14 Responsible Tourism Projects to Support After the Pandemic

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me miss candyfloss dress An article written by Nina Ahmedow*

As tourism in Europe is slowly opening up again (at least within the EU), many people are eager to get back to exploring different countries and relax after the psychologically taxing pandemic. As a travel blogger, I would love to get started with travel again. But I am cautious and prefer to wait and see what a possible second wave of infections will bring.

Nonetheless, for those who wish to start traveling again, I have put together a list of responsible tourism projects that are worth supporting. If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that as humans we need to find better ways to live with nature, the animals, and each other. While I’m a firm believer in the responsibility of big corporations and governments, I also believe that solidarity between individuals and support for positive projects is vital if we want to move in the right direction.

I sometimes wonder how people can travel to other countries without taking into account human rights and other social and political issues. But it’s not always easy to find projects that are worth supporting which is why I put together this list of responsible tourism projects.

As a general rule, I believe the smaller and more local a project is the more difficult it may be to get more insight into their work but the more serious you will find these initiatives to be. Once you get very powerful stakeholders involved the focus is most certainly going to switch from benefiting poor people, the environment, or local communities to financial gain for those who are already rich.

So here are some responsible tourism projects you should consider supporting.

Responsible Tourism Projects to Support

Plastic Fishing in Amsterdam

Starboard is a boat tour operator in the Dutch capital that offers private boat rentals and company cruises, on top of participating in the Amsterdam Light Festival. But it’s their canal cleanups that have caught my attention more than anything. In order to make tourism in Amsterdam more sustainable, the company organizes monthly plastic fishing trips. This is one of the very hands-on responsible tourism projects on this list where you see your impact immediately.

Photo courtesy of Starboard

But here’s the thing, very often these projects can be marketing schemes to attract tourists. You never really know what else a company really does to minimize their environmental footprint. But Starboard uses electric boats for their tours and makes sure that all the waste created on their boats is recycled. What’s more, the plastic that is fished out of the water during the canal cleanups is then turned into useful items, toys, or souvenirs.

Photo courtesy of Starboard

A Hostel For the Common Wellbeing in Athens

I’ve been living in Athens for six years now and have seen the effects of the financial and refugee crises in the city. And so, I couldn’t leave WELCOMMON Hostel off this list. This hostel in my old neighborhood of Exarcheia supports sustainable tourism but also focuses on arts, culture, and social change. After the elections last year, migrants and refugees in Greece have come under increasing pressure, and WELCOMMON Hostel is working towards their empowerment through language courses, professional training, and workshops to acquire useful skills.

The hostel is also accessible which is extremely rare in this city. If you want to see another side of Athens WELCOMMON Hostel is a project that can introduce you to social justice movements in the Greek capital and as such provide a ray of hope for a better future for everyone. All profits are donated to social and environmental projects that benefit those who really need them.

A Women’s Cooperative in Amman

Although women’s rights are one of the top priorities of the Jordanian government there is still a long way to go in their empowerment. Supporting projects that allow women to make an income on their own terms is something all travelers to Jordan can do. The Iraq al-Amir Women’s Cooperative helps women to be financially independent in a country where less than two-thirds of all women have employment. In general, women often don’t benefit from tourism directly so finding responsible tourism projects that involve women is very important to me.

And to make things better this happens with a focus on keeping the local culture and traditions alive. The women craft ceramics, paper, and soaps and also acquire the necessary skills to run a business. As a visitor, you can participate in one of their paper making workshops which makes for a meaningful experience. I truly believe everyone should travel to Jordan at least once. But it’s even better if you can combine your trip with a look into artisanal crafts.

wadi rum desert

Explore Indigenous Canada

I spent some months in Canada while in university, and there are definitely things I miss about living in Montreal. But aside from watching a lot of APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network), I didn’t really get to learn much about Canada’s Indigenous cultures. I imagine that tourists have even less of an opportunity to do so, but that’s where the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada steps in.

