As the Managing Director of Buffalo Tours, Matt Masson plays an important role in how Buffalo Tours creates unforgettable journeys in Asia – but his passion for travel, adventure and sustainability are more than just company values. Follow his stories – and many others from the Buffalo team – for a closer look at the people and stories behind the tours.
When we have an opportunity to make our work count towards a larger purpose, it’s perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences we’re likely to have. In the travel industry, we’re in a unique position to contribute to positive social change – after all, travel helps build bridges between different cultures and educates each of us about the social challenges beyond our front door. This is one of my favourite things about working in travel, and what makes the work that I do every day so rewarding.
But perhaps the most important impact that the travel industry has on the communities it touches is how – when done responsibly – it can help lift entire communities out of poverty. Travel provides immeasurable opportunities for individuals who are most in need by opening doors that are otherwise closed. The money we spend on travel creates jobs, opportunities for financial stability and, most importantly, empowerment to local communities.
Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of this important role of the travel industry, but it only takes a single experience to bring this ethical demand into sharp focus. For me, it was the opportunity to see firsthand how poverty affects such an immense portion of the population, and it reminded me how important it is that we at Buffalo Tours are part of the solution.
“Travel provides immeasurable opportunities for individuals who are most in need by opening doors that are otherwise closed. The money we spend on travel creates jobs, opportunities for financial stability and, most importantly, empowerment to local communities.”
This happened recently in Singapore where I was invited to a fundraising dinner for an organisation called Magic Bus. All I knew prior to the event was that some travel industry colleagues had attended a team building event at a centre located just outside of New Delhi, where they had an opportunity to engage with and play sports with some children who had been through the Magic Bus program. Though I came into the evening only knowing a bit about the organisation and what they do, the night ended up opening my eyes to some incredible stories about India and the extent of poverty – and how these issues often start before a child reaches adulthood.
Like so many organizations throughout Asia, Magic Bus focuses on empowering community members at the earliest possible stage. The organisation provides training to young children about education, gender, hygiene and reproductive health. By doing so, they illustrate just how many avenues are available to these young people, and helps promise a better future for each child they reach.
During no point in the night was the importance of this work more apparent than when a young Indian woman – and a graduate of the Magic Bus program – came to the stage to speak. She explained that most of her friends had entered into an arranged marriage, and that often their parents would have them married by the age of 12. It was common for women from her village to already have a child by the age of 18 or earlier. This made it difficult for them to pursue a career and would often lead to an extension of the poverty cycle. This woman proudly displayed the colourful bangles on her arm, indicating that she was due to give birth to a child of her own. But at the age of 25, she was one of the oldest women in her village to become a mother. This had allowed her to complete the Magic Bus program and go on to find meaningful work educating and supporting other young women in their own life choices.
“It was an opportunity for all of us to learn about the lives of the world’s most marginalised communities, and a chance to develop ideas for how Buffalo Tours can play a more meaningful role in the communities in which we live, work and travel.”
In the end, the fundraising dinner was successful in raising over $400,000 in funds which will be used to expand the Magic Bus program, and will also play a part in their goal of reaching a million children by the end of this year.
But for me and many others from the Buffalo Tours management team, the importance of the evening went far beyond a dollar amount. It was an opportunity for all of us to learn about the lives of the world’s most marginalised communities, and a chance to develop ideas for how Buffalo Tours can play a more meaningful role in the communities in which we live, work and travel.
And along with one of our specialised brands, Educational Travel Asia, we at Buffalo Tours are well on our way to making the future a little brighter for the communities we work with. Sometimes that comes in the form of donations, but most importantly in the continued long-term partnerships with the people and communities in our destinations.
Building schools, developing sustainable tours hand-in-hand with local communities and supporting life-changing educational initiatives in our destinations are just some of the ways we do it. All of those efforts have earned us a spot on the Responsible Tourism Awards’ long list for Poverty Reduction – but it’s not a finish line. It’s a starting point.
As Asia’s social and economic challenges come into the spotlight – and as more travellers come to experience our destinations– we’ll be committed to making sure that we are contributing to a brighter future for the region.
Find out more about the Responsible Tourism Awards here, or discover more ways that you can be a part of Buffalo Tours’ commitment to social change and poverty reduction with our Tips for Being your Own Responsible Tourism Expert.