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FEATURE ARTICLE 2
Outbound VolunTourism: Tauck World Discovery & Yellowstone National Park
Tour operators rejoice! You have been looking for a simple model that demonstrates the power of VolunTourism - this is certainly one to review.
In August of 2004, Tauck World Discovery was named the recipient of the Travel Industry Association of America's (TIA) 2004 "Public & Community Service Award" for their development of a volunteer program for travelers at Yellowstone National Park.
Felicia Fisher, chairperson of the TIA's Odyssey Awards Judging Committee was quoted as saying:
"We're all familiar with the maxim of 'leave only footprints' when visiting special destinations, but Tuack and its guests take that noble idea a step farther, actually leaving Yellowstone Park a better place than when they arrived. Our national parks are irreplaceable, and Tauck's Yellowstone project represents corporate citizenship at its finest."
This VolunTourism initiative is part of TWD's most heavily trafficked tour that includes Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. Between 3,000 and 3,500 travelers annually participate in this 10-day trek through South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah.
In 2004 roughly 1600 of the participants became VolunTourists by completing 29 projects throughout Yellowstone Park. The 4800 hours of service they provided had an estimated value of more than $75,000 USD according to Park officials.
But this particular initiative does not come without a commitment - a commitment by TWD to give back to the destinations in which it hosts operations.
The VolunTourism model that TWD utilizes is based on corporate philanthropy as opposed to extending the cost directly to the consumer. TWD set aside funds to hire a coordinator to organize and conduct the 29 projects through Yellowstone National Park. These funds paid for both the training of personnel as well as an annual salary.
With the tremendous success of the program, more than 50% of participants electing to volunteer, TWD decided it was important to conduct a follow up survey with participants. The results were remarkable. Of the 600 respondents to the survey, 86% said that volunteering in conjunction with their travel experience enhanced the entire trip, and 94% of respondents said that given the opportunity in the future they would volunteer again.
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Again, commitment played the most important role in determining a positive outcome for all parties involved - Yellowstone National Park (the destination), Tauck World Discovery (the tour operator), and participants (the VolunTourists). A very simple project of about three hours in length and extended over 1600 volunteers can really add up in terms of labor value and accomplishment. TWD has created a VolunTourism model that is simple, yet highly effective because of the sheer volume of participation.
TWD is forging ahead in expanding their VolunTourism initiatives in other National Parks. These include: Glacier National Park, Ellis Island, Grand Canyon National Park, and Valley Forge National Historic Park.
We asked some additional questions of TWD and have featured them in this month's 3-Q's.
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