A new tour operator focused on empowerment tourism in impoverished communities has launched to the Australian market, specialising in Vietnam, Cambodia and India.
Founder Simla Sooboodoo has selected experiences where you connect with communities to empower, rather than volunteer.
Hands On Journeys has a tour operating every month next year, after the first tour took place in 2015. Sooboodoo credits word of mouth, with new bookings from past client recommendations to the brand.
“What makes the journey unique is the projects. There are so many touring and volunteering programs, and I didn’t want to join either of them,” Sooboodoo said.
Hands On Journeys instead focuses on sustainability, with the projects beginning before the travellers even pack their bags. When they arrive to meet the locals, they engage and give the project, like constructing toilets, the finishing touches.
“There is a big difference between volunteering and empowering. The key is sustainability. It’s not up to us as an outsider to tell them how to live their lives when we haven’t done it ourselves,” Sooboodoo said.
Sooboodoo has experienced all the hotels and restaurants in the brochure itineraries, that range from a 16-day Cambodia and Vietnam, program priced from $2900 to a nine day Cambodia itinerary from $1685 and a 14-day India itinerary from $2300.
“The project has to be authentic. I’ve walked out on so many projects that are just on show. We ask questions: what they need, not this is what you need,” Sooboodoo said.
For the local market, corporate team building experiences are available in Sydney.
Founder Simla Sooboodoo is one of our Women in Travel subjects, so look out for her in September’s issue of Travel Weekly. For more information, see www.womenintravel.com.au