The VolunTourist™ is a premium Newsletter for the Travel Trade. For those interested in discovering what is happening in the world of VolunTourism and seeking emerging practices, general information, and case studies, this is your Source.
VolunTourism del Hilton
Our “3-Q’s” for this issue were answered by Jo Licata, Community Projects Manager, Hilton San Francisco. Here is what she had to say in answer to our questions:
1) What was the impetus for the San Francisco Hilton to create a staff position to facilitate the connection between guests and the nonprofit community in San Francisco to support voluntary-service-based engagement?
The position was created originally to facilitate relations between the nonprofit community and hotel team members. Executive management believed a strong relationship between the two would foster understanding and appreciation for the other's role in making San Francisco a better place in which to live and work. It was the shared vision of Rob Scypinski, former director of sales and marketing, and
Community Projects Manager Jo Licata to evolve the program to include volunteer activities between hotel group guests and the nonprofit community.
2) As a pioneer in this approach to community involvement for guests, what are some of the challenges you have identified that can be generated by conducting such socially responsible activities?
It is important that the event is meaningful for the organization providing the volunteers and that the planned activity doesn't create a burden for the non-profit group. That's the starting point. Sufficient lead time in helping to organize the event is critical. Some organizations simply cannot handle large groups of people at one time.
Additionally, park, playground or beach clean-ups or any clean-up or fix-up activities usually involve some monetary outlay for supplies and equipment, so a donation to cover any expenses must be considered. Proximity to location of conference venue and anticipating transportation needs of volunteers must be planned well in advance.
It is important that an orientation be provided prior to any volunteer activity, so the volunteer understands the importance of the work he or she is doing. Scheduling the event, the logistics of the activity, confirming the number of volunteers, providing the necessary tools, photographing the event for the conference records....there are many factors to consider when organizing a community day activity for conference attendees. The earlier the planning begins the better the event.
3) What of your past experiences would you offer that demonstrate the potential of voluntourism for the hotel industry as a whole?
It's really about being a good neighbor and a good citizen and great teambuilding. Building bridges to the community in which the hotel is located whether an urban location or a resort is a win-win for everybody. In these situations, people connect with their humanity and demonstrate valuable qualities, such as leadership, that might otherwise go unnoticed. Voluntourism also provides the opportunity for a company or corporation to make an impact by taking their Corporate Social Responsibility Program "on the road."
Jo Licata, Community Projects Manager, Hilton San Francisco
After working as a meeting planner for a Hawaii-based Corporation, Jo joined the Hilton San Francisco in 1988 as an Assistant to the Resident Manager. After stints as Purchasing Agent, Culinary Assistant, Business Officer Manager and Assistant Manager of the Hotel, in January, 1995, Jo was named Community Projects Manager. This position was created by the senior management of the hotel to insure that the Hilton San Francisco was a pro-active partner in the North of Market and Tenderloin areas, assisting with the businesses and non-profit social services agencies to improve the quality of life for our neighbors, which include over 5,000 children and 3,000 frail elders. This position is unique to the hospitality industry, and, to date, no other hotel in the country has a position that deals almost entirely with community issues. Our goal at the Hilton San Francisco, the West Coast’s largest hotel, is to be recognized as a good neighbor and a good corporate citizen.
In addition to managing the hotel’s national and local award-winning community volunteer and in-kind giving programs, through the Hilton San Francisco, Jo has organized and managed the Hotel/Non-Profit Collaborative. This network of San Francisco hotels, businesses and non-profit agencies meet every month to share information on matching the non-profits’ needs with hotels’ surplus supplies and equipment. Since inception in 1997, this creative networking has provided a second life to nearly 350,000 tons of material, supplies and equipment either languishing in storerooms or slated for dumpsters and debris boxes.
Originally, from St. Louis, Missouri, Jo has worked and attended the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, worked for three years in the Negev Desert in Israel and has called San Francisco home for the last 20 years.
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