The Tourism Authority of Thailand Joins Forces with Global Voluntourism Agencies

With the intention of promoting volunteer tourism in this fascinating country, Tourism Authority of Thailand has joined forces with a number of voluntourism agencies to raise awareness of the many exciting and rewarding opportunities that Thailand has to offer. TAT’s commitment to promoting voluntourism is certainly no gimmick with a view to merely boosting the tourist industry. In fact, by working in unison with new partners who specialise in volunteer tourism, TAT is helping to ensure that Thailand’s worthwhile causes receive much deserved exposure.

Check out the press release here.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/tat/thailand/prweb10964068.htm

Have You Changed Your Program Offerings Due to the Economy?

From our state of the volunteer travel survey responses, to LinkedIn discussion groups, to forums and beyond, I’ve noticed volunteer travel providers worldwide becoming frustrated with their recruitment rates, which appear to be dropping from recent years. A few alternatives some have been developing—particularly smaller, niche ones that can’t quite compete monetarily with the behemoth ones we all know:

  • Internships abroad with a volunteer component
  • Longer-term volunteering
  • Service-learning (or learning service, as the case may be)
  • Career- or degree-based placements (e.g., veterinary training abroad for degree fulfillment)

Before I left my own volunteer travel company last year, I had the chance to start recruiting volunteers and interns for some new partnership programs in Central America; every single person who signed on during my time there wanted a semester-long placement or a career- or degree-related one (e.g., medical placement abroad for professionals in the field). In my interviews with potential volunteers and interns, all of them noted they very much wanted to travel, but as they had tiny, tiny budgets, they had to make sure it was absolutely worth their while: a longer-term placement abroad that satisfied degree requirements or helped build their careers was a two-for one deal in their book.

In speaking with other providers lately, many have noticed the same thing—short-term “volunteer vacation”-type projects just aren’t cutting it lately.

So friends: what have you noticed? Have you felt the need to change your volunteer placements to accommodate this new(ish) wave of travelers? How do your short-term programs stack up against your long-term ones, if you offer both? And if you have skills-based or unskilled programs, is one doing better than the other?

Check out Hopify, a New Platform for Volunteering – Or a Scam???

Below is the initial post and then I realized that half of this video was stolen from Daniela Papi and PEPY Ride’s work. So clearly, like many things voluntourism, Hopify is not what it appears to be. They also have no contact information anywhere. So let’s all stay away.

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Hopify’s aim is to create an independent platform, not connected to project or tourist operators, to link potential voluntourists to meaningful projects.

Check out their presentation video http://youtu.be/hC9H9K1otaA

Watch this space! These guys seem to have a good grasp of what’s needed.

Volunteer Travel Operators: Get Off Your Asses and Help Your Industry!

Our goal at Voluntourism Gal is to provide insights into and facilitate discussion about the volunteer travel industry. And aside from a few wonderful, vocal people, you’re all clamming up—and that makes the whole “facilitating discussion” thing incredibly difficult.

In 2009, the State of the Volunteer Travel Industry Survey polled 28 U.S.-based organizations with a few short questions, which we’ll get into below. This survey allowed researchers, media, and stakeholders to understand where we were that year and what you guys projected for the future of your own industry.

Well, the landscape has changed and the information on the previous publication is outdated. This spring, we asked you five questions that would allow us to release a brand-new report with updated, relevant information. This report is intended to help the community grow and understand where we’re headed.

As of today, we haven’t received nearly enough responses yet to compile the 2013 edition. Many of you are interested in seeing the report, but you’re not actually participating in the research. Do you want to have a solid answer when someone asks, “Is volunteer travel growing?” How about, “How has your industry fared during the recession?” Do you want something to actually back it up? Do you want to see the most popular countries U.S.-based organizations are sending their volunteers to? How about an average return rate to see how you stack up against the national number? I know I did when I operated my own volunteer travel company. I built the 2009 report into my freakin’ business plan.

Those are answers we want to provide for you—and unfortunately, we can’t release or report on anything until more of you get back to us.

