Anne Majumdar

The adventure travel space is getting ever more cluttered with “responsible” tourism experiences, so how do you know that you’re getting the real deal?

With so many operators cashing in on the growing trend towards sustainable tourism, Adventure World managing director Neil Rodgers is keen to get the word out that the soft adventure operator is no newcomer to the field and that its experiences are 100% vetted.

Although now part of industry giant The Travel Corporation, Rodgers pointed to the brand’s 40 year history of operating sustainably.

“It’s just part of our program and brand, we don’t overtly advertise it,” he told KarryOn.

Adventure World MD Neil Rodgers

Adventure World MD Neil Rodgers

He described Adventure World’s clientele as “educated travellers, mostly with a high socio-economic background” and a strong set of values.

“The last thing they would want is to think they were making a negative impact, so commercially it makes sense for us to operate these programs,” Rodgers said. “It’s business ethics 101.”

Now, Adventure World’s responsible tourism strategy is driven by TTC’s Toronto-based Treadright Foundation which connects the various brands with projects that align well with their specific values and passions.

For Adventure World, these are projects that protect wildlife and Indigenous cultures, Rodgers explained.

For example, the company works with the Happy Heart Foundation to build schools in Africa, and most recently in Nepal in an area devastated by the 2015 earthquake.

Image credit: Adventure World

Image credit: Adventure World

The project took six months to complete, with Adventure World chipping in $30,000.

Then there is its affiliation with the Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School in Canada which aims to safeguard the traditional craft of mukluk-making from being forgotten.

Image credit: Treadright

Image credit: Treadright

Meanwhile, in Peru, the company supports the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco (CTTC) which keeps traditional weaving practices alive.

On the wildlife front, AW prides itself on being one of the first operators to rethink its approach to wildlife experiences, putting an end to activities like elephant rides.

“We’ve vetted every single one of our programs on the ground,” Rodgers said. “But you would be surprised to see how many people are still offering elephant rides, particularly those operating in India.”

That is why Adventure World is now working with Wildlife SOS India which provides medical services to elephants and runs an education program to train handlers on the humane treatment of the giant creatures.

Image credit: Wildlife SOS India

Image credit: Wildlife SOS India

“Education is so important for change,” Rodgers said. “These people have no other way of living – it can be sustainable still but that’s a big education piece.”

Travellers still frequently ask to ride elephants up to the Amber Fort for instance, with Adventure World explaining why it no longer offers such experiences. Adventure World, which doesn’t market directly to consumers, is working with the travel trade to educate the public.

In Africa, the company has purchased a mini helicopter for the Wilderness Foundation. Called Bat Hawk, the aircraft flies over rhinos to catch sight of any poachers.

Image credit: Adventure World

Image credit: Adventure World

Its most recent partnership with Me to We – a social enterprise that provides consumers with socially responsible products and services – offers its guests three to four day voluntourism experiences in Ecuador, Uganda and India.

The new non-commissionable products generate no profits for Adventure World but align well with the desires of its clientele, Rodgers revealed.

But while the experiences are available for travellers, the tricky part is getting the word out.

“I don’t know how much more we can amplify the offerings without seeming like we’re just in it for promotional purposes,” Rodgers admitted.

What do you think about the changes happening into adventure travel? Share your thoughts below.