|Volume 2 Issue 4 - UnXpected
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.
Thank you, again, for your interest in The VolunTourist!
And a BIG Thank You to all who send us some great comments!
This Issue's Reader Comments
Dear Readers, you should know that this is the most provocative email I have ever received in the nearly 7 years that I have been working on VolunTourism. It is unedited and submitted by a reporter from The Netherlands. I hope it moves you as it did me.
I am a Dutch reporter and I just came back from a trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I'm afraid I don't know your organisation well, though it showed up when I started searching the web for information about a certain subject and I just hope you can help me anyway.
The subject I'm referring to is voluntourism. A term I became familiair with when I was helping out demolding a house of some Hurricane Katrina victims in the area of Biloxi. These people told me voluntourism is the combination of both holiday as volunteerwork in the same trip. To use the Gulf Coast example: go help out for a few days, take a good rest in the casino's of Biloxi for a few days and that's your holiday.
My first question: are we talking about the same form of voluntourism?
Secondly, if we are then I'd like some very specific information about voluntourism in the Gulf Coast Area. It would be great if you can tell me how to explain to my readers how they can become a voluntourist in that area. I'll tell you why.
The reason I was at the Gulf Coast is simple: I was invited. Invited by touristic agencies that operate in the area, by the many casino's and restaurants, by the museums and by the hotels. Their message was that they're open to business. I can understand that message. It is important that tourists start coming to the Gulf Coast again and spend their money. All for the benefit of the area and its inhabitants.
What I couldn't understand though was how they could say they're open for business while several thousand families are still living in FEMA-trailers. When you drive through the area you see mostly nothing. Sites where once hundreds of houses stood strong, groundworks of churches, every now and then these trailerparks. The size of the devestation shocked me and at moments I could not believe I was in the richest country of the world. To me it just seemed as if there was still a lot of work to do.
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I'm not sure if you know how these presstrips work, but as a reporter you're supposed to write everything down nice and neat and lure your readers so to speak into going to the place you've been. This time I'm having a hard time doing that. Of course, the casino's and the restaurants are open for business at the Gulf Coast, but for the same reason I could not have a fun holiday in Baghdad, I can't have that at the Gulf Coast. The devestation is just everywhere. The people need help, way more than tourists spending their money in the area.
That's when I joined a group of volunteers who were at that time demolding a house. Even though I only 'worked' for a couple of hours, it gave me more satisfaction than everything we did there until then. And that's when I was first told about voluntourism.
What I want to do is write a story that encourages my readers to go to Mississippi and become a volunteer. Help some people out who might be forgotten, if I couldn't imagine there were people in the richest country of the world living in the conditions I some in the FEMA-trailers, more people can't. And I'm convinced they must be helped. Done volunteering? Take a bath at the beautiful Beau Rivage, eat at the best restaurant you can find and sleep in the biggest ocean-view suite you can find. It's all there and since you pay for it you help out the locals anyway. But combine the two, don't just go waste your time there. Help those people out and feel human, I guess that's what I'm trying to see.
I always try to keep these kind of emails short and I never succeed to. I hope you can help me, and in that way help the people on the Gulf Coast.
Reporter of Telegraaf
Back in the office and I wanted to respond to your questions below.
1) My first question: are we talking about the same form of voluntourism?
Yes, an itinerary that combines voluntary service with traditional elements of a tourism experience - arts & culture, local environment & geography, history, and recreation. Of course, the amount of time that one dedicates to either service or tourism experiences will vary from group to group.
2) Secondly, if we are then I'd like some very specific information about voluntourism in the Gulf Coast Area.
Currently, Bart, I am conducting a series of communications with the state of Louisiana regarding how to best organize themselves to receive voluntourists. This has not been organized to the degree that will allow people to select from a group of voluntourism options. As it stands, the individual has to plan a regular trip and then add the voluntary service element separately. This does not make it easy for a traveler, especially one from a foreign country.
I should have some information for you shortly in this regard.
I will also add you to the newsletter listserv for "The VolunTourist" which will keep you updated on this issue and others throughout the world.
How would you feel about me sharing your email in a future issue of "The VolunTourist?" I think it would be tremendously important to share what you have said here. Others may be feeling the same way.
I hope that we can continue to correspond and as soon as I have further information I will pass it along to you.
David L. Clemmons
I have come across the "voluntourism" website often and I thought that I would just write a quick note of introduction.
In 1996, I was finalizing an advanced degree when one of my colleagues suggested that I go into the international development industry. I had already worked for non-profits in the past, and I did not like the funding models of most non-profits. To this day, I do not remember who gave me the idea, but I hit upon the possibility of funding cultural heritage conservation through tourism. I was soon discussing the idea with everyone I met, and started the concept for the Cultural Restoration Tourism Project at that time.
Two years later I was traveling to Mongolia at the invitation of a local community who wanted to restore their local cultural center, a Buddhist Monastery called Baldan Baraivan.
To make a long story short, CRTP has been enacting projects in Mongolia and Nepal since that time. We are proud to be all-volunteer and almost exclusively funded through volunteer-tourism. We are also proud that almost 80% of our tour fees go directly to program costs.
I appreciate the work that you are doing to advance "voluntourism" as I truly believe in the power of tourism to transform communities and travelers alike.
Keeping with our "small is beautiful" philosophy, we do all of our marketing in-house and are always looking for viable outlets in which to promote our programs. I would appreciate any advice you may give to shoestring marketers.
Keep up the great work,
You bring forth what I think is a major challenge for many organizations that are competing in the VolunTourism genre of travel. It is not an easy task to market your products and services when there are some very established operators in the marketplace.
However, the first "rule," if you will, that I recommend for NGOs that focus on VolunTourism is to review your existing asset base. The biggest asset that NGOs have are the people within the organization - board and staff, primarily, as well as those that have participated in one of your CRTP trips in the past.
These folks, believe it or not, are the brightest and "cheapest" marketing and promotional engines you will ever find. This may seem cliche', perhaps, as you have undoubtedly considered this group as a major marketing arm for your organization. But rarely, and I mean rarely, does an NGO know how to fully involve this group in its marketing & promotional activities. Let them become the hub of your marketing efforts by assisting them in realizing their potential to draw participants to your program through their networks - social circles, work environments, alumni associations, etc.
Another asset that you have is your program itself. Tour operators, particularly adventure travel and educational travel operators, are looking for organizations that can facilitate community connections, allowing their travelers to participate in voluntary service projects. My suggestion would be to review the members of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, the US Tour Operators Association, vendors for the Educational Travel Conference, and those connected with ResponsibleTravel.com and "map" them with the destinations that you are serving.
From the list you compile, you should be able to identify a fair number of companies to which you can submit an email inquiry or letter to discuss the potential of collaborating with your organization to offer joint experiences. No, the revenue generated will not be equal to what you are currently charging for an entire trip, but it will open the door to a new audience for you and you will receive fees for coordinating the service activities at the destination level.
One other thought is the Service Learning community. International Service Learning is booming! (Fordham University, as an example, has 27 international projects to which it sends students.) Colleges and Universities around the world are looking for experiences that can help to transform students. But they do not want just any experience, they want ones with track records and performance measurements. It sounds like your program might fit in this bracket. Faith-based colleges & universities are an excellent starting point as you could connect with an on-campus serivce learning or community service office that could assist you in marketing your program.
Let us hear from you! Email us with your questions, comments, and testimonials at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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A seamlessly integrated combination of voluntary service to a destination and the best, traditional elements of travel—arts, culture, geography, and history—in that destination.
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