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.
If You Gotta Go... Serve!
VolunTourism has a practitioner in the UK and they are interested in helping you Go Differently.
The tag line on the web site says, "Don't Follow the Crowd... Go Differently."
Okay, I'm intrigued. But what exactly do you mean by "Go Differently?"
This is part of what I asked Nikki Bond to explain in describing what Go Differently does to support Volun-Tourism in some of the destinations to which they offer travel packages.
But first, it is necessary to give some background. According to Nikki...
Go Differently has always been an ethical tour operator. By using local guides, local transport and local accom-modation and paying fair wages, we aim to ensure that not only do our clients gain a unique insight into the culture they are visiting but also that as much of their money as possible stays in the local community. By working in co-operation with local individuals and companies, particularly in less- developed regions, we also advise clients on any potential impacts of our visits and strive to minimise these wherever possible. In this way, those who travel with us are not greeted as unwanted intruders but rather as welcome guests.
With this background, moving from taking small groups simply to enjoy the hospitality of the local people to encouraging those who were interested to do so, to actively volunteer within the communities, was a logical step. Our client base was already made up of the type of people who actually cared about making a difference while on their vacation. Many were keen to get more involved and readily appreciated the fact that by doing so, they themselves were also getting more out of their trip through a deeper involvement with the host culture.
It is also true to say that the majority of our clients do not tend to be those who have months free to devote to joining a longer-term volunteering program. Therefore, our trips, which offer a combination of adventure, relaxation, exploration AND volunteering, all within a two to three-week itinerary, are the ideal solution. For those looking for a truly unique experience, which goes far beyond that of the average two-week vacation, Go Differently offers them a chance to do just that.
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This certainly impressed me. Nikki and her team have thoroughly reviewed the psyche of their clients. She went on to inform me that they regularly conduct exit interviews and internal research with their clients in hopes to create more meaningful travel experiences for their guests. It is through this process that they have gained the insight into why VolunTourism can be important to their future as an operator.
So what are some of the products and services that they offer VolunTourists?
Currently one of our most popular volunteer projects is the Elephant Mahout Project in Thailand. VolunTourists have a unique opportunity to get a basic understanding of the Thai domestic elephant and their relationship with their mahout. VolunTourists learn not only how to ride their elephant, but also how to care for it. They also immerse themselves, however briefly, in the traditional life of the mahouts and discover the rich and extraordinarily simplistic life of local people in this small, traditional village in Isan.
VolunTourists stay in the same house as the mahout and join in various communal activities including cooking. Income generated is handed over to the local people, which allows them to stay and make a living with their elephants in the village rather than being forced to seek work elsewhere.
Another project we support is a Hill Tribe Village. It is a home-stay program that has been developed to offer VolunTourists the opportunity to experience Thai culture in an authentic and inexpensive way. Here VolunTourists can learn about the traditional life of the Karen people and experience teaching English. They also become more versed in agricultural practices and the environment while interacting with the inhabitants in Um-Phang.
The local people benefit as their children are being taught English, which gives them good opportunities for future jobs. Besides that, VolunTourists can also assist with farming and general house activities. The local people benefit both from the additional assistance and from the income generated by visitors.
This summer, we are also offering several fixed date departures which will allow VolunTourists to spend some time exploring Thailand as well as spending some time assisting with the ongoing tsunami relief efforts in the south of the country. More details are available here.
If these offerings peak your interest, you can contact Nikki through their website or by email.
In closing I would simply say that here is an operator that has taken the effort to discover the needs of her clients, to assess the needs of her destination residents, to match these needs, and to create an environment in which mutual transformation can occur.
Ah... the wonders of VolunTourism!
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