Product, Service & Design Innovation
Calling All ‘Voluntourists’:
Carnival Launches New Social Impact Travel Brand

Carnival Corporation has launched a new brand that enables customers to choose “social impact travel” for their next getaway. Carnival says fathomTM will partner with community organizations in destination cities, offering travelers the opportunity to work alongside locals for social causes.

Starting in April 2016, fathom will lead 7-day voyages during which passengers can choose from a range of social impact activities according to their passions, skills and interests.

The new brand appeals to a growing segment of consumers who desire the ability to positively impact others’ lives, according to Tara Russell, who will serve as President of fathom and as Global Impact Lead for Carnival Corporation.

“We created fathom to meet the real hunger in the world for purpose, while at the same time tackling profound social issues through a sustainable business model,” she said.

Traveling provides the perfect opportunity to positively impact the world, according to Carnival CEO, Arnold Donald.

“We believe travel is a meaningful way to allow for personal growth while making purposeful and engaging contributions to the world,” Donald said. “We are so pleased that fathom will give travelers a unique opportunity to work alongside local people as part of a larger-scale effort that will demonstrably improve lives. Both our travelers and the local citizens will learn and benefit from the opportunity to serve together.”

From its market research, Carnival expects fathom will attract a significant number of travelers who have never cruised before. The company expects the new trips to be particularly popular among:

  • Millennials seeking to make a difference in the world;
  • Parents seeking a way to open their children’s eyes to other parts of the world in a meaningful way (approximately half of travelers are expected to be families); and
  • Adults over 50, eager to find rewarding ways to help other people apart from writing a check.

The onboard experience of fathom trips will cater to this travel market, including specialized, purposeful retail options and amenities, geographically inspired menus, music, and additional onboard cultural immersion.

“During the past 10 years, in countless conversations I have had with people eager to serve others and make meaningful societal contributions, there has been a common theme – people struggle to know where they fit in and often people have challenges finding trusted, easy ways to make a difference,” Russell said.

Carnival hopes fathom trips will address this challenge. The first planned destination is the Dominican Republic, a country known for its stunning beauty but that is also beset with poverty and natural resource challenges. Carnival is partnering with two organizations, Entrena and the Instituto Dominicano de Desarrollo Integral, Inc. (IDDI), both dedicated to poverty alleviation and community empowerment.

fathom travelers will build their own schedules and have the flexibility to choose from a variety of social impact and recreational activities. Impact activities will vary in length from a few hours to multiple days. Sample activities could include:

  • Economic Development: Helping cultivate cacao plants and organic fertilizer at a nursery and assist a local women’s cooperative in producing artisan chocolates.
  • Educational: Working side by side with Dominican schoolteachers in classrooms to teach English skills.
  • Environmental: Providing hands-on support to build water filters and deliver them to families throughout the community to provide healthy drinking water.

In their spare time, travelers will still be able to explore the beauty of the regions they visit, or participate in a variety of different recreational activities.

If fathom succeeds, Carnival may expand aspects of “social impact travel” to other areas of its business. “We will evaluate these unique fathom assets to determine which models can be scaled across other Carnival brands as a way to bring new experiences to existing cruise line guests,” said Russell.

The travel industry is beginning to take steps to not only alleviate its environmental and social impacts but to preserve and even improve conditions at some of the world’s most popular destinations: In December, JetBlue – in partnership with The Ocean Foundation – released landmark research correlating the health of its bottom line with the long-term health of the Caribbean's oceans and beaches – the first time a commercial airline has attempted to quantify nature's wellbeing. And in April, Sustainable Travel International unveiled an industry-wide campaign, entitled “10 Million Better,” to monitor and scale up social and environmental benefits from travel and tourism. The 10-year initiative convenes leading tourism corporations, organizations and destinations around the globe with the goal of tracking and demonstrating improvements in the lives of at least 10 million people and their families by 2025. Improvements to be monitored include growth of income and opportunity, and better protection of destinations’ natural, cultural and heritage sites.

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