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January 2006 - Feature Article 1

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.

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FEATURE ARTICLE 1

2006 VolunTourism Forum

Still wondering whether you should attend the 2006 VolunTourism Forum?

Well, this article will enhance your understanding of the programming content and the learning opportunity that awaits you in Baltimore, MD on February 21 & 22.

This, the second iteration of the VolunTourism Forum, flows from the 2004 VolunTourism Think Tank that was held in conjunction with the 2004 Educational Travel Conference. The half-day gathering convened folks from the The George Washington University School of Tourism, attendees and organizers of the Educational Travel Conference, and members of the Los Ninos, Inc. Board and Staff. Participants spent the hours discussing VolunTourism and how it could strategically be developed into a functional model of operations for both the tourism industry and the nonprofit world.

The VolunTourism Forum was one of the elements that the VolunTourism Think Tank identified as a mechanism to provide the necessary environment of education and networking that would lead to the long-term sustainability of VolunTourism in the marketplace. The first VolunTourism Forum was held in February of 2005.

Welcome, to the 2006 VolunTourism Forum!

The Education

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Renee Werbin, Publisher of Travel Girl Magazine, will provide the Keynote. She will share with us the marketplace, particularly women, and what makes VolunTourism a potential travel option for this segment. By informing us in greater detail of the audience to whom we will ultimately be presenting our VolunTourism products and services, we will be better qualified to design our promotional activities and marketing plans.

In order for VolunTourism to thrive in the marketplace, the potential practitioners/operators of VolunTourism products and services must also be well-informed about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that face them as they move forward in their processes. This "SWOT" Analysis, as it is often described, is particularly important in preparing a VolunTourism Business Plan.

Strengths & Opportunities

Through plenary sessions and panel discussions, the 2006 VolunTourism Forum will highlight the "Strengths" and "Opportunities" by having speakers present information regarding their respective VolunTourism operations, products, and services.

You will hear from Steve Ward of Aramark Corporation as he offers a description of the public/private partnership between Aramark and the Lake Powell Branch of the U.S. National Park Service to create the "Trash Tracker" program. You will also have a chance to listen to a third-year college student named Gregory Tehven, of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Business. He will share the Students Today Leaders Forever "Pay It Forward Tour" - now, in its third year of serving some 400 high school students and collegians.

John Anthony Meza may impress the corporate audience with his discussion of the KPMG program that provides opportunities for employees to participate in VolunTourism in conjunction with Business Tourism - conventions and annual meetings, as well as Leisure Travel - through a program that supports employee sabbaticals.

Weaknesses & Threats

Of course, we are encouraging speakers to discuss the challenging side of their VolunTourism activities as well. But what we think will prove more compelling for attendees is to facilitate group interaction and attendee's participation to also identify the challenges that are unique to each attendee.

Following the completion of Questions & Answers for plenary and panel sessions, round-table group discussions amongst attendees will provide time for addressing the "Weaknesses" and "Threats" that your operations may face as you strive to develop your own VolunTourism products and services. A secretary from each group will compile this information and we will refer to it during our final session of the opening day- February 21, 2006.

Plenary Sessions

Theresa Cusimano, JD will share information on service learning and how VolunTourism represents "service learning" for the alumni travel audience. Nancy McGehee, PhD will share data on how recipients of voluntary service in a destination are responding to in-bound visitors delivering service to them and their communities.

Making The VolunTourism Pitch

Freelance Writer, Margaret Jaworski, will be joined by Sherry Schwarz, Editor of Transitions Abroad Magazine, and Renee Werbin, Publisher of Travel Girl, Inc. Magazine to discuss just how you can generate that much needed press coverage for your VolunTourism operations, products, and services.

Meet The Suppliers

This is your opportunity to communicate with two of the most important organizations with which you can connect to develop your VolunTourism products and services - the National Parks and the Hands On Network.

