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Jauntaroo Best Job In The World
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.

Volume 9 Issue 3 Highlights

 
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FEATURE ARTICLE 1

From Check-Writing To VolunTourism: Can Jauntaroo Really Make The Switch?

$100,000USD -- quite a bit of money for a year-long position moving about the planet, volunteering periodically, and sharing the experience with the world. That is what Jauntaroo recently offered to willing and capable, and might I add, demonstrably “like”-able candidates for the position of Chief World Explorer (CWE). To date, however, Jantauroo’s connection with social do-gooding has been a function of check-writing based upon a $1 donation per booking to a monthly cause selected by the company. VolunTourism, as we know, is not an easy prospect; it steps well beyond the convenience of check-book philanthropy. Will Jantauroo succeed where others have been challenged following attempts to combine tourism and voluntary service in popular destinations?

Introduction

I have spent the last couple of months walking in Bolivia; mostly, I should say. Sure, for longer distances from the town centers I have used moto-taxis and for journeys from hub cities like Santa Cruz de la Sierra, I have been on flotas (motor coaches), buses, and, dare I say it, trufis (minivans); but, predominantly, I have put some kilometers on some wickedly tired feet.

Through the conversations and interactions that I am having here in Bolivia, I am capturing rich tidbits of information, seeing connections that previously did not exist. For example, there may be some of you who would like to sit down with the two gents who run Distribuidor de Vino Aranjuez Monteagudo on the northwestern side of the Plaza Central de 20 de Agosto – not because you want to buy a case of Aranjuez Bolivian wine, although you might, but because you would like to hear their story about meeting Che Guevara when they were kids and what it was like to come face-to-face with the legendary figure in this part of the world. Or, if you want to buy t-shirts for your volunteer group that is going to volunteer on the Ruta de Jesuita in Concepcion, you could check out Samuel Cruz who runs Taller Serigrafia in the 6 de Octubre Mercado and have him design the t-shirts for you in advance of your journey.

My travel companero to and from many of these communities has been Miguel “Mickey” Amaya, a first-rate PRA (participatory rural appraisal) specialist with GNTP (Grupo Nacional de Trabajo para Participacion) out of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. He is focused on gathering information from community residents regarding the trends related to tourism, how to improve MyPyMES (micro and pequeno and medio empresas – micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises) and to capture information regarding the desired goals & objectives of communities. On the other side, there is the blue-eyed, red-faced gringo with the GPS device from Delorme®, the iPhone®, the Nikon® camera draping from his neck, the Samsung® laptop computer, the little red Moleskin® notebook, and a pen or pencil poised in the right hand – ever-ready to capture any asset offering connection to possibility.

Depending on the type of MyPyMES I come into contact with and the level of exposure to technology of the individual(s) running it, the response to the prospect of geo-mapping her/his/their business has been, and not unexpectedly, varied. For example, try visiting a hospital in Monteagudo and asking questions, taking photos, etc.; such things can raise questions and concerns in the minds of those who do not expect it anywhere in the world! On the other hand, there are accommodations that have not the capacity to create a website or market & promote themselves - any presence on the internet is greatly appreciated!

Geo-mapping these MyPyMES in Bolivia represents a different direction for voluntourism. When the work is complete, we will be able to geo-spatially connect and visualize the relationship between the tourism sector and voluntary service opportunities, and to recognize the expanse of possibilities that exists within the realm of MyPyMES – a part of voluntary service that has been, in my opinion, dramatically underserved. Rather than limiting the focus to NGOs and community-based organizations (CBOs), which have received the vast majority of the attention, this new, broad-scale approach in Bolivia can emphasize supporting entrepreneurs as well. Doubtless, it is and has been a goal of many to mprove the social sector; however, we may discover that meaningful service can be deployed to support the private sector in ways that deliver tremendous short-, medium-, and even long-term results to communities.

So How Does All Of This Connect To Jauntaroo?

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Okay, we have another travel company which has used money & voluntourism, social media, and public relations to draw what I am assuming will be quite a decent employee-candidate for its Chief World Explorer (CWE) to its ranks, not to mention some web traffic along the way, a new member or two or perhaps a million.

To date, however, Jauntaroo has had a very straightforward, hands-off social investment strategy – for every booking, provide $1 for a cause of the month. Such strategies are good for generating social media exposure through the 12 different causes and their “friends” that are connected to the cause – “book your travel through Jauntaroo and we get a $1.” It is a good way for a two-year-old startup to generate some traffic. At the end of the month, Jauntaroo writes a check, the cause is happy, and life moves on for all.

Voluntourism, as we know, is not a straightforward social investment strategy. Geo-mapping the tourism supply chain in Bolivia and various official development assistance (ODA) and private development assistance (PDA) projects there has expanded my awareness of the complexity of the voluntourism picture.  Jauntaroo is about to enter the voluntourism arena for the first time in its short-lived existence and it is going to bring, quite possibly, an even greener candidate into the space. It will be doing so in what will likely be some well-seasoned travel destinations – I wonder if Bolivia, anywhere in Bolivia, is even on the list of 50 destinations that its CWE will “voluntour” in in 2014. (Certainly hope so.)