They list an abundance of Indigenous experiences and events on their website which you can even filter by region or culture. So whether you are looking for dedicated museums, Indigenous camps to stay in, want to go rafting, or see the aurora, there are ways to make Indigenous cultures a priority. I think on a trip to Canada it’s essential to support responsible tourism projects that involve Canada’s Indigenous population.

Discover Berlin Through the Eyes of Refugees

Guided tours are all the rage in Europe, and from free tours organized by students to pub crawls, there are a ton of options for travelers. But what about the people that are often spoken about and rarely given the platform to tell you about their cities? Querstadtein offers city tours led by refugees who now live in Berlin (or Dresden). These tours go beyond the typical sightseeing tours. The guides introduce you to aspects of their lives as refugees in Germany and the struggles they have to face.

For those who understand German, Querstadtein also offers tours by formerly homeless people who will tell you more about the people you pass every day but perhaps never take the time to get to know. While similar tours exist in other major European cities, there has been a lot of criticism regarding the motivation of both the tourists as well as the organization behind them. Do tours by homeless people turn homelessness into an attraction? How do they really help to provide shelter for those who need them? These are serious questions we must ask if we want to support truly responsible tourism projects.

Experience India Off the Beaten Path

India is one of the most popular travel destinations for the seasoned traveler. And yet, most people only visit places like Delhi, Agra, or Goa. India Untravelled wants to introduce people to the many different facets of this huge country. They show you rural areas of India where you get to learn about local cultures during your time in homestays. This provides the population in the villages with an income that is necessary to sustain their culture and traditions.

Many villages in India are shrinking due to migration. Too often, there are no income opportunities in rural areas so people have to move to the cities to fight for their survival. Responsible tourism projects must address this if they want to be truly sustainable. By participating in India Untravelled’s authentic experiences, you are doing your part to support India’s rural population.

Help the Conservation of Black Rhinos in Namibia

The black rhino is a critically endangered species that is protected in Namibia’s Palmwag Concession. This is where Wilderness Safaris set up its Desert Rhino Camp which offers rhino tracking both on foot and by vehicle. The camp is powered by a hybrid system and also solar energy for individual tents. On top of the rhino tracking, Wilderness Safaris also organizes birdwatching excursions as well as safaris that allow you to see some of Namibia’s most impressive animals.

This responsible ecotourism project works with three local communities and pays them both an annual fee as well as a percentage of the profits from the Desert Rhino Camp. Getting local communities involved is very important if responsible tourism projects want to be more than a PR campaign.

Adventure Trekking With a Female-Owned Company in the Himalayas

Trekking is considered a male domain in Nepal. 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking challenges this view and trains women to become guides. The three Nepalese sisters who founded the company wanted to provide safer treks for female travelers but also empower Nepalese women. Many of the thousands of women the organization has trained since 1994 belonged to socially disadvantaged groups such as lower castes.

During their training, women not only learn how to be trekking guides but also get English lessons. Upon completion of the program, they can choose to remain employed by 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking or can move on to something else. If you choose to join one of these treks in the Himalayas you can be sure that the majority of the profits go to the women’s salaries.

Tour Norway in an Eco-Friendly Way

Norway is internationally known for its natural beauty (and because it’s one of the wealthiest countries in the world!). But when a lot of tourists go to Norway to experience the country this threatens the very nature people want to see. Fjord Tours is a sustainable tour operator that has won the European Sustainable Tourism Award and carries the Eco-Lighthouse certificate.

Fjord Tours places great emphasis on sustainable means of transport, such as trains and electric ferries and buses. So if you’re looking for an individual tour through the gorgeous landscapes of Norway why not choose one of the tours offered by this sustainable Norwegian tour operator?

Go on a Women’s Tour (by Women for Women) of Pakistan

Women in Pakistan are still quite restricted, not by law, but because of societal conventions. The Mad Hatters is a woman-owned and -run tour operator that also focuses on supporting other women-run initiatives during their tours. With a tour that goes beyond the most popular places in Pakistan, you can actually get to know the country and some of the local communities.

