20-year anniversary for US foundation Tourism Cares

Year 2023 sees the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the US-based non-profit Tourism Cares. The foundation can look with pride to two decades of impact in sustainable tourism.

USA leading travel industry non-profit Tourism Cares celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, marking two decades of impact programming in the sustainable tourism space.

Tourism Cares, begun by the merging of USTOA’s Travelers Conservation Foundation and NTA’s National Tour Foundation, became an independent non-profit in 2003. Marked by the launch of the Tourism Cares for America give back project on Ellis Island in New York City, the event was then the first of its kind, drawing more than 300 travel and tourism professionals from all sectors and segments of the industry to join together in volunteerism, uniting competitors and collaborators alike.

“In the beginning, Tourism Cares was unlike any organization that existed in travel,” recalls Bruce Beckham, founding Executive Director of Tourism Cares. “For the first time, we met on an even playing field where giving back was our great equalizer. The goal for all was to leave a positive impact on the local community or historic site and at the same time create real and genuine business connections through the collaborative effort. That was the icing on the cake for attendees. We started a movement that day on Ellis Island in 2003 that has propelled us around the world and continues to be the inspiration for Tourism Cares – being a force where the entire industry can gather, united in purpose.”

International footprint

Since that historic day on Ellis Island, Tourism Cares has become an organization committed to addressing some of the world’s greatest challenges. Through events and programs focused on the social, environmental, and economic well-being of tourism communities, Tourism Cares has been moving the needle in the sustainable tourism space. In the U.S., Peru, Jordan, Colombia, and Canada, Tourism Cares has brought together tourism and travel companies, inspiring them to use their businesses to better serve the destinations to which they send their customers.

Other major achievements of Tourism Cares include absorbing the scholarship programs of IATAN, the International Air Transport Association Network, and ASTA, the American Society of Travel Agents, in 2006; launching the Destination Disaster Recovery Grant Program in 2016; and launching the Diversity in Tourism Grant Fund in 2021.

“To have been at Ellis Island and involved with this organization for twenty years is a highlight of my career. Tourism Cares represents the people and places of travel, dedicated to the people and places of travel. It has always been that way and will continue to be. We were born from volunteerism and now, we set the course for our industry’s sustainability journey through convening, education, and training,” says Greg Takehara, CEO of Tourism Cares.

“We will never stop rolling up our sleeves to do the work necessary. Our experiences are collaborative, meaningful, and inspiring, and most importantly demonstrate the need for all sectors of our industry to come together. We will forge ahead in the next twenty years and continue to protect the assets that are at the center of the travel experience. It is critical for us to do so, together,” he adds.

To celebrate such a milestone, Tourism Cares will launch special programming this year in the spirit of industry collaboration with new partners. For the first time in Europe, Tourism Cares hosts its Tourism Cares with Norway Meaningful Travel Summit in partnership with Innovation Norway and USTOA’s Sustainability is Responsibility (SIR) event. In October, Tourism Cares will launch a new event, The Power of Partnership Stewardship Summit, with three partners: The Cultural Heritage Economic Alliance, The Travel Foundation, and the US Cultural and Heritage Marketing Council.

The Tourism Cares Meaninful Travel Map

Another initiative is the unveiling of its new Tourism Cares Meaningful Travel Map, marking a significant step in
transforming the industry into a collective entity focused on using travel as a force for good.

Presented earlier in June, the newly relaunched Meaningful Travel Map is a B2B tool that helps the travel trade and sustainably minded visitors easily source authentic, community-led experiences, products, services, accommodations and tours that can be added to itineraries, creating a competitive advantage to the growing consumer demand for responsible travel and providing direct impact on the people and places of travel. The platform is hosted by Tourism Cares’ partner Wander, which empowers destinations with technology to deliver exceptional map experiences.

“Through our innovative programmes, such as our Meaningful Travel Summits and the development of our Meaningful Travel Map, we have been able to generate significant impact for local communities and social enterprises around the world. We are excited for this next phase of programming with our expanded map and its ability to diversify the travel supply chain to incorporate more impactful, locally led tourism experiences that will benefit destinations and the people that call those places home,” describes Greg Takehara.

The theme of Tourism Cares’ anniversary year is one of unity, collaboration, and a shared vision for the future. Tourism Cares would like to thank its founding partners for supporting that vision from the start, the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), the National Tour Association (NTA), and the more than 19 travel and tourism association partners, including strategic Association partners, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA/IATAN).

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