Small Destinations And VolunTourism
For this issue of The VolunTourist, I am grateful to reconnect with Kristen Sandstrom, Marketing & Events Manager for Bayfield Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Bureau. Kristen shared her story regarding the annual Apostle Island Sled Dog Race during our Small Destinations & VolunTourism webcast held on January 22, 2008. I asked her to send us an update on her experience in response to this issue's 3 Q's.
1) When approaching this as a first-time experience for your CVB (Convention & Visitors Bureau), what did you feel were some of the natural connections to voluntourism for the Sled Dog Race, Bayfield residents, and the Bayfield business community?
If you could see the thrills and fun that the volunteers have - those who have volunteered over the past years - you would see absolute joy on their faces.
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The Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race is an event that requires an immense amount of manpower. Every year visitors have been willing to jump in and help out wherever it was needed. As a Chamber we decided why not promote this to folks who have come to just watch and let them know they are invited to "engage and help" as well. This may be something people would actually enjoy participating in as a part of their vacation.
We decided to make it as simple as possible for these visitors by creating a package for them including lodging, meals, etc. This gave our visitors the opportunity to become a "part" of the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Races and a part of this small community. So many of the Bayfield residents are already involved every year in the races, they were inspired to hear we would be able to draw tourists in to help out as well.
What were some of the notable outcomes from the experience - for participants, the community, your CVB, suppliers, etc.?
The first thing I noticed with our voluntourists was the smiles on their faces. They truly enjoyed not only being a part of this wonderful event, but they loved working with the dogs, and doing some physical labor. They were pleased with how helpful the locals were and how "friendly everyone was."
There was one minor complaint from the voluntourists, and that was they felt they could have done even more. This comment will definitely be taken into consideration for future years, as there is always more to do.
The local volunteers were elated to have visitors as a part of the races. One volunteer leader even commented that the voluntourists worked harder than other volunteers because they hadn't done it before and it was all a new experience.
3) How would you like to modify this effort as you move into the future to improve on next year's activity and to incorporate the voluntourism approach to other events in Bayfield?
Based on comments from the voluntourists, the main change - looking to the future - would be to add a bit more work for those who choose to do more. We have learned that voluntourists are expecting to be put to work. This first time effort has shown us that there is a population out there who want to experience new things and "working" vacations.
The Bayfield community has many other events that visitors could be a part of, such as the Bayfield in Bloom celebration. We are always looking for people willing to help out with gardening efforts throughout the community. Bayfield intends to plant another 10,000 daffodils this year bringing our total to over 40,000 throughout the community. We will, of course, need help planting these bulbs in the fall.
Bringing visitors to Bayfield during our shoulder season is our main goal, and the opportunities are certainly there.
Kristen Sandstrom is the Marketing and Events Manager for the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Bureau. Kristen is fairly new to the position, but not new to Bayfield. "This is a community that I grew up visiting, and a place that I am so proud to call home." Kristen was an English major at Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin, and has been managing people and events for over 10 years. Kristen manages and coordinates over 12 different community events throughout the course of the year. These range from bringing Santa Claus to the mainland every year for the children in the communities to planning the annual Apple Festival which brings in excess of 45,000 visitors every year.
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