Call for Entries: 2013 State of the Volunteer Travel Industry Survey

Alrighty, friends—we’re ready to start the 2013 State of the Volunteer Travel Industry Survey!

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 if the field has expanded, shrunk, changed…well, you get the idea. 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 ( 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 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 and we’ll include you in the report!)

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

US Traveler Trends from PhoCus Wright

A new survey came out on US Traveler Trends from PhoCusWright – have a look at some tidbits below and to view the whole press releases click here.

One thing I found interesting is that their study shows 18-34yo are significantly more likely to travel this year (the segment most likely to volunteer abroad), which supports the Lasso survey that voluntourism is growing.

Top U.S. Traveler Trends

Move over boomers—Generation Y has come of age

Twenty-five to 34 year olds are spending the most per household on travel and 18-34 year olds are significantly more likely than older age groups to indicate that they plan to travel more this year.

While boomers are commonly described as the wealthiest generation, the 45-64 age group is spending the least per household on travel and is also the most likely to reduce travel spend this year.

Consumers who spend more than average on travel are more likely to reduce travel expenditure this year, and those that spend less than average are more likely to actually increase travel expenditure this year. The result of this mixed bag of intentions is that overall expenditure will decline considerably across the board, but budget brands will experience a smaller decline than upscale brands.

Online travel agencies will fare better than other channels

Though the majority of travelers typically book online, there is still plenty of opportunity to grow online transactions. Consumers that spend the most on travel still use a mix of online and offline methods.

Travel search engines are (finally) making a mainstream impact

Are you Tweeting on Twitter? Your Customers Are

Twitter is rapidly becoming the next big thing in social media – for awhile people didn’t believe in it but it now is behind Facebook and MySpace in the race for daily social networking hits. I did a Twitter campaign for a client recently and tripled their traffic in a month – TRIPLED! Its free and its fun, give it a try.

Below is a great article on Twitter changing the travel industry by Christopher Elliott.

(Tribune Media Services) — “There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people.”

Those words, hastily typed on Janis Krums’ iPhone just after US Airways flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River last month, marked yet another milestone in the microblogging revolution.

Krums, a Sarasota, Florida, entrepreneur, posted his observations and a compelling photo of a half-submerged aircraft to Twitter, where it was seen by hundreds of people before other media organizations knew about the accident.

Twitter and related sites such as BrightKite have been breaking news since they’ve been around. They’ve offered first-hand accounts of events such as the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the Virginia Tech shootings and California’s wildfires.

Before Krums scooped the New York media on the biggest news story of the year so far, there was Mike Wilson, aka “2drinksbehind,” who twittered his observations after his Continental Airlines flight slid off the runway and burst into flames in Denver late last year.

“We were in the middle of a normal takeoff when we suddenly veered off,” he reported. Then he posted a picture of the crash. Then he tweeted that Continental kept the survivors “locked up” in its lounge until it could sort everything out. “Won’t even serve us drinks,” he added.

So what? “The world will never be the same,” says Joel Comm, author of the book “Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time.” The airline crashes marked a turning point for this emerging technology, according to Comm and other social media experts. Once the domain of a few early adopters, microblogging is now being embraced by the masses. It could change the way we travel.

“The viral nature of interesting posts expand your reach and influence,” says Comm.

He’s right. Seven out of 10 Twitter users joined just last year, according to the latest HubSpot “State of the Twittersphere” report. Somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 Twitter accounts are opened every day. Most microbloggers have a small circle of friends — fewer than 30 — with whom they share their day-to-day thoughts. But as microblogging grows, so will the power and influence of these Twitterers, who blast dispatches not to exceed 140 characters to their network of “followers.”

Microblogging could enlighten and empower travelers, who used to be at the mercy of their airline, car-rental company or hotel. Imagine you’re Continental, and a plane-crash survivor has accused you of keeping him prisoner. What if your vast social network finds out about the bedbugs in your hotel room the moment you check in? Or your friends discover the silly surcharges on your rental vehicle before the car-rental firm’s customer service department has any inkling? Wouldn’t that change everything?

So how do you become a part of this microblogging movement? Here are eight tips from the experts.

Continue reading the full article here:

Adventure Industry Research Roundup Released

Xola Consulting has released their 2008 Adventure Industry Roundup, to buy the full version click here – below are a few notes from the executive summary that are really interesting for our market.

Traveler Trends
A new crop of adventure travelers is growing in importance — “GenY” travelers and even younger, the so-called “Millennials” are traveler segments to watch for destination developers and adventure travel tour operators. In 2008 Xola’s Natasha Martin conducted primary survey research to better understand the preferences and attitudes of youth who consider themselves adventure travelers. Key findings from Xola’s research indicate that GenY adventure travelers:

    • Are driven by a destination priority over a budget concern: 82% determine destination first, then worry about budget;
    • Travel with a specific purpose to explore and engage with other cultures: they indicate motivations which are consistent with those of Baby Boomer adventure travelers;
  • The adventure travel community should expect to see accelerated growth of social networks dedicated to adventure tourism in the coming months. Already some tour operators are embracing these concepts on their websites, and online adventure travel information sites are emphasizing networking in their operations.
    The use of technology in general is growing relative to tourism, not only the Internet but also wireless communications while traveling is becoming important to travelers.

