Travel may seem like a distant dream right now, but it will be back before we know it. With springtime just around the corner, vaccines rolling out, and lockdowns lifting, it’s not surprising that many of us are starting to think about where we want to go next. If you’re lucky enough to be at that early-planning stage, here are some travel and tourism companies doing interesting, off-the-beaten-track work that might be of interest for your post-COVID adventures.
This company’s goal is to connect travelers with local guides who can give them a unique insider’s perspective on the places they visit. It was created in 2008 by a Vancouver couple who had an awkward experience when they opted out of a bus tour and went without a guide. They realized there was a need for more intimate, personalized tours than the bus tours that are the norm.
The guides, all of whom are highly trained to ensure an optimal experience, are responsible for setting their own pricing, determining their availability, arranging transportation, and organizing the itinerary. From a press release: “CEO and Founder Paul Melhus is committed to partnering with professional, local experts, which means that when travelers book a ToursByLocals experience they are also directly supporting the local community in which they visit.”
Of particular interest to United States and Canadian travelers now is the wide range of domestic options available. Many tours focus on the great outdoors, and can take you to places reachable by train – no plane required. From cycling in the Black Hills of South Dakota and camping in the Grand Canyon, to wine-tastings in the Finger Lakes National Forest and hiking in Tent Rocks, New Mexico, there are options for everyone.
2. G Adventures
This award-winning travel company has created a series of “Active Tours” in Europe that reflect what travelers want in a post-COVID world – namely, to spend time outdoors, visit remote locations, and be more physically active. The 15 new tours that fall into this category are “designed to support local communities through community tourism, and to show travelers an alternative side of typically ‘mass market’ vacation destinations, as and when it comes time for them to ‘retravel’.”
Tours include hiking for six days in Ibiza, trekking along the coast of eastern Iceland, walking through Italy’s Piedmont and Barolo wine regions, staying in a Spanish cave hotel, visiting small fishing villages in Crete, and exploring the east coast of Greenland by boat and on foot, while avoiding the western side that’s popular with cruises. Other destinations include Slovenia, Cyprus, Madeira, the Azores, the Canary Islands, and more.
“In line with all G Adventures’ tours, the new collection of Active adventures in Europe features the latest health and safety measures that are part of G Adventures’ new ‘Travel with Confidence’ policy, and ensure travellers, staff, and local communities are protected.”
(Please note, these Active tours are currently 15% off until March 31/21 for travel by June 30, 2022.)
3. Responsible Travel
This U.K.-based “activist” travel company offers an impressive number of overland and sea voyages for people wanting to avoid air travel. Obviously, U.S. residents will have to fly to get there, but it’s an interesting way to slow down and see places from a new perspective upon arrival. For example, you can take a slow-moving trip from London to Cairo by rail, road, and cargo ship.
“It begins with a scenic rail route from London to Italy through the Swiss Alps, with time to disembark and explore as you go. It’s then a fascinating six-day voyage aboard a cargo ship to Israel, with stops normally in Greece and Turkey. Sharing this experience with just 12 fellow passengers, you’ll dine with the captain and crew and learn more about life on board. Then, with your local guide, it’s on to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for a few days before hitting the road to Egypt and a private tour of the Great Pyramids of Giza. You can also extend your journey south to Sudan.”
Responsible Travel offers many female-guided tours, for which demand has tripled in the three years before lockdown. It aligns with the United Nation’s 2021 theme of supporting Indigenous connections to forests, and believes that being a responsible tourist has “potential to generate substantial environmental and economic benefits and support the local people who not only rely upon, but help manage, these incredible places.” You can watch its two-minute video on how to prioritize nature-positive travel.
4. Intrepid Travel
A Treehugger favorite, this company has just launched Premium sustainable adventures for travelers willing to spend more money. These small-group, local-led tours are designed to “minimize travelers’ environmental footprint, while maximizing impact in local communities.” Travelers will stay in high-end accommodations that have local owners and use renewable or alternative energy sources.
A press release states, “A selection of trips will also visit social enterprise projects that are working to promote gender equality, animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and economic empowerment. As with all Intrepid Travel tours, the Premium range is 100% carbon offset.” Sample tours include staying at an eco-lodge in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, visiting the Ese Eja people of the Peruvian rainforest, traveling Morocco, and exploring Vietnam and Cambodia.
Intrepid is an outspoken supporter of “rebuilding responsibly” when it comes to traveling in a post-COVID world, while recognizing that many travelers want a more comfortable experience that also prioritizes sustainability.