Tourism In Need connects travellers directly with tourism-related non-profits in Southeast Asia in desperate need of financial support during the COVID-19 crisis. Ameer Virani, co-founder of the initiative, tells Travindy how the the platform works and about their plans for the future.
What is Tourism In Need and how did the idea come about?
Tourism In Need is a fundraising initiative created to support responsible tourism organisations struggling financially during the Covid-19 crisis. The concept came about in March when my colleague Robert Powell and I were discussing the negative impacts that the dramatic downturn in tourism would have on the people and places dependent on the industry, and what we could do to help.
We had a feeling that previous travellers to a destination, or those who missed out on a trip because of the crisis, would feel compelled to contribute to those in need in that destination. That is why we set up this initiative – to connect travellers who care with tourism-related non-profits and social businesses in desperate need of support.
Can you tell us a little more about the impacts of the pandemic in Southeast Asia?
According to the UNWTO, Asia Pacific has been the region to suffer most from the pandemic with a 35% decrease in arrivals in the first quarter of 2020. This is a figure that will be worse in the second quarter and over 50 million direct tourism jobs are at risk. Small and medium-sized enterprises were expected to be the hardest hit, and this is proving to be the case.
As early as February 2020, one of our partners in Vietnam had experienced a 65% reduction in business. Since then, this social business has had to close until further notice. The negative economic impacts of the pandemic will be felt long after the borders are re-opened, and we expect our partners to be in need of support well into 2021.
How does the platform work and what are your main aims?
We list small to medium-sized tourism organisations with a cause that are urgently in need of financial support to continue their important work. Visitors to our website can read about the organisations’ social and environmental work, and why the absence of tourism has left them in need. They can then click through to the website and donations page of any organisation they are interested in making a direct contribution to.
We simply direct the good will of travellers to organisations we trust and know are in need – and our short-term aim is to help responsible tourism organisations in need survive the coming months. Our long-term aim is to strengthen the responsible tourism ecosystem in Asia, even while people can not travel.
Do you have any selection criteria for organisations to be included on the website?
Yes, we do have selection criteria. Firstly, they need to be organisations that are reliant on income from tourism to carry out their social or environmental activities, such as training underprivileged youths or caring for elephants and their natural habitat. Secondly, our partners need to have their own dedicated online donations page. This is because we do not accept any donations ourselves. We tend to focus on organisations who prioritise creating social or environmental value over profit, which is why the majority of our partners are either social businesses or non-profits.
Do you plan to extend the reach of the campaign and do you know of similar platforms in other parts of the world?
We certainly plan to extend beyond Southeast Asia and are in the process of identifying organisations in need in other Asian destinations that have been hard hit by this crisis. Keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for further information about this in the coming weeks. We know that the Planeterra Foundation is currently running a similar fundraising campaign for their partner communities in need.
We would love to hear from other similar campaigns to ours so we can share resources, promote each other and together contribute to the global responsible tourism ecosystem during this challenging period.