9 SME Travel Companies Giving Back To Their Communities

December 27, 2021
Keri Pfeiffer (she/her)
5 min read

Travel companies and travelers alike are dialing into conversations around sustainability and travel for purpose. It’s top of mind for everyone to do things in ways that positively impact the places we visit and people we meet along the journey.  

Today, many tourism businesses are taking active steps to support and uplift the destinations they travel to. This is not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because it’s key to creating a more sustainable travel industry at large.

Responsible tourism can take many forms. Here, we look into several SME travel companies giving back to their local communities and destinations they visit.

Nine Travel Companies Giving Back To Their Communities

1. Awaken


Awaken began as an at-risk youth foundation. 

Over the years, it has evolved to offer development and professional skills workshops, and lead immersive travel programs around beautiful Ecuador while supporting youth at the foundation. 

Through Awaken’s volunteer programs, travelers can really get close to the rich culture of the country, at the same time giving back to the communities they visit. 

One of the foundation’s missions is to support youths (and their parents) who have been admitted to juvenile detention centers and help them reestablish themselves in society. Awake works to create a better quality of life, supporting each person’s physical, behavioral, psychological, professional, and educational development. 

They also work with the communities as a whole to raise awareness and encourage a culture of compassion and social support to those in need. 

2. Peruvian Soul 

Peruvian Soul

Peruvian Soul has a dream to encourage the world to visit the heart and soul of Peru. 

They are committed to sustainable travel and stand by three pillars of their business: education, reforestation, and local development. 

Their Papnoel Trekero initiative (named after Santa) is incredibly inspirational. Every year (for over ten years now), they collect donations and visit beautiful and underprivileged communities. 

They plant trees, give out school supplies, and immerse themselves in the community to give back in any way they can. 

This anticipated annual trip has become such a phenomenon in their business that travelers request to join and get involved. 

3. Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities is a social enterprise that gives back to communities by supporting the homeless through travel. It operates in various cities around the UK, including Edinburgh, York, Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, and Cardiff.

The enterprise teaches people who have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides of their cities. It provides the people with opportunities to make an income, upskills them, and helps to support them through their personal projects. 

To carry out its mission, the organization partners with local professional tour guides who help to design tours and routes in their cities.

Part of their ethos is to create a more positive and inclusive community and break down stigmas and perceptions. 

Through local projects such as their Street Barber pop-ups and Writing on the Wall publication, Invisible Cities creates broader opportunities for the individuals in their programs. 

4. Undiscovered Mountains

Undiscovered Mountains

As the name suggests, this adventure travel company is entirely focused on mountain travel experiences. 

Undiscovered Mountains offers a range of small group tours, short activity breaks, and adventure holidays to the Himalayas, the French Alps, and the Norwegian Mountains. 

This small tour operator isn’t only around to offer picturesque tours, though. They focus on running tours in places where tourism positively impacts the people who live there. 

Wherever they organize tours, they make sure only to support local suppliers and guides. 

Some of the destinations may be a bit off the beaten track, and this is because the company wants to bring tourism to the places that really need it. 

To give back even further, Undiscovered Mountains is part of an initiative with Mossy Earth to rewild affected environments and minimize their carbon footprint. 

Mossy Earth will plant a tree for every holiday travelers book with Undiscovered Mountains. This carbon offsetting program and its focus on local communities make Undiscovered Mountains an innovator for responsible tourism. 

5. The Blue Yonder

The Blue Yonder

The Blue Yonder is an Indian-owned travel company offering immersive travel experiences in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and shortly in South Africa too. 

This company is heavily focused on the local communities of the destinations it visits. All of their tours are designed to give back and ensure that the people benefit as much as possible. Each trip empowers local communities, artisans, and producers in some way. 

For example, the tour guides are locals who gain directly from the tours. The company’s 12-day Northern Kerala tour is hosted by guides who used to be illegal sand miners in the area, providing them with a legitimate and stable source of income.

6. Justice Travel

Justice Travel

Justice Travel brings travel and human rights together in a unique collaboration. This organization is focused on finding ways for travelers to support human rights work in the countries they visit. 

It also creates a space for local activists to discover the new opportunities that community-based tourism brings. 

Justice Travel offers trips all around the world to destinations like Sri Lanka, Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. The travelers that go on these tours engage with local activists and experience the local culture, nature, and history. 

All trips are designed around human rights travel experiences that educate and give back to the community. These immersive tours are every bit educational as they are exciting. 

Justice Travel offers a truly diverse range of projects and experiences. Whether these are nature excursions or local festivals, it works to create a globally connected and inclusive world.

7. European Safari Company

European Safari Company

The European Safari Company specializes in nature-based travel across Europe. While most travelers to Europe focus on historic cities and discovering different cultures, this company showcases and preserves the wild side of the continent. 

To help give back, European Safari Company only works with sustainable partners in areas that implement rewilding projects. Their tours operate in places that suffer rural depopulation and economic downturn.

By taking this approach, the company aims to restore the wilder side of Europe and support local communities through tourism. 

Contributions from every trip go back to conserving nature in the destinations visited. Currently, their tours go to some of the more remote areas of Europe, including Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Sweden, to name a few. 

8. Etnica Travel

Etnica Travel

When it comes to tourism in Guatemala, Etnica Travel is a leader in giving back to local communities. 

This company offers fully immersive community-based travel experiences around Guatemala. The focus is on keeping travel local and responsible. 

Etnica Travel is a social enterprise that follows fair trade principles. They focus on lifting Guatemala's cultural and natural heritage and adding value to the country’s communities through travel. 

Some of Etnica’s travel experiences include volcano and jungle trekking, artisan stories, and tours that educate about the Maya. 

All of Etnica Travel’s tours are created in partnership with local communities in Guatemala. They want to get tourists off the beaten track to help develop and give back to the smaller communities that need it the most. 

All of Etnica Travel’s tours create a positive impact in the local communities they visit. Some of their initiatives include a rural food safety project and aiding a community library. 

9. Adventure Alternative

Adventure Alternative

A Fair Trade Volunteering member, Adventure Alternative offers travel experiences, including wildlife safaris, volunteering expeditions, and charity challenges that give back to the communities it visits. 

This travel company mainly focuses on wildlife and adventure travel, offering trips to destinations like Borneo and East Africa. 

The company is a responsible adventure travel tour operator that pushes sustainable tourism principles. 

They work with local guides, focus on community projects, and offer immersive local travel experiences that empower and develop the local community.

Most of Adventure Alternative’s tours are focused on mountaineering experiences and treks. 

The company also offers a variety of travel activities, 

Final Thoughts

By offering experiences that give back to local communities and projects, these companies lend their hand to creating a more sustainable tourism industry. 

This kind of community responsibility plays a vital role in uplifting the destinations they visit, whether economically, socially, or environmentally.  

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