The travel industry is filled with buzzwords that essentially segment the industry into different niches. You’ve heard of cultural tourism, culinary tourism, educational tourism, ecotourism, adventure tourism, and volunteer tourism or voluntourism.
Here is another emerging travel concept – humanitourism, described as “travel combining humanitarian projects with adventure tours designed to create longer term relationships between travelers and communities.” The core idea of humanitourism is recreational altruism, so is it a variant of voluntourism? Is humanitourism a hybrid of volunteer travel and adventure travel? Does humanitourism work to dissolve the line between traveler and community?
We interviewed Zoe Katsulos, the originator of this proprietary travel concept of humanitourism and the founder of the new travel company, Inside/Out. She noted that humanitourism is about “this connection between land, culture, and people which takes sustainability to a much larger scale — the connection of humanity and a sustainable world.” She described to us how her company’s trips are different.
Tell us about your company Inside/Out. How did you come up with the name?
The name represents many aspects of who we are. One is our slogan “journeys for your INner self in the OUTdoors.” Another part is that we believe in being healthy on the inside (physically) to do well in the outside. Yet another is that sometimes projects and problems can be solved from the inside out.
How did you get started in this business?
I’ve been teaching, leading and guiding in the outdoors for about 10 years. I’ve always enjoyed it but also really wanted to make a difference in the world. I decided I could use the skills, knowledge and experience I have to create opportunities to bring groups together to contribute to meaningful humanitarian projects, fulfill adventure desires and really connect people with the places they visit by doing that.
How is humanitourism different from voluntourism?
Humanitourism is designed to provide an intimate connection with the people, the culture and the land through various channels and provides an even balance, half volunteer work and half guided adventure travel. Voluntourism is usually just volunteer work in another location or country. Humanitourism fulfills on both the volunteer and tourism ends, because people get that additional connection to the land and the culture by participating in adventure activities that are local or indigenous. Our adventures are also fully guided and planned, not just add-on options. We do all of our activities, volunteer and adventure, in a very, very close proximity to create a real connection between the travelers and the people, land and culture. It’s not just about touring or contributing, but really making a difference in the big picture and promoting understanding and world community.
Describe one of your trips.
Greece: This trip is designed for people who want to make a difference in the lives of animals and the people who help them. Our contacts all speak English. Our project and adventure is in the Zagoria region, a magnificently beautiful part of the country. While foreigners vacation in the islands, the Greeks vacation in Zagoria. It offers a different perspective on Greece than the highly touristed areas. We will provide hands-on assistance in education, care and feeding programs for the neglected, abused, abandoned and mistreated dog popluation of the area around Ioannina. Following our humanitarian work in Ioannina, we will embark on an adventure tour, sampling activities in the local area, including trekking, rafting, sea kayaking/canoeing, culture and history. The area is known for its rich history, geographic variety and spectacular scenery. Historic regions offer a rare glimpse of life in ancient Greece. We will be joined on our adventure by Lakis, a lifelong native of the area who has explored the area extensively throughout his life and has an intimate knowledge of the landscape. When we return to Athens, we will have an amazing group dinner with animal welfare advocates in the Athens region to be inspired by their commitment and ongoing tireless efforts to make change in their own country.
How many trips do you do each year? Where to?
We are doing 3 this year to Greece, Africa, and Guatamala and hope to do 6 next year. After that, I hope to be able to launch a lot more so that we can help more people and projects. We will accomplish that through the sustainable aspect of how we work with local guides and groups.
Do you partner with local groups? If so, how did those relationships come about?
Yes, most definitely. This is an integral part of our model. We do a lot of work to seek out local guides and groups that need our support and also those that we can help to develop to provide their own tour work. Our goal is to help train them to develop their own services and provide economic support locally.
What is the local partners’ level of involvement?
It varies, but we want them as involved as possible because that makes the experience more authentic. That is part of the connection with the people and culture.
Aside from the humanitourism aspect, what sets your company apart from other tour companies?
- We combine a balance of volunteer work with adventure travel, for an authentic and connecting experience beyond voluntourism. We also have the best of both worlds with structure and flexibility. Days are planned and led while evenings remain free to explore and enjoy.
- A portion of the trip cost is designated to help the project and people we visit and work with.
- Our adventures are fully guided, organized and structured into the trips and are included in the trip price. At the same time, the adventures are flexible, should one decide that any of the components are not for him/her.
- Our travel and work on projects is socially responsible and sustainable. We use local providers for local travel and work side by side with members of the community on our projects.
- Our participation in projects is welcomed, meaningful and tangibly engaging. We work with projects that genuinely need our help. We are actively participating, not just visiting or “sightseeing” through a project.
- We provide the opportunity to truly get to know and experience the area and the people, concentrating the stay in one or two areas rather than skipping around to many different places with no time for connection.
- Participants also receive hands-on photo workshops throughout the trip to help bring home more compelling images and to give skills that will carry forward. I have 27 years of experience in photography with people, travel and the outdoors.
To learn more about trips that have authentic adventures and help local communities retain the profits and invest in their future, visit Inside/Outside’s website.