Impact tourism: When doing good is not enough

by Linda Hohnholz, eTN editor

It is about generating, in an organized and strategic manner, tourism company and visitor support for local community projects through partnerships.

Impact hospitality is more than a trend – it’s a mantra for many in hospitality and tourism. It is about integrating impact tourism into the core experience of responsible travel to ensure healthy communities are the basis for a healthy tourism sector.

Let’s use Baltimore as an example. Here, Hotel Revival, opened in 2018, is pushing boundaries in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood, using tourism to uplift local businesses and voices in unique ways. Coining and embodying the term, “Impact hospitality” at its best, Hotel Revival provides a modern model of thinking that many in the industry would do well to adopt lead by trailblazer, Donte Johnson. 

It all started with a simple mission: Make Lives Better. Looking beyond the pandemic, however, this mission has only become more important at Hotel Revival, a boutique property that’s part of JDV by Hyatt Hotels. Along with the Georgetown Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation, the hotel began its social impact programs in 2020. It even hired its first Director of Culture & Impact, Jason Bass. By focusing on small local businesses and entrepreneurs, the hotel is creating opportunities for the local community to thrive alongside the hospitality industry. 

The effects have been visible.

The hotel partnered with local minority-owned businesses including Black and women-owned Lor Tush to provide bamboo toilet paper, and Black-owned Black Acres Roastery to provide in-room coffee. Its popular Zero Proof Zero Judgment menu at the hotel’s bar showcases how Hotel Revival’s team is thinking outside the box to make sure everyone can benefit from what happens within its walls.

This all ladders up to Visit Baltimore’s President and CEO Al Hutchinson’s strategy and larger approach to make the city of Baltimore through the Visit Baltimore more equitable and inclusive through initiatives such as the Warm Welcome Program. 

Across Baltimore, similar examples are everywhere and through visitation, travelers can participate in the greater impact of hospitality in Charm City.

The American Visionary Art Museum’s new director, Jenenne Whitfield, is also looking to continue the museum’s work in promoting social justice and inclusivity through its exhibitions. By creating a showcase of self-taught artists, this nationally recognized museum equalizes the playing field and gives a voice to nontraditional and underrepresented voices in America.

Even on Baltimore’s dining scene, at the newly renovated Lexington Market, vendors are looking to go beyond just curing people’s hunger, highlighting local businesses by Black entrepreneurs. Tossed Together, for example, offers fresh produce and smoothies and is now open at the new Lexington Market. Owner Tselane-Danielle Holloway seeks to make healthy eating accessible to the local community. 

It doesn’t stop at food.

Also in the market, Black-owned Urban Reads features books primarily by Black authors as well as prisoners, expanding owner Tia Hamilton’s groundbreaking community bookstore at Lexington Market.

The local leaders behind these attractions are constantly saying “yes” to new ideas that benefit the communities around them. While many in the travel industry are struggling to find ways to better their local communities through their businesses, local Baltimore businesses are leading by example.

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