13/01/2017 11:53 GMT | Updated 14/01/2018 05:12 GMT

How Can We Democratise Tourism?

Imagine if your holiday could pave the way for an under privileged child to take a trip somewhere too... if your travels could pass on to a child the chance to see something of their home country they may never have seen before and to marvel at the very same sights that you as a visitor have travelled across the world to see.


Photo credit: http://www.responsibletravel.com

That's what Responsible Travel's new Trip for a Trip programme aims to do. At present I'm unable to travel, kidney failure is keeping me tied to my hometown in the UK but it has also awakened in me a desire to address the inequalities in tourism, to help others to travel who do not have the opportunity to do so. Inspired by Toms Shoes One-for-One ® business model and a similar programme run by US travel company Elevate Destinations, we're now funding a day trip for a disadvantaged child from a developing country for every holiday sold, when the traveller has opted into the scheme. But why?

The transformative power of travel?

We have various hypotheses about the possible benefits of these trips - in time we'll try to research and prove them but in the meantime it's my personal belief that travel can have a transformative effect, that it can foster a greater understanding of other cultures and to open our eyes to the possibilities in the world. At any age it gives us the chance to learn and discover more about the world around us and to appreciate the wider value that our culture, nature and wildlife has. I think for a child this is especially important.

One hope have is that just broadening kids horizons a little can help them realise there are lots of possibilities for them in the world beyond that of which they might be aware. So seeing a bigger world may inspire them to greater things.

Of course we don't know if that's possible, and it will be hard to research. It remains a hope. This initiative is just starting out, so time will tell what the impacts are - but at the moment we know that the children involved are getting the opportunity to go somewhere they haven't had the chance to before.

Our first trip in November 2016 saw 24 children from the Mlindazwe Neighbourhood Care Point in Swaziland visit nearby Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary for the first time - where they saw animals such as zebra after learning about them as part of their curriculum.

Michael Palin, the award winning British travel writer and presenter, has lent his support to the scheme with his own view that travel at a young age can be an inspirational experience saying "Trip For A Trip sounds an excellent idea. My appetite for travel began with day trips, so I know how much they can mean to a child. Good luck and thanks to all who can make this happen."

Addressing inequalities in tourism.

Tourism has been written in as a key driver of development in the Sustainable Development Goals for a reason - when done well it can bring economic prosperity to local communities, conserve cultural heritage and contribute to the preservation of fragile landscapes.

However, travel is inherently unequal. According to Forbes, in the US a family of four will spend on average $4,580 on a vacation each year. Business Insider reports that high net worth Americans will take on average 6 holidays per year at a cost of $13,249. Clearly for people who live a subsistence lifestyle, or whose monthly wage is entirely devoted to keeping food on the table for their family - travel, as we see , it is out of the question. Rich westerners essentially are given opportunities in places where local people are not.

So what can we do about this? Well, we know that we aren't going to address this completely but we hope that by giving disadvantaged children the opportunity to experience the world around them we can start to shift this imbalance in some small way. That by democratising the travel experience we can open up opportunities to those for whom travel has previously been a closed door. This is our hope, rooted in my own experiences.

And who knows, if the rest of the travel industry get on board with this movement maybe we will reach our dream of helping 1 million under-privileged children take a day trip somewhere new by 2020.

Read more about the Trip for a Trip program.