Stride climate

Giving Back - 7 Tour Companies That Go Above and Beyond

By Victor Block
August 26, 2019

Women in Kenya use plastic bags and other recycled materials to make clothing and purses. Farmers in Afghanistan learn how to diversify their crops, increase the yield and improve their marketing skills. People enjoying a guided tour to Tanzania purchase water filters which are distributed to local villagers and schools.

These scenes from around the world might seem to have little in common – but they do.

They’re part of programs initiated and supported by tour companies that seek to improve lives, protect the environment, and provide other assistance to people and places where they travel.

1. Untours 

Consider the Kenyan women who have been taught how to transform otherwise disposable, and environment-clogging, things into useful objects. They’re helping to save a small part of their world while learning a trade to help support their family. This is one project among many which are subsidized by the Untours Foundation.  

Womens Empowerment program

That nonprofit organization uses funds generated by its Untours subsidiary to invest in businesses which, in its words, “create dignified work and positive social and environmental change.” The foundation follows a number of paths in seeking its goals.  

For example, wholesale fair trade fruit buyers in the United States are connected with banana farmers in Ecuador and Peru. Women in Haiti use funds provided by a micro-lending bank, along with training, education and health services, to climb out of poverty. 

See all trips with Untours »

2. Wild Frontiers

Wild Frontiers program

The Wild Frontiers Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the tour company of the same name. Among awards it has received are the prestigious 5-star Responsible Travel Status (Association of Independent Tour Operators) and Best Ethical Travel Company (Guardian/Observer newspapers).

Recognition has come for such activities as supporting environmentally friendly initiatives that offset the carbon footprint of clients who book their international flights through the company.  

The Foundation focuses primarily upon education, such as building a school for a remote village in Pakistan and providing scholarships and funding e-learning classes in Ethiopia.

Wild Frontiers giving back programs

Other activities include supporting efforts to protect endangered gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo, building a flood defense wall needed by a community in Pakistan and supporting power projects throughout India. (

See all trips with Wild Frontiers »

3. Myths & Mountains

READ program with Myths & Mountains

READ Global is the non-profit arm of Myths and Mountains. That company is part of Wild Frontiers Travel and has at least an equally strong record of philanthropy. READ Global has built 66 library/community centers throughout Nepal, 25 in India and 9 in Bhutan, all of which are much more than places to take out books.

These are learning centers that conduct training in computers, entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment and other skills, and which are linked with other groups active in areas like literacy, health/HIV and microcredit.

Since its inception in 1991, READ has positively impacted the lives of more than 2.4 million people, one reason among many that have earned it awards from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other organizations. ( 

See all Myths & Mountains trips »

4. Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T)

Water filters aren’t the only items donated by participants in Overseas Adventure Travel trips to Tanzania. Other welcome gifts to schools and communities range from school supplies and food to the occasional goat.

OAT is one arm, along with Grand Circle Travel and Grand Circle Cruise Line, of the Grand Circle Corporation, which supports destinations to which its companies travel.

Projects include providing clean water and toilets in communities and schools visited on their itineraries; furnishing computers, desks, books and other supplies to students, and funding relief efforts following natural disasters in Haiti, Japan, Nepal and other countries. In addition, members of the Foundation’s Community Service Team have donated more than 100,000 hours of service to local non-profit groups.

See all Overseas Adventure Travel tours »

Discover Corps volunteer trip

5. Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel also supports community organizations through its foundation, and since 2002 has made contributions totaling more than $5 million. It also matches donations made by its customers for local projects, dollar for dollar.

A major focus of the foundation’s efforts is providing skills training and creating jobs in tourism. For example, it has partnered with an organization in Chile to teach members of an indigenous community English, customer service and marketing of tourism based upon their culture. 

Intrepid claims it’s the largest carbon neutral travel company in the world. Efforts in this area include using public transportation on trips when feasible, encouraging the use of reusable water bottles and minimizing the number of flights in its itineraries. 

See all Intrepid Travel tours »

6. The Vacation Project

Some tour companies include volunteer activities as part of their regular itineraries. The name of The Vacation Project itself suggests that dual goal, as does its motto, “Curated Trips with a Purpose.”

That “purpose” includes providing backup (not hands-on) support for land mine detection and removal in Bosnia and Herzegovina, building bathroom facilities at a school in Morocco, and feeding and caring for animals at a wildlife rehabilitation center in South Africa.

The company’s trips are part leisure, part service, and charity work is done in cooperation with local nonprofit organizations.

See all trips with the Vacation Project »

7. Discover Corps

Discover Corps volunteer trip

“Vacations with a Purpose” are promised by Discover Corps, not surprising since it was founded by a former Peace Corps volunteer. The company espouses the idea that “you can travel on a meaningful vacation and still have fun.”    

Travelers may choose a trip which includes from one to 16 hours helping a manatee conservation group in Belize, tracking lions and cheetahs in Kenya, or working with and for school children in Guatemala.

See all Discover Corps trips »

Tracking wildlife, helping to build a bathroom or supporting the removal of lethal landmines may not be first on your wish list when planning a vacation.

But those who take part in these kinds of activities, or travel with a tour company that does, may return home with more than fond memories of visiting another part of the world.

They also have the pleasure of knowing that they played a part in improving the lives of people, protecting endangered wildlife or in some other way making the Earth a better place.

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