And what I love about The Mad Hatters is that the tour’s description is very honest: Sometimes the standards of hygiene will be below what you are used to. There won’t always be internet or electricity. And men are not used to seeing groups of women travelers. None of this is glossed over meaning you can really trust The Mad Hatters with what they are talking about and doing.

Support Sustainable Tourism in Peru

Peru has become more and more popular with tourists as Machu Picchu was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. This has unfortunately brought many irresponsible travelers to Peru who threaten the survival of the Indigenous spiritual heritage. Perú Grand Travel is a tour operator that focuses on sustainable tourism and offers a variety of tours aside from Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail.

On top of its zero litter policy, Perú Grand Travel only employs persons from Cusco, purchases most of its equipment from Peru, pays fair salaries, and provides health insurance to its staff. Booking a tour with Perú Grand Travel means you get to experience the beauty of Peru while giving back to local communities.

Travel Around Iran the Vegan Way

Traveling as a vegan can be difficult sometimes. When you travel you want to experience the local cuisines as well. But often, food, especially for guests, consists of non-vegan dishes. Nowadays, there are vegan tours in several European cities. But what if you want to explore a country and are unsure how to find vegan food there? I created a vegan guide for Greece for exactly that purpose.

But are there responsible tourism projects that address this issue? Yes, Iran Vegan Travel offers vegan tours for those who want to experience Persian food, culture, and hospitality. I’ve always had Iranian friends and can vouch for the deliciousness of the food, and I’ve even included a Persian recipe in my vegan Ramadan recipes from around the Muslim world (which you can obviously cook outside of Ramadan as well). So what are you waiting for? Experience Iran the vegan way.

Join a Tour of South Africa With a Fair Trade and Black-Owned Operator

Tourism to the African continent is growing, especially in terms of safaris in the southern part of Africa. But very often the companies are owned by foreign investors. Southern Africa 360 offers tours in and around South Africa with a strong focus on fair trade (they are certified). But they are also an exclusively Black-owned tour operator in South Africa.

Whether you want to go on a safari in South Africa or Mozambique, there are several options for you with Southern Africa 360. But they also do Nelson Mandela themed tours that give you more history on this great South African leader and the history of the country. Because there’s more than beautiful nature and wildlife in the southernmost African country.

Support Ethnic Minorities in Vietnam

In many developing countries over the world, difficult realities are even harsher for members of ethnic minorities. Vietnam is no exception. Sapa O’Chau is working towards educating and training members of ethnic minority communities. They employ them as trekking guides but also organize homestays with families. This empowers people and provides income opportunities beyond agriculture.

On top of that, Sapa O’Chau helps women from the Hmong community sell handicrafts. This allows the women to make a living without having to abandon their cultural practices and artisanry. Instead, it is through their traditional art that they can earn a living and provide an education to their children. Sapa O’Chau is a social enterprise that tackles the various issues ethnic minorities deal with hands-on.

responsible tourism projects pin

So there you go, those are some of the responsible tourism projects you can support after the pandemic. Which one will you join first?


Welcome to Lemons and Luggage! I’m Nina Ahmedow, a travel content creator who has traveled to more than 20 countries on three continents. Born and raised in Germany but currently living in Greece, I love exploring the world through vegan food. Here, I share travel and sustainable living tips from a vegan perspective.


Social cooperatives to the Social Economy Intergroup of the EP: the situation of SSE in Greece is dramatic

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Note for the attention members of the
Social Economy Intergroup of the EP

Re: Social and Solidarity Economy in Greece

Madame, Monsieur

The situation in the field of Social Economy in Greece is dramatic. Below we briefly describe the main problems we face, and we are at your disposal for further information and documentation regarding our comments.

1. Refusal of institutional dialogue: The Minister of Labor and Social Security refuses to have a contact with us and does not respond to our letters and requests for a meeting as from December 2019 on issues that concern the sector.

2. Social Cooperative Enterprises are excluded from the special purpose allowance granted to enterprises due to COVID-19 (Ministerial Decision 39162 EX 2020, Government Gazette B ‘1457 / 16-04-2020).

