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Travel for Humanity – How Tourism is Helping Refugees

Over the last several months, refugees have been front and center all over the world as governments have debated whether or not to accept them. Some refugees who have settled in Western nations have been fortunate enough to find helping hands to ease their transition into a new country. But have tourists and the tourism industry been involved in assisting refugees?

Fortunately, yes. One example of the industry laying out a helping hand was the Dutch operator, Jonas Madsen, granting tourists visiting Greek islands like Kos and Lesbos an additional 20 kilograms of free luggage if they use it to provide supplies to the refugees on the islands where they vacationed. Thomas Cook did something similar as it increased its “Charitable Luggage” allowance to 400 kilograms for free on flights to Greece and Turkey provided passengers pre-booked extra bags carrying donations for local distribution. Some refugees have even landed jobs in the tourism industry – almost all of the staff at the Vienna hotel Magdas, from the receptionists to waiters – are refugees. Refugees from eleven different countries have found employment at the hotel, which was set up by a Viennese non-profit.

Numerous individuals have also played their part in assisting refugees. Travel blogger Anna Alboth launched a campaign on her blog to collect sleeping bags and asked her readers to include messages for them. Another travel blogger working to help refugees in her own way is Cheryl Howard. The Berlin resident has been collaborating with refugees in the city to create a book project titled Berlin Refugees that would tell their stories. The book would feature the voices of ten refugees in an attempt to humanize them and raise awareness of their challenges. And as documented in an article in The Guardian, several visitors to the Greek island of Kos provided assistance to refugees by handing out food and leaving behind money, clothes and toiletries.

For those looking to assist refugees, there are numerous avenues, such as the International Rescue Committee, the UN Refugee Agency and Lesvos Volunteers to name a few.

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