Agents urged to sell ‘meaningful trips’ to poor communities

Travel agents are being urged to be ambassadors for a new sustainable partnership which allows them to sell “meaningful trips” to poor communities worldwide.

The Travel Corporation has formally launched its partnership with social enterprise Me to We, which soft-launched in September last year.

The group’s brands, including Uniworld, Trafalgar and Insight Vacations, are featuring voluntourism stays in Ecuador, Kenya and India through Me to We.

All trips pay commission to travel agents and money paid by customers for the trips is put into the community projects as a donation.

It is up to holidaymakers whether they then want to take part in voluntary work on their trips or get involved in cultural activities such as learning to cook, yoga, hiking in the Amazon or learning about the life of the Masai, as effectively just booking the trip gives funds to the community they visit.

TTC chief executive Brett Tollman said: “Volunteering has been around for a long time but there has been a lot of ‘greenwashing’ and the industry is criticised for leaving a ‘heavy’ footprint. This is eradicated by this, when you see their small footprint and the change they make to people’s lives.

“Me To We offers what it calls ‘purpose-driven travel’ and we just want to do the best we can to help them and be responsible. There is no financial agreement between us, this has been done purely out of admiration and respect.”

Me To We works with around one million people in nine countries, helping to make communities self-sustainable. Its work includes building schools, digging wells to bring clean water and setting up businesses for local women.

At the official launch to the trade, co-founder Craig Kielburger urged agents to act as ambassadors for the brand to offer “authentic, deeply immersive experiences” to clients.

He said: “We are trying to make it easy to make a difference. It’s not easy to have a meaningful experience; it’s very rare to have an authentic experience in a small village in India where there are still ox-drawn carts.

“For those who are looking for that type of travel, we are honoured to team with TTC to make these opportunities available.

“We’ve had a lot of agents say that they’ve been waiting for this. We can customise trips to what agents’ customers want.”

TTC’s brands are featuring communities in three of Me To We’s nine countries, which offer accommodation that fits with the luxury comfort standards the brands offer.

Trips are expected to appeal to retirees, multigenerational groups and experienced travellers. They appear at standalone trips or extensions to the group’s tours in its brochures.

Travel agents will be referred to Me to We to book and pay for the sustainable element of their client’s tour.

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