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The VolunTourist Publisher/Editor, David Clemmons
September 2005 - So You May Know

The VolunTourist™ is a premium Newsletter for the Travel Trade. For those interested in dis-covering 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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So You May Know...

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) VolunTourism Model

The following definitions of Corporate Social Responsibility appear on the website of Mallen Baker:

When we discuss the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) VolunTourism Model, we are clearly focusing on the activities of companies – whether it is tour operators, incentive travel companies, meeting professionals, destination management companies, hotels, or other entities. Under these circumstances, therefore, VolunTourism would be incorporated into the operations of these various corporations as a means to deliver a positive impact to the destination and its residents and to improve the overall "quality of life" in the destination.

As tourism industry professionals and companies, you are already bringing economic benefits to the destinations in which you service business and leisure travelers. But with the introduction of voluntary service on the part of your clientele, you are introducing the social impact of travel and tourism in the destination. It is this social impact that leads to improvements to the lives of all residents – not just those that are directly impacted by the economic windfall of your operations. It is this distinct contribution that reflects the values inherent in the definition of CSR.

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Furthermore, what makes VolunTourism such a viable option for companies is that it delivers the benefits of supporting CSR while still contributing to the bottom line. How often the arguments against CSR are generated by companies because these practices are seen as methodologies that detract from profitability or hinder growth and development. By blending service and travel, however, companies are securing the revenues necessary for daily operations AND supporting the development of the destination and its residents.

Depending on the level of interest of the company, the cause or issue that can be supported through VolunTourism can be pre-determined. If a corporation’s support of the environment has been a concern, as expressed by destination residents, then the company can adopt VolunTourism options that will directly impact the environment. They may elect to work with a nonprofit organization to host VolunTourists to rescue sea turtles from fishing nets or resurrect coral reefs in a given region. The VolunTourism product or service is developed as a reflection of the CSR focus of the company.

The inherent beauty of the CSR VolunTourism Model is that companies can utilize their business savvy to create products and services that feature the best of their travel and tourism skills with the best of the opportunities made available by nonprofit organizations and NGOs in the destination. These creative partnerships that generate income for both the NGO and the company deliver the added value of supporting CSR goals and objectives. Over time these goals and objectives may shift as VolunTourists express interest in addressing other issues and/or the company changes its focus to other areas of concern within the destination.

For example, a company that relies solely, or almost completely, on hiring local staff to meet its infrastructure needs, may determine that although the environment is a major concern, the literacy of its employees is of an even greater concern. In this case, they may institute VolunTourism activities that will support the construction of classrooms, libraries, and other facilities to help local residents achieve greater levels of education. They may promote the establishment of continuing adult education programs once these facilities are built. In this case, the CSR VolunTourism Model is contributing to the local CSR plans of the corporation.

Remember: This type of activity demonstrates a highly-evolved thinking process on the part of the tourism industry partner and can act to significantly change the traditional approach to corporate and nonprofit partnerships.

But a word of caution with this model...

There two caveats when addressing the CSR VolunTourism Model. The first is that you must take the necessary time to really identify your corporate social responsibility goals and objectives. Haste is clearly a damaging course. Likewise, the same time-intensive and thoughtful process should be incorporated into selecting the nonprofit partner, or partners, that will support your operations in fulfilling their CSR VolunTourism goals and objectives.

The social challenges of the destination did not erupt, like a volcano, overnight. Even in the case of a natural disaster, the contributing factors of poverty, illiteracy, or destruction of the environment – all create a greater impact by the natural disaster and were put in place well-before the occurrence.

Conclusion

The CSR VolunTourism Model is an exceptional demonstration of civic engagement and forward thinking by a corporation. Support of this practice is warranted, especially by nonprofit organizations and NGOs. It is via strong partnerships with local grassroots development organizations that understand the particular issues a company wants to address that real change can be fostered.

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