Travel with National Geographic Partners: See the World and Burn a Lot of Fossil Fuel

One would expect that an organization dedicated to preserving the planet would not sponsor travel excursions that represent a form of excessively excessive consumption.

A brochure from National Geographic Partners advertises four 2020 “expeditions” ranging from 20 to 24 days that include two that go Around the World, one to Africa, and a fourth to Central and South America. Some of the proceeds from paying for these trips will fund the National Geographic Society, and create “more opportunities to work toward a planet in balance,” whatever that means. A claim on their website is that their travel program helps “us make a healthier, more sustainable world for us all to share.”[1] All four trips are by private jet.

The jet used is a Boeing 757 “specially outfitted for these incredible expeditions” to “accommodate” 75 travelers in “VIP-style seats…instead of the standard 233 seats” used. For the trip to Africa, the jet is outfitted to carry only 48 people who are provided with “lie-flat seats.” Both planes have “long-range capabilities and” the “capacity to land at smaller airports” and avoid “layovers” providing participants with “the freedom to make the most of” their “experiences on land.” Additionally, the flight crew is dedicated to “first-rate hospitality,” and a physician accompanies the trip “and is on call 24 hours a day” to serve this small group of travelers.

Accommodations provided are “some of the world’s finest.” They include “unique…handpicked lodges” allowing guests to not only experience “the world’s most treasured places” but also help “protect them for generations to come.” How the guests would help protect these “treasured places” is not made clear.

For food, “a dedicated expedition chef and caterer design delectable meals inspired by local cuisine” using “the freshest ingredients…served with top-tier beverages, including fine wines, craft beer and spirits” are provided. There are also “special dining experiences with traditional entertainment, providing a window into local cultures.”

Amenities include “bottled or potable water throughout…including liquor aboard the private jet.”

The five-figure price for these four trips range from the cheapest at $78,945 for double occupancy to $92,595 with an extra $7,895 to $9,250 for singles. However, the charge does not cover all of one’s expenses including the costs of transportation from the participant’s home to where the trip starts, and from where it ends to back home. Other outlays can include “hotel minibar charges” and “personal expenses such as laundry.” The latter might be avoided if one carefully packs the allowable checked baggage that can weigh up to 90 pounds.

Contrast the cost of these trips with the fact that in 2018 almost 40% of the U.S. population could not easily come up with $400 in cash in an emergency, and 60% of the population had a household income under $80,000.[2]

However, if you are a CEO of a large corporation making $35 million/year, the cost comes to less than the income from one day of work if one works 365 days/year.

Environmental Concerns of Sponsor

National Geographic Partners claim to be “committed to sustaining the character and integrity of each place” visited. They seek “to minimize the environmental impact” of their “travel programs and are offsetting carbon emissions” they “cannot eliminate.” They see themselves as being involved in “the positive effects of sustainable travel.”

A specific example reflecting environmental concerns is the inclusion on one trip of a discussion of “the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef with marine biologist Jamie Symour.”

They even printed the brochure on recycled paper!

To further encourage people to sign up for one of these trips, a participant of a previous trip is quoted.

“This world is amazing, and it’s incredible to see it with National. Geographic. With all the projects they have funded and supported, we were allowed a deeper view into the world and the cultures that the Society sponsors.”

More details and other trips are described on their website at: natgeoexpeditions.com/privatejet

One expedition is “Around the World by Private Jet: The Northern Route.” It is for 22 days and costs $92,595 per person in double occupancy which comes to a little over $4,200/day. This trip involves circumnavigating the Northern Hemisphere starting in Seattle and heading west until one ends up in Boston, leaving one a bit short of actually going around the whole world, and perhaps ending the trip feeling defrauded. In Seattle, one will spend 2 days before heading out for 3 days in Japan then on to 3 days in Mongolia, 5 days in three locations in Russia, 2 days in Norway, 3 days in Iceland, 2 days in Greenland concluding with 2 days in Boston where people will “gather for cocktails and a farewell dinner” before flying home “the next morning.”

For the Greenland part of the trip, one will get to visit its “icy realms.” The plan there is for one to take a scheduled “private charter flight to Ilulissat” in addition to “flightseeing over the Jakobshavn Glacier.” Gratification from these excursions may come from knowing that one may be one of the last humans to view much of the ice that may soon vanish from the burning of fossil fuels like that used travelling in the jet and planes during this trip.

I have done some travelling. I can’t imagine the benefit of visiting so many places in such a short time that requires one to spend much of the time being transported from one site to another and having to deal with jet lag from numerous time zone changes. Wouldn’t three weeks in one country be more enriching? However, as is so commonly said, different strokes for different folks. The folks going on one of these “expeditions” are presumably quite different from most people in what they possess, consume, and enjoy.


1. At https://www.nationalgeographic.com/giveback/ , National Geographic Partners describes itself as “A joint venture between The Walt Disney Company and National Geographic Society”

2. https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/2018-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201905.pdf page 2 “If faced with an unexpected expense of $400, 61 percent of adults say they would cover it with cash, savings, or a credit card paid off at the next statement—a modest improvement from the prior year. Similar to the prior year, 27 percent would borrow or sell something to pay for the expense, and 12 percent would not be able to cover the expense at all.”

Income: https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2019/demo/p60-266.pdf page 35


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Rick Baum teaches Political Science at City College of San Francisco. He is a member of AFT 2121.

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