Trip of a Lifetime Report 2010

OK – so this isn’t entirely voluntourism focused, but the below is a cool report I just finished with GeckoGo and iExplore – some interesting findings in here that apply to experiential travel (of which voluntourism is a key part). Let us know what you think! Don’t forget, State of the Volunteer Travel Industry 2010 is coming up – please plan on participating again so we can continuously benchmark changes!

The Trip of a Lifetime Travel Report 2010, a travel study about the motivations and preferences behind vacations that are considered “A Trip of a Lifetime.” This report was conducted by GeckoGo and iExplore in conjunction with Lasso Communications. Given the rise of experiential travel, the goal of this survey was to obtain a snapshot of consumer attitudes globally towards taking “lifetime” trips, what destinations are considered, the importance of travel companions, the price and duration. The survey looks at the difference between expectations for what a trip of a lifetime means, compared against those who have already gone.

Download full report
Key findings of this report
  • Seeing the World Wonders, safaris and rain forest expeditions are the top experiences travelers are most interested in for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. 70% of respondents said they are most interested in visiting natural and man-made wonders on a once-in-a-lifetime trip such as Machu Picchu, the Pyramids or Victoria Falls. Beyond that, 53% said they were very interested in going on safari and 42% were very interested in a rainforest expedition. Extreme sports – like sky diving – proved less popular with only 16% saying that they were very interested.
  • Picking the right travel companion is THE most important consideration when planning a once in a lifetime trip. 50% of respondents felt “who I travel with” is a very important consideration, followed closely by “being able to fulfill a personal goal”, which was selected as very important by 45% of respondents. The preferred travel companion(s) are typically a partner/spouse (59% of respondents) or friends (24%), although 5% of married respondents would prefer to go on their trip by themselves.
  • Travel media plays an important role in decision making–70% of travelers said that inspiration for a trip typically came from books or magazines versus 40% who were inspired from hearing stories from other people or 27% who gained inspiration from TV.
  • The majority of travelers are independent, yet travel agents and tour groups play an important planning role. While 52% of respondents organized their lifetime trip independently, 18% join a tour group, and 16% use a travel agent to organize their trip. The remainder either used a combination of options or let their travelling partner handle the arrangements.
  • A Once-in-lifetime trip does not have to break the bank. 28% of respondents who are planning a once- in-a- lifetime trip reported that they are willing to spend between $2,000-$3,999 (excluding airfare) and another 26% are willing to spend $4,000-$5,999.

Download the full report here

Top Trip-of-a-Lifetime Travel Destinations of 2010

  1. Around the world
  2. Australia / New Zealand
  3. Africa (Overland)
  4. Antarctica
  5. Egypt
  6. Italy
  7. Peru
  8. India
  9. South Africa
  10. Greece

Should Volunteers go to Haiti?

With most disasters like Haiti everyone wants to help but doesn’t know how. The Red Cross text campaign has worked really well to raise immediate funds but the internet is also atwitter with people wanting to volunteer in Haiti. Is this a good idea? Is money more valuable right now than a bunch of unskilled volunteers getting in the way? Or does Haiti just need bodies right now to help with food distribution and maybe some foreigners to be there showing compassion?

I say keep the volunteers that aren’t especially skilled (doctors, nurses) should stay at home and have them send money to the organizations on the ground that can really get the job done. What do you think?

What has your organization done in response? I found this article from Peter Greenberg to really helpful, maybe consider passing it on to people calling you asking what they can do: How to Help Haiti

Why Adventure Companies Fail with Voluntourism

Having been a part of the volunteer and adventure travel industries for awhile now one thing seems quite apparent to me, most adventure companies that try to sell voluntourism flat out fail (Intrepid is the latest example). But why?

I have consulted on the adventure side for a lot of these companies and peeked my nose into their volunteer product marketing. I see the appeal on their side to merge into voluntourism, similar customer, interactive cultural experience, similar price range – should be an easy transition, but it’s not. Here are some observations on why they fail.

1. They use sales staff instead of ‘advisors’.

Someone looking to volunteer needs more guidance than someone looking to book a Machu Picchu trek. They need to understand the work they will do, the value they will bring, where their money will go and how they will cope with the language/cultural barrier without a group of peers or guide, etc. (to name a few).

The companies that have simply added voluntourism into the product offering and expected the same adventure sales team to sell it have definitely failed.

2. They don’t provide fundraising information.

How many times have potential volunteers called your company and complained that they can’t afford it but would love to volunteer abroad? The majority of volunteer organizations have a ready made solution to hand out for this dilemma, adventure companies are blind sided and lose the lead.

3. The marketing message.

All too often voluntourism experiences are portrayed as yet another adventure, or even worse, an add on. True voluntourists need to believe they are genuinely making a difference and somehow the ‘2 day pet the orphans’ option doesn’t appeal. The marketing needs to not only cover the experience but the circumstances surrounding it.

4. The target market.

Adventure companies are dominated by the 35-55 customer, voluntourists are still mainly 18-25. There is a discrepancy in the marketing and messaging that appeals to each of these customer segments.

5. Profit vs. Non-Profit

This debate rages forever and I can hear a couple of you reading this and cracking your knuckles ready for a reply but needless to say… All adventure companies are for profit, most volunteer companies are non-profit, the perception that volunteering through a non-profit is better still remains.

I could go forever on this and will in a part two blog post, but just wanted to throw this out there and see what comments we drive up.