Ever since I saw this contest launched I have been thinking: “What can be done to help these guys? What can be done to help them really do voluntourism better? To make a difference with what they are planning to do in 2014?” Did anyone else have this thought? What to do for Jauntaroo, what to do, WHAT TO DO?

A Chance For Jauntaroo To Invest In The Future Of Voluntourism

What follows is going to be some guesswork on my part, let me be up front about that. I am guessing that Jauntaroo will not be using some of the traditional voluntourism operators and volunteer sending organizations – economically, it would be a substantial investment. Thus, voluntary service options will be destination-specific, possibly grassroots, but likely community-based organizations. Sure, there is the option of going with high-profile NGOs with a presence in a destination, and the company could choose this route – another way to generate publicity through the social media feeds. And, if this is the marketing strategy at work behind their social investment, they can probably be successful with the move. Do an “open-call,” just like they did with the Best Job Around the World - - “Be one of Jauntaroo’s causes in XYZ destination in 2014. Send in your video today.”

After my experience here in Bolivia, however, I am going to ask Jauntaroo to do me a favor, well, perhaps, all of us a favor, really. I am going to ask them to get their CWE out in these destinations with a mindset of finding the untapped assets of these communities, uncovering the opportunities to be of service to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, and to consider the possibilities that could come from placing the information which their CWE discovers in the hands of future travelers. Because, the number one reason that travelers do not do more to invest in the enterprises that exist in the destinations to which they travel is very simple – they do not know how. They do not know what they can possibly do to make an investment of time/effort/resources in these treasures of a destination. And, we know that the investment of those travelers would be far more than the $1 per booking that Jauntaroo could provide to a worthy cause in a destination or that its CWE could provide in a day or two of volunteering. Jauntaroo could change all of that by giving us an example of what could be possible, in this case, via their CWE.

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Through the conversations and interactions that I am having here in Bolivia, I am capturing rich tidbits of information, seeing connections that previously did not exist. For example, there may be some of you who would like to sit down with the two gents who run Distribuidor de Vino Aranjuez Monteagudo on the northwestern side of the Plaza Central de 20 de Agosto in Monteagudo – not because you want to buy a case of Aranjuez Bolivian wine, although you might, but because you would like to hear their story about meeting Che Guevara when they were kids and what it was like to come face-to-face with the legendary figure in this part of the world. Or, if you want to buy t-shirts for your volunteer group that is going to volunteer on the Ruta de Jesuita in Concepcion, you could visit Samuel Cruz who runs Taller Serigrafia in the 6 de Octubre Mercado and have him design the t-shirts for you in advance of your journey.

The point is not to take away from the good that Jauntaroo could do by assigning its CWE to volunteer with a specific cause/organization in each destination, but imagine what could be done if that CWE becomes an information-generating engine – geo-mapping destination assets – MyPyMES, tourism sites etc, collecting information on causes and enterprises that are too small to have web pages, and delivering that information through an open-source platform, informing connections with the possibilities being brought through the vehicles of future travelers – their assets: experience, time, effort, and resources. This would be a genuine service and one that would make an indelible mark in the voluntourism space – what company has ever done something of this nature?

Final Thoughts...

Geo-mapping communities is a time-consuming process. It takes me an entire day to gather 100 data points, and another two days to compile the data and link the photos to each point of interest. But, the possibilities that are smiling at me through every interaction, even if the person with whom I am interacting is doubtful, really are more than mind-boggling. I will give you an example of this.

I was speaking with Lidia in Concepcion; Lidia runs Confiteria Mana. She works from 6am – 12noon, has a break for 2 hours, then begins again at 2 and continues until 9pm. I was looking at the small tortas (decorated cakes) in her refrigerator, they kept drawing my attention, but I couldn’t quite figure the connection. Later in the day, as I was checking into the hotel and taking out my passport to do so, it hit me – Lidia could invite all of the hotel owners/operators for a tasting of her tortas, give them her number, and every time someone checks into a room and the hotel clerk notices that the guest may be having a birthday while s/he is visiting, that clerk could contact Lidia to make a small torta for the guest. Of course, the hotels do not have such capacity in these small communities, but working with Lidia, they wouldn’t need the capacity. She provides it for them.

Spending time in tourist destinations wherein small businesses may not have considered such linkages is both humbling, and at the same time, incredibly exciting. If Jauntaroo’s CWE will be visiting 50 destinations in 2014, I would offer that data collection, although it may not sound sexy, could be the one great service that a young company like Jauntaroo could offer to the voluntourism space. Opening the world to awareness of the intersection of travel and voluntary service and the role that information plays in expanding its potentiality - - I ask you, what more could a CWE do during a year of voluntouring about the planet?

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