Rural Adventure Tourism and Social Entrepreneurship:Practices and TrendsBEST Educational Network Think TankJune 22, 2007 Christina Heyniger, Xola Consulting Kristin Lamoureux, George Washington University
Outline • Understanding the unlikely pairing of adventure and social work • Market Statistics indicate continued sectoral growth • Overview of study participants • Findings: • Emerging business models • Recurring challenges • Compelling successes • Emerging Best Practices • The Future
Defining “Social Entrepreneurship” • Social entrepreneurship defined: • Social entrepreneurs use entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. • Whereas business entrepreneurs typically measure performance in profit and return, social entrepreneurs assess their success in terms of the impact they have on society. • In recent years social entrepreneurs have begun leveraging tourism to help attain social improvement goals.
The organizations in this study are blending social and business goals in a variety of ways. • We examined tour operators and NGOs blending adventure tourism with initiatives aimed at improving social and environmental problems: • Protect the Earth, Protect Yourself (PEPY) - Cambodia • Explorandes - Peru • Global Sojourns - South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana • Relief Riders International - India • Los Ninos - Mexico • Generosity in Action - Global
Blending tourism with social causes is a trend that continues to build. • 24% of travelers are interested in taking a volunteer or service-based vacation - TIA report, 2005 • Baby boomer are a key demographic; 47% of respondents age 35-54 • International Institute of Peace through Tourism estimates 7% of all trips in 2005 had a service component. • United Way partnered with Cheaptickets.com to launch a website for people planning holidays with a service component in 2007. • ASTA and Global Volunteers launched an initiative late 2006 to promote volunteer service travel as “a unique way to experience new places, people and cultures while making a positive contribution.” • Youth and educational tourism accounted for 20% of global tourism market in international travel in 2002.
Though it may seem like an unlikely pairing, natural synergies exist between adventure tourism and social entrepreneurship. • Adventure Travel • Rural, remote • Increasingly takes people to travel in developing countries • Tries to engage travelers in cultural Interactions • Involves people pushing perceived limits of experience • Expensive, attracting travelers with disposable income (largest segment is baby boomer demographic) • Social Entrepreneurs • Often look to serve rural and remote populations • Seek to address issues in poor and developing areas of the world • Are creative people, pushing limits of known solutions to issues • Access unconventional sources of funding due to the often unconventional projects they launch
The adventure tourism industry has a long history of aiding local communities. • Two examples: mountaineers and river runners pioneer “best practices” • 1960s in the Himalaya: • The Khumjung School established by Sir Edmund Hillary • Educates students to read and write in their native Sherpa language and to learn skills appropriate to their environment. • Local teachers were trained and employed. • In 2005 Mountain Travel Sobek and The Nature Conservancy partner on the Upper Mekong in Yunnan, China, teaching local Chinese to operate their own river trips with MTS support. What’s new: Increasing levels of traveler participation Increasing number of companies doing community projects
Findings: Today’s Emerging Business Models • 1. The Interwoven Itinerary • Tour operators take an adventure tourism itinerary - bike, horseback riding, hiking/trekking - and include volunteer visits to villages along the route (PEPY, Explorandes, Relief Riders International) • 2. Adjust Standard Procedure to Include Tourists • NGOs and other aid or research-focused organizations (church groups for example) invite tourists to join in their work for short periods (Los Ninos) • 3. Innovations to Support Donors in Direct Giving • A general backlash against “big business” has led many philanthropists to want to give to small projects and know precisely where and how their donation is applied. • Donor-brokers focused on the adventure tourism sector take traveler desires to donate and help establish aid projects or vet existing projects (Global Sojourns’ Giving Circle, Generosity in Action)
Findings: Primary Challenges • The best intentions may sometimes have unintended consequences • Tour operators may establish dependencies they may not be in a position to serve long term; sustainability is an issue • “Voluntourists” may over time put local communities in a welfare state of mind when self empowerment, not a welfare state should be the goal • Giving what we think they need rather than what they actually need/ cultural exports • Balancing traveler expectations with the realities of humanitarian and environmentally oriented field work is difficult • For companies, balancing short range profit needs with the longer term results horizon required for social projects is difficult
Findings: Emerging Best Practices • NGOs and Tour Companies alike can benefit from these lessons learned: • Appropriately identify community needs • Create a shared investment - communities and the traveler-volunteers must both contribute in some way • Start by identifying organizations who have history in the region before launching new initiatives that may be duplicative; seek partners • Follow up; maintain a presence in the regions you visit
Findings: Compelling Success Stories • Even with the challenges, the benefits to communities, travelers and businesses are compelling enough to warrant continued exploration. • Tour operators and NGOs • In leveraging community assets for tourists, assist destinations in enhancing and preserving their natural and cultural aspects and strengthen product offerings • NGOs are able to attract funding more easily when people can experience in-country the benefits of their donation Communities • Receive aid for common needs – medical, educational, infrastructure • May develop businesses catering to tourists • Travelers • Add the emotional benefits of “giving back” to the standard list of tourism’s intangible benefits: rest, relaxation, cultural exploration, adventure • Episodic type of volunteer experience combined with travel attracts people who may not typically volunteer in their home setting
The Future • Educators - • Continue learning and guiding students in designing practical tools for leveraging tourism to benefit social and environmental causes • Industry practitioners - • Look across industries for lessons learned
Kristin Lamoureux • Klam@gwu.edu • 202-994-8197 • Christina Heyniger • Christina@xolaconsulting.com • 202-297-2206