• Trip to Help the online responsible and regenerative travel agency, receives the Gold Award at the WTM Africa Responsible Tourism Awards 2024, held at the Spotlight Theatre in Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Trip to Help, born in Barcelona in 2022, is the only non-african company to win an award in this edition.
  • This award recognizes Trip to Help’s impact on sustainability, preservation and creation of cultural bridges in a respectful way, and its business model based on the green and regenerative economy, with pillars such as cooperation, welfare and social justice.

Trip to Help, the online agency for responsible and regenerative travel, born in Barcelona, receives in its second year of life the the most outstanding recognition, the GOLD award, from the prestigious World Responsible Tourism Awards, held within the framework of the annual international tourism fair World Travel Market, in Africa (Cape Town). The company won the award in the “Championing Cultural Diversity” category at a ceremony held at the Spotlight Theatre in Cape Town, South Africa.

Trip to Help was also the only company not only in Europe, but in the Global North as a whole, to be recognized as one of the best in the world. All the others are of African origin, a fact that gives even more value to this recognition, and shows the values and philosophy of the company, which has a clear social focus: “We are very happy for this recognition. This award validates our idea, and our dream, of doing things differently in tourism in African countries, of fleeing from practices or gestures that have a lot (still) of colonialism, or welfare, or charity. This award places us as the respectful and responsible alternative for traveling to countries like Tanzania and Kenya and is a recognition of our work to generate a business model based on conscience, regeneration and the refusal to perpetuate practices that far from being respectful, continue to damage cultures, ecosystems and societies”, emphasize its founders, Raquel Priego and Xavier Claveria.

As the winner of the category, holding the category’s Gold award, Trip to Help is now a candidate in the Global World Responsible Tourism Awards.

Trip to Help, trips based on the regeneration economic model in Africa

Trip to Help was born in 2022 with the objective, as Raquel and Xavi point out, of “eroding the current capitalist and extractive tourism model”. With a long history of traveling, its founders wanted to to combine cooperation and community development with tourism, and to create a proposal that would use the “travel privilege” of people who want to go to African countries, such as Tanzania, Kenya or Morocco, with a real and long-term contribution to local development. From that desire, and from their own experience, sometimes unsuccessful, of wanting to find experiences that would have a positive impact on the population, they began to create this travel platform.

Immersive tourism image with the Maasai community in Tanzania. Photo Trip to Help and Alex de Cortada.

The company was born with the idea of making local communities not only participants but leaders of each activity using tourism as a tool for change, and moving them away from being used by tourism and victims of its harmful effects. In turn, Trip to Help bases its tourism business on three fundamental foundations: a regenerative economic model, a fusion between international development cooperation and tourism, and authentic tourism experiences, in some cases luxury, hand in hand with local communities who not only guide, but also design, lead, coordinate and execute the activities with decent salaries.

Trip to Help currently offers private, personalized and responsible travel experiences in Tanzania, Kenya and Peru, and will soon open routes in Morocco. From safaris in the Masai Mara or Serengeti led by Maasai communities, to expeditions in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest with native populations, Trip to Help collaborates directly with NGOs and development and community projects in each territory, which have tourism licenses to carry out the activities. Raquel and Xavi live each experience they offer, and carefully select guides, accommodations, activities or different partners in each destination, and focus their greatest effort on finding solid local projects that have a direct impact on health, education and women’s empowerment.

Following this philosophy, the company has already contributed more than €70,000 to the projects with which it collaborates, in the form of salaries for local people (not only guides, but also teachers, doctors and social workers), in local and sustainable accommodations, and benefits that have gone to the development programs that these local projects have in place, such as the schooling of more than 3,000 children. So far, they have done everything organically, living each experience and creating quality content for a good online positioning. The company aims to close 2024 by providing €200,000 to these territories.

Trip to Help’s business model: more cooperation and more local impact

Trip to Help bases its activity on direct collaboration with agents of change and conservation in each territory. Of each experience booked, 80% (and on some routes, more than 80%) stays directly in the territory, impacting local salaries, early childhood, primary and secondary education projects, women’s empowerment programs, and health care, both palliative and preventive. In other words, Trip to Help does not focus part of its profits on social projects, it focuses 80% of the amount paid by the traveler on tangible impact.