So! As a reminder: all participants’ information will be kept strictly confidential and only the results and a total list of companies that participated, will be produced. Your competitors will not know how many volunteers you specifically are sending abroad, or what your company’s return rate is, or any other information about you individually.

Please take a couple minutes to answer the following five questions (plus the optional ones, if you have time) and send them to me directly at Sarah@FrayedPassport.com or to Alexia at alexia@lassocommunications.com.

And to those that have already responded: Thank you!

MAIN QUESTIONS

  1. To which countries do you currently send volunteers?
  2. What is the most popular activity for your volunteers? Building; Community Development; Conservation—Environmental, Wildlife, or Heritage; Scientific; Health Care; Skills Based Professional; Teaching; Other (please describe)
  3. How many volunteers did you send abroad in 2012?
  4. Do you expect to send more or less volunteers abroad in 2013 than you did in 2012?
  5. What is your return rate for volunteers?

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

  1. Do you feel the economy is affecting your business positively, negatively or unaffected? What, if anything, have you done to counteract the effects of the recession?
  2. Are there any valuable insights or lessons learned you would like to share with the industry?
  3. Which term do you most associate with your organization? Voluntourism, volunteer tourism, volunteer vacation, volunteer travel, volunteer abroad, or other?

To qualify as an operator in this survey, you must have a U.S. office; send U.S. volunteers abroad; not be faith-based in any way; require that volunteers must pay for their placement; and require that travelers work for more than four days of straight volunteering (e.g., cannot be an adventure travel placement with a volunteer component).

Please send all responses to Sarah@FrayedPassport.com or to Alexia at alexia@lassocommunications.com.

Attention all PhD / Masters Thesis Voluntourism Researchers!

Daniela sent me the below, I totally agree – we get these emails all the time!
 
It seems that every few days I get an email from another person who is doing their PhD or masters thesis on the impacts of volunteer travel, orphanage tourism, pro-poor tourism, etc…. Is there a place on the web where all of these people can post up a list of what exactly they are focusing on in their research, as I think it would be so interesting to see where there is overlap, what people are interested in, and what gaps there are.  If there isn’t already a place for this…… how about we make this it?!?!  Let us know what you are researching as it relates to voluntourism/travelers philanthropy/or other related topics, where you are studying, and any other things you want to share!
 
Maybe some of you who are doing all this research want to start a blog or a share center and we can refer everyone that calls/emails us to it???

Reminder: State of the Volunteer Travel Industry Survey

Just a reminder in case you missed it: the 2013 State of the Volunteer Travel Industry Survey is underway!

You can view the previous one here (opens in a new tab as a PDF), or on our Voluntourism Research page.

With this report, we want to continue our research to see how the field has expanded, shrunk, or changed. Your participation in this survey will give us an accurate pulse of the industry within the United States, and will help us as we move forward with research, best practices, and more.

All participants’ information will be kept strictly confidential and only the results and a total list of companies that participated, will be produced—for free, and for all to see.

There are two ways to participate: wait until Alexia or I call and harass you, or just send me an email (Sarah@FrayedPassport.com) with your answers. We’d much prefer an email, as this will help us keep a record of your responses—from you directly—so that nothing gets lost in the mix, and so that we’re both completely on the same page about what you’ve reported.

Also let me know if you’d be willing to send the volunteer survey out among your networks, and I will send you a survey that is branded for your organization.

Criteria to qualify as an operator in this survey:

  • Have a U.S. office
  • Send U.S. volunteers abroad
  • Not faith-based in any way
  • Volunteers must pay for their placement
  • Travelers work for more than four days of straight volunteering (e.g., cannot be an adventure travel placement with a volunteer component)

Questions for operators that meet the above criteria:

  • To which countries do you currently send volunteers?
  • What is the most popular activity for your volunteers? Building; Community Development; Conservation—Environmental, Wildlife, or Heritage; Scientific; Health Care; Skills Based Professional; Teaching; Other (please describe)
  • How many volunteers did you send abroad in 2012?
  • Do you expect to send more or less volunteers abroad in 2013 than you did in 2012?
  • What is your return rate for volunteers?

