Earth Changers research and showcase the best positive impact, transformative tourism for people to find and book trips that truly change the world. We chat to the founder Vicky Smith.
What inspired you to begin an ethical business?
I’ve worked in tourism for over 20 years. I started my career in Ski, Lakes & Mountains as I loved the outdoors then got involved in web development, marketing and ecommerce from the late 90s. But the only jobs in that at the time were in mass market tourism, so I worked for media and big tour operators in the travel industry. A penny dropped on a personal trip to a friend’s wedding in Kenya in the early 2000s. I got a cheap deal through work at an all-inclusive to get there, and was excited to also go on safari, visit the shabeens (local bars) and chat on the beach with locals. But most people in the hotel didn’t set foot outside. They weren’t interested in local people, places, the environment or wildlife. They didn’t have anti-malarials, even insurance, they only wanted a cheap tan and the all-you-can-eat and drink buffet and bar. Turned out most of them booked through my work and I was horrified. This was not the tourism I loved or wanted to promote. From then on, I only wanted to work in sustainable, positive impact tourism. It was hard, because the market or jobs weren’t there for a long time. So I spent months volunteering and travelling in Africa, and wanted to start by own business then, but realised I didn’t know enough. So I juggled ecommerce tourism jobs and responsible tourism sidelines where I could, qualified as a safari ranger, did a Masters in Responsible Tourism Management at nights and weekends, volunteered as a charity challenge guide as holidays, and voluntarily organised monthly events and twitter chats, and eventually had enough work to freelance in sustainable tourism. Then a serious ski injury meant I bust my knee ligaments and had to have reconstruction surgery, which meant I couldn’t travel and couldn’t do my freelance work for the best part of a year. So I thought what better time to finally start my own business – it took 10 years to get there.
Tell us about your business – What do you do? How long have you been in business?
Earth Changers research & showcase the best positive impact, transformative tourism for people to find & book trips that truly change the world. We feature life-changing places, with world-changing people, for extraordinary experiences with purpose.
Where can your trip create positive impacts to help change the world? Book our unique curated collection of the best sustainable tourism from around the world to suit a variety of budgets and you can be an Earth Changer just by having an extraordinary experience.
We’ve been in tourism for over 20 years, sustainable tourism for 10, and launched as a business in March 2017.
What’s been your proudest moment in your business journey?
Launching a business from a year of injury, relative immobility and surgery, which was exhausting, isolating and exceptionally mentally challenging, both in terms of injury and business development.
It’s hard to take the risk and stick your head above the parapet with your own start-up and brand, in an industry you know and that knows you, in a different way. 9 months in and it just gets better; I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and how the most amazing partners like and support what I’m doing.
I’ve been selected as one of 4 projects in the UK on the Agora Social Enterprise Programme, supported by the well-known social entrepreneur who created the Bristol Pound and Real Economy. All four projects share a passion for sustainability, communities and making a positive impacts on earth.
I’ve also just been asked by one of the most known top industry veterans in the world to be on his council of advisors on impact travel. I’m not sure I could get a better industry acknowledgement.
What in life makes you feel grateful?
I care about sustainable community development and conservation, and how tourism can support that. When you’ve travelled and seen the world, including harrowing poverty, health, water, food charity issues, lack of access to education, jobs, energy… it puts your life in perspective.
Ultimately I’m all about equality of opportunity, between countries, people, race, colour, creed, age, gender… I’m grateful tourism done right can equalise some of that disparity.
I’m grateful for the extraordinary life I’ve had, the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, the perspective I’ve seen and the purpose it’s given me.
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Connection. With the people, purpose and places featured, with the wider public online as we engage, hopefully educate, see people affected by and positive impacts created by sustainable tourism social enterprise. Many have a spiritual connection too, which often comes from that ‘oneness’ with the Earth.
I also love wildlife, wilderness and travel but haven’t done much recently, between knee reconstruction and setting up a business! I hope to get away more next year, to visit partners, connect in incredible destinations and see for myself the amazing initiatives for communities and conservation.
What’s next on the horizon for your business? Anything exciting you would like to share?
We’ll be adding more and more places! Follow on social media to keep up with the latest:
Originally published at www.allethical.com