Perilous Times for Philanthropy Travel?
by Dinda Elliott
So here's the $64 million question: How much do you, as travelers, care about whether your hotel is trying to improve surrounding communities? Here's why I ask: This week, on the very same day, Bill Gates and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, two of the world's most generous philanthropists, reasserted their commitment to increase their giving, not decrease it, in light of the current economic downturn. This comes just at a time when we editors at Condé Nast Traveler are worrying about the future of corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects in the travel industry, a topic that has appeared regularly in the pages of our magazine--particularly in our annual World Savers feature. Travel industry heavies recently weighed in on this at an off-the-record brown bag lunch in the Condé Nast Traveler conference room. To find out what they said, read on. . .
The general consensus among top CSR honchos was that travelers care about hotels giving back to the community--but not enough to pay more to stay. The luncheon was part of a broad initiative on the part of Condé Nast Traveler, a commitment we made to the Clinton Global Initiative to engage the travel industry in a dialogue about social responsibility. We gathered top CSR officers from leading travel companies for a first-ever meeting on the topic. The executives stressed that their social responsibility projects will continue despite the economic crisis. Still, we wonder how the downturn will affect community outreach and poverty alleviation. Energy efficiency is one thing--wonderful for the environment and the bottom line. But what about community educational or water projects, for example? The travel industry has been slower to launch those types of initiatives. Will they be funded now, when hotels are struggling just to fill their beds?
Here's what Mayor Bloomberg had to say about his own philanthropy: "As the economy took a turn from bad to worse, I felt it was the right time--the essential time--for someone . . . who's been fortunate in my own life, to step up and give back even more." What do you travelers out there think the travel industry--worth some $8 trillion a year--should do?
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