Travel that Gives Back
When Bob and Cindy Maynard first started arranging travel vacations for interested friends, leaving a positive impact on the communities they visited was integral to their vision. But what started out as a simple idea – a small gesture of philanthropy - has impacted the environments and communities of many around the world – including Y2Y!
Now celebrating its 35th year in operation, Country Walkers is one of the world’s top walking travel companies.
“From Y2Y’s perspective,” says Y2Y President, Karsten Heuer, “what makes Country Walkers truly world class is their commitment to sustaining the communities they visit.”
“Not only do their Canadian Rockies guests experience the wonders of Banff National Park and surrounding areas, but also they have the added benefit of knowing that a portion of their trip price is being reinvested back into this region. Their consumer choice is having a positive impact on the health of the Y2Y region so that their children can see grizzly bears and glaciers just as they have,” adds Heuer.
Giving Back Is A Guiding Principle
Giving back to the communities they visit has always been a guiding principle of Country Walkers whether that be by using local guides, visiting local sites or indigenous communities and more. But 10 years ago this guiding principle was taken to the next level and formalized through the creation of a Responsible Travel Committee.
“Guests would want to make donations to the local agencies, schools or organizations they met with while on trip,” explains Sonya Bradley, Manager of CW Safaris and a member of the Country Walkers’ Responsible Travel Committee. “But we had no formal way of making this happen. Now a portion of each guests’ trip price goes into a Travelers Fund, which gets distributed to local groups.”
It All Starts With One
To make a real impact, Country Walkers focuses their funds on approximately 10 projects per year. Y2Y first started benefiting from this program in 2010, when one of Y2Y’s supporters took a Canadian Rockies trip and asked if Y2Y could be invited to share our story with their guests.
From that first presentation, Country Walkers knew that Y2Y was a vision they wanted to support. “The vision resonates with the guests and the positive impact Y2Y’s efforts has on the landscape is evident every day guests hike through these mountains and valleys,” says Joe Flynn, Chair of Country Walkers’ Responsible Travel Committee.
Since that day, Country Walkers has donated more than $10,000 to Y2Y; this includes a special 35th Anniversary donation of $7,000 to our wildlife over and underpass overpass projects, which keep roads safer for wildlife and people too.
Impacting the World
This year alone Country Walkers will distribute $48,000 to various organizations around the world from supporting conservation efforts in the Y2Y region and Zambia to helping schools in Peru. While clearly Country Walkers has cultivated a strong internal culture of giving back, guests have also been and continue to be a supportive force of philanthropy. According to Country Walkers feedback forms, more than 90% of their guests rate responsible tour efforts a four or five on a five scale.
“We are so grateful to the crew and guests of Country Walkers,” says Heuer. “It takes real dedication to run a successful and profitable travel business that also practices sustainable travel. We applaud them.”