Travel creates opportunities to try new things, learn about the world, meet inspiring people, be active, and disconnect from daily life. But travel has largely come to a standstill and the tourism industry has required novel solutions to survive. Our guest today will discuss how he’s making it possible for underprivileged young people to gain travel experiences and the benefits from travel in order to help transform their lives –and help keep tourism providers afloat. Listen to this week’s episode of Talk Travel Asia podcast to learn about how tourism can help children in Asia by Sharing the Wonder.
Over the years, Talk Travel Asia has regularly explored the topic of responsible travel and how to have a positive impact while exploring Asia. Previously, we’ve tackled topics including Overtourism and the preservation of the places we visit in order to enjoy them in the future, and we often feature organizations that offer great tourism experiences, including Andaman Discoveries and the Living Irrawaddy Project. Today we’ll chat with Ameer Virani, Group Sustainability Coordinator at Asian Trails, who will tell us about his project, Share the Wonder, and discuss how tourism can help children in Asia by making a positive impact even in the toughest of times.
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Scott: Pre-COVID, there were so many more people traveling and we needed to really consider how we traveled as we were on a course to quickly destroy the places we were visiting. It had actually gotten easier to travel with a purpose and have a positive impact than it was a decade ago. Now things are entirely different.
Trevor: Our guest today was working in Myanmar, which… setting aside the current political situation, would have had a tourism collapse from COVID alone. The collapse there, I think, is most prominent because it had grown so quickly and then the rug was pulled out. But even in Siem Reap where the majority of tourism providers may not reopen, we may lose some of our greatest experience providers. Not the temples, but organizations like Rehash Trash.
Scott: Domestic tourism has picked up some slack in Thailand, keeping certain businesses afloat.
Trevor: Here in Cambodia, I worked with Impact Hub to help local tourism providers pivot to domestic tourism. I thought it was great how Phare (the Cambodian Circus) and Bambu Stage had been collaborating, with Bambu Stage puppeteers performing at a local food court before the main circus show at Phare in Siem Reap. Then there was the “buy circus tickets for a local family” initiative, which was a great idea, similar to what Ameer is doing, I believe. Now everyone is struggling to make it possible to reopen when tourists return.
Ameer Virani, founding partner of Share the Wonder.
Today we’ll chat with Ameer Virani, who has worked in tourism in Asia for a number of years. Trevor and I both know Ameer as our former colleague at EXO Travel, during which time he was the Product Manager in Myanmar. Ameer moved to Vietnam just before the COVID crisis. Shortly thereafter, however, he teamed up with three other passionate individuals to found Tourism in Need, which connects travelers who care with responsible tourism organizations struggling through the COVID-19 crisis, and now Share the Wonder, which offers tourism experiences to local children. Today he joins us online from Hoi An, Vietnam to talk about Share the Wonder, his latest project.
Listen to episode 127 – Share the Wonder with Ameer Virani to learn how Tourism can help Children in Asia.
- When did you first come to Asia to live?
- Tell us how you got involved in tourism, particularly here in Asia?
- How did your tourism work lead to being more involved in the sustainability aspect of the business?
- What are you doing these days?
- What is Share the Wonder?
- How does experiencing tourism activities or attractions benefit these kids?
- How do you raise funds?
- What’s the rough cost of sending a kid on a trip?
- What countries do you operate in and what are some of the experiences kids can have?
- Why did you select these four countries: Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam?
- Which program is closest to your heart?
- One year on, how has the program evolved? Can you still operate in some countries with current COVID conditions?
- What do you see as the longer-term benefit for the overall tourist experience?
- Share one of your favorite success stories?
- How will this program evolve post-COVID as tourists return to these destinations?
- How do you see this program changing as Asia opens up and tourists start returning?
- When tourism inevitably comes back, what do you think will be the major responsible travel issues travelers should keep in mind when planning their trip?
- How can travelers get involved and learn more about what you do?
About Share the Wonder: how Tourism can help Children in Asia.
Share the Wonder creates inspiring and eye-opening travel experiences for underprivileged children in Southeast Asia through partnerships with children’s NGOs and responsible travel organizations. Share the Wonder is currently seeking funds to send more underprivileged children on amazing day trips. Click here to donate or learn more: https://www.sharethewonder.org/
Your contribution to Share the Wonder, however big or small, will help make a difference in the lives of young people living on the streets and in the slums of Phnom Penh. A donation of $25 will support one child to join a day tour with a difference. 100% of donations go towards the day trips they organize as all administrative costs are covered by project partners.
Learn more about Responsible Travel in Asia:
- Share the Wonder
- The Rosie May Foundation
- Tourism in Need
- Angkor Hospital for Children
- Highland Farm Gibbon Sanctuary
- Episode 12: Phare, The Cambodian Circus with Craig Dodge
- Episode 26: Responsible Tourism with Bodhi Garrett
- Episode 93: Irrawaddy Dolphins with Paul Escho
- Episode 83: Responsible Travel with Shannon Stowell
- Episode 79: Reusable Water Bottles with Dean McLachlan and Christian de Boer
- Episode 76: Travel light and Responsible
- Episode 51: Volunteering while Traveling with James Sutherland of Friends Intl.
- Episode 115: Traveling by Tuk Tuk with Julian Carnall