You don't have to be a full-on voluntourist to give back while traveling. Today, philanthropy may be as simple as booking a certain hotel or using a particular travel site. Altruism is becoming more intertwined with travel, according to "Good Travels: The Philanthropic Profile of the American Traveler." The survey, conducted by Phocuswright on behalf of Tourism Cares (the charitable arm of the travel and tourism industry), reveals that travelers want to make an impact: Of 2,551 people surveyed, 86 percent said that they gave money while traveling; 72 percent said that giving is important, very important or extremely important while on the road. Of the groups surveyed, millennials were the most generous.
The survey also showed that a heart of gold only goes so far: Even if a hotel proves to be socially conscious, price is still the main deciding factor in travel.
If you're looking to make a difference without lifting a finger on your next trip, book a stay at a hotel that puts at least some of your money where it's needed. Here are some ways hotels are giving back.
They're donating to nonprofit organizations: In July, the new Ace Hotel opened in Chicago with a six-week "preview period." The hotel donated a percentage of its revenue from bookings and hosted events to support three local Chicago arts-centric nonprofit organizations (Little Black Pearl, Young Chicago Authors and 826CHI), raising more than $25,000. That's typical of the Ace Hotel brand. When opening a property in a new city, the company forges relationships and collaborates with community organizations.
For every reservation made on OmniHotels.com, Omni Hotels & Resorts donates to Feeding America, providing a meal for a family of four as part of its Say Goodnight to Hunger program. Sage Hospitality, a hotel and restaurant management company with more than 60 hotels nationwide, has raised more than $3.3 million for nonprofit organizations (including the National Children's Cancer Society, Special Olympics, JDRF Diabetes Foundation and others) since 2002, when it launched its Dollars for Dreams program. Quarterly, a different recipient is given funds raised through bake sales, auctions and other events that employees dream up and support, with the help of guest donations.
Every October, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Station Casinos in Las Vegas rallies its 11 hotel-casinos to participate in Project Pink. They donate a portion of designated pink dining, gaming and entertainment proceeds to the fight against breast cancer, and have contributed more than $500,000 since 2010.
One day a month, 100 percent of bath house net admission sales at the Springs Resort & Spa in Pagosa Springs, Colo., is donated to a different charity, which is chosen by the staff as part of the #SpringsGiving event.
They're supporting a cause: Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas is an ode to its mythical namesake. The island resort and marine habitat is also dedicated to investing in the ocean that entertains its guests, and does so through the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation, which works to protect the water and its wildlife by funding scientific research, coral-reef conservation, marine wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, education programs and more. The foundation has donated more than $5 million to partners and nonprofit organizations involved in conservation. The foundation gets its funding from marine activities at Atlantis, so if you snorkel, scuba or dive into other activities, you may be helping to save sea creatures.
In Antigua, the owners of the all-inclusive Curtain Bluff resort wanted to help their nearby community, so they started a nonprofit organization called the Open Road Fund. The hotel and guests contribute to the fund, and in the past 20 years have donated more than $1 million. That money has paid for university educations for 45 students and helped send 150 children to tennis camp in the United States while also covering medical care and buying school uniforms, computers and sporting equipment for local schools and teams.
They're rallying employees to give back: Caesars Entertainment, which includes more than 40 hotels and casinos, launched its HERO volunteer program more than two decades ago to encourage staff to help improve lives in the community through individual and corporate activities. All of the locations in the United States and Britain (those include Caesars properties, Harrah's properties, Bally's properties, Horseshoe properties and others) participate in the HERO program and help out with seniors, education, environment, health and wellness, and local causes.
In 2016, 46 percent of employees got involved in the HERO program, reporting more than 409,000 hours of volunteer time. Eligible employees at Limelight Hotel Aspen, which is owned by Aspen Skiing Company, can volunteer during work time for up to 16 hours and still receive their usual pay. In addition, when employees donate to the Caring for Community Fund, which serves families in need in the Roaring Fork Valley, the employer offers a two-to-one match that triples the employee's contribution.
They're making dreams come true: The Ritz-Carlton in Denver regularly works with Make-A-Wish Colorado to help grant wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. Most recently, the hotel transformed into "Hotel Ritz-ylvania" so that a child with a brain tumor could live out his dream of being a vampire. (His favorite movie is "Hotel Transylvania.") Upon check-in, staff members wore capes and fangs, filled his room with bats and hosted a fog-filled, vampire-led dance party. The hotel has granted at least one wish a year for the past seven years.
They're squeaky clean: Ever wonder what happens to all the half-used soaps, shampoos and conditioners at hotels? Thanks to a nonprofit organization called Clean the World, many of them are recycled and donated to homeless shelters and developing countries in an effort to decrease waste and diminish disease caused by poor hygiene and sanitation. Clean the World participation is a brand standard for Hilton and Wyndham; hotels within the Marriott, Hyatt, IHG, Choice Hotels, Caesars and Las Vegas Sands organizations also participate. A glimpse at Clean the World in action: The Hilton Fort Collins, in Colorado, has donated more than 350 pounds of soap this year.
Their loyalty points are helping others: If you're not using your points, it's pretty easy to find a way for them to benefit others. Many of the major brands partner with charities and allow people to donate them. To name a few, Marriott loyalists can donate points to American Red Cross, Hotels for Heroes and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; Hilton regulars can donate to dozens of organizations that span wildlife, arts and culture and educational pursuits; Starwood points can go toward Clean the World, UNICEF and others. Point donations are not tax deductible.
They're being joined by others: Booking sites have also gotten in on the philanthropy. On Suiteness, you can search for available suites in different cities. When you book, you save between about 5 and 30 percent, and a portion of your booking will go to a local charity.
The site is on track to hit nearly $100,000 in donations by the end of 2017. Kind Traveler is a hotel booking site that offers rates that save an average of 12 percent to 25 percent in exchange for a $10-per-night donation to a charity in the destination city. Since launching a year ago, the site has donated more than $7,000.
Silver is a writer based in Chicago. Find her on Twitter: @K8Silver.