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.
Canada is also entering the VolunTourism market and here is one tour operator that is delivering service purpose with travel passion.
This month, I caught up with Beth Kelly who shared the following information on Aquila Tours...
A Brief History & Background
Aquila, an Atlantic Canadian Tour Operator, has been organizing meaningful travel programs for groups to destinations around the world since 1982. Aquila has been a member of the National Tour Association (NTA) since 1988, and Aquila’s owner, Beth Kelly, was first in Atlantic Canada to receive NTA’s Certified Tour Professional designation. Since 1994, Aquila has been providing customized educational travel programs for alumni associations, museum groups, nature centers, and special interest groups throughout North America to Atlantic Canada and other incredible destinations around the world such as India, Thailand, Australia & New Zealand, Greece, and many more.
In line with Aquila’s own philosophies surrounding giving back and making a difference and to respond to the emerging desire among travelers to give back and make a difference, we are pleased to introduce our voluntouring programs. Through the long-standing relationships that Aquila holds in the travel industry, we are forging new partnerships and creating tremendous opportunities for our clients to travel with purpose and take part in incredible voluntouring programs in destinations around the world.
Aquila ’s owner, Beth Kelly, has always been a strong believer in making a difference and in giving back. Although she is a business owner with a desire to grow a business, she is more passionate about growing people and making a difference in the lives of people. Her personal philosophies have formed the base for a company philosophy that is firmly rooted in giving back and making a difference. It’s even evidenced in Aquila’s vision statement, which reads “ The fun and energized Aquila Team continues to grow and be recognized as leaders in our industry by creating moving experiences with integrity while supporting professional and personal dreams.”
As a group and as individuals, our team is known for its volunteer efforts in our industry and our community. As a group, we’ve been involved in everything from Beach Sweeps to planning fundraisers for worthy organizatons such as ALS. As individuals, Aquila team members volunteer in all sorts of capacities, with current roles ranging from Past-President of Team Canada to being a Big Sister with “Big Brothers / Big Sisters”. And as an employer, Aquila strives to give back to our employees, who give so much to us, something that was recently recognized when we won the Award for Excellence in Human Resources Development, one of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s National Awards for Tourism Excellence.
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Aquila is also known for keeping a careful eye on travel trends, and we can see an emerging trend that many travellers are sharing this philosophy. Many of those who feel they have been blessed in their lives do want to travel, but they also want to continue to experience personal growth, and they want to give back to the world that has given so much to them. Considering our company’s philosophy and this emerging travel trend, it seemed a natural extension for Aquila to offer voluntouring programs. They allow both our company and our travellers to give back and make a difference, and they contribute to the personal growth of our travellers as well. These programs don’t just offer travel – they offer travel, with purpose. And at the end of these journeys, participants often find that despite all they have given, they have received much more.
And in true Aquila fashion, we are not just offering these programs to our travellers. We are also extending the opportunity to participate in the programs to our team members, if they wish. We will be training some of our team members to lead the programs, and we are currently working to include options for assistance to participate in these programs as part of our employee benefits program, as well.
Unique Volunteer Activities
We adapt our volunteer focus to meet the needs of the region that we will be visiting, but generally speaking, they involve participating in local humanitarian, social and environmental projects in the regions we visit. The team at Aquila works closely with well-established service groups and organizations that have a local presence in the destination in which voluntouring programs are offered, such as Habitat for Humanity International. We rely on the folks that are “on the ground” for guidance as to where our help is most needed, and build our programs from there. We are striving to offer programs that include varying projects, generally involving one of the following:
- Construction: building new homes for individuals and families
- Community: improving living conditions in an area
- Conservation: protecting endangered wildlife and the natural world
And we don’t only look to exotic destinations around the world for these volunteering opportunities. Aquila is currently working with local Atlantic Canadian organizations to identify volunteer activities to incorporate into voluntouring programs here at home, as well. We are incredibly fortunate to live in a beautiful corner of the world, famous for its stunning scenery, varied wildlife, and spectacular eco-systems. But more and more, it is in need of protection, and we plan to establish voluntouring programs focusing on conservation of endangered wildlife and natural areas in Atlantic Canada by 2007. Projects will include protection of seabirds and shorebirds, whales, and areas of fragile coastline. Let us know if you’d like us to keep you posted on the development of these programs!
Unique Tourism Activities
Generally speaking, our voluntouring programs feature an orientation, approximately one week on a volunteer activity, and then approximately 3-5 days for sightseeing, as well as some rest & relaxation. (Of course, the duration varies depending on the destination.) In Zambia, for instance, the sightseeing component includes a two-day safari and a tour to Victoria Falls, all arranged with a local tour operator. In El Salvador, we are again working with a local tour operator who has helped us organize a touring component that focuses on the beauty and culture of Central America, taking us from Mountain Tops to Artisan Towns. Again, we believe the people who can help us create the best programs are the locals – and the way we can make the biggest difference in the regions we are visiting is not only by volunteering, but also by u sing receptive operators, accommodations, guide services, restaurants, transportation, and other suppliers that are locally owned and employ local people whenever possible.
Sample Itinerary (Zambia)
You can see our current programs on our website; for instance, our voluntouring program to Zambia might be good for a sample itinerary.
http://www.voluntouring.ca/pages/zambia.htm You’ll also see a voluntouring program to El Salvador, and we’re currently working on one to Thailand.
Beth Kelly, Owner/Operator
Aquila Tours Inc
P.O. Box 6895, 124 Prince William Street
Saint John, New Brunswick, E2L 4S3 Canada
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