Voluntourism: These hotels offer guests the opportunity to give back

Apr 11, 2020

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The ability to travel the world is one of the greatest privileges one can have. And with travel currently at a standstill, that notion is more prevalent than ever.

There’s no doubt that coronavirus will not only change the travel industry, but also the way we travel. For instance, Brian Kelly and myself both agree that travelers will seek more meaningful trips and experiences once we’re all able to travel again. Social distancing has given us an ample amount of time to both reflect on past travels and look ahead to future trips. For some of us, this may have been just the break we needed to reset and re-evaluate things by asking, “Why do I want to visit ______?” and “What do I want to get out of my trip?”

Related: Responsible travel pledges: What are they and can they help save the planet?

For myself, something I want to be more conscious of is not visiting somewhere just to tick it off my list. I want to be more intentional with my vacations and take at least a day to do something positive for the locals. And it turns out I’m not the only one. According to a Travelocity survey, one in four travelers said that they planned to volunteer on a trip this year.

Hotels around the world have taken note and started to create opportunities for guests to give back during their stay. With the expectation that travelers will be seeking more meaningful trips, we’ve highlighted a few hotels around the world that are catering to the rise of voluntourism to give you some inspo for future trips.

Volunteer: Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall in Jamaica

Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall in Jamaica (Photo courtesy of Booking.com)
Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall in Jamaica (Photo courtesy of Booking.com)

Guests of these two all-inclusive resorts are invited to volunteer at the Granville 404 Project, which is dedicated to improving local schools and supporting the education and physical development of the students.

This initiative started in Oct. 2015 after the hotel received a letter from a line associate with a simple request: “Please help support my child’s school by donating wire to help build a new fence.” The project took off from there.

“When most locals participate in ‘adopt a school’ projects, they traditionally focus on areas that are in proximity to the hotels. In this instance, we did the complete opposite. We were looking to sink our teeth into a project where we could truly make an impact,” shared Dedra Brown, human resources coordinator.

Donate: Jicaro Island Lodge in Nicaragua

(Photo courtesy of Jicaro Lodge)
(Photo courtesy of Jicaro Lodge)

The Jicaro Island Lodge is a part of the Cayuga Collection of sustainable luxury resorts. The hotel’s commitment to sustainability extends into the community through its Solar Panel Project, which is able to provide clean water to a local school, Padre Nello.

The solar panels provide energy to a water filtration system as well as a network of lights and outlets in the classroom and at a community health center. This is all made possible through generous donations from Jicaro guests.

Go eco-friendly: Aqua-Aston Hospitality in Hawaii

Hulopoe Beach, Lanai, Hawaii
Lanai’s Hulopoe Beach (Photo by AJ Feducia/Hawaii Tourism Authority)

The Aqua-Aston Hospitality group has numerous properties across the Hawaiian Islands. A big issue in Hawaii is the bleaching of coral reefs, which led to a bill proposal that would ban coral-damaging sunscreen in the state. That bill was passed in July 2018 and Aqua-Aston was recognized on the senate floor for its environmental stewardship.

Related: Why traveling to Hawaii is worth it 

Aqua-Aston used its platform to spread awareness on the issue by creating a public awareness campaign called, #ForOurReef and #ShareTheAloha, which encouraged guests to ditch single-use plastics and chose reef-safe sunscreen, and ultimately, led to the ban of unsafe sunscreens in the state of Hawaii.

This is such a simple ask of tourists that helps keep Hawaii beautiful and thriving.

Bottom line

These are just a few hotels around the world catering to voluntourism. However, there’s plenty more out there. If you’re interested in giving back next time you’re on vacation, be sure to ask your hotel if they have any programs that you can take advantage of during your stay. Likely there’s something positive you can do even its something as small as buying reef-safe sunscreen.

Related: Tips for planning a voluntourism trip

There are also plenty of other opportunities you can seek outside of your hotel — just be sure to do your research beforehand. Volunteering while on vacation can be a great way to widen your perspective of the world and also the community you’re visiting.

In the meantime, check out our guide on how to giveback during coronavirus.

Featured photo by M Swiet Productions/Getty Images.

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