We had the good fortune of connecting with Vincie Ho (Ph.D.) and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Vincie, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I founded RISE Travel Institute in June 2020 in the middle of the pandemic. I took a risky step to start a nonprofit when the global tourism industry was brought to a standstill and businesses and organizations were struggling to survive, but I firmly believe that this unintended pause was the best time for us to reset, reflect on and rebuild from the unsustainable and unjust systems that negatively impact local communities, economies and ecosystems around the world. Through our educational programs and experiential journeys, we hope to provide young people like you with the knowledge and the tools to make the most mindful travel decisions that would do the most good and the least harm to the communities and ecosystems of our travel destinations, so that they don’t just recover from the pandemic, but thrive beyond how it used to be in the most sustainable and healthy way. We started RISE Travel Institute as an anti-oppression organization also as a response to the rising global anti-racism movement. We wanted to work with like-minded academic institutions and nonprofits and tourism businesses to explore ways to move the tourism industry towards a more inclusive one. We believe that we can never truly achieve sustainability if we don’t address the underlying oppressive systems that are upholding the status quo so that some people/entities continue to benefit more from the systems than others, whether we’re talking about our travel destinations, or our communities back home. Looking at all the topics surrounding sustainability and travel through an anti-oppression lens is what makes us unique.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I and my team have been working very hard on our two inaugural programs – our online educational curriculum and our first Experiential Journey. The primary goal of our programs is to provide travelers with the knowledge and the tools to learn to travel in a way that benefits the local communities and ecosystems of their travel destinations. And by ‘travel destinations’ we’re not only talking about places far and away, but really any places that are ‘foreign’ to us, and that could be a neighborhood in our own city. We want to help our students see and experience the world in a different way, cultivate empathy for people who are different from us, and create space for difficult but important conversations about identities, privilege, and power, and inspire our students to think critically about their relationship with other people, animals, and the planet.

We have just launched our Pilot Program, a 10-week online certificate program created and taught by the RISE Travel Institute team in collaboration with academics and professionals in tourism, social justice, animal protection, and environmental sustainability. The content explores different aspects of sustainable travel through structured, rigorous, and research-based education. The program is designed upon two key concepts or principles: systems thinking and anti-oppression. The program will begin with demystifying the definition of ‘sustainable travel’ using a systems thinking approach. Our lessons will address the current power dynamics within the global tourism industry in relation to the history of travel and colonialism. We will also discuss the interconnectedness of animal protection, conservation efforts, and community development. We also use the systems thinking approach to evaluate the ethics of our travel decisions. The systems approach empowers us to see the fuller picture of things, identify systemic causes of problems, and come up with sustainable solutions to tackle those problems. Students who successfully complete the program and a capstone project will receive our Certificate in Sustainability and Anti-Oppression in Travel and may apply to join one of our domestic or international Experiential Journeys to put theory into practice. We’re also working on expanding our curriculum with new courses and programs, not only on issues but also on destinations. Our destination-focused courses will take a deep dive into the history and culture of destinations, and past and present social and environmental issues that travelers need to be aware of prior to traveling to those places. RISE Travel Institute strives to tackle both environmental and societal problems and make the world a better place through its curriculum and programming.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
(I’m based in the Greater NYC Area, not LA, is this question still relevant to me? I’m going to make a list of where I would recommend people going in NYC just in case) Things to do/places to visit:
– The High Line
– Graffiti tour in Williamsburg/Bushwick/Lower East Side
– Walking tour in Harlem
– Tenement Museum
– Fort Tryon Park and the Cloister
Restaurants/cafés/lounges:
– Dirt Candy
– Housing Works Café
– Chelsea Market
– The Terrace

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
A serious shoutout goes to my colleagues at RISE Travel Institute! Ten months ago when I started RISE, it was hard for me to predict what the future would hold for this organization. I thought I’d be struggling for a long time to build a team. Fast forward to today, we’re a team of more than 30 volunteers. Some of them are seasoned professionals in sustainable tourism and international education, others have extensive experience in nonprofit management. All of them dedicate their time and contribute their expertise to support RISE unconditionally, just because they believe in our mission and vision and want to be part of this journey. I’m deeply grateful for them and look forward to celebrating future milestones with them all!

Website: https://www.risetravelinstitute.org

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/risetravelinstitute

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vincieho

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/risetravelinstitute

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmAVL3SepcsGOkXMWLt0jKg

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