School expeditions should be about having fun. Definitely. And they should also be about bonding with your peers, having your mind blown by the wonders of nature and discovering cultures that couldn’t be further removed from your own. But the essence of a really successful school adventure is the opportunity it offers for all sorts of wider learning – soaking up experiences, looking inward at yourself and gaining an understanding of issues of which you may never previously have even been aware.
For all of the students who travel with us, the future lies undiscovered and ready to be shaped. They could choose any career path and for many that path may, as yet, be understandably hazy. That’s why travelling to new places and seeing how work, jobs and trade in real life can be so impactful. If you said ‘let’s go on a trip that’s all about economics’, you might not get many takers. But an STC Expeditions economics trip? That’s a very different proposition indeed…
The first thing to say is we’re not into taking students to a glass-fronted high-rise in the middle of a capital city and talking to them about the kind of business that’s discussed on the news every evening. We’re interested in how business works at grass-roots level, in how economies develop, in the opportunities open to everyday people and (because it’s very close to the bone) we’re interested in how tourism impacts local cultures and economies. So how do we go about it?
Like all of our expeditions, STC Expeditions business and economics trips are organised in liaison with local leaders, contacts and guides who know their country inside out. They’re able to get us face-to-face access to businesses large and small that operate in industries typical of the area, which might mean cocoa in Ghana, leather in Morocco or olive oil in Israel. Meeting workers and local entrepreneurs introduces students to concepts like micro-finance, which makes it possible for businesses otherwise shut out of traditional banking to invest and grow. And making the connection between Fair Trade products like coffee or chocolate and the people actually producing them makes the complexity of global trade more immediate and understandable. Fair Trade in action means reasonable terms and prices that reflect the market, decent working conditions and the creation of sustainable industries. We visit communities working in the scheme and see how it influences their lives and economies.
In destinations where society has traditionally been patriarchal we like to take a look at how women are seizing the initiative and building businesses to bring in an income and afford them some independence. These ventures often take the form of cooperatives and there are plenty of learning opportunities for students to soak up. By commercialising what they’re good at – which could be bead-making in Kenya or the skilled manufacture of buttons in Nepal – women are taking control of their futures and improving prospects for themselves and their children.
Of course, how tourism affects host economies is very near to our hearts and it’s a subject we take very seriously with our responsible travel policy. Making sure money spent in-country stays in-country is the biggest economic contribution travellers can make and for STC Expeditions that means working with local leaders and partnering with local businesses who are, in any case, by far the best-placed people to introduce us to the destination. So when we go on safari in Africa we do so with experienced in-country leaders, trained by our team. When we learn to dive in Borneo it’s local instructors who teach us and on cycle tours in India we work with local operators. That means the host population can draw income from and build businesses on the tourism that’s often one of their country’s biggest resources. As we work so closely with local providers, we can make the connection and see the benefits ethical travel brings to communities.