Tasha Carvell, Director of Travelocity’s Corporate Social Responsibility program, Travel for Good, was kind enough to submit the below blog post. The Travel for Good site is alive and well – what do you think of it’s contribution to the field?–
Travelocity’s Change Ambassador Grants Offer Volunteer Vacation Opportunities
When Travelocity returned to the black in 2004 after the bleak period after 9/11, the company breathed a collective sigh of relief. Rather than bask in the glory of profitability, however, a groundswell of employees joined in a united appeal to company leadership to funnel some of those earnings into a philanthropic effort. To their credit, and thanks to a couple of particularly committed members, the executive team was quick to concur and, in the spring of 2006, a committee which included employees from all levels of the company was formed to brainstorm and come up with a concept that would be the focus of Travelocity’s corporate social responsibility program.
There was no shortage of ideas to come out of the working group, but everyone in the room quickly realized that the common denominator was a belief in the transformational power of travel, and the conviction that Travelocity had a role to play in promoting responsible tourism. That passion, combined with some internal polling which showed that many of Travelocity’s customers were interested in giving back to the communities they visited while on vacation but were unsure how to go about it, led to the establishment of the Travel For Good program and its cornerstone, Change Ambassadors.
The idea of Change Ambassadors is to help bring the idea of volunteer vacations to a broader audience. Travelocity launched a microsite to help make it easy for its customers to find volunteer opportunities through partnerships with gold-standard voluntourism providers Cross-Cultural Solutions, Earthwatch, Globe Aware, the American Hiking Society, and Take Pride in America, all of which can be accessed at http://www.travelocity.com/travelforgood or from a permanent “voluntourism” link on the Travelocity home page. In addition, travelers wanting to hear about the experiences of other everyday folks who have taken a volunteer vacation can do so at http://www.travelocity.com/volunteerstories, a site dedicated to highlighting user-generated volunteer stories.
Although Travelocity’s members for the most part can afford a volunteer expedition as an alternative to their traditional family vacation, Travelocity recognizes that there are also many people who could not afford to go on their own. Therefore, the company launched a second part of the Travel for Good initiative – Change Ambassador Grants. Travelocity awards two $5,000 grants per quarter to customers and one $5,000 grant per quarter to an employee to go on a volunteer vacation sponsored by any one of the Travel for Good partner organizations. Thanks to generous donations from partners like Marriott Hotels, Conde Nast, and MasterCard, additional grants have been added in past quarters. Forty grants have been awarded to date, and the number of quarterly applicants has grown by 200 percent year over year. Grant recipients have run the gamut of volunteer work along the way: building wheelchairs for landmine victims in Cambodia, doing trail maintenance on volcanoes in Hawaii, caring for orphans in Peru, and restoring mangrove ecosystems in Kenya.
Problems like climate change and needs like disaster relief demand something from each of us, and traveling responsibly doesn’t just help the communities it touches, but also affords a deeper experience for the volunteer-a chance to see local cultures and address challenges from the inside, the opportunity to gain a fresh perspective, and to know the joy of sweat equity. Travelocity is proud to help its customers and all travelers navigate the voluntourism opportunity waters and take that transformational trip of a lifetime.
Director, Travel for Good (Travelocity)
Tasha Carvell is the director of Travelocity’s corporate social responsibility program, Travel for Good, overseeing its non-profit and corporate partnerships, grants program, employee-engagement initiatives, online community-building activities, sustainability efforts, and marketing. She was part of a small grassroots group of employees who helped to found the program in 2006.
To learn more from Tasha regarding Travel for Good you can follow her at The Window Seat at http://windowseatblog.com