Giving Back
Global Traveler|September 2021
Charitable travel makes a positive impact on destinations and communities.
By Katie Mcelveen

Returning from her first African safari several years ago, Janet Lewis remembers that while she was thrilled by the animal encounters, she wished the cultural component of the trip had focused more on philanthropy. “The connection with the local community was limited,” she recalled. “It also felt scripted and not at all authentic.”

Then Lewis heard about Dazzle Africa, a Las Vegas-based nonprofit that, through its safaris, supports organizations that provide conservation, education and community development in the South Luangwa River Valley of Zambia. The difference? In addition to observing wildlife, travelers go behind the scenes with professionals like the Zambian Carnivore Progamme’s expert lion trackers who work to keep prides safe from poachers. They also observe the canine training team from Conservation South Luangwa, whose sniffer dogs are taught to detect the specific contraband regularly smuggled in and out of Zambia.

“It’s a win-win,” said Stacy James, co-founder and executive director, Dazzle Africa. “Guests have an extraordinary, meaningful experience, and the community gets funding for needs such as a bush plane to track herds, clean water and college scholarships that will give young people the education they need to fill high-level jobs brought about by an expansion in wildlife tourism.”

Lewis was so impressed with the experience, she’s about to embark on her third safari with Dazzle. “Dazzle’s partner-ships allow us to spend real time with the people on the ground working to preserve South Luangwa,” she said. “It’s incredibly inspiring.”

Lewis isn’t alone in wanting her travel to do more than light up her Instagram feed with smile-filled photos from exotic locales. According to a recent American Express survey, 59 percent of respondents agree they are interested in “philantourism,” the act of choosing a vacation or experience in order to support a destination through tourism.

Angie Rice, cofounder, Boutique Travel Advisors in Arizona, isn’t surprised by the numbers. “Travelers have gained a hunger to contribute and interact with the community in a more positively impactful manner,” she said. “The tourist’s script has flipped from, ‘What can I get out of this travel experience?’ to ‘How can I give back through this experience?’”

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