Bond as a team for a cause

As the tourism industry shakes off the ashes and begins to spread its wings again, so must the corporate responsibility partnerships that aid the host cities and event activities. K&N Travel Associates is known for services such as corporate event management and incentive travel, yet also for its dedication to use its platform for social improvement. One of the nonprofit organizations K&N supports is Invisible Cities.

With four locations across the U.K., Invisible Cities offers a group event that can viscerally connect colleagues in a truly meaningful way with their powerful social franchise prospectus. Smart Meetings sat down with Zakia Moulaoui, founder and CEO of Invisible Cities, to talk about the organization, the effect it has on both the employees and tour groups and the importance of corporate support to make it all happen.

Read More: Take the Corporate Responsibility Survey

What Is Invisible Cities?

Invisible Cities is an international social enterprise that offers training and job skills to those affected by homelessness through the tour guide industry. Beginning in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2016, the organization has since established itself in Glasgow, Manchester and York. Invisible Cities trains their employees to be walking tour guides in the city to show the best-hidden gems—and the less explored sides of its urban personality.

“They [tour guides] give their side of the city to whoever comes on the tour,” says Moulaoui, “so we go beyond the post card. Yes, it is beautiful, but it has some not so beautiful stories in it.”

Personal Connections

Working in a corporate environment doesn’t always nurture human connection in the most organic way. The pressure to stay professional, the self-consciousness of our self-presentation and competition or disagreements can all create barriers in the workplace and breed misguided opinions amongst colleagues. On walking tours with Invisible Cities, Moulaoui has seen superficial barriers collapse and true understanding between those who previously may have thought they had nothing in common.

Invisible Cities tour guides have the creative license to plan their own itinerary. Throughout the tour, guides share what is most important to them and reveal their own life stories. On a recent Invisible Cities tour, a guide showed the professional group the prison and explained how he was shuttled off after sentencing. One of the “clean-cut” and well-dressed men on the tour admitted he had been incarcerated several times. The two men, societal opposites from an outside perspective, bonded instantly from their shared experiences.

“It’s really nice to see those connections, because we feel like it’s only happened to us, it’s us versus them,” says Moulaoui. “That makes it more impactful when someone in a suit is attending a tour…it makes you realize that everyone is the same. I know it’s cliche, but we tend to forget things like that.”

Responsible Tourism as Travel Climbs

According to a press release from World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in November, “an estimated 700 million tourists travelled internationally between January and September, more than double (+133%) the number recorded for the same period in 2021.” With the spike in tourism continuing to rise, the concern for responsible tourism must linearly correlate with the trend. The mission statement published by Invisible Cities addresses this necessity.

“It’s super important to us because that’s the majority of our business. It’s also where I think we can create the most impact.”

“With continuing growth in travel, there is increasing recognition among both travel professionals and consumers of the importance of responsible travel—and though there are several definitions of responsible travel, they all emphasize that tourism, if done well, brings positive benefits for conservation and host communities, and is educational as well as enjoyable for the traveler.”

Read More: WTTC Survey Assesses Cities’ Sustainable Tourism Growth

Groups can be sure the money spent on an Invisible Cities tour will serve for the good of the host city and the individual tour guides. The organization works to build confidence and skills in their employees to improve their ability to enter the workforce, reunite with family or better their lives in any way.

“We work on a personal level with everything that we do,” says Moulaoui. “We take people for everything that they are and every case is different.”

Send the Team

Invisible Cities offers tours unlike any other mainstream organization. The attendees not only learn about the host city in an authentic and tangible way, but the emphasis on understanding and compassion for others with Invisible Cities are invaluable building blocks for collaboration amongst teams. For non-profit organizations like these to last, corporate sponsorship has to not only continue but remain a priority for other companies such as K&N Travel Associates. Moulaoui stresses the importance of corporate responsibility and the impact it can have.

“It’s super important to us because that’s the majority of our business.” says Moulaoui. “It’s also where I think we can create the most impact.”