How would you like to spend your holidays this summer? How about to spice up your sightseeing with distributing food to homeless who in turn will guide you through the narrow streets of Lisbon? Or would you prefer teaching disabled kids to sail along the sunny coasts of Portugal? Rita recently launched socially driven travel agency called ImpacTrip and invites you to visit her beautiful homeland. Get inspired by ImpacTrip vision:
Connect with Rita on Facebook or visit ImpacTrip websites.
1) What inspired you to start ‘a little bit different’ travel agency?
ImpacTrip is in fact different from the traditional travel agencies. The idea just happened naturally. I was traveling on my own through Indonesia, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia and met people who wanted to travel like me, not just checking Top 10 lists of cities or simply visiting a place by bus but, instead, meeting the locals, absorbing the culture and leaving a positive mark wherever we would go. Volunteering seemed to be the path to go but it was really difficult to differentiate the only-for-profit-and-fake volunteer work to attract tourists from the really meaningful and impactful work that would benefit communities. After the trip, I realized voluntourism had the potential to give a great contribution to the places receiving tourists but was not properly organized. Then I realized I wanted to organize different trips that make a difference. And that was the beginning of a project that later became ImpacTrip.
Today ImpacTrip is a social enterprise starting to get noticed by the international community of travellers who look for alternatives to travel in a more responsible way. Dive to clean the Atlantic Ocean, sail along the Algarve Southern coast to help institutionalized children, visit Lisbon guided by a knowledgeable homeless individual or relax in a fairy tale-like rural village while supporting disabled people in their therapies: these are only some examples of the voluntourism experiences ImpacTrip offers.
ImpacTrip is a socially-driven travel agency that fights social inequality through Voluntourism in Portugal. Our mission is to provide a meaningful and unforgettable travel experience that allows the traveller to know the Real Portugal and has a positive social impact on the places they visit.
2) Why have you decided to start socially responsible travel in Portugal and not for example in Africa?
The answer to that question is one of our fundamentals. Our vision is that you don’t need to travel to the other side of the world to make a difference. We believe we can start in Europe that has so many social problems. This is not just in Africa or Asia, they exist here too, in Portugal, a developed country in Europe.
This is what we want to change, that only Africa needs people volunteering. We started in Portugal and we want to create a strong positive impact.
We are not a volunteer organization, we combine the places people would like to spend they holidays in and unknown wonderful other places with an opportunity to do something good there. Let’s call it positive footprint.
3) What kind of experiences do you offer to travellers?
Where do you want to go? Portugal has so much to offer… so many different experiences. Do you want to visit Lisbon like a local and see beyond the touristic side? Do you prefer to enjoy the beach and sail with disabled kids? Do you want to discover the Best European Destination 2014, Porto, and be guided by a special guide? Or would you rather relax in a little countryside village participating in therapies with people with disabilities? Maybe something more adventurous like diving to pick up trash? Well, maybe even a week with friends building a house to a needing family in the North?
You can check all our programs on our website and find the one most suitable for you.
4) Can you give us some examples of organisations you work with and how people can really benefit the local community?
We work with several kinds of organizations all over the country, from big ones like CASA to small ones like Somos Nós. We have a close relationship with each one of them and we know the way they work.
There are so many things you can do to help… From cooking meals for homeless, cleaning a retirement house garden, teaching people with disabilities how to recycle or fix a broken computer. It really depends on your skills and motivations.
We work with institutionalized children, discrimination, homeless, disabled people, elderly, sustainability, women empowerment, and families with financial problems.
5) Working with local people is a personal experience we tend to remember for long time. Are you thinking about creating some kind of social network around the agency?
That’s exactly what we want people to feel, that it was a meaningful experience that change the way people look at travel, how they look at the world around them.
We are improving our website so people can create a more personalized profile to help us to make a better match between voluntourists and volunteer activities.
Let’s see if we can create a strong network of voluntourists.
6) As you work with wide range of organisations, how do you match traveller’s interests and preferences with the local needs?
Local organizations have different needs. Travelers have different preferences and skills. Our job is to find the best match between what our social partners need and what travelers want to teach, give, contribute… Imagine you study Painting and there is a social organization that needs to paint a new room for children with disabilities, that’s a good match. Imagine you are a nurse, you can teach kids the importance of studying and inspire them to dream about their future. It can also be simple things, like those I mentioned before, which can be done by anyone and everyone.
We always do a better job when we do what we like so if travellers prefer contributing to a social organization working with street animals or children or homeless for example, we match them with those partners to maximize their contribution and give them the best experience.
7) Getting practical – what kind of trip and accommodation options do you offer and what languages are the tours in? How can people get in touch with you – do they need to book the trip on your websites or can they contact you directly in Lisbon? If I am independent traveller, can I mix and match?
Let’s get practical. You have 2 options, you can book 1 day experience that includes an alternative guided tour, a typical lunch at a local restaurant and volunteer activity, or you can book a program of 2, 3, 4 days or 1 week including accommodation and activities for that period. In terms of accommodation you can choose between a hostel and a hotel and tours are in English but it can be in French, Spanish, Italian or other language if booked in advance. Even if you are alone or in a small group, tell us and we can mix you with other awesome travellers.
If anyone has any question, you can always contact me through firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be more than happy to chat with you.
8) What is your favourite place in Portugal you would recommend me to visit?
Good question… Actually it is almost a secret. It is close to where I live. Between a mountain and the beach, there is a little track that leads you to a little cave which is open to the ocean. You can see the pure blue and green colors of the water, the golden beaches on the left, a giant rock in the middle of the water, and na Island far away. It’s super peaceful, not many people know it so it is my personal favorite place. It’s located in Arrábida, a protected natural area with one of the most amazing views of the country, just 40km away from the Capital. Yes, that is something I would recommend you to visit yes.
9) What are your plans and aspirations? How do you envision agency will look like in 10 years?
We plan to launch more programs in Portugal this year, especially in the rural areas of the interior of the country. Then we want to expand to Europe and develop really innovative voluntourism programs and close relationships between social organizations to foster cooperation.
My vision of ImpacTrip in 10 years is that we will show everyone that, if done right, voluntourism can in fact be a great way of fighting social inequality and have a positive environmental footprint.
10) Is there anything you would like to add?
I just want to invite you all to visit Portugal this year and try voluntourism with your friends or family. Check our website and find the Best program for you.