3. The Law 4430/2016 on social and solidarity economy became an inactive legislation. In fact concerning :

  • Article 2: on “Social Impact Measurement Tool” no ministerial decision was ever taken in order to implement this provision.
  • Article 5: on the National Fund for Entrepreneurship and Development it is to be said that we were never eligible and allowed to receive such funds and there is an extremely complicated procedure to obtain funding from programs of the Employment Agency of Workforce.
  • Article 6 Exceptional difficulty in concluding program contracts with local authorities
  • Article 10 on the creation of a Social Economy Fund was never put into force
  • Article 12 and 13 the consultative committees remain inactive
  • Article 34 there are no financial resources and financial incentives
  • Article 36 and 37: the Special Secretariat for Social and Solidarity Economy was abolished

3. Insufficient Funding. In the Action Plan for the Development of an Ecosystem for the Social and Solidarity Economy for the years 2017-2023, various actions have been foreseen that concern the promotion of Social Entrepreneurship and Social Economy. However out of the projected resources of € 161,837,554 which only 1,396,882 (0,86%) have been committed. Our members did not have access to any form of financing, loan, guarantee, etc.

4. There is no National Strategic Plan. From 2011 until today, the 2 relevant announcements have never been realised.

5. Lack of Training across Greece: there are only 11 institutional support centers, with limited resources and no centralized plan for a training program.

6. Lack of understanding of the particularities and very low visibility of Social Economy Entreprises by the Public Administration

Thank you for your attention

Thomas SOPILIDIS Athens 29/5/2020
Social Coops Union DYNAMIKI
tel +30 210 3001574 : +306932 302009
w: www.socialcoop.gr



Complaint and letter to EU Commissioners: Discrimination of Social economy legal forms

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Our official complaint and our letter to the President and the Commissioners about discrimination of Social economy legal forms, State aids Covid 19. Services directive

Honorary President of the European Commission, Ms. Ursula Von Der Leyen

Honorable Vice President of the European Commission, Mr. Frans Timmermans

Commissioner of Internal Marketing, Mr. Thierry Breton

Commissioner for Jobs and Labor, Mr. Nicolas Schmit

Commissioner for Competition Ms. Margrethe Vestager

Director-General of Legal Service, Mr. Mr Luis Romero Requena

C/C co-chairs of Social Economy Intergroup in EP Mr Sven Giegold & Ms Patrizia Toia

president of Social Economy Europe, Mr Juan Antonio Pedreno

director of Social Economy Europe, Mr Victor Meseguer

Athens 2.6.2020

Subject: Discrimination of Social economy legal forms. State aids Covid 19. Services directive

Dear Ladies, Dear Sirs

I am Nikos Chrysogelos president of the social cooperative Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal in Athens running the innovative WELCOMMON HOSTEL, a hostel with social and green impact which is nowadays locked down. In this hostel we used to host groups of young tourists and a number of refugees offering them language courses, training for social insertion and social services for their children. It is also a center for social and green innovation and economy.

I am writing to you to complaint for a discrimination suffered in Greece by the entities of social economy, taking advantage of the letter addressed by Commissioner Mr. Nicolas Schmit to the national Governments on April 23, 2020, where he is calling on Member States to ensure strong support for the social economy at this time of serious crisis due to the COVID19.

In Greece, however, the social economy entities not only suffer from the lack of supportive policy from the national and regional authorities but in addition they are excluded from any aid, subsidies and other financial support related to the COVID19 crisis, as explained in the annex.

In practice, the terms and conditions imposed by Government decisions and by financial institutions, for lending to companies suffering from the crisis, prevent social enterprises from claiming financial support because they do not have the appropriate legal form. This is contrary to the statement found in the relevant Commission’s decisions, according to which all types of enterprises can profit from the State aid measures. This causes to us an inadmissible competitive disadvantage and it is a discrimination in violation of the Services Directive.

