In order for travel to be truly ethical, it needs to incorporate the best practices of both ecological and social responsibility. Some travel companies focus on one or the other. Altruvistas philosophy is holistic in its approach; we focus on both eco-consciousness AND social responsibility because we believe that travelers should benefit the people and places they visit.
The unique contribution of Altruvistas is that we will educate individuals and businesses in the travel industry to learn about social responsibility in the sector, highlight the lost opportunity of leakage, and provide concrete ways for the international community of travelers to give back and support local initiatives for local communities and organizations to create their own travel-related service or produce. Altruvistas Foundation will ensure that meso-financing benefits communities to benefit from future tourism receipts. While our Altruvistas Journeys ensure that at least 50% of every dollar stay to benefit the local economy in addition to providing donations to our partnering NGOs in the host community, and to the collaborating NGO or Foundation.
Tourism as an industry has evolved into a global phenomenon. It is one of the most important social activities and economic sectors in the international political economy. According to the UNWTO (United Nation’s World Tourism Organization), currently, the industry accounts for 5% of the global GDP, 1 in 12 jobs, and is a major export sector. Sustained growth is predicted over the next two decades, “International tourist arrivals are set to increase by an average of 43 million a year between 2010 and 2013. At the projected pace of growth, we will surpass the 1 billion mark by 2012, up from 940 million in 2010. By 2030, the number is anticipated to reach 1.8 billion” (Towards Tourism 2030, UNWTO). Clearly, the economic indicators show that tourism is a growing and vibrant sector of the economy. This is an incredible opportunity for communities and nations around the world to take leadership to invest in tourism products that address the UN Millennium Development Goals (particularly poverty alleviation, gender equity, etc.)’ create socioeconomic growth, promote social progress and environmental sustainability.
The boom of the tourism industry is simplistically valued as a positive trend. However, when we analyze conventional travel receipts we clearly deduct that there are major inequities in the current system. The biggest global problem from a sustainable and socially responsible lens of the conventional travel industry is leakage and this is the issue that Altruvistas is intentionally addressing.
Examples of leakage and its “lost opportunities” for local benefit:
- According to current statistics assembled by UNCTAD, leakages in the tourism sector total up to 85% in some African least developed countries, more than 80% in the Caribbean, 70% in Thailand and 40% in India (Third World Resurgence)
- Two-thirds of the income from tourism in the Mediterranean – the world’s largest tourist destination – returned to less than 10 tour operators from northern Europe. (WWF)
- Study estimates 70% of all money spent by tourists in Thailand left the country, via foreign-owned tour operators, airlines, hotels, imported drinks, and food, etc. (Sustainable Living)
- Estimates for other Third World countries range from 80% in the Caribbean to 40% in India. (Sustainable Living)
- In most all-inclusive package tours, about 80% of travelers’ expenditures go to the airlines, hotels and other international companies (who often have their headquarters in the travelers’ home countries), and not to local businesses or workers.
- Of each US$ 100 spent on a vacation tour by a tourist from a developed country, only around US$ 5 actually stays in a developing-country destination’s economy.
- The average import-related leakage for most developing countries today is between 40% and 50% of gross tourism earnings for small economies and between 10% and 20% for most advanced and diversified economies. (UNCTAD) . Import-related leakages: Tourists demand standards of equipment, food, and other products that the host country cannot supply, thus income goes to purchase these imports. As capital leaks out of the host communities hands, there is a significant lost opportunity for communities and nations to benefit from tourism receipts or millions of dollar.
Imagine if communities retained at least 50% of the package costs what that would concretely mean as they seek to protect (using the Ecotourism model) bio reserves, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, national parks as well as to the surrounding community’s infrastructure, social services and economy?