialized niche at the intersection of travel, tourism, education, philanthropy and social impact and our ground partners need to understand how these fields are connected. In addition, all of our journeys are custom-designed and require a unique perspective and set of skills in order to be successful.
With all that in mind, here are the top 5 things that make us fall in love with our vendors:
1. A desire to be mission-focused
First and foremost, our ground partners need to understand the goal of our trips. Our clients are nonprofits and social impact initiatives. And our travelers are their donors and project stakeholders. They are not just typical tourists. The main goals of their travel are to see the context of the work first-hand, to connect with the people on the ground they have supported, and to understand where their dollars are going. Our ground teams are implementers of a larger institutional strategy and they must help weave the contextual goals throughout the trip.
2. Sustainable and ethical business practices
Our company ethos is to be the most responsible travel company for the planet and its people. Our ground teams must be aligned with our sustainability values and we ask for their thought partnership on moving this conversation and action forward in the industry.
As much as we can, we source locally owned hotels and restaurants that treat their employees fairly. We aim to reduce waste as much as possible by encouraging the use of reusable water bottles and reducing packaged items. We believe in the sanctity of wildlife and will not participate in animal tourism where animals are touched or ridden. We do not tolerate any activity related to human trafficking and are members of The Code. And we carbon offset all of the in country activities through NativeEnergy.
3. Logistical prowess and poised problem-solvers
Because many of the projects that our travelers visit are in rural and remote destinations, our trips require extensive logistics and anticipation of challenges, much more than a tourist experience. Many of these locations lack basic infrastructure and yet we need to be able to take our travelers there safely and comfortably. This requires research, advance trips, extra planning and sourcing of basic amenities (like soap), creativity, and a sense of humor.
Safety is our number one priority and given the remoteness of many of our destinations, our ground teams need to have a practiced approach to challenges, remain level-headed, and be able to innovate solutions on the spot. This often means they are experienced in anticipating the unexpected and are unflappable in the face of challenges.
Our travelers have a strong desire to learn and understand the culture of the countries they visit. We always have guides that are knowledgeable, passionate story tellers that love to share about their country and culture. Their attitude is infectious and travelers will share in their excitement.
They also need to be tuned into travelers needs throughout the trip and keep in mind that this isn’t a typical tourist group. Oftentimes, projects the groups will visit or topics they’ll learn about can be very challenging and sensitive. It’s extremely important for our guides to know when and how to engage. It is equally important that they know when to remain focused on helping with the logistics and let our clients do the talking.
5. A love of learning
We learn something new with every trip that we design. This is one of the things that keeps us inspired! We want our partners on the ground to adopt this same attitude that we’re all learning all the time. Social impact journeys are one of the most amazing ways to learn about issues of all kinds, and not just for the travelers on the trip, but for those of us who make it happen. An open mind and a desire to learn goes a long way in creating a successful journey for all.
Megan Begley is Senior Manager of Social Impact Journeys at Elevate Destinations. Visit www.elevatedestinations.com/donor-travel to learn more about our Social Impact Journeys.