According to Booking.com, over half (55%), of global travellers are more determined to make sustainable travel choices than they were a year ago. This includes everything from exploring more eco-friendly accommodation options to taking public transportation or biking whenever possible, as well as seeking out more authentic experiences that truly benefit the local community.

In New Zealand, 47% of our Gen Z population believes it is important to give back to the local community when travelling. With this in mind, Booking.com has compiled a list of incredible sustainable travel experiences that help communities around the world.

Empowering Women in Nepal

Sustainable Travel
Panauti Community Homestay

From the awe-inspiring slopes of Mt. Everest to the bustling streets of Kathmandu, Nepal offers an abundance of natural and cultural treasures for travellers to admire. To truly experience the country’s unique landscapes and traditions, explore its rural mountain villages with the help of one of the local guides from SASANE Sisterhood Trekking and Travel. In addition to the company’s various treks and tours to lesser-travelled areas of the country, all of the guides are female human trafficking survivors. Not only do you get to enjoy some delicious home-cooked meals and learn from local artisans about traditional basket weaving or brewing, but you also get to contribute to the elimination of further trafficking, gender-based violence and child marriage in these rural communities.

Panauti Community Homestay is another platform in Nepal that is primarily focused on empowering women through community-based homestays, culturally immersive experiences and tours in remote areas. In addition to staying with a family in traditional accommodation, you can learn to cook Nepali cuisine with your hosts or go on a sunset bike tour. No matter your threshold for adventure, there are options for every traveller to explore further off the beaten path while also giving back to the local community.

Sustaining Off-the-Grid Communities in India

Apple Orchard Stay

A vast country with staggering natural beauty, ancient traditions, delectable and diverse cuisines and hundreds of unique cultures to discover, India offers travellers a multitude to explore. If you love a bit of adventure and want to experience life in some of the country’s most remote mountain villages, sign up for one of the impact tours led by Global Himalayan Expedition. As part of one of the company’s multi-day treks, you’ll hike through some of India’s most rugged and pristine landscapes on your way to help provide sustainable solar-powered energy to off-grid Himalayan villages, in turn transforming lives and helping put these communities on the map for future travellers to discover.

With sustainable access to electricity, these villages can successfully welcome travellers and open up new opportunities and alternative sources of income for the residents. With stunning views of the Zanskar river canyon and the surrounding mountains, The Hidden Heaven- Apple Orchids Homestay is a solar-powered accommodation in a formerly off-grid village. In addition to enjoying meals prepared exclusively from organic local produce, you can also learn more about the copper artisans the area is famous for.

If you’re feeling a little less intrepid or don’t want to devote a couple of weeks to an impact expedition, you can still do your part to help preserve India’s unique culture and heritage while supporting marginalised rural communities by connecting with locals through NotOnMap. With handcrafted experiences to truly help you experience the local food and culture of India, NotOnMap connects travellers with authentic, traditional stays, as well as cultural and culinary experiences, such as an escape to the remote NotOnMap – H2O House, a guesthouse surrounded by lush foliage and a rushing mountain stream. With 47% of our Gen Z population wanting to stay in eco-friendly accommodation, this is a great option for the mindful modern traveller.

Preserving Cultural Heritage in Southeast Asia

Sustainable Travel
Fishing with locals via Backstreet Academy

Famous for stunning beaches, friendly locals and delectable cuisines throughout the region, the countries of Southeast Asia are perennial favourites for travellers from around the world. Unfortunately, the downside of this sustained popularity is that some communities don’t benefit fully from the opportunities that tourism brings. With the rise of mass tourism, many unique cultural traditions are at an increased threat of disappearing. Thankfully, there are a wealth of start-ups throughout the region dedicated to empowering marginalised communities who are committed to sharing and protecting their traditions for future generations to enjoy. The next time you book a massage at a day spa in Thailand or reserve a table at a high-end restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, also consider one of these options to enrich your cultural understanding and do some real good with your journey as well.

Backstreet Academy is a peer-to-peer impact travel platform that empowers impoverished local communities in developing countries across Southeast Asia who don’t speak English or have access to technology. Together they create unique experiences, host tourists and showcase their culture with a substantial amount of the profit going back into the local community. The curated experiences available via Backstreet Academy include everything from lessons in Javanese archery to workshops for artisan stamp carving.

A hub for sustainable and genuine experiences in Thailand’s largest urban areas, Hivesters prevents the loss of heritage by connecting travellers looking for authentic interactions with local experts, who provide workshops in traditional dance, perfume making and street food from the streets of Bangkok.

Picha Eats is a sustainable food business that helps to rebuild the lives of refugees living in Malaysia. Through the Open House program, you get to be invited to a refugee family’s home to enjoy an authentic home-cooked meal and learn more about their life experience.

Protecting Biodiversity in Colombia

Bahia Solano, Colombia via AWAKE

As political stability has returned to Colombia and the world is quickly reacquainting itself with the beautiful landscapes, people and culture. With a resurgence in interest, travel to Colombia to explore its unique ecosystems is also on the rise. Offering spectacular nature travel experiences that also serve to protect the biodiversity of Colombia’s indigenous plants and animals, Awake connects travellers with local hosts that share their commitment to making sure Colombia’s natural treasures remain intact for years to come. Whether you want to encounter the colourful flora and fauna of the Amazon on a three-day jungle tour or go paragliding through the Andes, there are a wealth of sustainable options for every appetite and budget.

IMPULSE Travel also seeks to empower local communities in Colombia, preserve traditions and help travellers to fall in love with the people and culture through more than 200 tours and activities available through their platform. Whether you want to go coffee shop hopping in Medellin or embark on a three-day trek through the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy national park, IMPULSE provides immersive experiences that promote peace and enable local communities to share and protect their heritage.

Inclusive Adventures in South America and Antarctica

Machu Picchu via Keteka

Founded by two veterans of the peace corps who wanted to help local guides and artisans make a fair and equitable living through tourism activities, Keteka offers bespoke tours and experiences throughout Central and South America, and even to Antarctica. All of Keteka’s otherwise unreachable activities are all bookable online, helping to build capacity in indigenous communities and redistribute travellers more evenly throughout the continent, outside of the well-trodden hotspots. With just a couple of clicks of a button, you can be on your way to discovering the unparalleled landscapes of Torres del Paine or spend the night stargazing in the Atacama Desert with a local astronomer.

If you want to explore some of the most remote and spectacular destinations in South America and beyond but face mobility challenges, Wheel the World offers inclusive treks and adventure travel experiences, tackling the challenge of accessibility in tourism within the adventure travel sector. Whether you want to scale the heights of Machu Picchu in your wheelchair or come face to face with the giant totems on Easter Island, Wheel the World helps anyone to visit these iconic destinations for themselves.

Whether you want to learn how to cook Pad Thai from a real street food chef in Bangkok or go on an impact expedition to bring sustainable electricity to a remote Himalayan village, these unique sustainable travel experiences are sure to spark your curiosity and inspire a few new additions to your bucket list. 

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