The Networking

Because the VolunTourism Forum hosts group travel planners, tourism industry professionals, and corporate and nonprofit sector representatives, attendees have a rich environment in which to propose future business opportunities, partnerships, and working relationships to develop their VolunTourism enterprises, products, and services.

During our luncheon on February 21, we will feature one destination at each table. Those wanting to either develop VolunTourism products and services in those destinations or participate as VolunTourists in those destinations will be able to meet and discuss how operations can be synergized and harmonized to support VolunTourism programming in these various destinations.

Questions may include:

"How do we prepare our travelers for these types of experiences?"

"How do we prepare our destination to serve these types of travelers?"

"What partnerships will best support our efforts?"

Speakers will be able to join participants during these discussions to facilitate and/or address specific concerns.

The Wisdom Council on VolunTourism

What we think will provide an even greater element for supporting the networking amongst participants will be our members of the Wisdom Council on VolunTourism. These individuals have a deeper understanding of VolunTourism because of their involvement either as practitioners or as those who make VolunTourism possible because of their tourism or nonprofit sector backgrounds.

We strongly recommend that you identify these individuals, their name badges will note their position on the Wisdom Council, and engage them in conversation in order to support you in your efforts to further understand the VolunTourism concept and what it can do for you.

Advanced Learning

On February 22, 2006, we will feature Advanced Learning Sessions. These sessions will host a limited number of attendees because of the intense level of education that will occur. We DO NOT recommend these sessions for those who are not actively and sincerely pursuing VolunTourism as a social enterprise venture or a new product line for your tourism industry business.

The language will be more technical and specific in an effort to tailor discussion directly to the audience for which the session is intended.

Meet The Editor

During this session attendees will have an opportunity to ask "the questions" that are most perplexing and pose the greatest challenge to your development of VolunTourism products and services. I, David Clemmons, Editor & Publisher of The VolunTourist will host this session. You may also ask questions regarding how to submit a story for The VolunTourist and what the criteria are for submitting other materials to be included in the newsletter.

Affinity Groups

If you are a representative of an affinity group and are convinced that VolunTourism is right for your program, this session will assist you in determining exactly how you may develop products and services for your members.

Theresa Cusimano, JD of Colorado Campus Compact will share information on how to present this opportunity to your members. Theresa will also discuss the importance of VolunTourism as an extension of undergraduate service learning programs for those alumni who followed this track during their college years.

Destinations

The success of VolunTourism hinges on how well the destination embraces the concept and determines that the social impact of tourism, via VolunTourism, is an important element for its current operations and future sustainability.

We do not need another Tsunami or Hurricane to realize that disaster means difficulty for tourism. But can a well-placed VolunTourism initiative that has been strategically developed prior to such an unpredictable situation prove to be a foundation in the aftermath of devastation?

We will focus our attention on these critical issues during this session.

Conclusion

Because the question keeps appearing in my inbox: "Should I attend the 2006 VolunTourism Forum?" - I would like to take this final section to address this.

The VolunTourism Forum has been created to be THE INTERNATIONAL SETTING at which those who are truly interested in VolunTourism can convene and determine exactly how they may move their plans forward for developing this type of travel genre within their current operations or as a brand new product, service, or business opportunity.

I think we have done the best that we know how to do to create this type of environment - to engage the proper speakers, to invite attendees with whom this type of travel resonates, and to reflect the ideals of social and economic impact that can accrue through combining voluntary service and the traditional elements of tourism.

You can support the 2006 VolunTourism Forum in one of two capacities:

1) You can proactively participate as an engaged attendee who wants to add value to what we are trying to accomplish in continuing the growth and development of this niche segment and your individual VolunTourism operations,

Or...

2) You can remain at your desk, check your emails, answer your phone calls, keep doing what you are doing, in other words, and wait for the next iteration of The VolunTourist to come to your inbox.

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VolunTourism:
A seamlessly integrated combination of voluntary service to a destination and the best, traditional elements of travel—arts, culture, geography, and history—in that destination.

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