Boisean heads cruise line’s new ‘social impact travel’ unit

Carnival Corp., which says it is the world’s largest travel and leisure company, named Create Common Good founder Tara Russell president of its new business, Fathom.

Starting in April, the company best known for its ocean cruises will offer seven-day trips from Miami to the Dominican Republic. The 700-passenger Adonia won’t offer the games and shows featured on traditional cruises. Instead, travelers will learn about Dominican culture while cruising through the Caribbean to prepare them for their destination.

Once in the country – which shares an island with Haiti – they will have three days of activities that include helping to plant cacao plants, making chocolate with a women’s cooperative, teaching English to schoolchildren and planting coffee to help with reforestation efforts, Russell said.

Fathom was designed to place travelers where they can do the most good for Dominicans, said Russell, who came up with the idea in 2013 and has been working since January 2014 to research, design and develop the business model.

“We’re not going to paint a wall just so somebody can say they painted it,” she said. “It’s not just a feel-good thing for the traveler.”

Fathom trips will cost about $1,540 per person with seasonal variations. Russell said Boise will be the home base for herself and five or six Fathom employees.

Carnival hopes to soon expand its social-impact traveling options beyond the Dominican Republic, she said.

“Fathom is just the beginning,” she said. “The corporation has nine other global brands and 700 locations. My vision is to harness that platform and leverage it for impact.”

Russell founded Create Common Good in Boise in 2009. The nonprofit provides job training in agriculture and food preparation to people who face barriers to employment, including refugees, homeless people, convicts, former addicts and women referred by the Women’s and Children’s Alliance.

Russell and her husband, Jeff Russell, founded the Boise bookkeeping firm Easy Office that became Jitasa, which provides accounting services to nonprofits and has grown to 85 employees. She also has worked for General Motors, Nike and Intel.