This week in the historic, recently-renovated grand United Palace Theatre in Washington Heights, New York, Carnival Corporation created some history of its own with the launch of fathom™, a new brand geared to social impact travel. fathom impact travel (yes, lower case), operating as a stand-alone brand — the 10th for Carnival Corp — will offer passengers authentic, meaningful travel experiences working alongside local people tackling community needs. What sets fathom apart, Carnival claims, is its long-term partnership with partner countries and a business model that provides sustained impact and lasting development.
Fathom Impact Travel’s mission statement
fathom is for travelers. And we strongly believe that, somewhere deep inside, there’s a traveler in every one of us. A yearning to explore new dimensions of ourselves by connecting more profoundly with the lives and stories of others. A desire to make a contribution that lasts, long after our ships have returned to their own home port. This isn’t tourism. It’s a pioneering experience in social impact travel that just happens to include a journey by sea.
The first destination for the new brand will be the Puerto Plata region of the Dominican Republic, where, according to fathom impact travel research, more than two million Dominicans do not have access to piped water. In April 2016, fathom impact travel will debut seven-day voyages from Miami aboard the 710-passenger Adonia, formerly in the fleet of Carnival’s sister company, P&O Cruises. The choice of the Puerto Plata region was based on genuine needs, infrastructure to support social initiatives, local leaders and government enthusiasm for the fathom concept, and the region’s proximity to Miami and Amber Cove, Carnival’s new Dominican destination to be launched in October 2015.
Depending on their interests and skills, passengers will choose from a range of social impact activities focused on education, the environment, and economic development and build their own schedules. The fathom journey will begin with one to two days at sea preparing passengers with a variety of fun and impact-readiness experiences, including orientation to the Dominican Republic, conversational Spanish lessons, impact activity training, creative workshops, personal enrichment and much more.
Tara Russell, founder and chairperson of Create Common Good (www.createcommongood.org), a food production social enterprise, will serve as president of fathom impact travel and as Global Impact Lead for Carnival Corporation. She has been working on the design and business model for fathom impact travel since 2013. According to Russell, fathom’s design approach was innovative in its effort to understand its potential travelers, as well as identifying the needs in the Dominican Republic. “fathom impact travel,” she explains, “intends to mobilize, educate and equip up to 700 travelers on every trip. The result of tens of thousands of travelers a year, will make an impact on an unprecedented scale.”
Based on extensive market research, fathom impact travel has identified a growing market of potential social impact travel consumers – approximately one million North Americans, plus global travelers already pursuing service-oriented travel worldwide. fathom believes it can also attract travelers who have never before cruised since the research showed that nearly 40 percent who will book a fathom trip might have otherwise never chosen to cruise. Those attracted were all ages and from all walks of life, but especially from North America, U.K. and Australia, and they are eager to use their talents to improve the world. fathom impact travel expects to be particularly popular among:
- Millennials (ages 20s and 30s) looking to make a difference in the world;
- Parents seeking a meaningful way to open their children’s eyes to the world. (Approximately half of travelers are expected to be families); and
- Adults 50+ years eager to find rewarding ways to help others.
fathom impact travel tapped two experienced Dominican impact partners: Entrena, an organization specializing in training, education, and social enterprise, headed by John Seibel, founder and president; and the Instituto Dominicano de Desarrollo Integral, Inc. (IDDI), a 31 year, non-profit organization with the mission to help alleviate poverty in the Dominican Republic. Both organizations have deep roots in the country with long-established programs and connections in the country’s northern region. fathom travelers will work alongside these organizations for greater impact and long-lasting contributions. David Luther, founder and executive director of IDDI, says “fathom is not just Corporate Social Responsibility, but a vision of bringing people together as a catalyst for change, creating experiences that transform lives.”
A portion of every ticket sold will go directly to fathom impact travel partner organizations to cover ground activities, including supplies, travel, personnel to assist with the activities and to support the partner organizations’ overall missions. This sustained partnership will enable them to have predictable revenue streams.
The three categories of impact activities — economic development, education, and environment — will vary in length from a few hours to multiple days. Depending on their interest and skills, passengers may spend up to three days on causes they care about, working alongside locals and fathom partner organizations on projects suitable for their age, skill and physical activity. Some samples may include:
- Economic Development: Help cultivate cacao plants and organic fertilizer at a nursery and assist a local women’s cooperative in producing artisan chocolates. The aim is to produce high-quality plants to increase yields and income for rural women, and over time, enable the cooperative to increase its workforce and gains economic independence.
- Educational: Work with Dominican school teachers in classrooms to teach English skills and boost students’ academic performance; participate in adult-learning programs to teach small groups of local community members conversational English to help them qualify for jobs that provide more income.
- Environmental: Give hands-on support to craft and build water filters using local clay and deliver those filters to local families for healthy drinking water.
When not participating in social impact activities, passengers can explore an array of sites and the beauty of the Puerto Plata region, enjoy Dominican beaches, or participating in recreational activities available to all Carnival ships visiting Amber Cove and the region. Onboard experience will also be customized to include menus of local specialties, music, cultural immersion and other amenities.
Reservations for fathom sailings can be made with any travel agent, by calling 1-855-9fathom, or by visiting www.fathom.org there is more information on the new company’s activities. The ship will have four pricing levels, based on cabin configuration and location – inside, ocean view, balcony cabins and suites. Prices for the seven-day Dominican Republic trip start at $1,540 per person for an oceanview cabin and includes all meals on the ship, onboard social impact immersion experiences, three on-shore social impact activities and related supplies, taxes, fees, and port expenses. Prices will vary by season. Additional recreational activities, cabin upgrades, and dining and beverage packages will be priced separately. Passengers can begin selecting their impact activities, cabin, etc. in fall 2015.
For future Carnival Corporation social impact projects for Russell will work with Carnival Corp’s nine other brands on strategies and opportunities in her role as Global Impact Lead. “fathom is building collaborative community social impact models and a network of local and global NGO partnerships and will continue exploring additional destinations.”
Article by Kay Showker, The Smart Traveler