Written on 5th October 2017 by Steph Bryant

Ethical incentive trips: how can you drive positive change in travel and tourism?

Travel offers an opportunity to experience different cultures, taste new and exciting foods, and get close to wildlife you’ve only ever seen on TV. Yet even today there are many ethical issues to consider when it comes coordinating an incentive trip programme, especially for countries that promote wildlife tourism or traditional cultural experiences.

As a leading corporate events agency, The Appointment Group Global Events understand that it must take responsibility to raise standards in the travel and tourism industry as a whole, and that’s why the team encourage clients to enjoy incentive trips with an ethical focus. By keeping well-informed of destinations and their touristic highlights, you can support responsible organisations whilst raising awareness of the damaging ones.

It is worth noting that a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) mission no longer needs to be separate from employee rewards and business goals. A CSR-friendly incentive trip is the ultimate win-win: companies succeed in rewarding and motivating their staff, while employees soak up unique learning experiences along the way.

Can elephant tourism ever be ethical?


In recent times, a whole industry has emerged around providing elephant ‘experiences’ and rides, but many travellers are unaware of the cruelty that takes place behind the scenes. These companies are gradually being exposed for the horrifying truths of elephants being abused and tortured for human gain. For example, it has been reported that keepers have starved and beaten the elephants to make them behave and perform in a certain way. Elephants used for riding also often die prematurely of severe exhaustion.

As an event planner, you can make a conscious decision to boycott the companies who treat these magnificent creatures so poorly. We recommend that you promote a responsible experience, directing your delegates to learn about the elephants in an ethical way. The Appointment Group recognises that it is important for event planners to be up to speed with the current trends in travel, such as elephant encounters, and find a way for delegates to have a unique experience that does not strain the natural environment. You can get up-close with these incredible animals in their natural environment at dedicated organisations such as the pioneering Elephant Nature Park in Chang Mai, Thailand – one of the country’s best-known conservation projects. Over 35 elephants roam freely here, many of which have been saved from exploitation in the tourist or logging trade. The Global Events team at The Appointment Group thoroughly research event destinations and consult local suppliers to ensure that their proposed itinerary reflects ethical travel and causes minimal impact on the area.

Choose responsible tiger experiences


The tiger tourism industry is growing at an alarming rate, with a third more captive tigers in the country today than five years ago. There are tiger entertainment venues and zoos where tigers are held captive and can be heavily drugged so tourists can use them as a prop in their ‘tiger selfie’. There is also evidence of these powerful wild cats being provoked and beaten by their keepers to get them to jump up and perform on demand for an audience.

This abusive exhibition of the tigers has unfortunately become a popular activity on many tourists’ checklists, so as an event planner you have the opportunity to show your delegates an alternative, respectful way to appreciate the wildlife. The Appointment Group’s event managers can develop a programme to show guests that admiring the tigers in their natural habitat is the best experience. There are responsibly managed tiger safari tours which do not harass the animals and make sure the money you pay is reinvested into national parks and tiger conservation. Attending these tours means that your delegates will be educated on the importance of respecting the wildlife and hopefully take this mind-set back home with them.

Consider alternatives to bullfighting


Bullfighting is a longstanding custom in Spain and many people consider it to be synonymous with the national heritage. However, in recent times, local governments are receiving continual pressure from animal rights activists to ban bullfighting due to the brutal treatment of the bulls and the performance of killing them. Whilst it is important for guests to be immersed in the traditions of an incentive destination, the event planner also needs to consider whether the activity would actually endorse something that clashes with the client’s CSR.

There are many ways to experience Spanish traditions without contributing to the controversial custom of bullfighting, such as sampling regional cuisine or even arranging a group flamenco dance class. The events managers at The Appointment Group aim to create fun and unique incentive programmes for your delegates that embrace the customs of a destination, whilst being conscious of the CSR.

If you’d like to find out more about the benefits of ethical and responsible incentive travel – wherever you are in the world – get in touch with The Appointment Group Global Events team today.

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