Undiscovered locations, exotic destinations and travel trends have been driving the billion-dollar travel industry to new heights every year.

In less than 30 years, global tourism has increased exponentially. According to the World Tourism Organisation, 1990 saw 435 million international tourist visits, and soon after, 2018 followed up with 1.4 billion (in perspective, this is 1400 million) international tourist visits yearly. 

For Alex Malcolm, Founder and Managing Director of Jacada Travel, tourism is more than just about growing the economy:  “Travel has always been a passion of mine, but the real spark for me came from my time living in Brazil. Spending time living in a country that I loved, I got to know so many aspects of the destination that the conventional tourist wouldn’t have access to in a short period of time.” 

His company, Jacada Travel, is a platform that aims to create private, bespoke luxury tours for travellers to experience “special, authentic moments without having to actually live in the country,” so when they reached out to us about a new travel trend, impactful travel, we thought it would be a great opportunity to find out more.

impactful travel travel trend
Alex Malcolm, Founder and Managing Director of Jacada Travel (Image credit: Jacada Travel)

Impactful travel has been highlighted as one of the latest travel trends that we will be seeing this year. Could you share what exactly is impactful travel? 

Simply put, it means to make a positive impact through travel in everything that you do. It’s not just where you stay during your travels, but also what you do. Many traditional holiday activities harm natural environments – even things like amateur hiking can cause damage.

The whole concept focuses on activities that minimize impact and build cultural awareness and respect. From guided local tours to coastal ecotourism experiences, this type of experiential travel gives travellers the chance to not only have an incredible experience but to give back, and this is at the heart of what we do at Jacada Travel.

What does impactful travel even mean in the trend-driven travel industry today?

It may be a trend-driven industry, but impactful travel is more than a trend, it is here to stay. We in the travel industry have a responsibility to lead by example, and we’ve noticed that travellers are now more than ever feeling that shared sense of responsibility too.

What is the difference between impactful travel and sustainable travelling? 

At its core, impactful travel and sustainable travel share the same goals and approach to the economic, environmental and socio-cultural impact of travel. Sustainable tourism focuses on long-term, global issues and the tourism industry as a whole whereas impactful travel/responsible travel focuses more on travel and tourism as a way of making better places for people to live in a better place for people to visit. 

impactful travel travel trend
Jacks Camp, Botswana (Image credit: Jacada Travel)

Why is impactful travel so important? 

We really love and respect the places that we send people to, so it’s only natural that we want to protect and nurture them. It’s an unfortunate fact that the travel industry contributes towards global emissions, and as leaders in the industry, we have a responsibility to implement a low-impact, high-value model.

It goes beyond visiting the main tourist attractions, it is about identifying those accommodation options that offer local employment and training and re-invest in the local communities. It is about working with local guides, dining in local restaurants rather than big, multinational chains, purchasing gifts from artisans. It is about putting animal welfare first. It is about supporting projects that work hard to preserve biodiversity

As a tourism professional, do you think that this is a trend that is likely to continue in the long run? 

Oh, without a doubt. We see ourselves in the travel industry as having a unique responsibility. We need not only to protect, but also to show people that there is a way to make an active difference, and that can start with a very comfortable trip that doesn’t mean sacrificing luxury. Now more so than ever, people want to know that the lodges and experiences they are supporting through their trips are doing good. It’s an uplifting and extremely proud experience. 

impactful travel travel trend
Chyulu Hills, Kenya (Image credit: Jacada Travel)

Tell us more about the impactful tours that Jacada helps to curate.

For me, Africa and Latin America really are the best in the game. We work with EcoCamp in Patagonia that is the region’s first fully sustainable hotel and the world’s first geodesic hotel, and of course, the countless lodges in Africa that we work with, who all have incredible programs that support and nourish local communities, conservation efforts, and sustainability.

There is one client story that I’ll never forget. It was a repeat client of ours and it was her second family trip to South Africa. Since her children were in a football league back home in Singapore, we organised a village football game between the family and some local youths, with the help of the non-profit that we work with, Uthando.

After spending almost two weeks immersed in a whole other world, the clients reached out to us post-trip requesting for our help to look into a way to start a project to raise funds for those less fortunate.  

Other than tours, how do we go about travelling with an impact on our own? 

First and foremost, choosing the right destination matters. Opting to go to a place like Sumba, versus Bali is a great way to travel impactfully while avoiding mass crowds. One of the most comfortable and caring ways to travel and see the world is by train. So instead of taking domestic flights, other forms of “slow travel” are win-win for all. Before heading out for the day, instead of using plastic bottles, take reusable ones and when it comes to guided tours, remember to stick to the pre-marked routes to avoid damage to sometimes delicate environments and ecosystems. 

impactful travel travel trend
Sumba, Indonesia (Image credit: Jacada Travel)

You mentioned that choosing the right destination matters when embarking on impactful travel. Are there ways where we can still travel with an impact while not sacrificing the destinations we decide to embark on? 

We understand that there will always be bucket list destinations that people will want to visit, so we can certainly still make a positive impact in those destinations. We strive to work with local people and businesses that benefit the local community in every destination that we offer, whether it’s in a well-known destination like Bali or the lesser-explored Sumba.

There are also plenty of small, yet impactful, ways to support a destination. For example, dining in local restaurants, supporting local artisans and performers, respecting local culture and wildlife; all of this has a positive impact, and if we are all just a little bit more conscious of this, we can make a difference.

Plan your once-in-a-lifetime journey with Jacada here

Jocelyn Tan
Jocelyn Tan is a travel and design writer. She's probably indulging in serial killer podcasts or reading one too many books on East Asian history. When she actually gets to travel, you can find her attempting to stuff her entire wardrobe into her luggage. Yes, she's a chronic over-packer.