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VT Cast #26: Tour Operators & VolunTourism

Synopsis

What are tour operators doing to incorporate VolunTourism into their product & service offerings? Why are tour operators designing Volun-Tourism product & service offerings? What are the perceived benefits vs actual benefits for tour operators that include VolunTourism in their product & service offerings? These questions and more will be addressed during this episode of The VolunTourist.

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Past Webcast - February 26, 2008
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Guests

Allison Clark, Senior Product Manager - Africa, Collette Vacations; Brent Dalrymple, Manager, Sunrise Tours [Bio].

Quotables

[What is your criteria for selecting organizations, particularly on an international basis for your philanthropic efforts?]

"Yeah, what we've done, interestingly, with our Foundation (Collette Foundation) is that it's employee-run, it's an employee-fueled entity. So we have, there's an application process for our employees and they apply to be a part of the foundation. And when they're chosen we put them into teams for destinations, so using South Africa for an example. And the South Africa team was four employees, and they went out and looked at the destination, found the need - the mission of our foundation is to give back to children in our partner communities - so the only thing we siloed them for was working with children. So it could have been health education, water, anything of that nature. That was our one piece of criteria.

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What we've found works best for us is doing something on a very local level. So finding the actual school, working with the principal, or finding the actual network of preschools and working with that trust - instead of going large and working with a Red Cross, or a Unicef, or a Save The Children. Having control over the projects is what's really important to us and being able to see the benchmarks and watching everything, and then also we need to be in control of it just because our clients are visiting. We need to be sure that they have the proper experience. So really the criteria was just that - something small enough for us to manage.

For instance, in South Africa, this year's project was to install chalkboards and school supplies in all of the thirty-two pre-schools in the network - that's something very manageable." Allison Clark

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[Tell us a little bit about your VolunTourism initiative at Sunrise Tours]

"We took a group to New Orleans and Biloxi (Mississippi) last April and are doing so again this April. And it was a service tour where in Biloxi we worked with an organization called God's Katrina Kitchen and with Randy's Rangers. And the kitchen, of course, served food to other volunteers and also people who had been displaced from their homes. And then Randy's Rangers was like a construction cleanup crew that would clear debris and actually help people rebuild also. And we worked with those two organizations because we have, with our clientele - folks in their 60's and 70's - we have variable degrees of activity, ability, strength, that sort of thing. So we wanted to give the people an opportunity to - they could either work in the kitchen, which would be serving food, fairly low-stress activity, or with Randy's Rangers and they might be clearing brush, putting up dry wall, that sort of thing.

We spent a couple of days in Biloxi and then we went down to New Orleans and we worked with an organization called Save Our Cemetaries and they spent a day clearing out Lafeyette Cemetary #1, which is one of the more popular among the tourists. The cemetaries were and still are, I think, to a large degree an area that needs a lot of clean up and work just to get back to being able to visitors to enjoy them.

In planning our tour we - - it was definitely a service-oriented tour - - but we also wanted it to be an enjoyable experience. So in Biloxi, for example, we stayed at the Beau Rivage, which is a four-star casino, very nice hotel. We did a shrimp boat tour; in New Orleans, we did a city tour, of course, which included viewing some of the more damaged areas. We ate at nice restaurants like Tujagues in New Orleans and, of course, the Beau Rivage in Biloxi. I think it was slightly different than a lot of voluntourism or service-type trips in that we kind of tried to combine the service with actually doing some of the tourist-type things in the areas. Because one thing we recognize is that while there's certainly a lot of damage to be repaired and a lot of service to be done, the other side of the pain, if you will, in those areas are the tourist attractions and the hotels that see less business because of the damage. So we kind of saw ourselves and hope that we contributed on a couple of different levels - one, helping the people that were displaced from their homes and also kind of helping drive the economy and the people in the tourism business in those towns." Brent Dalrymple

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Guest Bios

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Brent Dalrymple, Manager, Sunrise Tours

Brent is a Manager at Sunrise Tours, a family-owned and operated tour operator, started in St. Louis, MO back in 1993.  The company opened an additional office in Indianapolis in 2006.  Sunrise Tours creates and manages group travel packages focusing on a target market of retired people. Sunrise Tours offers all kinds of domestic and limited international travel, everything from day trips to 13-day tours of the US West Coast.  And the company holds member-status in the National Tour Association and the American Bussing Association.

Brent has been the Manager of Business Development for Sunrise Tours since 2003. Prior to that he served as a Bond Trader with Nisa Investment Advisors beginning in 1999. He has also worked as a process consultant with Andersen Consulting. He graduated with a BA in Economics, and BSBA in Finance from Washington University in St. Louis in 1996

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