Given that the new COVID19 financial instruments should be addressed to all types of enterprises, you are kindly asked to take action in order to remedy to this inadmissible situation, by taking into account the particularities of the companies in the field of Social Economy.

Best regards

Nikos Chrysogelos

email: nikos.chrysogelos@gmail.com

mobile: 00306936672882







Annex to the letter to EU Commission



  1. The European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Mr. Nicolas Schmit, in a letter dated 23 April 2020 to the Ministers of Labor of the EU, calls on Member States to take all necessary measures to ensure strong support for the social economy entreprises.

State aide measures

  1. In the meantime, the Commission has adopted a Communication on Temporary Framework for State Aid Measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak1 on the basis of which it approved a Greek guarantee scheme on this issue and an amendment to that scheme 2.

  2. These latter texts concerning State aids make it clear that Member States are authorized to grant various support measures to undertakings of all kinds in all sectors, as it is literally stated.

Discrimination of social cooperatives; Services Directive

  1. However, we consider that the cases described below, in the context of the application of the support measures, create a negative discrimination of social cooperatives on the grounds of their legal form, when compared with other types of businesses, using different legal form.

  2. We regard this situation as contrary to the provisions of the Services Directive Article 15(2)(b).

  3. Social and Solidarity Economy Enterprises in Greece are created in the form of Social cooperatives with limited liability (Koinsep in GR) and are governed by the Law 4430/2016. As such they are considered as companies by the Treaty Article 54 TFEU and therefore they are entitled to enjoy all rights recognized by EU law to enterprises.

  4. However, they are excluded from the “special purpose allowance” COVID-19 granted to other enterprises (800€) like limited and unlimited partnerships, liberal professions, private single person capital companies (Ministerial Decision 39162 ΕX 2020, Nat Gazette B 1457 – 16.04.2020).

  5. This aid measure excludes all kinds of social economy enterprises, even those locked down by Government Decision, like our Welcommon Hostel. This policy creates an unequal treatment regime since for the same code of commercial activity (in Greek KAD) other companies receive the aid of 800€ and others do not, depending on their form. The answer sent to our application reads as follows: “We would like to inform you that you are not entitled to the special purpose allowance, because the conditions of articles 2 and 3 of Decision 39162 EX 2020 are not met. Specifically: You are not a liberal professional or a self-employed person, owner of a sole proprietorship or a personal company or a private one-man capital company”.

  6. Exclusion from subsidies to the interest of professional loans. (Ministerial circular 32790/ par 13§1 3). All social economy enterprises are excluded from receiving subsidies on the interest they pay for their existing professional loans, for the simple reason that they are not capital based companies. In fact, applications are dismissed because credit institutions are bound to examine only demands of capital companies with limited liability. In reality the circular foresees that only the undertakings mentioned in Annex I of Company Law Directive 2013/34/EU, on the annual financial statements, consolidated financial statements and related reports of certain types of undertakings, are covered; and according to the Greek relevant declaration these are only public and private companies limited by shares (and the unlimited partnerships with shares) but not social cooperatives 4.

  7. Aid in the form of repayable advances: Facing a severe lack of liquidity, as all other tourist establishments, we tried to get informed about loans COVID19 from banks that act as intermediaries between European (or national) funds and the enterprises. We realized that the same problem appears also in this case, in the sense that a company applying for a repayable advance should not be an undertaking in difficulty according to the definition of Commission Regulation 651/2014 declaring certain categories of aid compatible with the internal market. However, only the companies mentioned in article 2 point 18 of this Regulation, are entitled to apply and these are again the types of companies that are mentioned to the Annex I of the directive 2013/34/EU, on the annual financial statements, as explained above.

Questioning the high rate for loans based on EU funds

  1. In addition we would like the Commission to renegotiate with the Greek authorities a number of points concerning aid conditions like interest rate of 8% or 10% levied by the banks that are intermediaries for repayable advances of Community funds, which is not reasonable neither and proportionate.

