Do tourists have to travel to have an impact?
That’s a question I’ve been struggling with for a while now.
On one hand, travel, whether to the town next to ours or a town on the opposite side of the world from us, is at the core of being a tourist.
On the other hand, travel is linked to a number of issues, big and small, from cultural conflicts to a changing climate.
I don’t believe that the solution to these problems is not traveling. Not traveling leads us to isolate ourselves from the world at large, and in a time when more and more of our world’s future depends on us knowing each other and how we’re impacting the world, not traveling will have detrimental effects.
Still, traveling and tourism have big roles to play in how we move forward, which is why I was so motivated by what Daniel Villota and his team are doing with Unchained Elephants.
Unchained Elephants call themselves an NFT art project with a cause. We’ve shared before about the rise of travel NFTs and how tourism-related businesses can benefit from NFTs, but this is a different angle.
I had a chance to speak with founder Daniel Villota recently. As we discussed in an interview on the Passport Creative channel, the Unchained Elephants mission can be broken down into three areas:
1. Rescuing Elephants – A significant portion of the money raised goes to freeing elephants who are working in the tourism industry and moving them to ethical sanctuaries.
2. Benefiting Travelers – A travel club is developed to give tourists access to discounts and unique experiences in Thailand for a project that aims to have long-lasting impacts.
3. Raising Awareness – By centering their project around this cause, travelers can better understand how to support elephants and other wildlife when they travel.
As digital art continues to evolve, finding ways to create more real-world value is how it can being to really impact the tourism and travel space.
Where We Go From Here
By creating a tangible benefit for the traveler in addition to a focus on just art or just conservation, Unchained Elephants puts themselves in a position to be an answer to the question I started this letter with: how to help tourists make a positive impact even if they’re not traveling.
For all the ways we are thinking about asking tourists and travelers to change their behaviors in the months and years to come – to travel more locally, to use trains instead of planes – we should also think of ways we can make their experiences richer.
With Unchained Elephants, that way includes empowering tourists to know they’re helping the elephants before their arrival – along with the right ways to interact with them when they do eventually arrive.
By creating and fostering this connection with a destination – one that can come through ancient history as it does through digital innovations – we can help travelers be aware not just of the impact they have while they move from place to place, but also aware of how to leverage that impact for good.