    The Internet continues to shift power from service providers to travelers, pushing the travel industry to become much more market-sensitive, responding to consumer price expectations and other factors. In fact, Forrester Research predicts that travel will remain the number one on-line retail category and grow to $119 billion by 2010.

    Half of all travel media users (50%) say that they read, watch or listen to travel media at least once a month or once a week. About one-third (31%) of travelers have decided to visit a travel destination because of information that they saw or read in the travel media.

    • In spite of the generally pessimistic outlook for travel and tourism this year, we have had reports from several adventure travel media sources that they are not seeing any slowdown in travel ad spending to date. Bryan Kinkade, Director, Travel & Tourism, National Geographic Adventure, stated in a July, 2008: “As it looks now, 2008 will be another record year for the ad travel category at National Geographic Adventure as more and more destinations and travel providers are identifying adventure travel as a vibrant growth and recession-resistant sector. Our readers view their adventure travel vacations as an absolute right — and while there might be some tightening in other areas of their life, they are not changing their travel plans.”

    Key Adventure Company Trends

    • Increasing focus on land-based immersion in Africa and East Asia;
    • More sea-faring expedition tours to the Arctic, Galapagos and Alaska;
    • Taking increased measures to reduce carbon imprint and impact on environment;
    • Customizable trips becoming mainstays in catalogs to reach high-end travelers;
    • Increase in women-oriented trips, family adventures and theme travel (e.g., culinary tours, wine vacations, gastronomic tours);
    • Emergence of “frequent traveler programs” offering discounts and special offers to drive loyalty;
    • Expansion in volunteer tourism opportunities; and
    • Special advertising and direct marketing to customer databases; special packages to attract middle market travelers most squeezed by current fuel prices.

    Economic Downturn & Travel – New Survey Released


    Mountain View, December 2, 2008. GeckoGo (, the fastest growing source of unique travel content, and World Nomads (, world leaders in low cost travel insurance, today announced the results of their recent travel survey of 1162 travelers worldwide.

    Global consumers are worried about the economy… but are going ahead with their travel plans
    While 43% of survey respondents answered that they felt “terrible” about the current economic environment, only 15% have canceled their trips.  Fifty-one percent of travelers plan to fly the same amount this holiday season, with 22% planning to travel more than last year.

    Americans worried by economy more than rest of world… travel plans affected to a higher degree
    68% of Americans felt “terrible” about the current economic environment, and 22% have canceled their trips.   40% of Americans plan to fly less this holiday season, and 44% plan to spend less money on their next vacation.

    Travel insurance is considered a necessity by many and is the least affected by the economy
    In fact, 10% of respondents are more likely to purchase travel insurance due to the economic situation.  Only 7% of respondents would cut travel insurance before other expenses such as accommodation, activities, trip length, and food.    Sixty-three percent of consumers purchase travel insurance at least sometimes when they travel, and 32% purchase it all the time.  42% consider emergency medical and dental coverage to be the most important reason for purchasing travel insurance.

    Travelers will cut back on accommodations first
    27% said they would reduce accommodation spending first, with 24% saving by staying in more modest accommodations.

    Most are still traveling but are looking for additional cost saving measures
    30% will spend more time travel planning as a means of saving money, while 31% plan to travel during off-peak season.  Fifty-one percent of Americans say “looking for travel deals” is a key way to save money.

    Holidays are for family time
    Sixty-six percent of respondents usually visit their relatives over the holiday season, with 70% planning to see their relatives the same amount as last year, and another 13% more than last year.

    Spending plans stay the same for majority
    Sixty-eight percent of all respondents plan to spend at least the same amount on their next vacation, compared to 46% of Americans.

    Money-saving travel tips from GeckoGo travelers

    • Ask locals for shopping tips
    • Eat where the locals eat
    • Use public transportation
    • Stay at a hotel that includes complimentary breakfast
    • Stay 2-3 days in one place to get better accommodation rates
    • Splurge at lunch, go light during dinner meals


    This was recently forwarded to me and I thought it might be of interest as we start planning for 2009.




    1.       Repercussions of the global economic slowdown on tourism.  


    2.       Continued concern for safety and security in tourism.


    3.       Impact of fuel costs on tourism.


    4.       Increased interest in the management of sustainable tourism


    5.       Upswing in the use of electronic and other technologies in tourism.


    6.       Greater interest in the debate on climate change and tourism.


    7.       Influence of mega events (including festivals) on tourism.


    8.       Strategic tourism planning for communities and nations.


    9.       Introduction of new tourism products; e.g. space tourism.


    10.   Effect of natural and other disasters on tourism.


    Written and researched by David L. Edgell Sr., PhD, President, Global Tourism Solutions, Research Scholar, Center for Sustainable Tourism Professor of Tourism, East Carolina University