Social Impact Detours: a walking tour with social impact

Traveling while doing good at the same time? Tourism with a clear conscience? Impossible, you say? No, not necessarily — try “Regenerative Tourism”!  Regene… what now? Don’t worry, you’ll be finding out more about it shortly ;)

Diana Salingova, founder of Detours, originally moved to Zurich for love and has already lived here for five years. All of her favourite places in Zurich have got something to do with summer, like, for example, the Stäfa Island in Wollishofen or getting into the Limmat river at the Dynamo youth club. Wouldn’t we love to enjoy the sun and go swimming right about now!

Diana Salingova

Diana has been working in the tourism industry for many years. During the pandemic, she also witnessed the dark side of tourism. This led her to think about how to rework tourism into a force for good to raise awareness about social issues and to give something back to the local changemakers and the community as a whole. The result? “Detours Zurich” — walking tours with social impact!

In January, Diana approached us with the aim of recruiting Valeriana as an additional partner for her project. We were impressed with her and her idea from the very beginning. We’re very excited to be part of the Detours “Quest to the West” beginning this spring. On a walk through the trendy neighbourhood, you’ll learn about the history of immigration into Switzerland. Under the motto “Education for all”, Diana likes to support local projects and initiatives that support people with a migration background in the integration process.

In our conversation, Diana tells us what motivated her to found Detours, what exactly Regenerative Tourism is all about and what makes her own tours so special.

Valeriana: How did you get the idea for Detours?

Diana: The trigger for my idea was the pandemic. It made me realise how much everything depends on everything else and that tourism won’t be able to just go back to business as usual afterwards. Especially when it comes to the negative effects on the environment and local communities. I started doing research and talking to experts to find out how to turn the situation around and how to use tourism to do something good. This is how I found out about “Regenerative Tourism”. 

When you look at tourism through a regenerative lens, then you realise that sustainability isn’t enough. Doing less damage is not a solution. Regenerative Tourism focuses on restoring the balance between people, the community and the environment. And it reverses the idea that local communities should serve tourism. Instead, tourism should serve the needs of the community. This turns tourism into a force for good!

When I realised this, I thought: “It’s so obvious that this is the way it should be. What have I been thinking all this time?!” (laughs). I’ve always wanted to organise my own tours. With Detours, I have turned my dream into reality and found a model that is good for all parties involved.

Valeriana: What separates Detours from conventional walking tours? 

Diana: That’s a great question and gets right to the heart of the name. It’s not called “Detours” for nothing. Detour means a deviation, a change in direction. The name therefore symbolises right from the beginning that the tour is a deviation from traditional sightseeing tours. 

Beyond that, another big difference is the topics that we address in our tours, such as solidarity, social inequality and immigration. 

Furthermore, we focus on local changemakers, social organisations and projects and give something back to them. A percentage of the profits goes to the projects featured in the tour. In that way, participants can contribute to a good cause just by being there. 

However, it’s not exclusively about giving back in monetary terms, but also about meeting changemakers. We always meet someone from our projects and thereby facilitate exchange. 

Valeriana: How did you find out about Valeriana? And in your view, what’s the most exciting thing about our project?

When I started looking for new partners for our “Quest to the West” tour, I soon came across Valeriana during my research. And I was really impressed that there was such a fantastic project with the goal of empowering women, because I can relate to the topic. I am an immigrant, a woman and there was a time when I too worked without papers. This was back in the day when Slovakia had just joined the EU and my identification documents weren’t ready yet. For me, Valeriana follows a holistic approach and combines all the most important aspects of successful integration: education, labour integration and community. 

Valeriana: What are your plans for the future and what are your hopes for Detours? 

Diana: I have lots of new ideas for tours themed around food waste and climate change, as well as a red-light tour along Langstrasse. Right now, Detours is still a side project of mine besides my full-time job, but I hope to be able to invest more time in it in the future and inspire other travel operators to change their approach and go in the same direction. There’s of course a lot of work and research involved, but this line of work is so much more fulfilling when you’re doing something good at the same time.  

Would you like to get to know Zurich from a different side and give something back to the local community? Then a Detour is just the thing for you! Make an impact, take a detour! ;) Book now:

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