Whenever the word “Travel” comes to everyone’s mind, one normally associates it with relaxation, de-stressing or simply getting away from reality. Typically, no one would imagine that travel could be as meaningful as creating social change, uplifting lives or simply giving back to the community after enjoying the destination. However, travel these days is equipped with more purpose, social and environmental relevance, less apathy and far lesser guilt. This is called Social Tourism, an emerging concept that simply says ‘tourism gives back’.
One of the first few organizations that applied this concept is the group called Island Hopping Adventure Philippines aka iHAP. Founded in California by best friends and travel buddies, Julius Santos and Sedi Win, this group takes adventure seeking tourist to the Philippines and leads them to island hopping escapades around the country’s best islands; frolicking in the shores, traversing mountains, chasing waterfalls, devouring local delicacies and partying to the island beat, to name a few.
But what makes this trip different from any typical Island Hopping Adventure is the opportunity for each participant to empower the local community through a program called “Social Footprint.” In this program, the organization selects beneficiaries within the destination and conducts a specific type of outreach program. Possible projects under the Social Footprint Program can range from simple projects like gift giving, feeding program, livelihood seminars to more complex projects like environmental rehabilitation, relief operations and medical missions.
In November 2012, the group embarked on their first trip to the Philippines bringing in 12 tourists, 10 of whom are first-timers in the Philippines. The tour was divided into four legs of action-packed island hopping adventure: