One of the best things about being a Travel Agent is that unlike impersonal machines, travel consultants can positively influence people to travel to change the world.

Travel Agents have the potential to not only work in an industry they love, but make a difference while they do it.

They’re good people with the opportunity to do good, something a machine can never be.

What is #traveltochangetheworld? Another hashtag? Another pretty sounding idea? It needs a plan. It needs understanding. It also needs action.

But it’s big and complex. So I enlisted a cross section of experts with decades of hands on experience and knowledge.

Namely, Karsten Horne (Reho Travel), Christian De Boer (Jaya House Hotels), Simla Sooboodoo (Hands on Journeys) & Meg Salter (Auridian).

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Karsten Horne, Christian De Boer, Simla Sooboodoo, Meg Salter

#traveltochangetheworld change takes effort, devotion and commitment.

Good intentions are great, profitability matters and in most cases, dollar is King. We strive for business that grows and be viable. Tying that into the concept of a successful travel business, KarryOn Founder Matt Leedham sums it up with:

“From a pure sales persecutive alone, you’d have to be totally insane to see the product you actually sell (i.e. the world) slowly crumble in front of you as icons, wildlife, societies and destinations degenerate and ultimately disappear off the tourism trail”.

Change takes sustainability. Why not throw money at it and make it work? It would appear that no matter how good the intentions, handing over cash does more harm than good.

Simla explains with: “How to help them? The worst thing we tend to do is open our wallet to donate funds. That’s a temporary fix. Sustainability matters”.

“‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’, but an empty stomach makes it hard to fill a head with knowledge. First you must give them a fish, and only then can you teach them how.”

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This approach defines “Empowerment Tourism” which is the beating heart of Hands on Journeys. “Taking a community on a journey, showing them what is possible using the skills they have, those we can teach, and the opportunities we can provide.”

Through his work at Shinta Mani, and now at Jaya House, Christian has raised literally millions of dollars that have fed back to the local Khmer community. But it’s more than money.

“By and large, giving money does not can help. Creating jobs gives responsibility, confidence, self pride, gives more long-term room for goals and long-term achievements. Money, no matter how much, eventually runs out.”

“It comes down to sincerity and effectiveness and how measurable something is. It’s too easy to share a Facebook post of a person in a suit handing out a bag of rice saying “look at me being a good person”. What people don’t know is that often that bag of rice is taken back to the hotel.

“An initiative needs to make sense, it needs to be long-term and it needs to be commercially viable.”

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Commercial viability is important. A business who does good, gives back to those who benefit. If the business benefits, then the cause benefits. Reho Travel encapsulates this with 10% of all profits going back into Rehope and every employee has 16 hours of paid volunteer time per annum.

Rehope” is a microfinance agency, accredited by the Government of Malawi. Rehope offers small affordable loans to the languishing communities that would transform their living standards. It’s a life-cycle commitment to creating real and sustainable change.

Sustainability and continuity translates to connection. From my own experience in charity supported through roomsXML, it’s satisfying giving money and visiting remote schools in Bangalore and receiving copies of school reports. But being a director of Project Karma is significantly more satisfying than just receiving a credit card receipt for a donation.

It’s an opportunity to put my business skills into practice elsewhere. Simla agrees “As like-minded travellers enter the philanthropic arena, it is important to not only combine skills within the group but also of those within communities in need. “.

To make a difference, continuity, involvement and heart and soul needs to be present. But where do we direct our energies? How do we get our customers to align with us?

That comes through education and that’s in part two.

What do you think? Share your thoughts below.