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by: IAN STALKER photos: Intrepid Travel, Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Turkish Airlines & MSC Cruises
Tourism industry companies that demonstrate altruism during crises may find it enriches them to a degree as well.
Numerous tourism companies stepped forward to assist after the devastating earthquake in Syria and Türkiye, which left thousands dead and levelled many urban areas.
Among those racing to assist earthquake victims was Turkish Airlines, which carried search and rescue teams and delivered aid materials to impacted communities and provided free evacuation flights. Turkish Airlines carried 238,112 search and rescue personnel on 1,324 aid flights, while evacuating 230,980 citizens from the earthquake area on 1,302 evacuation flights. The carrier delivered 15,648 tons of aid material free to impacted areas, including food, medicine, clothing, generators, hygiene kits, and tents. 6,198 tons of the cargo were carried with flights conducted from 77 countries, while the remaining 9,450 tons were from Türkiye.
249 Turkish Airlines personnel were volunteers in the area, assisting with search and rescue operations and delivering humanitarian aid.
Waiving the vaccination card requirement, Turkish Airlines also carried pets of citizens from earthquake-affected areas without charge. It also sent carrying cases to its stations so pets could be easily boarded on aircraft.
Intrepid Travel in turn launched an emergency appeal, committing AUD$100,000 through its Intrepid Foundation to support immediate relief, aid and rescue efforts in Türkiye and Syria. Intrepid also committed to donating all profits from bookings made on trips in Türkiye until April 30 to support the appeal.
The Intrepid Foundation partnered with the Australian Red Cross to ensure funds are effectively allocated to provide immediate and longer-term relief to communities affected by the earthquakes, enabling Red Cross and Red Crescent partners to address immediate and longer-term humanitarian impacts of the earthquakes.
Intrepid also decided to dollar-match donations to the Türkiye and Syria Earthquake Appeal up to AUD$100,000 while covering the foundation’s administrative costs, ensuring 100% of donations go directly to the Australian Red Cross.
MSC Cruises reported the MSC Group and the MSC Foundation were coordinating with Turkish authorities, the Italian Foreign Ministry and the Vatican. MSC Aurelia, normally used as a ferry, departed from Naples in February for the Turkish port of Iskenderun. The vessel — which has a cargo capacity of 40 trucks and over 400 cars — carried basic necessities and first aid items collected by the MSC Group and the MSC Foundation, together with the Rava Foundation. The cargo included 60 pallets of medical supplies, food, hygiene items, warm clothing and blankets, as well as toys and crayons for children. An additional 50 boxes of thermal shirts were carried on behalf of the Vatican.
The company also decided to make the MSC Aurelia available for emergency accommodation, providing impacted communities with over 1,000 beds and leisure spaces, including a restaurant and cinema, as well as video-game entertainment for children.
In addition, thanks to the collaboration between the MSC Foundation and the UN Refugee Agency a further 100 containers carrying first aid supplies (including blankets, mattresses, sleeping bags, kitchen sets, jerry cans and lamps) were sent from Jordan. The containers were sent to cities hit hardest by the earthquake and placed at the disposal of the relief workers already onsite.
Furthermore, MSC Aurelia set up temporary accommodation at Iskenderun port, using empty containers for 300 MSC Group employees and their families who lost homes in the disaster.
MSC Aurelia was also arranging for the distribution of food, beverages and items to meet basic needs. In the same way, the MSC Group, in cooperation with the Turkish Ministry of Internal Affairs, was carrying and providing thousands of empty containers to four of Turkey’s hardest-hit provinces: Adıyaman, Gaziantep, Hatay and Kahramanmaraş. The containers will provide temporary shelter for earthquake survivors.
The support of the MSC Group and the MSC Foundation also includes a global fundraising campaign among employees. Every donation by an employee of MSC will be matched by the MSC Foundation and used to support organizations working on reconstruction projects in Turkey and Syria.
Several travel agents contacted by Travel Courier say they believe those types of humanitarian efforts will lead to greater appreciation of the companies from the travelling public, while quickly adding that they believe the companies’ were motivated by a genuine wish to aid desperate people.
“I think it’s great!” says Ana Jaimes of Verona Travel in Bradford, Ont. “We love to see the support these companies are doing to help in any way they can.
“Will it help clients use them more? Hmm. It depends on the clients, but I believe they wouldn’t doubt in choosing them. If anything they would probably be on the clients’ list to use in the future.”
Carolyn O’Reilly of Genesis Travel in Calgary also applauded the humanitarian efforts.
“I think it is amazing,” she said. “Yes, a lot of my clients are interested in how these companies give back. In general, I think people are becoming more aware of sustainable travel and part of that is knowing how a company gives back to destinations that they operate in. Clients want to support companies that do this.”
Ethel Hansen Davey of Uniglobe Enterprise in Toronto also believes travel companies that display an altruistic side will earn the approval of the travelling public.
“Personally I think it is our responsibility to help in times of disaster,” she said. “If there are tour operators and other corporations that are doing their bit to assist in any way that they can, I think that it builds goodwill and that it would encourage my clients to book or do business with them. Kudos to all that are spending time and/or money to assist. It is a tragedy that is simply beyond horrific. There but the grace of God (Whichever God you worship) go we.
“We can only hope that, should such a catastrophe happen here, the rest of the world would step up to help. We are all brothers and sisters, regardless where in the world we are.”
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