We Have a Conference!!! June 28 – Save the Date!

OK – due to popular demand it’s official – we have a voluntourism conference on June 28 in Denver! YAY! Spread the word!

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Where: Cambria Suites Denver Airport – rate is $109 for a king suite, refer to Voluntourism group when booking. 303-576-9600.

When:  June 28 from 10am-5pm, drinks 5:30-7, dinner out afterwards

How much: Just help me cover the costs of catering and board room rentals so $100/pp

What: If you have anything you want to cover let me know, anyone who wants to help me organize please throw your hand up!

RSVP: PLEASE let me know if you will be coming, email me, so I can plan food and agendas, etc.

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Do We Need a Conference?

It seems there are lots of organizations out there that have yearly conferences – ATTA, TIES, WYSTC, etc – does the voluntourism industry need/want one?

I hosted a small voluntourism conference a couple years ago that had a really great turn out – should I do that again? Share best practices in person? Get to know the competition and try to cooperate and partner more?

One day summit – start around 10am so people can get early AM flights in, have dinner and leave the next morning. Denver.

Thanks to the positive feedback June 28th is looking like a date – pencil it in, I’ll start searching for venues.

International Voluntourism Guidelines Research Launched

If you’re thinking OH GOD ANOTHER SET OF GUIDELINES then join the club. I first heard about this and did a slight eye roll but there are some realists on this committee (Papi and KLam) that will hopefully be able to steer this into a usable set of guidelines that organizations will respect and use.

My question is, if you are a voluntourism organization – been in business for years doing great sustainable work, how does this help you? I can’t see Global Volunteers changing their model because of this research. Is it aimed at the new start ups to help them operate better? Or is it just a piece of research everyone can pat themselves on the back for but in reality doesn’t do much to further the field?

Below is the press release:

Industry Leaders Collaborate to Create Global Initiative to Transform Good Intentions into Best Practice

WASHINGTON, DC and TORONTO – The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) and Planeterra, a leading non-profit foundation dedicated to sustainable community development and environmental conservation through travel, are collaborating to develop a set of criteria that will help international voluntourism providers plan and manage their programs in a responsible and sustainable manner.

An increasing number of travel companies are adding volunteer opportunities to their tour itineraries worldwide, and the trend, which is now commonly known as voluntourism, is growing rapidly. The 2008 Condé Nast Traveler/MSNBC poll, for example, stated that the number of regular volunteer vacationers has doubled since 2002, and the number of those who have volunteered at least once has tripled. According to the 2009 Green Traveler Study by CMIGreen, 59.1% of those surveyed said they were interested in volunteering during a future trip.

With this growth, a myriad of issues and challenges has emerged, including: project development concerns, impacts on host communities, travelers’ skills and experiences, and the potentials for positive change. There is an increasing need for effective tools that help providers and travelers make smart decisions. The goal of the TIES-Planeterra effort is to address these challenges and to outline parameters that will guide both project leaders and travelers alike.

“Travelers are searching for new authentic experiences worldwide, like voluntours, that put them face to face with some of our most important global challenges,” says Megan Epler Wood, Executive Director of Planeterra. “There are now more opportunities for travelers with skills, in areas like engineering and health care, to assist local communities and help develop beneficial projects, like assisting with clinics and developing clean water systems for villages that lack adequate services,” says Epler Wood.

To ensure that this project incorporates a diverse range of industry knowledge and experiences, TIES and Planeterra are working with an International Expert Committee representing a variety of industry sectors and regions:

Bodhi Garrett, Co-Director, Andaman Discoveries, Thailand
Valeria Gracia, Asociación Civil Voluntario Global, Argentina
Sallie Grayson, Programme Director, People and Places, U.K.
Nancy McGehee, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Virginia Tech University, U.S.A.
Paul and Thandi Miedema, Founders, Calabash Tours, South Africa
Kristin Lamoureux, Ph.D., Director, International Institute of Tourism Studies, The George Washington University School of Business, U.S.A.
Lelei LeLaulu, President, Community Benefit Development and Co-chairman, Innovation for Sustainable Development Centre, U.S.A.
Daniela Ruby Papi, Founder, PEPY Tours, Cambodia
Gopinath Parayil, Founder and Chief Executive, The Blue Yonder, India
Marnie Heim-Stafford and Jeremy Stafford, Owners, Voluntours, South Africa
Andy Woods-Ballard, Director of Operations, Global Vision International, U.K.
Dr. Stephen Wearing, Associate Professor, University of Technology, Australia

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with industry leaders and voluntourism experts from around the world,” says Dr. Kelly Bricker, Chair, TIES Board of Directors. “We believe that there are a number of opportunities to apply lessons learned from the ecotourism community’s experiences in the past couple of decades to effectively support voluntourism in order to maximize positive impacts of the power of travel.”

“Our first priority is to develop, through an interdisciplinary approach, sound guidelines for voluntourism activities that will serve as a practical tool for voluntourism providers,” says Megan Epler Wood of Planeterra. “This tool will both complement existing knowledge and make an important contribution to ongoing efforts to develop and grow voluntourism in a socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable manner.”

Planeterra was founded in 2003 by Gap Adventures, the largest independent adventure travel company in the world, and is a leading international organization promoting voluntourism activities, which give back to destinations and contribute to the sustainable development of communities.

“It’s very rewarding to see Planeterra and TIES leading this work to establish guidelines that will ensure the long-term health and well-being of communities and destinations around the world,” says Gap Adventures Marketing Director, Richard Edwards. “We believe the guidelines will serve as an important tool for voluntourism providers – from large global companies like Gap Adventures to small-scale local community enterprises.”

The research project will incorporate a global survey program to be undertaken in May 2011 and stakeholder meeting, which will be held Sept. 19-21 during the upcoming Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference organized by TIES in Hilton Head Island, SC. TIES will produce the final draft for expert committee review and publication in early 2012.

For more information on the TIES-Planeterra Voluntourism Guidelines project, see updates on: www.ecotourism.org/voluntourism.

MORE Cruise Voluntourism

Are these day long projects helpful or hurtful? I can’t decide. It opens volunteering up to a whole new audience and maybe this inspires donations and gets them involved volunteering at home, or is it just another ‘pet the children’ photo opp?

Wanna give something back during your next high-priced luxury cruise?  Crystal is offering seven new, complimentary voluntourism excursions in which guests and crew can lend a hand to communities in need:

  • Langa Township, South Africa (April 18): Assisting orphans with homework at the Siyamphambili Orphanage.
  • Makapu-u Beach, Hawaii (May 1): Removing invasive weeds growing amid the original coastal ecosystems of Oahu.
  • Sitka, Alaska (May 14–August 18): Supporting the operation and maintenance of the salmon hatchery and/or marine-life exhibits at the Sitka Sound Science Center.
  • Dublin, Ireland (July 29): Helping troubled youth from St. Joseph’s Youth Club with facility upkeep, activity planning, and other activities.
  • Astoria, Oregon (April 14 & April 20): Working with the Friends of Ft. Stevens to improve a Civil War–era fort that’s now a state park.