Recent years have seen a major uptick in conscientious travelling. As we become more aware of our environmental impact, the implications of travel on local communities have come into consideration as well. And rightfully so.
As early as 2017, the human rights organization Global Exchange introduced the notion of socially responsible travel that encouraged people to be mindful of communities they visit and the business practices of companies they support. In response, both travellers and hotels alike turned their efforts toward ethical, sustainable experiences that not only minimize environmental impact but also stimulate local economies and community programming.
While Global Exchange’s mandate emphasizes international travel and cultures, the same standards can be applied closer to home. Just as we buy local produce, support small businesses, and avoid fast fashion, we can choose our staycations and weekend getaways carefully.
Hotels around the world have begun reinvesting a portion of their profits into charitable endeavours or partnerships with nonprofit organizations. In British Columbia, guests can act as indirect donors by choosing to stay at certain properties.
Shangri-La Vancouver has a philanthropy package with an international impact. Guests can opt in, and for every night’s stay a $50 donation is made to One Girl Can, a charity dedicated to education and mentorship for girls in Kenya and Uganda.
Other local hotels’ focus is closer to home. On Vancouver Island, Tigh-Na-Mara acts as an ambassador for the surrounding small communities. Each year, the resort selects a charity, organization, or group that aligns with its values and contributes volunteers, product, and monetary donations. In 2013, it received the Hotel Association of Canada’s Hall of Fame Humanitarian Award of Excellence for its work.
Hotel Blu partners with local charities to encourage community action. Art installations are erected in the lobby, and for every visitor who posts a photo of it to social media using the #hotelblulove tag, the property donates to the charity. Battered Women’s Support Services has been a recipient, as has Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.
The Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre is also a partner of Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, a pediatric palliative-care provider for families in B.C. and the Yukon. The hospice has two locations in Vancouver and Abbotsford that offer pain and symptom management, end-of-life care, and bereavement counselling for families of terminally ill children. The Whistler property includes the beautiful two-bedroom Canuck Place Suite, a corner unit with a full kitchen and a private terrace overlooking Whistler Village and the mountains beyond.
Guests who book the suite can enjoy the amenities while knowing their stay automatically benefits a family going through an impossibly hard time. A day of medical respite for a family at Canuck Place includes expert clinical care, recreation therapy, music therapy, and meals that can cost up to $2,500. A portion of the revenue from each stay is donated to the hospice, generating more than $114,000 for the facility since the suite opened in 2013. The suite donated $10,549 last year alone, despite the slowdown due to COVID-19. The 2020 donation meant a family received four days of care at no cost, and 46 days of medical respite have been made possible by the suite in the last 10 years.
Travel is a massive industry that is currently under scrutiny as the world prepares to relearn what it means to explore. Perhaps this is an opportunity to create an industry better than the one before—one holiday at a time.
Read more travel stories.