An ethical travel expert from York is on a highly personal mission to revolutionise the tourism industry on his disabled mother’s home island of Mauritius, whose economy was ravaged by the impacts of the Covid pandemic.
Darren Taylor, newly appointed Chief Operations Officer at Pure Breaks, hopes a new era of travel will see tourists paying more attention to who exactly benefits from the money spent on holidays.
He says that remote destinations around the planet have been crippled by Covid and desperately need ethical travel operators who ensure the majority of funds go directly to locations, rather than various intermediaries based in other countries.
The 41-year-old, who lives in Acomb, is also aiming to bring a new era of sustainable tourism to Mauritius, driven by personal devotion to the island and by the knowledge that his mother, who became paralysed in 1998, and struggles to make it to her homeland.
Darren first started travelling the world so that his mother, who became wheelchair-bound after paralysis brought on by epileptic seizures, could see the world through his eyes.
Mrs Taylor was born on the Indian Ocean island and, a few years after it gained independence in 1968, she emigrated to the UK to work as an NHS nurse.
It was in 1998, shortly after an 18-year-old Darren had started studying at Leeds Beckett University, that the illness struck his mother. Three challenging years followed as he studied for his degree during the weeks, returning home at weekends to support his family.
Following graduation, Darren spent seven years travelling the world, exploring wilderness destinations by train, bus, rickshaw and bicycle, sending back shoeboxes full of photos and memorabilia to help his mother to share his experiences.
In 2007 he spent six months in his motherland of Mauritius and set up one of the very first eco-tourism operations on the island.
Since then, he has worked with large agencies, international tour operators, hotels and hostels around the world.
Now, in his new role at Pure Breaks, which he runs alongside founder and CEO James Burton, he is determined to help the island recover from the financial shock of the pandemic and usher in a new era of genuinely ethical tourism.
Industry figures show that traditional models of tourism only see a very small percentage of money spent – depending on location, as little as five per cent – goes to those who live in the destinations which are being visited.
Darren’s plan is to ensure that the relationships he has with local venues, communities, properties and unique experience providers in Mauritius will minimise this tourism ‘leakage’ and see more of the benefits of tourism felt by the islanders.
At the same time, he is working with local officials to try and showcase the benefits of re-wilding the island, which has an economy based almost entirely on tourism and sugar cane agriculture.
The vision is to make Mauritius a more sustainable destination which can be self-sufficient rather than dependent on imports of food and materials.
“I am now poignantly positioned to showcase Mauritius as a responsible destination, leaders in environmental protection and a sustainable island destination,” he said. “The importance of this journey is that we are creating direct financial links to the destinations that need tourism to return quickly.
“People who book a sustainable trip with Pure Breaks will know that we will endeavour to ensure as much of the money paid to the trip goes out to the destinations, rather than becoming lost in complicated chains of businesses and intermediary companies.
“Our vision is to offer an alternative to the mass mainstream tourism, known as the ‘fly and flop’. We want to offer immersive travel, whether you are leaving university and hoping to explore the world, or you are a working professional taking some time out to take a career break travel trip for a few months.
“I know there are people out there who want to travel the right way. It takes good relationships and a sense of purpose to make it happen. My mum’s story gives me infinite motivation and I’m looking forward to making Mauritius the first destination to which we devote our attention.”