When things shut down, luxury tourism steps up

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Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

The global Covid-19 pandemic has, obviously, been devastating to the travel industry. But the impacts on the travel ecosystem go way beyond the immediate frontline workers.

The loss of tourism impacts everything from conservation efforts in Africa to food banks and shelters that receive unused food from hotels.

Some luxury companies, despite their own economic woes, are stepping in to help fill the gaps.

Citing a recent New York Times article about an increase in poaching in South Africa, Natural Habitat Adventures earlier this month kick-started a fund to help tourism workers who have lost their income.

The company said it was donating $25,000 and would offer a $250 travel credit for every $250 contributed.

"This health crisis has quickly become a conservation crisis, as well," the company said. "Poaching is on the rise as lost income drives local people to look for alternate ways to support their families. And without well-meaning visitors like us, and dedicated staff on site at safari camps and other key locations, there are fewer eyes watching out for the welfare of endangered species."

At the center of the issue, Nat Hab said, "is the vulnerability of local people who just months ago worked to care for our guests and who are now unemployed."

"They are vital to the protection of our planet's wildlife and wild spaces  and many of them are also among the most vulnerable people on the planet. Without income from our trips, they are facing hunger, sickness and an inability to support their families. In many cases, 15 or 20 individuals may depend on the income of one tourism worker."

In an update on its efforts this week, Nat Hab said it had raised $100,000. And its first disbursement of $10,000 went out on April 17. That money, it said, will sustain the families of 20 camp staff in Kenya for two months, 30 local staff in Madagascar for a month, the family of a local guide in India who is on the front lines of tiger conservation for a few months, and a month's worth of food and health care expenses for 27 boat crew members in the Galapagos.

A number of other luxury travel companies and hotels are also stepping in to help their workers and communities.

This week, the Rosewood Hotel Group announced it had created a nonprofit Rosewood Raise, a relief fund to support the company's associates and communities that have been affected by Covid-19. In addition to raising money, the company has provided complimentary accommodations for hospital workers in China; free meals and delivery for essential personnel in Bangkok and Montecito and hospital workers in London, Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi; and made numerous food bank donations worldwide. The fund also has initial monetary pledges of $2 million from Rosewood executives.

In the Los Cabos area of Mexico, Solmar Hotels & Resorts https://www.solmar.com/ said that its Solmar Foundation is putting all of its efforts behind educating small, poverty-stricken communities about the pandemic. Volunteers are sharing hygiene instructions as well as food and other supplies.

In the Dominican Republic, the Karisma Foundation said its Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana is supplying and delivering more than 800 meals daily to families in the Dominican Republic.

In Spain, the NH Hotel Group has opened the kitchens of two of its hotels in collaboration with World Central Kitchen and the #ChefsForSpain initiative to help feed people with limited resources.

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