Tourist Interaction With Local Communities Spurs Giving, Survey Finds

More than half of Americans said they did some kind of volunteer work or donated to a cause at a destination where they vacationed within the last two years, according to a new survey commissioned by a nonprofit that supports the travel industry. Giving to communities they visited was especially important among millennials, families, and affluent households. Projects that provide basic needs like food, water, and shelter were the top priorities for 42 percent of travelers, followed by support for education, community development, and health care.

A total of 2,551 respondents participated in the survey, which was conducted by Phocuswright, a travel-industry research group, and supported by sponsors including American Express, Delta Air Lines, and the United States Tour Operators Association. The analysis was based on 507 representative “givers” of the general population with annual incomes of at least $50,000. Domestic travelers made up 30 percent of the pool, and for the international travelers, the most popular destinations were Europe, Mexico, Canada, and Central America.

Among the findings:

  • On average, tourists who reported the highest levels of interaction with local communities gave almost double the amount of cash and more than four times the level of in-kind donations than those with the lowest levels of community engagement. About a third of affluent travelers said the greatest motivation for their giving was site visits. Fifty-seven percent of those with a high level of interaction said they gave again to the cause after returning home.
  • Compared with other generations, millennial tourists were the most generous in providing volunteer hours and financial and in-kind gifts. During their most meaningful trips within the past two years, 81 percent of millennials said they volunteered, 78 percent donated cash, and 83 percent made an in-kind gift. Compared with travelers 55 and older, that’s twice as many volunteer hours, three times the cash, and four-and-a-half times the supplies.
  • More than half of travelers with annual incomes above $100,000 said it was very or extremely important in their travel spending and giving to benefit local communities. A third in that income group said they made an additional contribution to causes — they supported after returning home. The number of affluent travelers who gave to health care-related causes was nearly three times that of those earning less.
  • Families who traveled with children contributed more volunteer time and in-kind services than others. Seventy-one percent of those who traveled with children said that giving nonmonetary donations was very or extremely important. During their most meaningful vacations, families with children provided an average of 38 volunteer hours.