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October 2005 - Feature Article 2

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FEATURE ARTICLE 2

Outbound VolunTourism: 77 Million Reasons For VolunTourism! - - Part II
No one entity has all of the resources, all of the "know-how," and all of the capacity to make VolunTourism possible. VolunTourism is a "team-sport," and it requires partnership. Especially, if you are considering supporting the efforts of 77 million people!

If you want to discover what potential VolunTourism partners are out there, read on...

Potential Partner #1: The Nonprofit Organization (NPO)/NGO

VolunTourism hinges all of its potential on one entity, the entity that has the direct connection with the needs of the destination and its residents. Granted, this entity can be multiple entities in a given destination, but we need to start with one.

But how do we know which one?

Likely, the organization, or organizations, that will best serve the needs of the tourism industry in collaboratively creating VolunTourism projects and activities are the development organizations and private foundations. Both of these representatives are in direct contact with NPOs/NGOs. Regularly, NPOs/NGOs respond to either RFPs or submit grant proposals to development organizations and private foundations in an effort to garner funding for operational, program, and/or capital expenses. These grantors conduct a process of due diligence to determine whether a particular candidate (grantee) is suited to receive funds.

Perhaps concurrently, or following this evaluative process, a development organization or foundation could also determine the viability of an NPO/NGO’s capacity to support the assessment procedure, creation and ultimate implementation of VolunTourism products and services. This would alleviate any such task necessarily falling upon the shoulders of members of the tourism community. Also, it would send a strong message to potential tourism partners that the resulting selection of NPOs/NGOs would be a “best of” group of potential partners from which to collaborate.

Potential Partner #2: The Destination Marketing Organization (DMO)

The DMO has an assigned task: market the destination! Depending on the destination, however, the DMO may have an addendum to this function and that is to improve the marketability of the destination. (You can see where we are going with this.) The marketability of a destination is impacted by the social challenges that a destination faces. Thus, if these social challenges are left unchecked, or result in “negative publicity” for the destination, it makes the job of the DMO that much more difficult. VolunTourism, therefore, is an excellent tool for supporting the DMO in addressing these social challenges.

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The DMO can operate as a connector between NPOs/NGOs and tour operators, for example. It can support in-market suppliers in identifying volunteer activities within the destination via connections to NPOs/NGOs. It may also hear from some of its members who may be on NPO/NGO Boards about needs that are arising within communities based upon what they receive through newsletters and board reports.

The DMO has the opportunity to play the key role of “Communications Director.” If the DMO develops a relationship with the NPOs/NGOs, it already has an existing relationship with suppliers and operators, it can become a clearinghouse of VolunTourism opportunities. But, the DMO must see that through its efforts to support the connection between operators and suppliers and NPOs/NGOs that it is fulfilling its mission of marketing the destination.

Potential Partner #3: The Supplier

Hotels are a great example of a member of the supplier side that can support the development of VolunTourism. Hotels are even more connected to communities and destinations than DMOs.

Why?

Hotels rely tremendously on local employees. These local employees are residents of the communities that constitute a destination. What better individuals to ask about the needs of the destination than the people that live in the destination? By asking about the social challenges in particular neighborhoods and communities, a hotel can be a liaison to the tourism community and the NPOs/NGOs through the discovery of what issues need to be addressed and can be supported through inbound VolunTourists.

Restaurants, museums, and other attractions are also natural liaisons to the community at large and can serve as facilitators in bringing together the needs of destinations with individuals that want to make a difference when the come to a destination.

Potential Partner #4: The Operator

Who brings the VolunTourists to a destination? The Operator does. The Operator can deliver the message to potential VolunTourists as it is communicated to them by the Suppliers, the DMOs and the NPOs/NGOs. How the VolunTourism opportunities are presented by the Operators is essential in the development of interest among would-be VolunTourists.

But Operators also have the most to lose in this scenario. They must be convinced that the risks have been minimized for the clients in terms of safety, etc. But they also need to know that the types of experiences that are being created for their clients will be enriching and will reflect positively on the Operator. Such guarantees are only possible if the partnerships are well-designed, well-understood, and communications are well-monitored to create quality-of-experience assurance for all parties.

Potential Partner #5: The National Government

To encourage other destinations amongst several states within a country or nation must be the task of an overarching governmental agency. If it is a Board of Tourism, then it is certainly possible for this organization to support VolunTourism as a means to draw people to the destination.

However, a branch of government that considers social challenges could also be an excellent partner in regards to VolunTourism. This agency could very easily support a private foundation or development organization in identifying NPOs/NGOs that could be responsible for developing VolunTourism products and services within a destination.

Conclusion

If we want to build successful VolunTourism products and services in destinations, we must be willing to rely on multiple partners to support the creation of meaningful experiences that will address the needs of destinations and their residents as well as the desires of inbound visitors.

Partnerships require exceptional communications, regular updates, and ongoing dialogue via networking sessions and face-to-face meetings. But when they are adequately maintained, they produce quality results.

VolunTourism is a quality product that can produce quality results in a destination. Via episodic service that exceeds the expectations of grantors, it is possible to entice social investment in VolunTourism in destinations that develop these collaborative partnerships.

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