World Tourism Day – Sustainable Travel: Going with a Conscience

A monastic school in Yangon supported by Trafalgar Cares

The buzzwords now in travel are giving back, leaving a smaller footprint, and most often heard, sustainable travel.


Sustainable travel. According to Gavin Tollman, Global CEO of Trafalgar, we can make a difference in the destinations to which we go. The buzzwords now in travel are giving back, leaving a smaller footprint, and, most often heard, Sustainable Travel.

In Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon), for example, the company’s itinerary includes a visit to a school for children run by a monastery. “The only way we can break the cycle of poverty is around education, and not everyone can afford education,” notes Tollman.

“It’s a basic belief and fundamental to our program, Trafalgar Cares ( It is an initiative designed to see how we can be better corporate and global citizens.” The core of the program, he adds, includes sustaining local businesses, local artisans, and working in small communities.

And he’s not alone in his belief.

“We strongly believe that tourism can be a force for good, the greatest form of wealth distribution the world has ever seen,” says big sustainable travel believer Bruce Poon Tip, the Canadian founder of G Adventures ( “Tourism is one of the largest industries on earth.”

His claim is backed by recent figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council: worth US $7.6 trillion, tourism represents 10 per cent of the global GDP and employs 277 million people (1 in 11 jobs).

“When done correctly,” he adds, “it can create employment opportunities and breakdown the barriers of inequality and poverty.” (For more on Bruce, click here to watch his inspirational talk at ideacity 2016.)

Merit Travel, says Lori Copeland, director, product development and groups, has a preferred relationship with the aforementioned G-Adventures and Planeterra. And, although, G has historically been very popular with youth travelers, says Copeland, “They are also very much a great fit for active mature travelers, and have programs like “Local Living” that are perfectly suited for this demographic.”

Merit has also partnered with WaterAid Canada (formerly WaterCan) in support of their goal to ensure clean water and proper sanitation around the world.

“The organization has attracted many influential Canadians, including their honourary president, Margaret Trudeau. (Read more about Margaret and her initiatives here.)
 Louise de Grandpré, Sr. VP of Merit Travel, visited a Water Aid Canada project in West Africa two years ago.

“The opportunity to witness first hand the difference WaterAid projects bring to a community is incredibly powerful. Having a source of clean water and proper latrines changes the lives of the entire community; babies have a better chance to survive the first few years, girls can attend school regularly, women no longer spend hours walking to the nearest well and animals are better cared for. Water is the source of life and WaterAid works with local organizations to ensure the success and the continuity of the projects it funds.”

As an Africa specialist, Mary Jean Tully of Tully Luxury Travel is particularly passionate about the continent. “Supporting tourism,” she says, is key, and one of the most compelling reasons to visit South Africa.

“Without tourism, the communities and the wildlife suffer greatly. She’s also passionate for personal reasons: she considers herself a conservationist, and is involved in the protection of wildlife, particularly where poaching continues to threaten Elephants, Rhinos and Big Cats.

In addition, Tully was nominated for an Innovation Award at We Are Africa for My Wild Africa (, her award-winning social media accounts (@maryjeantully), where she tells personal stories about her experiences across Africa.

“You can bring people into the small towns and the communities, and you can budget what their needs are accordingly,” says Tollman, on the advantage of group travel. Like the supplies for this school in Myanmar. The company isn’t just supporting existing schools, either. “We are building our second school in Ecuador,” Tollman explains.

“Our first was in Kenya.” Trafalgar is also working with the Susan B Komen foundation to help raise funds for breast cancer research specially created itineraries benefitting the foundation.

It just may be better to give than to receive. For Tollman, giving is about breaking down the barriers through travel. Yet I felt that I was the one on the receiving end. Having the opportunity to engage with the children was the true gift.

Click through below for more ways to give back.

Canada: The TreadRight Foundation, created as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of brands, is proud to announce a new partnership with The Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot Project, shown above, in celebration of Canada’s Indigenous people and their culture.

The Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot Project, which aims to revive the traditional arts by creating partnerships with elders and artisans who fashion mukluks and moccasins in the traditional way, is the fourth recipient of a TreadRight Heritage Initiative grant globally, and the first in North America. The Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot Project will use the grant to install a semi-permanent national “The Storyboot School” at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, set to launch mid-September 2016.

The TreadRight Heritage Initiative looks to help support artisan enterprises that engage in the creation of handmade and culturally significant products. Recipients of TreadRight Heritage Initiative grants include the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco in Peru, the Laboratorio Giuditta Brozzetti in Italy, and TRIA ETC in Greece.

