Take me on a holiday that helps

Lie around in the sun? That's boring. Today's travellers want to help restore the beach. In fact, our interest in trips that put something back has doubled in just a year. Mark Rowe reports

More professionals are giving up their holidays to pursue altruistic activities, according to a survey by Opodo, the online travel company. The survey found that the number of British travellers interested in taking part in humanitarian or environmental holidays has risen by 50 per cent in the past 12 months.

There are many reasons why travellers are now just as likely to be found restoring a polluted beach as simply lying on it. In addition to offering the "feel-good" factor of doing something useful, such trips can take you to areas where tourists cannot go.

A further incentive is that you do not require a scientific specialism, and that you can attend projects for just two weeks rather than make a long-term commitment that requires packing in a job.

Bookings with i-to-i, an organisation that runs volunteering trips to 500 projects in 26 countries with an emphasis on conservation, rose by 33 per cent last year. It offers 4,000 placements, with the most popular destinations being India, Costa Rica and South Africa. "People realise this isn't something that only students do and that it isn't a niche product," said Sarah Horner, a spokeswoman for i-to-i. "People had their consciences pricked by the tsunami and events such as Live Eight. I suspect a lot of people have been to areas affected and realise it's no big deal to get on a plane to go back and help."

Earthwatch has offered similar trips, with an emphasis on scientific research, for 35 years and operates 140 projects in 51 countries. "We've seen an increase in industry competition," said Sabrina Bhangoo, a spokeswoman for Earthwatch.

"More people seem disillusioned with the package holiday market. They have a general desire to give something back but don't want to give up their jobs. Earthwatch is ideal in that people can use their holiday time to participate as expeditions last from three days to three weeks."

The general deal is that you pay for your flights and a sum on top to cover the research costs, and in return receive free board and lodging. Helping an Earthwatch project to monitor crocodiles in the Okavango Delta costs from £1,470 for two weeks, while working at a panda conservation centre in China with i-to-i will cost £1,600 for four weeks. International flights are usually extra.

However, travellers should be judicious about which organisations they sign up with. Tricia Barnett, the director of Tourism Concern, said many holidays created a feeling of well-being for individuals but did not necessarily benefit the destination. "You need to make sure projects benefit local communities," she said.

She singled out sponsored charity challenges for the criticism that they fail to bring real benefits to destinations they visited. "People climb up Mount Kilimanjaro or cycle across Jordan but they are, in effect, replicating a mainstream holiday," she said. "You are paying for your holiday in the UK and the tour operator creams off a lot of the money. In that sense, it's no different from a package hotel.

"Obviously, the charity benefits or else they wouldn't do it, but will local people benefit from such trips? You are in a group, so your focus is on that group and you don't meet local people. There's nothing equitable in your worthiness so it is a rather unbalanced way of putting your altruism into practice."

Tourism Concern supports an ethical charity challenge that involves a sponsored trek to Tanzania, run by the charity African Initiatives. It allows visitors to walk with and meet local hunter-gatherers. Funds raised will fund campaigns for land rights, women's rights and girls' education. "If you take this approach, locals will get much more out of your stay - and so will you," said Ms Barnett.

For more information contact opodo.co.uk, earthwatch.org, i-to-i.com, african-initiatives.org.uk/ and tourismconcern.org.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones