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Impact 4 Good
Incentive Travel certainly has options to engage would-be VolunTourists and here is one you should get to know!
Ira Almeas , CITE started Impact 4 Good in 2000. As with all ventures, there is a purpose behind the creation. Here us what Ira had to say in terms of the inspiration behind Impact 4 Good:
"I have traveled all my life and it seems that there is less and less to 'buy' or 'bring home' these days and the world certainly has gotten a lot smaller or marketing stronger."
"What I did notice was the best souvenir was that of interacting with the local culture. I remember studying abroad in both Europe and Japan - locals would want my opinion on our president or want to discuss world issues. I felt like an ambassador, although without the proper credentials. What I did learn was that we are all basically the same inside and I felt privileged to share this interaction with different cultures. This is something unique that you keep with you for the rest of your life and hopefully share with your family."
" Anyway as the President of Impact Incentives & Meetings and an active member of The Society of Incentive & Travel Executives (SITE), I discovered that most people that travel don't interact with local cultures or 'bring home' these unique and memorable experiences. In addition, many corporate participants that qualify annually on incentive trips have that "seen it - done it" attitude. Each year it's a challenge to increase the excitement and uniqueness of these recognition programs."
"At the same time I saw a growth in company's participating in community service initiatives - typically on a donation level. It's a natural fit for corporations to incorporate learning the local culture when traveling to these unique destinations - it's a win-win for everyone. I find that most travelers that visit Cancun have never interacted with a Mayan, tried their food, learned about there way of day-to-day life, seen their native dance, or heard their language. Not only learning about their culture, but also helping preserve their dying culture is something priceless and certainly something that brings 'bragging rights' back home, as well as enriching these traveler’s lives."
In keeping with our effort to generate a real sense of what these programs may encompass, here is a detailed case study from Impact 4 Good:
Telecommunication Company’s annual sales incentive travel program
Tuesdays 10am ET/7am PT
Program awarded to those sales executives that have exceeded their annual sales quota. In 2004, The Yucatan Peninsula was chosen as the incentive trip destination. Previous years the group went to Ireland, the Bahamas, a Caribbean cruise, Orlando and Puerto Rico .
The Royal Hideaway is a five-diamond resort located outside of Playa del Carman – 45-minutes south of Cancun, Mexico. Cancun was designed as an international beach resort and the resort as well as a city for the workforce was “designed” in the early 1970's from a barren peninsula. However, there are signs of many Mayan sacred temples located in Cancun and in the immediate area just south, now called “The Mayan Riviera” or “Riviera Maya”.
The Mayan people are the indigenous people to the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, as well as other states on the Yucatan, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. There are many small native Mayan communities located around the resort communities that keep the same ancient life styles, speak the native language and harvest the land the same way their ancestors did many hundreds of years ago.
Tourists to Cancun as well as the Mayan Riviera resorts never have an opportunity to encounter the local culture and many of the resort sprawls have endangered this ancient civilization. We have found that most well traveled people would like to learn more about the local community that they visit. Who doesn’t like to walk through the streets of Paris and visit the neighborhoods or drive through the Irish countryside and have a local pint of beer in an old quaint pub? Most tourists feel enriched after they meet the local population, as well as getting a better understanding of the places they are visiting.
****CIRCLE OF EXCELLENCE 2004 – EXPLORING NEW CULTURES
LAND OF THE MAYAS – PLAYA DEL LINDA , MEXICO
During the course of the year the destination was communicated in a different approach. Sure, the beautiful white sand beaches and warm Caribbean sunshine was mentioned, but we felt that tying in the local culture of the Mayans would add an interesting twist to this sales contest. We included information on the ancient civilization and many of the innovative and advance discoveries that are known. After all these are innovative sales executives perhaps we could link their traits to those of the Mayans. It was a stretch – but again this is marketing and we used this angle to promote sales recognition and motivation for 12 months.
Prior to the trip we were introduced to a small organization called The Friends of the Maya Foundation. Fundacion Telemex (Mexican Telephone Co.), Fundacion Televisa (TV network) and Fundacion Azteca (TV network), amongst others founded this foundation to promote and recognize the Mayan population and create human & social development amongst this indigenous population to the Yucatan Peninsula .
We discussed how we can be involved and Impact created an interesting agenda that created awareness to a local community as well as a fun & dynamic resort-oriented trip. Our goal was to introduce this very forward-thinking civilization and show that we can learn so much from other cultures that can help us today.
Those that qualified for the trip received comprehensive and informative literature regarding the trip’s itinerary and selections of activities offered during the 4-night incentive trip. We asked that everyone bring one book and a small toy geared at children under the age of 12 with him or her. A small informative booklet highlighting the history of the Mayans was included with the pre-travel packets.
Poolside cocktails. Prior to dinner a local Mayan children’s choir entertained the group and a few poems were read in the local Mayan language. Dinner consisted of some local Mayan cuisine with an explanation of the ingredients. Guests received framed paintings from the Mayan children as a nightly room gift.
The group enjoyed their first full day of fun in the sun. Guests chose typical resort activities or could tour Xcaret (a recreated Mayan village & theme park) or tour the archeological sites of Tulum. Dinner was served at a choice of restaurants in the resort. A Mayan and Mexican cookbook was delivered as a nightly room gift.
A golf tournament or spa activities were arranged in the morning for guests to enjoy. In the afternoon we arranged a visit to a local Mayan Community Center that doubles as a school, medical center and library. The goal of the Maya Foundation is to keep the local culture from extinction. We had the group organize the library and stock the shelves with books that the Company purchased as a donation to the center. In addition, each person’s book from the States was arranged in a special section of the library.
Some of the group designed a gift tree and displayed all the colorful toys that were also provided by the guests. Some of the creative guests worked together painting a mural on the library wall as a gift to remember. There was an exchange in the late afternoon of the gifts and interpreters were available to translate some of the one-on-one conversations.
Dinner was served at a choice of restaurants in the resort. An astronomer was organized after dinner to explain the amazing discoveries of the Mayans from the 7 th Century AD. A Mayan language book hand signed by the children of the Community Center was delivered as a nightly room gift.
The group enjoyed a full day of fun in the sun. Guests chose typical resort activities or could tour Xcaret (a recreated Mayan village & theme park) or tour the archeological sites of Tulum. Guests received a special invitation to join in a Toc experience – a pre-Hispanic sauna dating back to 600 BC and used to cleanse people. The brick-domed hut has a straw mat floor and water is doused on the hot brick walls to create steam. A Mayan storyteller with a translator explained this rich tradition and cleansing practice. Dinner was served prior to the award’s ceremony in the ballroom. The cleansing capped a most memorable learning experience and served as a hot topic of dinner conversation. A scrapbook with photos of the local Mayan Community as well as a letter from a dignitary from the Mayan community was delivered as a nightly room gift.
The post-trip surveys were all positive. This year the incentive group is in Rome , Italy and we have some unique Roman events planned. The bottom line is that there is no need to cut back on the celebratory content of an incentive trip when including community service activities. In fact, these educational and charitable elements of the corporate group trip make these recognition programs that much more memorable. The definition of an incentive trip – is to create an extraordinary travel experience and that we do…
The incentive participants are still enjoying their trip and have time to sightsee or relax in the sun during their program. Our goal is take elements of the trip and infuse it with local culture awareness and interaction - perhaps through teambuilding initiatives or during a "themed" dinner event either on property at a resort or within a local community.
For more information on Impact 4 Good, please visit their website.
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