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Rural Adventure Tourism and Social Entrepreneurship: Practices and Trends BEST Educational Network Think Tank June 22, 2007. Christina Heyniger, Xola Consulting Kristin Lamoureux, George Washington University. Outline. Understanding the unlikely pairing of adventure and social work

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Rural Adventure Tourism and Social Entrepreneurship:Practices and TrendsBEST Educational Network Think TankJune 22, 2007

Christina Heyniger, Xola Consulting

Kristin Lamoureux, George Washington University

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  • Understanding the unlikely pairing of adventure and social work

  • Market Statistics indicate continued sectoral growth

  • Overview of study participants

  • Findings:

    • Emerging business models

    • Recurring challenges

    • Compelling successes

  • Emerging Best Practices

  • The Future

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Defining “Social Entrepreneurship”

  • Social entrepreneurship defined:

    • Social entrepreneurs use entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change.

    • Whereas business entrepreneurs typically measure performance in profit and return, social entrepreneurs assess their success in terms of the impact they have on society.

  • In recent years social entrepreneurs have begun leveraging tourism to help attain social improvement goals.

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The organizations in this study are blending social and business goals in a variety of ways.

  • We examined tour operators and NGOs blending adventure tourism with initiatives aimed at improving social and environmental problems:

  • Protect the Earth, Protect Yourself (PEPY) - Cambodia

  • Explorandes - Peru

  • Global Sojourns - South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana

  • Relief Riders International - India

  • Los Ninos - Mexico

  • Generosity in Action - Global

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Blending tourism with social causes is a trend that continues to build.

  • 24% of travelers are interested in taking a volunteer or service-based vacation - TIA report, 2005

    • Baby boomer are a key demographic; 47% of respondents age 35-54

  • International Institute of Peace through Tourism estimates 7% of all trips in 2005 had a service component.

  • United Way partnered with to launch a website for people planning holidays with a service component in 2007.

  • ASTA and Global Volunteers launched an initiative late 2006 to promote volunteer service travel as “a unique way to experience new places, people and cultures while making a positive contribution.”

  • Youth and educational tourism accounted for 20% of global tourism market in international travel in 2002.

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Though it may seem like an unlikely pairing, natural synergies exist between adventure tourism and social entrepreneurship.

  • Adventure Travel

  • Rural, remote

  • Increasingly takes people to travel in developing countries

  • Tries to engage travelers in cultural Interactions

  • Involves people pushing perceived limits of experience

  • Expensive, attracting travelers with disposable income (largest segment is baby boomer demographic)

  • Social Entrepreneurs

  • Often look to serve rural and remote populations

  • Seek to address issues in poor and developing areas of the world

  • Are creative people, pushing limits of known solutions to issues

  • Access unconventional sources of funding due to the often unconventional projects they launch

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The adventure tourism industry has a long history of aiding local communities.

  • Two examples: mountaineers and river runners pioneer “best practices”

  • 1960s in the Himalaya:

    • The Khumjung School established by Sir Edmund Hillary

    • Educates students to read and write in their native Sherpa language and to learn skills appropriate to their environment.

    • Local teachers were trained and employed.

  • In 2005 Mountain Travel Sobek and The Nature Conservancy partner on the Upper Mekong in Yunnan, China, teaching local Chinese to operate their own river trips with MTS support.

What’s new:

Increasing levels of traveler participation

Increasing number of companies doing community projects

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Findings: Today’s Emerging Business Models local communities.

  • 1. The Interwoven Itinerary

  • Tour operators take an adventure tourism itinerary - bike, horseback riding, hiking/trekking - and include volunteer visits to villages along the route (PEPY, Explorandes, Relief Riders International)

  • 2. Adjust Standard Procedure to Include Tourists

  • NGOs and other aid or research-focused organizations (church groups for example) invite tourists to join in their work for short periods (Los Ninos)

  • 3. Innovations to Support Donors in Direct Giving

  • A general backlash against “big business” has led many philanthropists to want to give to small projects and know precisely where and how their donation is applied.

  • Donor-brokers focused on the adventure tourism sector take traveler desires to donate and help establish aid projects or vet existing projects (Global Sojourns’ Giving Circle, Generosity in Action)

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Findings: Primary Challenges local communities.

  • The best intentions may sometimes have unintended consequences

    • Tour operators may establish dependencies they may not be in a position to serve long term; sustainability is an issue

    • “Voluntourists” may over time put local communities in a welfare state of mind when self empowerment, not a welfare state should be the goal

    • Giving what we think they need rather than what they actually need/ cultural exports

  • Balancing traveler expectations with the realities of humanitarian and environmentally oriented field work is difficult

  • For companies, balancing short range profit needs with the longer term results horizon required for social projects is difficult

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Findings: Emerging Best Practices local communities.

  • NGOs and Tour Companies alike can benefit from these lessons learned:

  • Appropriately identify community needs

  • Create a shared investment - communities and the traveler-volunteers must both contribute in some way

  • Start by identifying organizations who have history in the region before launching new initiatives that may be duplicative; seek partners

  • Follow up; maintain a presence in the regions you visit

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Findings: Compelling Success Stories local communities.

  • Even with the challenges, the benefits to communities, travelers and businesses are compelling enough to warrant continued exploration.

  • Tour operators and NGOs

    • In leveraging community assets for tourists, assist destinations in enhancing and preserving their natural and cultural aspects and strengthen product offerings

    • NGOs are able to attract funding more easily when people can experience in-country the benefits of their donation


    • Receive aid for common needs – medical, educational, infrastructure

    • May develop businesses catering to tourists

  • Travelers

    • Add the emotional benefits of “giving back” to the standard list of tourism’s intangible benefits: rest, relaxation, cultural exploration, adventure

    • Episodic type of volunteer experience combined with travel attracts people who may not typically volunteer in their home setting

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The Future local communities.

  • Educators -

    • Continue learning and guiding students in designing practical tools for leveraging tourism to benefit social and environmental causes

  • Industry practitioners -

    • Look across industries for lessons learned

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