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November 2005 - Feature Article 2

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FEATURE ARTICLE 2

Outbound VolunTourism: National Tour Association Panel Session Recap
For those who were unable to attend, here is my report on the 2005 NTA Convention's VolunTourism Panel...

Bruce Beckham of Tourism Cares for Tomorrow gave the opening salvo and shared with attendees his experience of supporting historic preservation in various destinations in the United States. These activities, conducted in concert with the National Tour Association (NTA), have left positive social impacts on destinations including: New York, New Orleans, and Mt. Vernon.

With the stage set, Bruce passed the torch to the following folks:

Gary Schneider, Inspire Your World Magazine

Gary did a fantastic job of sharing with the audience some of the key statistics about volunteering throughout the world. Whether it is Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, or the United States, there is a growing trend among the people of these various countries to "give back." Each country fields more than 20% of its population as regular volunteers.

Gary also shared the importance of the corporate movement to volunteer. Companies have the resources to involve their employees in voluntary activities and to support their participation in delivering a positive social impact to destinations around the world. Is it not a simple progression from the workplace to the home environment and beyond?

Gail Bremner, Aquila Tours

If you are an operations person for a tour operator, supplier, or destination marketing organization, then you must definitely contact Gail to receive a copy of her presentation!

Gail managed to walk the audience through the step-by-step process by which she and Aquila Tours developed their strategic plan for VolunTourism and incorporated it into their overall operations. She shared the vision of the company and why VolunTourism is seen as a means to achieving the goal of delivering positive social impact to destinations, residents, and their respective environments - both cultural and natural.

She addressed some of the challenging questions for an operator considering such issues as liability, identifying a nonprofit partner, and determining pricing margins. The presentation simply was a grand testimony to the due diligence of Aquila Tours and their 2006 VolunTourism offerings will prove just how commited they are.

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Carlye Cook, Tauck World Discovery

How does one of the leading operators deliver VolunTourism activities to their clients and what are the results?

This is what Carlye shared with attendees. The statistics are impressive. The participation rate, response rate, and comments on the experiences are worth reviewing if you are seriously considering voluntary service activities in conjunction with your existing tour offerings.

Carlye discussed the enthusiasm of participants, their responses to the experience, and how many of them felt that including voluntary service in the context of a tour was something that should be done, at least for them, in the future.

She was also quick to point out that Tauck World Discovery has used volunteering as an "add-on" experience within the context of the tour. She sees a more integrated approach, perhaps as complete VolunTourism experiences, as something that will develop over time depending on the feedback from their current and future participants.

David Clemmons, "The VolunTourist"

Secret #1: It Costs Money To Volunteer

As the last to present, I thought it important to share some generic insight into VolunTourism. This point is the one that I like to emphasize no matter what group I am addressing.

We have created a culture in this world that does not understand just how Expensive it is to volunteer.

Nonprofit organizations spend hours and hours developing relationships with residents. The development of trust takes years and can only be created through the regular contact of program directors and nonprofit personnel with community residents. It is through trust that needs ultimately can be shared and addressed.

The investment in human capital and relationships is immeasurable over the course of those years. It cannot be replicated in a short period of time to suit the demands of a market that has been mislead into believing that they are readily accessible and easily created. To expose to others the vulnerability of one's own situation takes incredible amounts of courage.

It is imperative that we understand the true nature of volunteerism and realize the great financial investment by those who are the front runners in establishing these opportunities for those of us who reap the efforts of what they sow.

Secret #2: It Is Possible To Do Well Socially And Conduct Good Business At The Same Time

We see in a number of publications this mantra: "Do Well, Do Good." But what does it mean, REALLY?

If you focus your efforts on conducting good business practices and generating sustainable operations for your company, this does not exclude you from providing social benefit and impact to the destinations in which you operate. In fact, as many statistics will demonstrate, you may very well enhance the image and profitability of your company by "doing well socially."

The important point to realize in all of this is that these goals: positive social impact, and profitability - are synergistic and can be applied simultaneously into the operations of your business. When you take care of the destination and its residents, you will see that your company - your clients, your employees, your stakeholders, your vendors, and your executive team - will benefit greatly.

Conclusion

The Tourism Industry has an unprecedented opportunity; one that cannot be measured completely at this juncture.

Unique in comparison to other industries, tourism can incorporate volunteerism into its product and service offerings. Other companies include volunteerism as a mechanism to support internal relations with employees and external relations with the "watching public."

But tourism can add the elements of volunteerism and create a travel experience that supports the needs of destination residents and participating clients. Is there any other industry that, as a whole, can really fulfill this stellar role?

It is our collective vision that the tourism industry can establish a legacy for the world: You can do well, do good, and DO BOTH!

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