Doing is the new seeing.
And ethical holidays are more than just tourism…
EthicalMuch talks with Celeste Turner Lewis, founder of EthicalHoliday.com
…. Please tell us about EthicalHoliday, what’s the fabulous idea?
In short Ethical Holiday is an online directory of worldwide ethical places to stay with optional short term volunteering nearby to help tourists get involved, connect with nature and experience new cultures during their holiday.
Our tag line is “Life Changing Holidays” which comes from our belief that tourism can change lives for the better, not just by giving people a memorable holiday with experiences that will develop their skills and interests but also help to improve the lives of the communities they are visiting through positive engagement, volunteering and of course choosing accommodation that respects the environment and reinvests into the local area.
I like the sound of that, and doing a bit of volunteering is a great idea, everyone’s so used to working so hard, I image it would be lovely to relax on holiday, but still do something a bit useful and active. My thing this, go on…
We’ve hand picked all our listings for their ethical values – all our accommodation listings are required to meet at least 2 of our criteria, each one relating to environmental friendliness, nature and wildlife conservation and investing into communities. This means that our customers can be assured that every holiday on our site empowers people and protects the planet.
EthicalMuch hears you on this.I want to do volunteering! I like DOING stuff, not just looking like a tourist!
Most of our accommodation listings have volunteering opportunities which can be arranged directly through the guesthouse or hotel but our site also suggests nearby volunteering organisations (where possible) so our customers can see what opportunities are available during their stay. Users of our site can also search for volunteering only holidays and we will suggest nearby places to stay before, during or after their volunteering placement.
As you might have guessed communities are important to us so we’ve created our website with this in mind. Our members are given their own blog space to share their travel and volunteering experiences and can also vote for where they would like our annual charitable donation to be spent. We think that this will help people to feel part of our community and to know that just by using our site they are giving back in some way.
I do think more and more people are taking it seriously now, ethical travel, and ethical living. We can’t really afford not to any more.
And combining ethics with activities creates a whole new genre of experiences. I think we’re definitely moving away from ‘consumers’ and ‘visitors’ towards a new identity of co creators, even healers or restorers. The consumer stage was always a bit limited in terms of sustainability … where did the idea for Ethical Holiday come from?
The idea for Ethical Holiday first came to me back in 2014. At the time I was working as a volunteer operations assistant at a national charity. I loved working with the volunteers and my role there gave me an insight into just how many people are willing to give their time and energy to help good causes. After a few years at the charity I wanted to move on and combine my passion of working with volunteers and charitable causes with my passion for travel.
At this time I was also frustrated by how difficult it seemed to be to find opportunities to help out whilst on holiday, I was aware of sites like Responsible Travel offering a similar thing but the volunteering all seemed to be aimed at the Gap Year market, there didn’t seem to be any volunteering that was offered without having to commit for at least a month at a high cost which isn’t really possible for most working people.
I realised that there was a gap in the market for people who, like me, want to take a holiday for a week or two, and also volunteer during their stay whilst still having time to relax and explore.
So I guess that’s how the idea first came to me. I started by sending a survey out to everyone I knew asking what an ethical holiday means to them and their thoughts on volunteering during an average holiday. I was really surprised by the results, over 80% of the 105 survey entries said that they want to volunteer on holiday but only for a few hours or days and that reinvesting into the community was more important to them than green credentials for their hotel / holiday accommodation choices.
It’s definitely made me become a better person, pushed me out of my comfort zone and given me more confidence and it’s great to finally give people like me an easy to use website where they can find holidays that match their ethical values with the option of getting involved if they want to.
Celeste, you’re a star, and we wish you all the very best. Thanks ever so much for sharing your vision and creating a new way for people to add value to the World whist having a life changing and super relaxing and memorable holiday. Love ya. X EM!