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Meeting Professionals

To say that 2008 ushered in a new era of conventions & meetings hosting VolunTourism events and activities in conjunction with their annual gatherings would be an inaccurate statement. New Orleans has been the beneficiary of many such activities since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And prior to that, meeting professionals had organized voluntary service projects, albeit, sporadically.

What is noteworthy on this topic is how meeting professionals, particular Meeting Professionals International (MPI) has created a unique portal on voluntourism and sustainability as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative for meeting professionals. Through this initiative, meeting professionals are encouraged to engage their respective clients in voluntourism experiences, and, as a result, many of them are now utilizing the term "voluntourism."

Photo Courtesy Of Pfizer & Los Niños, Inc. All Rights Reserved  
Suggested Readings From The VolunTourist Newsletter

Voluntourism At Conventions - Tara Pazanski and Dr. Lori Pennington-Gray from the University of Florida conducted a study on voluntourism at conventions. In their research, they examined the meetings & conventions market to explore meeting professionals' intent to include voluntourism as part of an annual meeting or convention. How may an individual's intention have been influenced? To answer this question, they focused their research on four variables: 1) Industry knowledge, 2) Attitudes, 3) Motivations, and 4) Past experiences.

A New Strategy for Business VolunTourism? - Corporate Meetings & Incentive Travel options create an atmosphere for learning and engagement amongst colleagues and team members. Business VolunTourism delivers significant benefits to a growing list of forward-thinking practitioners as a corporate strategy. This is an example of one that caught my attention.

Photo Courtesy Of AHIP, All Rights Reserved

Inbound VolunTourism: The Evolution Of A Service Legacy - In this article, Sarah Corradino of the Professional Convention Management Association discusses the role that VolunTourism has played over the past decade in the organization's annual conventions & meetings.

Inbound VolunTourism: "Watch Out For MICE Traps"- Part I - Inspired by the suggestion of Sue Pelletier, Executive Editor of Medical Meetings, this article discusses the possible obstacles that stand between meeting professionals and VolunTourism.

Inbound VolunTourism: "Watch Out For MICE Traps - Part II - Continuing in this second part of a three part series, this article discusses how to mitigate the four primary risks associated with VolunTourism - Liability, Safety, Event/Project Failure, and Client Dissatisfaction.

Inbound VolunTourism: "Watch Out For MICE Traps - Part III - In this final installment of the series, the article discusses how to acquire the necessary Knowledge, Familiarization, Suppliers/Vendors, and additional Financial Resources to support meeting professionals in developing VolunTourism programming.

An Overview

VolunTourism is finding a niche for itself in the Meetings & Conventions market. If you are looking for examples, review the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau , Tourism Vancouver, or the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau. Each DMO has designed a portal to support meeting professionals in organizing partial-day and full-day voluntary service projects for inbound groups.

If you take a gander across the web, you will discover that meetings & conventions groups use voluntourism in pre-convention literature and press releases and post-convention discussions via blog posts and internal & external communications such as newsletters and association magazines. You will see that some have even gone so far as to invite their members to be "voluntourists" for a day. [Editor's Note: Dr. McGehee, who runs the VolunTourism.org Research Forum, featured a research article on this subject in The VolunTourist.]

At the root of VolunTourism's success is the alternative nature of the activities in comparison to traditional meeting & convention events. A social mixer is renovated with a shot of voluntary service; a spousal program is rejuvenated with a spot of volunteering; team-building is accented with an influx of social responsibility. Regardless of the application, VolunTourism opens the door to creativity - one of the primary staples of meeting planning.

Benefits Of Voluntourism?

What is one of the primary benefits of VolunTourism?

Meeting professionals have had a long-term history of dealing with room-block issues. VolunTourism provides the unique feature of being attractive to those who may want to come early - a pre-conference event, or stay afterward - a post-conference event. Booking additional rooms within your host city can only lead to benefits for you and your client in the future.

Getting started is a matter of simply asking yourself whether you are ready to embrace this approach and incorporate it into a future meeting. Not everyone is prepared to deal with liability issues, logistics, and other elements that are part of the VolunTourism package. Be sure that you are suited to assume the additional responsibility.

Work with your client to select a project, or set of projects, that is in alignment with the existing social causes that the client supports. If you prepare a proposal with projects that vary dramatically from the historic track record of the client's philanthropy and in-house employee volunteer program, you run the risk of alienating your client in the proposal phase.

Once you have a social issue to address, identify a good non-profit organization or non-governmental organization (NGO) as a partner. Conducting your due diligence in this area will insure that you come away with a relationship that will support your goals & objectives, and, ultimately, those of your client.

After the event, you have a real opportunity to showcase the service project throughout the remainder of the meeting or convention. This can be very powerful, particularly if participants were moved by the experience. And any follow up that you can do with the client to update them on any sustainable results or direct/indirect socio-economic impacts that occurred through their project is a great mechanism for maintaining communication with the client long after the event.

For additional resources, look to archives of The VolunTourist and other sections of this website. Should you have in-depth questions about how to approach VolunTourism as a Meeting Professional, feel free to contact us.

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THE VOLUNTOURIST - Past Webcast for Meeting Professionals


Tuesdays 10am ET/7am PT

Association Meetings and VolunTourism - 11 November, 2008


Sue Pelletier, MeetingsNet Web editor, mad blogger, and editor of Association Meetings magazine, joined me along with representatives from ApacheCon to discuss Association Meetings & VolunTourism.

(1) What is an Association meeting and what are some of its key elements?

(2) How can VolunTourism create added value for Association meetings and what are some of the potential drawbacks?

(3) What are some examples of VolunTourism projects that have been adopted through Association meetings?

We addressed these questions and more during this episode of The VolunTourist.

[Listen To The Cast] (Click Here To Download)


Brian Fitzpatrick, Web Engineer, Google. Charel Morris, Conference Producer, ApacheCon. Sue Pelletier, Web Editor, MeetingsNet.

Meetings & Conventions and VolunTourism - 22 April, 2008


My guests joined me to discuss the connection between meetings & conventions and voluntourism:

(1) How is the meetings & convention market engaging in VolunTourism?

(2) What are some of the reasons meetings & convention groups are developing these types of programs?

(3) What resources are currently available to meeting professionals to support them in better serving their clients?

We addressed these questions and more during this episode of The VolunTourist.

[Listen To The Cast] (Click Here To Download)


Elizabeth Henderson, CMP, M.Ed., CMM, Director of Canadian Development, Meeting Professionals International; Barbara Scofidio, Editor, Corporate Meetings & Incentives.


Professional & Trade Associations and VolunTourism - November 13, 2007


Guests discuss the connection between VolunTourism and trade and professional associations. What are associations doing to facilitate education and value-added propositions for their members as it relates to VolunTourism? Guests address these topics and discuss others during this episode of The VolunTourist.

[Listen To The Cast] (Click Here To Download)


Sarah Corradino, Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA); Ted Nelson, Heritage Clubs International; and Jim Santini, National Tour Association.