Optional, if you have time:

  • Do you feel the economy is affecting your business positively, negatively or unaffected? What, if anything, have you done to counteract the effects of the recession?
  • Are there any valuable insights or lessons learned you would like to share with the industry?
  • Which term do you most associate with your organization? Voluntourism, volunteer tourism, volunteer vacation, volunteer travel, volunteer abroad, or other?

To be included in the report, we ask that you get back to us via email by this Friday, April 26. (Update: we’ve heard from those of you who’d like to send your answers along still–please send your surveys ASAP to Sarah@FrayedPassport.com and we’ll include you in the report!)

Thanks very much—we’re looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

If Everyone Loves Your Travel Marketing, It Isn’t Any Good

Love this article by Alexi, had to share – view the full article here: http://www.mercurycsc.com/blog/2013/03/12/if-everyone-loves-your-travel-marketing-it-isnt-an/

There is an old adage that has long been a barometer used by travelers (as opposed to tourists) when choosing a destination:

Bad roads = good tourists.
Good roads = bad tourists.

Until now, that is.

The World Tourism Organization reported over a billion tourist arrivals in 2012, up from 350 Million in 1987. The fastest growing segment of the tourism industry? Geotourism, which includes ecotourism, cultural tourism and adventure travel is growing at 17% per year while mainstream tourism is growing at only 4% per year.

The increase in global tourism combined with the growing popularity of Geotourism has been a financial success for tourism suppliers and destinations that cater to this market. That’s good news.

The bad news is that those bad roads (or no roads) leading to awesome destinations are a lot more crowded than before. Tourists are no longer perched in rental cars at the edge of the concrete where it meets the dust, afraid to lurch forward and discover what’s past the bend. They know what’s past the bend.

Why? Because we told them.

As travel marketers, we’ve all been trained to think of our marketing efforts as a tackle box of lures—travel marketing as an attractor. People pay lip service to the importance of a target audience but in reality most travel marketers are chumming the waters hoping for a bite, no matter what kind of tourist they drag in.

But great travel marketing is not about being a bigger lure. It’s about being a better filter.

Admittedly, there already exists a fair amount of filtering in travel marketing. Unfortunately, it’s filtering by price. The result is that places eventually become exclusive domains for the wealthy or overpopulated resorts for the price conscious. Think Monaco versus Daytona Beach.

Travel is a contact sport. Who we see in the hotel bar, on the chairlift or out in the lineup affects the experience. In travel, the experience is the brand. In other words, who you invite to the party determines what kind of party you’re going to have.

And homogenization of any kind makes for a very boring party.

Walking the Walk

Travel marketers need to look deeply into their brands and uncover their true sense of purpose. While this may sound philosophical, it is in-fact exceedingly pragmatic for filter marketing.

If your purpose is to “create memorable experiences for travelers frustrated with the airline industry,” like it is for Nature Air, then delaying a flight to transport an injured dolphin is on brand. If a passenger complains? Here’s a full refund and the telephone numbers to the other airlines you should fly. “Thanks, but no thanks.”

We must tell stories that are effective in attracting the right travelers and alienating the wrong ones. For years, research indicated that the average traveler’s perception of Montana was, “There’s nothing there.” So, how do you turn a potentially negative perception into a meaningful marketing campaign? You tell your audience what they already know—“There’s Nothing Here.” That campaign ignited the interest of the core audience and let the state’s non-core audience know exactly what to expect (and not expect) from a trip to Montana.

How do we know filter marketing works? Because the wrong types of customers just stop calling. This is where most travel marketers get freaked out. Influencing some people to stop calling is simply not in their DNA. It runs counter to everything they try so hard to do (i.e. get the phone to ring), particularly in a seasonal business like travel.

What’s the alternative? Getting people to buy who don’t value your purpose. These travelers will never be happy with whatever you deliver and more importantly they’ll make every other traveler around them miserable as well.

We don’t just advise clients on filter marketing. We do it for ourselves. For example, we publish our manifesto on our site. If you like what you’ve read, we’d love to hear from you. If you don’t, you probably won’t call, and that’s fine by us.