Travel industry award for lifetime achievement in giving launched

NEW YORK, NY - Tourism Cares, a nonprofit organization that unites the travel and tourism industry to support emerging and at-risk destinations, invest in the next generation of our workforce and impr

Travel industry award for lifetime achievement in giving launched

NEW YORK, NY – Tourism Cares, a nonprofit organization that unites the travel and tourism industry to support emerging and at-risk destinations, invest in the next generation of our workforce and improve industry philanthropy and volunteerism, has announced its first-ever Legacy in Travel Philanthropy Award. This new honor recognizes a leading travel company that has demonstrated continued corporate social responsibility through its lifespan. The award is part of the Tourism Hall of Fame, started in 1986 and long administered by Tourism Cares, and is sponsored by American Express. The first recipient of the Tourism Cares Legacy in Travel Philanthropy Award is Micato Safaris.

Micato Safaris’ core philanthropic programs address education in the Mukuru slum in Nairobi, Kenya: the School Sponsorship Program utilizes traveler donations to support youth attending boarding high schools (at about $1,650 per child, per year), and via the One for One Commitment, Micato pays the supplemental costs associated with sending one child to primary school for every safari sold (e.g. for books, uniforms).

The award celebrates the accomplishments of Micato Safaris and its associated nonprofit organization, AmericaShare. Through extensive research and the accompanying Honoree Brief, Tourism Cares also has made available Micato’s results and lessons in order to inform and inspire other travel and tourism companies.

A panel of industry leaders selected Micato Safaris and AmericaShare following a review of top travel companies who have demonstrated ongoing, exemplary corporate social responsibility. The selection committee was comprised of the following:

• Jena Gardner, President and CEO, JG Black Book Travel and the Bodhi Tree Foundation
• Dan Sullivan, CEO, Collette
• Arnie Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief, Travel Weekly
• Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, Co-President and Co-owner, Valerie Wilson Travel

Martha Honey, Co-Director of the Center for Responsible Travel, also contributed to the research.

Plans are underway to expand the Tourism Cares recognition program in 2015, to open nominations for the Legacy in Travel Philanthropy Award from the industry and to create additional award categories to recognize individuals and new entrants who demonstrate strong social responsibility values.

Micato Safaris and AmericaShare’s selection for the inaugural Legacy in Travel Philanthropy Award is based on their performance against five criteria. They were rated in these five dimensions against other leaders in travel corporate philanthropy. The criteria, and Micato’s results, are:

• Results over time: Micato’s interventions double the chances that Mukuru students attend and complete high school, with almost a 100 percent graduation rate for program participants, compared to about 50 percent for a similar population of boys and just 42 percent of girls.

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• Level of commitment and investment: Micato has invested in corporate social responsibility since its founding, and that accelerated in 1986 with the founding of the sister nonprofit, AmericaShare. While charitable donations and most program costs are housed in AmericaShare, Micato supports all program staff and administrative expenses, including 13 staff in Kenya and four in New York. Giving back has been a part of their DNA since their founding. “Since the first day we began operating our safaris in Africa nearly 50 years ago, we’ve been a part of a community, and it became clear to us early on that we couldn’t just witness and empathize with the community problems – the endangered, fragile habitats, and the poverty. We had to be part of the solution,” said, Dennis Pinto, managing director, Micato Safaris.

• Integration of social responsibility into their business: Community is an essential part of Micato’s business – and its client experience. Travelers are respectfully given the opportunity to sponsor a child’s education through the Scholarship Sponsorship Program. Most telling, the visit to their Harambee Community Center in Mukuru is mentioned twice as often in post-trip surveys as any individual game park (92 percent of clients mention Harambee by name, while 45 percent mention Serengeti).

• Sensitivity to destination needs: Through their deep connection with the community, Micato-AmericaShare identified that the needs of children with disabilities were not being met. This resulted in a partnership on the Virtuoso-Upchurch Learning Centre supporting disabled children from the community.

• Innovation: spurred by a need to keep girls healthy and in school, Huru International was formed in 2013 by Lorna Macleod, also executive director of AmericaShare, and has provided Huru Kits with sanitary pads, and HIV/AIDS and reproductive health information, to more than 100,000 Kenyan girls; they also employ 100 in Mukuru.

“We are humbled to be the first recipient of this award,” said Pinto. “What we have accomplished has been a labor of love and of business, both, over the years. Most importantly, it has taken the care and commitment of thousands of others who joined with us, from students and teachers and community leaders to employees and our travelers.”

“We are especially thrilled about what this new award means for the industry. Tourism Cares is travel and tourism’s community for giving and volunteering, and it’s important for any community to have exemplars to look to, for lessons and inspiration. I also look forward to seeing what Dennis, Lorna and the Micato-AmericaShare team does next. This award would not have been possible without the support of American Express, a leader in the travel industry and communities around the world,” said Mike Rea, CEO of Tourism Cares.

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