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.
So You May Know
VolunTourism: Finding A Place In The HEART Of Business
Corporations are laying their claim to VolunTourism in a variety of ways:
For some, like First Choice Holidays, PLC, it has taken the shape of adding a VolunTourism company to expand its product offerings.
For others, like McClain Finlon Advertising, it has taken the form of utilizing VolunTourism as a means to engage employees and inspire workplace loyalty.
For still others, like Medtronic Mexico, it has become a means of introducing voluntary service as both a concept to be embraced by employees and a new approach to team-building & team-member monitoring.
First Choice Holidays, PLC
In my opinion, Ladies & Gentlemen, there has been no greater singular event in the history of VolunTourism, outside of September 11th, 2001, than the recent purchase of i-to-i.com by First Choice Holidays, PLC. Granted, I had to do some digging to even find a blog entry much less an article that spoke to this purchase, but I was unable to find anything in the press outside of the United Kingdom.
Why is this SO SIGNIFICANT?
"First" Major Corporate Move
It is certainly the first major move by any company to secure a stake in the VolunTourism Universe. First Choice Holidays, PLC does so, in style I might add, by taking the biggest Volun-Tourism firm out there.
To date other companies - Travelocity and Cheaptickets, for example - have taken the route of forming partnerships with non-profit organizations & NGOs.
And Tauck World Discovery, with an entirely different approach, has dedicated resources to developing their own in-house VolunTourism portfolio with the U.S. National Park Service.
I am speculating here, but it tells me that a very large travel company, First Choice Holidays, PLC, is not just sitting back and waiting for VolunTourism to develop itself via little operations around the world - either as for-profit or non-profit entities. This company is taking VolunTourism seriously - seriously enough to make the purchase of i-to-i part of a $16.6 million pounds sterling investment that included two other companies in a three-company buyout. (How much was actually spent on i-to-i has not been revealed publicly, so far as I can determine.)
But there is a bit of a mystery here as well. I have not been able to find a single press release on i-to-i.com regarding this purchase. First Choice has i-to-i.com listed under its "Activity Holidays Sector" on its website, but I have not been able to find a single reciprocal link on i-to-i.com. Why?
And if we keep asking the questions...
- Why has no other media group outside of the UK made mention that THE LARGEST VolunTourism company in the world has been purchased by one of the biggest travel companies in the UK, if not the world?
- When will the likes of Carlson, American Express Travel Related Services, or Sabre Holdings venture into this market space?
- Now that a precedent has been set, can these companies merely watch without taking some action?
THIS IS BIG! Definitely a story to follow in the months ahead.
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McClain Finlon Advertising
When I walked through the front door of this Denver-based advertising outfit, I was greeted affably by the person at the reception desk with these words: "I'm gonna win, you know... I'm gonna win the Global Do Good Grant award." I did not get his name, but I most assuredly appreciated the fact that someone was alerted to the fact that I was coming for a visit.
I had spoken several weeks before with Lindsey Miller, the PR Director for McClain Finlon. She had taken the time to set up several interviews for me to get a more personalized description of what the Global Do Good Grant means to this firm of more than 200 employees.
I sat down with the recipients of the first two awards - Christina Johnson and Sara Greene. Later, I also had a chance to meet with Cathey Finlon, CEO & Owner of the company. Christina and Sara shared their experiences with me and answered my questions, all except for one, which I posed to Sara: "What one word would you use to describe your VolunTourism experience to Romania?"
Cathey and I discussed what this has meant for the company. She spoke of the transformation that she has seen in both employees that have gone on these trips - all expenses paid by McClain Finlon. We also discussed the application process and how her team is developing skills in simply putting together final presentations to be selected as THE Global Do Good Grant Awardee. "You know, I hadn't thought about that until you mentioned it," she told me. "But our people are having to use their talents to create presentations for our selection committee."
I also mentioned my "greeting" by one of her team members at the front door and my sense that this is improving employee morale, and, perhaps, retention. She told me that she felt it was doing so, AND that it was engaging their clients as well because participants make a post-trip presen-tation to the entire team and clients around the holiday season (See Sara's Invitation here).
Tuesdays 10am ET/7am PT
As I was departing, Sara walked up to me and handed me a "sticky" with the following words on it:
- Heart Breaking Yet Strengthening
- Gaining Perspective
"Yep," I thought, "it's hard to develop a one-word descriptor for VolunTourism, even for an advertising agency."
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I have mentioned the name, Gerardo de La Concha, in a previous issue of "The VolunTourist." Gerardo was recently named Vice President of Medtronic Mexico. He has been a staunch proponent of VolunTourism since I met him three years ago in Mexicali, Mexico and has led his team of executives on five VolunTourism trips since that time.
I had the distinct honor of joining him and his team in mid-June down in Ensenada. He and I had a chance to sit informally and discuss what VolunTourism has been doing for his team.
"Initially," he said, "I had to go to my executives and get them prepared to participate in one of these trips. Now, they come to me and ask when will the next trip be."
I could tell that this was very meaningful to Gerardo who grew up in Mexico and attended Universidad de Ibero Americana in Mexico City. The Jesuit ideals of service are taught at this University but volunteerism is not pervasive in Mexican culture. It has been this challenge that Gerardo has had to address with members of his team.
"But what else are you looking for besides instilling the value of service in your executives?" I asked him.
"Ah...," he said with a smile, "I watch them on these projects. I look to see how they work, how they interact with each other and members of the community. I watch."
I had thought from the very beginning of my work with VolunTourism that it would be an ideal way for corporations to create an alternative to team building as well as get a closer look at their people; but never before had I heard someone from a company ever speak in such a way. It was a great revelation and spoke highly of Gerardo's keen insight on the potential for Volun-Tourism to do far more than simply encourage employees to embrace the ideals of service.
Gerardo De La Concha
"What's next?" he asked me.
"How about making adobe bricks to support a village in San Antonio Necua in building an eco-lodge for backpackers and visitors?"
"December," he said. And with that, he loaded up his team and headed north-by-northwest.
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