Agents looking for a good hook to promote tours should consider the United States Tour Operator Association's (USTOA) new spotlight on "Give Back" tours.
USTOA's members are offering a variety of tours and packages that offer a chance for travelers to “give back.” The trend has strong appeal for travelers seeking greater fulfillment, combining traditional travel with volunteer work that often provides opportunities to journey off the tourist-beaten path and add a more meaningful component to a vacation, USTOA says. USTOA's timely list also honors April as National Volunteer Month.
“Today’s travelers want more than just to see a destination, they desire a deeper cultural connection to the people, history, wildlife and customs - and what better way to create these unforgettable experiences than by volunteering,” said Terry Dale, president of USTOA.
“As a founding member of the non-profit Tourism Cares, USTOA recognizes the impact volunteers have on communities around the globe and how voluntourism can help preserve travel experiences for future generations,” Dale said
In late March, USTOA and several of its members joined a preservation project in Pensacola, Fla. hosted by Tourism Cares, a volunteer program to help preserve, conserve, and protect tourism related sites that need care and rejuvenation, USTOA noted.
During the one-day project, more than 200 travel industry volunteers (including many members of USTOA) donated an estimated $25,000 in labor costs to revitalize the historic Pensacola Lighthouse and conserve the shoreline of the Gulf Coast at Bayou Texar in Pensacola Bay. This year, Tourism Cares extends its programs globally with its first international outreach initiative Go Peru taking place May 3-7, 2012 in Lima and Cusco, USTOA reports.
From the United States to Asia, below is a sampling - with costs and brief itineraries -of USTOA member “voluntourism” offerings around the globe:
“Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Park,” a 10-day itinerary from Tauck featuring “inside-the-park” accommodations at Yellowstone and Grand Teton offers the opportunity to volunteer a few hours of labor to benefit park preservation and beautification projects. Since the program’s inception in 2003, Tauck guest-volunteers have donated more than 27,000 hours of labor at Yellowstone and Grand Teton valued at more than $525,000. Available various dates May through September, additional package highlights include Mount Rushmore, a western ranch experience and rafting on Snake River. Prices from $3,190 a person, based on double occupancy, plus air. www.tauck.com
For volunteers looking to explore a corner of South Africa, SITA World Tours’ 11-day “Cape & Wildlife Volunteer Package” gives travelers the opportunity to assist behind the scenes of the Amakhala Game Reserve. The various conservation and community projects range from nocturnal predator monitoring to supporting the nearby Isipho Centre for children affected by HIV/AIDS. Additional travel highlights include a city tour of Cape Town and Cape Peninsula as well as two nights at Woodbury Tented Camp or similar with game viewing activities. Prices start at $2,295 per person, based on double occupancy for travel May-September, 2012, dates in October also available starting at $2,395 per person, double occupancy. www.sitatours.com
International Expeditions’ “Custom Peru Volunteer Vacation” lets travelers do more than just visit the destination but help contribute to the communities in the Amazon rainforest. With programs available year round, volunteers can customize their vacation with a service project based on their areas of interest, including serving as a teacher’s assistant in a kindergarten, building an urban garden or caring for wildlife. At the end, guests will enjoy a relaxing rainforest retreat. Nine-day voluntourism itineraries start at $2,000 per person. www.ietravel.com
Caradonna Worldwide Dive Adventures has teamed up with Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) to offer dive enthusiasts the chance to be a part of a Lionfish control study in Dominica. Departing July 14, 2012, divers will conduct surveys and dissect lionfish for research being conducted by REEF. Package includes 7-night hotel accommodations, five days of boat dives, breakfast each day and airport transfers with prices starting at $979 per person plus $300 REEF program fee. www.caradonna.com
Youth Programs - Asia:
• During the 14-day “Spirit of Japan: Service & Friendship” from People to People Ambassador Programs, student ambassadors will contribute to the ongoing recovery efforts post-tsunami with visits to Tokyo, Akita, Sendai, Hiraizumi and Aomori. Available July 1, 2012 for students in grades 7-12; comprehensive tuition starts at $6,499. www.peopletopeople.com