“The Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot Project is an excellent example of the ability artisans have to help sustain and promote invaluable cultural and heritage traditions, while at the same time empowering individuals by providing a livelihood,” says Brett Tollman, CEO, TTC and TreadRight Founder.

“Artisan activities like these are an essential component to many of the local economies in the places we visit. TreadRight and TTC believe it is of the utmost importance to be active in the strengthening of this indispensable heritage sector.”

Africa: Kensington Tours charitable arm, Kensington Cares, focuses on education in Kenya, specifically within the Masai Mara community. This year, the company will build the first high school in the Trans Mara District.

Micato Safaris works with AmericaShare, its non-profit foundation, by donating its administration costs to impoverished areas of Nairobi, Kenya affected by HIV/AIDS, as well as supporting vulnerable children and orphans through boarding schools and education programs.

Central and South America: G Adventures, the Canadian travel company founded by Bruce Poon Tip 25 years ago, also has a non-profit, Planeterra, which, according to the company, connects social enterprises to the tourism marketplace by providing catalyst funding, capacity training, and a link to a market for small businesses supporting women, indigenous communities, and at-risk youth.

Currently, Planeterra and G Adventures is working with National Geographic to offer a 14-day trip to Costa Rica, which includes a visit to the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

A portion of the proceeds supports the National Geographic Society’s mandate to conserve, explore, educate and preserve culture. Planeterra’s latest initiative, 50 in 5 campaign, will raise $5 million to integrate 50 new social enterprise projects into G Adventures itineraries by 2020.;

Globally: Merit Travel supports WaterAid Canada through the fulfillment of their Bucket List Adventures. This is a five-year series (2015-19) of epic global excursions that will take small groups of WaterAid supporters to some of the world’s most breathtaking destinations. The first of these trips, led by Olympic gold medalist and host of CTV’s Amazing Race Canada, Jon Montgomery and his wife Darla, was a cycling trip in Costa Rica and Nicaragua (November 2015).

In total, WaterAid’s Bucket List Adventures aim to raise $1,000,000 to support clean water projects around the world, the next trip will be a Zambezi River Adventure in 2017; Kilimanjaro Climb for Life in 2018; Cycle Challenge Cambodia in 2019.

For more information about these amazing journeys in support of WaterAid Canada, please contact Darren Prashard of Merit Travel Phone: 1.800.667.2887 x3411; Email: [email protected];


And, for the armchair traveller:

The Obakki Foundation’s two new scarves (AZURE and TWILIGHT), from their Scarves for Water program.

The sale of 500 TWILIGHT scarves will bring clean water to the village of Gul Mar, South Sudan and the sale of 500 AZURE scarves will bring a water well to Madoli, South Sudan. The scarves are a lightweight modal blend (65% rayon/35% modal) with the dimensions of 130 x 130 cm, and they sell for $29 Cdn.

The foundation has drilled or rehabilitated more than 850 water wells in South Sudan – drilling 13 through the Scarves for Water program.

The Obakki Foundation, founded by Canadian designer Treana Peake, has drilled or rehabilitated more than 850 wells in the war-torn country of South Sudan, bringing clean water to an estimated more than one million people.

The foundation’s Scarves for Water program has proven to be popular and highly effective in supporting their work to drill wells in remote villages in the country.

To date, the Scarves for Water program, which uses stylish, limited-edition colour scarves to raise money, has drilled 13 wells and, with the launch of two new scarves and several others close to being sold out, that number is set to increase soon. The sale of 500 of the beautiful, limited-edition, deep blue TWILIGHT scarves will bring clean water to the village of Gul Mar, South Sudan. The scarves are a lightweight modal blend (65% rayon/35% modal) with the dimensions of 130 x 130 cm, and they sell for $29 Cdn. They can be purchased at:

There are currently five different coloured scarves available for sale – BRICK (village of Mayen Atol), SAND (village of Mayike), MAIZE (village of Makernhom), TWILIGHT and AZURE. Since the Scarves for Water are limited editions, once 500 have been sold, each colour is considered “retired” and will never be sold again. (Obakki Foundation RED is the only ongoing scarf colour.)

Those who buy a scarf can sign up for updates on the people of the specific village that their scarf helped to support. They also have the opportunity to send photos and video messages to the people of that village when Obakki Founder Treana Peake visits to check on the community’s progress.