“Our most radical business decision has been to stop following the same KPIS, the same objectives, strategies and executions that we followed in our previous jobs, and that the majority of the industry follows. A change in the status quo of tourism requires playing differently, not following the same aspirations, nor the same patterns, and above all, that most of the money stays where the experience happens, and not the other way around,” explains Xavier Claveria, partner of the project.

Moreover, according to its founders, they were very clear that they did not want to generate structures in the countries where they generate the routes, but wanted to base their business on trust and an equal relationship between them and the local people who are in charge of teaching their land. That is to say, Trip to Help does not act as a guide, but as a promoter and intermediary of regenerative tourism practices, an aspect that its founders believe is key to winning the award: “The tourism industry is increasingly saturated with very superficial sustainability initiatives. They may use glass containers, but they practice the “zoofication of indigenous communities” by forcing their members to receive tourists. We run away from it. Moreover, many of them are still based on models that undervalue talent from countries in the global south by entrepreneurs, or guides from the global north. These models, although with good intentions and a more conscious look, organize trips in African countries, for example, taking value and opportunities away from the local population. We renounce to act as guides in a territory that is not our own”, explains Raquel Priego, founder of the project.

Beyond sustainable travel in Africa

Trip to Help’s business model is based on regeneration, that is, to focus each collaboration, choice of partner or activity on the improvement of ecosystems, communities or territories. This model goes far beyond sustainability (which focuses on leaving the smallest possible negative footprint), and one of its key aspects, according to its founders, is to find the balance between growth and impact, since for it to function properly, and to really improve the social, economic or cultural situation of a territory through tourism, “it is impossible for us to continue pursuing the business growth objectives that we might have been pursuing in the past”. It also implies a conscious view of the traveler, a model of responsible tourism that also highlights the figure of the tourist as a decision-maker, who sets the limits and knows how to choose, thanks to information, the most beneficial and enriching option, not for him as a traveler, but for the destination he is visiting and its inhabitants. The ultimate purpose is to reduce the large economic leakage that exists in tourism, especially in Africa, where according to a United Nations study, for every US$100 spent in Africa by tourists from developed countries, only US$5 stays in the local economy. Trip to Help’s proposal is based precisely on the opposite: that most of the money spent on each trip stays in the territories that travelers visit, and that they can also see the impact first-hand during their trips.

Xavi and Raquel visiting a Maasai family in Tanzania

Responsible Tourist experiences in Africa, far from voluntourism

Trip to Help’s main target , for now, is couples between the ages of 27 and 65, and families. In addition, in 2023, 30% of their trips were responsible honeymoons in Tanzania, from couples seeking not only authentic and memorable experiences, but also a positive impact wherever they went. They have also focused on making their experiences comfortable and accessible for children, and combine family vacations with cultural awareness and exchange activities. However, none of its routes are based on the economic model of volunteering, and its founders point out: “despite the existence of solid models in volunteering, the volume of projects that combine tourism and volunteering is increasing, and only perpetuates the relationships of difference, dependence and poverty. For the voluntourism industry to continue to exist, the need for help must extend indefinitely, otherwise the business is over.” “We base our work on the following: to use the privilege we have of traveling, of being able to discover places and cultures that are remote for us, of enjoying a few days of vacation, to improve the living conditions of the local population. And when that is achieved, what we get are empowered communities that continue the regenerative practice, taking care of future generations,” explains Raquel Priego, a partner in the project.

More about the WTM World Responsible Tourism Awards in Africa

This is the tenth edition of the WTM World Responsible Tourism Awards in Africa, which are chaired by responsible tourism guru Harold Goodwin, author of the book “Responsible Tourism: Using Tourism for Sustainable Development”, professor and advisor to various international institutions and governments on responsible tourism, development and empowerment of local communities through tourism. The WTM awards aim to recognize and showcase best practices in the tourism industry, in this case on the African continent. These prestigious awards demonstrate how companies and destinations are fostering transformation and spearheading innovative initiatives focused on wellness and sustainability in tourism.

In this year’s edition, the WTM World Responsible Tourism Awards recognized the impact of tourism companies in these 6 categories: Inclusive Tourism; Tourism Defending Cultural Diversity, whose award went to Trip to Help; Tourism with a positive impact on nature; Tourism against Climate Change; Tourism that employs and trains local communities and finally, Tourism with local sourcing.

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