Voluntourism – Why “Helping” Is Not Always Helpful



One of andBeyond's lodges is India.

Top notch luxury safari outfitter andBeyond (see the company review in our Adventure Ratings) is known for its commitment to
conservation and local community building. With burgeoning efforts in
India coming to fruition in 2010, these guides are on the cutting edge
of socially conscious adventure travel. But voluntourism? Think
again. While staff take Indian middle schoolers on Conservation
Lessons in Kanha National Park or orchestrate the building of a new
local school, guests decidedly do not.

“There’s a bit of a controversy in allowing tourists to do work,” says andBeyond’s Paula Franklin. “Say there’s a local carpenter who needs a
job and he sees a family from Nebraska building a house. He’ll think: Why are they taking the job that I could get paid for? The community
would rather we pay someone who needs the money than let a tourist do
it.”

Which isn’t to say guests can’t get involved. “If you just want to
drink champagne you can do that,” says Franklin, “but if you want to
be brought around the community you can do that as well.” In between
jaunts tracking tigers on the back of an elephant in one of India’s
national parks, you’ll tour andBeyond’s projects that work closely with
local communities and hire local artisans. Then make a donation to
help support that program.

It’s a model that’s worked for andBeyond in Africa for almost 20 years,
and in India for the last three. Their latest Indian projects include
taking local students on game drives in the Indian jungle to teach
them about conservation.

So go in search of Asiatic lions and exotic birds with one of andBeyond’s specially trained local naturalist animal trackers, then go
ahead and relax with that glass of bubblyyou may be contributing
more than you know.—Greer Schott

Photograph courtesy of andBeyond

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