Today’s Responsible Tourism interview is with the wonderful Viaggi Solidali, a tour operator based in Italy that is really making a difference in all the areas they work in around the world. If you want to see the impact that responsible travel has then read the interview below.
1. Congratulations on being nominated for the World Responsible Tourism Awards. What was your reaction when you found out?
It has been a wonderful news for us. Our staff is really honored due to this achievement!
Viaggi Solidali springs precisely from the objective to form a professional tour operator that can do business by organizing trips solely centered around local people and local economies, the environment and conservation. For 17 years we have built our tourism business carefully selecting individuals that are an expression of the local community, not international chains.
In terms of travelers and turnover, our financial statement data shows that professionally and competently putting the principles of responsible tourism into practice makes for an outstanding tourism business. See getting recognized in the list of finalists of this award is already a great success!
2. What inspired you to start your business?
To us it’s the only way to do business: without responsible tourism trips, Viaggi Solidali wouldn’t exist.
Our challenge was to create a tour operator that does responsible tourism across the board, not a thematic sector of your classic operator. Viaggi Solidali is a tour operator with a regular permit and its core business is to organize and sell responsible tourism vacation packages in Italy and around the world.
We do not act as a go-between and therefore we do not sell other tour operators’ proposals as an agency, since we specifically want the entire business to be branded Viaggi Solidali. The offering is prepared directly in cooperation with our local supplier network or in rare cases through joint ventures with other responsible tourism tour operators abroad who work with the same destination.
Sometimes we do consultancy, becoming partners in international cooperation projects (also in the sphere of responsible tourism) and make the professional know-how surrounding ideation, advertising and sales of tourism packages available.
What sets our brand apart is the added value of meeting and having an exchange with the local people in a spirit of mutual respect between the vacationer and the host community. In this social cooperative, according to that set forth by Italian legislation, we pursue “the general interest of the community to promote people and the social integration of citizens.”
Specifically, the target audience of our tourism organization is suppliers, an expression of the local community in the different destination countries.
3. Why did you choose to go down the responsible travel route?
This choice was based on ethical as well as brand principles. We have always benchmarked the market and the competitors because our business is tourism organized according to the principles of the charter of the Italian Responsible Tourism Association.
However, this is also our job and tourists for us are also customers who allow us to continue on this road. if we grow we also grow all of our friends and associates scattered in over 40 destinations worldwide.
Responsible tourism, as has already happened for fair trade, is no longer just a niche market but a steady growing phenomenon, at least in Italy! We want our travelers to be satisfied with the choice they made not just because they were responsible tourists, but above all because they had a good vacation, that they want to go on again through us to other destinations and to recommend to friends and relatives.
Word-of-mouth is our best form of advertising. On our trips, coming together and having an exchange with the local people is the core of the tourist’s experience. The “tourism under escort” of the large tourist resorts is not our concept of tourism nor is it that of our clients.
4. What is your one tip for someone who wants to travel more responsibly?
First of all to rediscover the pleasure of being travelers and not just tourists!
Travel not only to take a vacation but with the desire to discover places, cultures and new people. Choose, where possible, small family-run facilities, local transport to be more in touch with the local reality. Respect the places and people you visit, maybe remembering that even people we meet may be curious to know who we are and where we come from. As independent travelers or even with an organized tour .. maybe by Viaggi Solidali!
5. What has been your most rewarding outcome from choosing to practice responsible travel?
It might seem surprising, but what we feel was our single most significant innovative initiative—one-of-a-kind in terms of business potential and benefits in the area of responsible tourism—was not achieved at tourism destinations, but rather in the countries and cities that travelers came from.
I’m talking about “Migrantour”, cross-cultural urban routes that we have been organizing since 2010, which are urban itineraries to discover other cultures accompanied by migrants. In one word, its local tourism”. Properly trained cross-cultural guides introduce us to the kaleidoscope of cultures right next door, which today characterize the panorama of our cities.
Viaggi Solidali does not receive any public or private funding, so financing comes entirely from responsible tourism trip sales and any participation in projects.
Both in terms of travelers and in terms of turnover, our financial statement data shows that putting the principles of responsible tourism into practice with professionalism and competence makes for an outstanding tourism business.
We have gotten along fine at times of major crisis in the tourism industry and are growing—by about 20% in the past two years—despite the extremely serious crisis that has hit many destinations in Africa for security reasons.
Thank you so much Enrico. Keep up the great work and good luck at the awards!
If you would like to book a tour with Viaggi Solidali then please click the link below:
Do you know of a responsible tourism business or charity that deserves be highlighted on our 5 minute series? Let us know by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
* All photos by Viaggi Solidali