Issues of responsible tourism are in the forefront of many travelers’ minds. And it’s not surprising that many of them volunteer during their travels. However, it’s not just visitors that are working to make the tourism product more responsible. Many expats are making significant contributions in their new countries. We’ve added the limelight to a few below.
Edelman is an American who lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand and volunteered full-time at Save Elephant Foundation, an organization dedicated to rescuing Asian elephants and educating travelers about how to visit countries sustainably (Save Elephant Foundation also runs Elephant Nature Park, a popular place for visitors to Thailand to volunteer). During her time at Save Elephant Foundation, Edelman handled PR and social media duties. She monitored news regarding elephant tourism and conducted outreach to the media. In her popular travel blog, D Travels Round, Edelman has provided readers with advice about how to travel responsibly in Thailand – including behaving in a respectful manner to the people of the kingdom.
Another American expat, Martin has made significant contributions to responsible tourism in Thailand. He founded a tour company named Off the Path Travel, whose primary goal “is to make the inaccessible accessible to travelers while positively contributing to the communities that help facilitate such experiences.” In the blog he maintains for the company, Martin advises travelers on how be a good guest at a guesthouse in Thailand and provides tips on how to understand the culture. “We want to help travelers cultivate a more intimate experience with the places they travel,” he said. “If a client doesn’t walk away from our tour feeling like they developed any sort of a relationship with the country that was authentic and meaningful, be it a love for food, music, meditation, nature, local friends, etc., then we didn’t do our job.”
In addition to his tourism work in Thailand, Martin has also done service work in the country by helping locals in a Garieng village build microhydro plants.
Amy McLoughlin’s has been involved in projects in several countries (the UK, India, Malaysia and Cambodia). Currently living in Cambodia, McLoughlin co-founded Ayana Journeys with Chhon Chhea Yut and Sarah Brown. The tour operator utilizes local guides to educate visitors to Cambodia about the country as well as providing travelers the opportunity to discover many fascinating aspects of Cambodia, such as how Buddhism shaped the country. Principles of responsible tourism are very much at the heart of Ayana Journeys’ business practices. Prior to launching Ayana Journeys, McLoughlin served as the communications manager for PEPY, an international development organization that provides education and youth empowerment opportunities to students in rural Cambodia.
Southeast Asia is not the only place where expats have contributed to making the tourism product more responsible. The tourism product in Barcelona has been enhanced by British expat Lisa Grace. A resident of Catalonia’s largest city since 2004, she drew inspiration from Unseen Tours, a company in London offering tours of the British capital led by the homeless. “I knew Barcelona would be perfect for a homeless walking project,” she said. Thus, Grace founded Hidden City Tours, a tour operator that offers visitors a chance to explore Barcelona’s famous through the eyes of guides who are homeless. The company recruits guides from social services, soup kitchens and homeless charities who are then coached and trained by Hidden City Tours. All prospective guides are fluent in English, French and German and must be free of drug and alcohol addictions.
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