  2. Furthermore, if an amount is pledged as collateral by some members of social economy enterprises in order to help their undertaking – since for the legal entities it is impossible to access even European-funded loans – this sum which is deposited and blocked in the bank is granted an interest rate of 0.15% while the loan granted to the coop, like a repayable advance or open loan or otherwise, is charged with an interest rate of over 8%, which is exorbitant.

  3. It is almost impossible for social economy companies to benefit from a European-backed program such as Greek TEPIX I and II in support for small undertakings, given that banking criteria both before and during the crisis exclude them. There are examples of such exclusions, even for innovative business plans which, if they were presented by other legal forms of business would be sure to be included in the financing program.

Absence of favorable environment

  1. At present, any application for a COVID 19 State aid should be signed by an accountant declaring that “the loss the company suffered in 2019 is less than 50% of registered capital”. However, it is very likely that the majority of Greek social economy enterprises have suffered losses in previous years, either due to a crisis or due to investments made as start-ups and are therefore nowadays excluded from loans for cash flow, although not in bankruptcy or similar procedure.

  2. For example, a social economy business in tourism, as is the case of our Welcommon Hostel, that started in 2018 without subsidies or loans but only with funds from members and friends, needs at least 3-4 years to reach a degree of economic viability. Therefore, it is perfectly normal to have losses in previous years. And for this reason, it is now being prosecuted and risks bankruptcy, as it does not have access to the necessary cashflow and restart liquidity.

  3. Hygiene and safety measures, especially for the tourism and catering industry, are costly (cleaners, disinfectants, uniforms, physician, insurance, staff training, equipment required, etc.), while the environment in which these businesses are back after the crisis is uncertain. In addition, obligations (rent, electricity etc) have not been written off and many costs had to be paid within the lockdown period. In Greece banks are asking for a mortgage or other real surety or even a deposit at least equal to the requested cash flow, as a prerequisite for considering such a demand.

  4. However, it should be noted that according to the information published by the Ministry of Labor (2017) concerning social economy there are €161 million from European Community funds in order to finance the Greek “Action Plan for the development of the social economy 2017-2023 ” out of which less than 1% (+-1.3 m) is committed.

Measures to support employment

  1. If employment and training in green and socially good jobs are not supported today, we will see soon an increase of the number of jobless people, especially in countries with already high unemployment rates, such as Greece. The measures to support employment through “community service”, within local authorities, or in public or semipublic organizations etc., implemented for several years, do not give to social economy enterprises a chance to actively participate and draw an advantage; and this despite the fact that the funding of the program comes from the European Social Fund and that the role of the social economy in social and professional integration is well known as this was pointed out in the letter of Commissioner N.Schmit to the Member States.

  2. While many European countries have already implemented national and regional employment support programs through the social economy, there has been no similar planning in Greece. However, at European level, before and after the crisis, social economy businesses were considered to be a key tool for reducing unemployment and for training unemployed and socially vulnerable young people to subjects and professions that are important for social and ecological sustainability, green – circular economy and digital modernization.

  3. Unfortunately, in Greece the European Social Fund resources continue to be treated as unemployment benefits to reduce its extreme dimensions but by no means as tools for the promotion of a social economy enterprise nor as means for the insertion to the work of the most vulnerable people. In fact, jobless people are not offered experience in important, sustainable and promising areas of activity, like health and safety areas, social and green innovation, or digital modernization; in other words these national programs do not create the conditions for finding a long-term job after the end of support programs.

  4. The actual policy of Greek authorities concerning investment and training programs should be revisited since the resumption of business activities cannot anymore be based on the operating conditions of the past. In this context social economy enterprises can play an important role as training vehicles.

  5. We urge you to ask the Member State to remove all obstacles and discrimination against social economy in Greece especially when European financial resources are used for this objective. The actual suffocating environment does not help to attain the recovery of the economy and employment through social, digital, and green transition.

3 https://www.taxheaven.gr/circulars/32790. See also Min Decision 37674, of 10/4/2020 point 4§4, Law 4683/2020 ratifying Act of Legislative Content, article 6; National Gazette Α’ 68/20-03-2020