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Voluntourism. It sounds like a beautiful way to combine service and travel. Indeed, many volunteers are flocking to countries, usually for short periods, to Asia and Africa to help children, to save endangered animals or to build houses and schools.

 

However, this form of tourism arguably does more harm than good. It is suggested that voluntourism perpetuates stereotyping, creates dependence on aid and aggravates symptoms of neo-colonialism.  

 

When conducted correctly, however, your community, NGO, or business may benefit from voluntourism. Your organisation needs to stand out from the industry that makes profits from the poverty of local communities in order to have a promising future.

 

Here are some suggestions on how to make the best of your voluntourism initiative:

 

  1. Find your match

Balance the motives of the potential volunteer with those of your company. It is not beneficial to employ volunteers who just want to pad their CVs. Give preference to those who are willing to contribute more time, remembering that it takes some time for a person to settle into a role and on that precious resources are often spent training or wasted in high turnover situations.

 

Do not work with young people who are eager to save a whole community but rather those who are willing to learn from a different culture and who are aware that they are not coming as a type of ‘superhero’.

 

  1. Preparation is key

One of the most important success factors is to match the expectations of the volunteers with your standards. To guarantee a successful tenure, consider hosting a preparation meeting. It is not only important to brief the volunteers about risks and expectations but also about the culture and history of the destination. This will help them to understand the community prior to arrival. Follow up on this meeting with regular discussions during their stay.

 

  1. Community involvement

Remember that the community is also a key stakeholder in voluntourism. To create a lasting and positive impact, match the communities’ expectations with that of your organisation and volunteers. Gather ideas on how a volunteer may engage with the community and where a helping hand is needed. Discuss how voluntourism projects may benefit the community in the longer term. It is also helpful to communicate motives and cultural differences of the volunteers.

 

 

Voluntourism is a controversial subject. It is thus imperative to make special considerations for your programming to create a win-win situation for all parties involved: your volunteers, community and organisation. If undertaken correctly, this form of tourism can be very rewarding and make a contribution to world peace and mutual understanding.

 

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Credit: Shutterstock

This year is the United Nations’ International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. UN World Tourism Organisation Secretary-General Taleb Rifai declared it gave:

… a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental, while raising awareness of the true dimensions of a sector which is often undervalued.

Sustainable tourism comes from the concept of sustainable development, as set out in the 1987 Brundtland report. Sustainable development is:

… development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

British environmental activist George Monbiot argued that, over the years, sustainable development has morphed into sustained growth. The essence of his argument is that little resolve exists to go beyond rhetoric. This is because environmental crises require we limit the demands we place on it, but our economies require endless growth.

At the moment, economic growth trumps environmental limits, so sustainability remains elusive.

 

Read the full article here. Written by Freya Higgins-Desbiolles for The Conversation. 

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Logo from Tourism & More, Inc.

 

 

 

As of the writing of this article, Europe continues to have multiple terrorism attacks.  Tourism & More sends its prayers to all those who are victims of terrorism

No matter in what area of tourism you may be, the simple fact is that tourism is a customer-oriented business.  Without customer service, not only your marketing will eventually fail, but also the business’ viability will be in question. Good service is to tourism what oxygen is to the body. It is the lifeblood of how the industry works.Providing good customer service is often a challenge. Tourism, Many of the frontline positions tend to receive only entry-level pay. The hours are long and neither the financial nor social-psychological awards are great.   Often customers take out their frustration on these very people, even when the frontline person can do nothing or has no decision-making authority.  Thus, the people who often have the least amount of authority are often the most abused and at times most frustrated.

One of the results of these problems is that often frontline positions have a high rate of tur  The lack of training then results in poorer customer service that produces a downward spiral.

Often employers present customer service skills as a necessary part of the job or something that employees simply have to do.  Additionally, and all too often, frontline personnel in tourism are not treated as professionals and this lack of professionalism is then reflected in their attitude toward our customers.

The French have a saying: “Tout c’est dans la presentation/everything depends on how you market it”.  That statement also holds true for customer service. If we present the training as merely customer service, that often produces a “so what” attitude.  If, on the other hand, we present the same training as “life skill enhancement” then the value of what we teach goes far beyond that of a frontline tourism professional.

Change for-the-job training to life skills and we may succeed in changing the attitude of some of our more problematic employees.   When we present this training as a professionalization process used to empower our frontline personnel to make decisions that impacts the way a guest is treated, we are on the road not only to better customer service but also to happier employees.  To help you implement these attitudinal changes Tourism Tidbits suggests considering some of the following principles:

 

– Remind our frontline personnel that in life just as in tourism the key to winning over difficult people is to exhibit: Empathy, coupled with patience. Most people in life can accept that things do go wrong, but what they cannot accept is an attitude that states: “I could care less.” Hospitality is based on caring.  Work with your personnel to exhibit a healthy questioning attitude.  When we involve ourselves in the other person’s problems, we turn anger into an experience and we become our customer’s host rather than a mere employee.  Be careful not to confuse empathy with sympathy. Good customer service is always empathetic but never sympathetic.  In a like manner remember that visitors are in a new environment and often feel lost. Patience and the ability to state the same fact two or three times is a life skill that goes a long way toward personal success.

– Teach Crises come about when we have a tourism breakdown and we refuse to adapt to a new situation. Things do happen, planes arrive late, hotel rooms may not be ready, food may be served too cold or too hot.  Learning how to adapt to new situations is essential not only in tourism but also in life.  This need for adaptability means that have to allow our frontline people to make rapid decisions.  Chains of command rarely work in life and almost never in tourism.

– Just as in life remind your front line personnel that every customer is different and almost every situation is unique.  Often in life we become jaded and take the position that we have heard it all before.  In tourism, as is the case in most things in life, people want to be taken seriously, want to be heard and want to believe that their case is being handled in a unique and special format.   That means that we must learn to listen attentively and be sure that the other person understands that we are hearing their issue.  Remember that hearing an issue does not mean agreeing with it, but it does mean that we recognize the emotions of the other person.

– Communicate in a clear and calm manner.  Often problems arise when we do not say what we mean.  Avoid pronouns.  Make sure that you use clear and precise language.  Try to stay on topic and do not allow telephone calls to interfere with your problem solving.  It is essential to remind frontline people that most customers want a problem solved quickly and efficiently. They are not seeking friendships but rather solutions. In today’s world of hypersensitivity use words carefully and a joke can easily be perceived as an insult.

– Be Knowledge. One of the worst things that a frontline employee can do is provide false information.  A good rule of life is if you do not have an answer, do not create an answer just so that you can look smart of efficient.  On the other side of the equation, it is essential for management to provide frontline personnel with as much up-to-date and accurate information as possible.

All of us need to have a thicker skin and remember that a job is only a job.  In tourism as in life all of us will need to confront situations outside of our control (remember with the exception of natural complainers, that our guests are speaking to us because they have had a terrible day). This is where empathy comes into play and we remember that we have the power to turn someone’s awful day into a wonderful day.

 

 

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As predicted earlier, the buzzword “du jour” in tourism is fast becoming transformation. Its predecessor, sustainability, has through over and mis-use become meaningless and ineffective lacking the capacity to lift hearts, inspire hope and, ironically, sustain action. I am delighted but also very concerned.. Here’s why.

New buzzwords are favoured by a sector that, by its very nature, has to focus on quick fixes to short-term problems and thrives on novelty. Tourism is a phenomenon run by marketers and there is a good reason for that. Its suppliers sell dreams and fulfill fantasies. The customer cannot experience the “product” prior to its consumption. Hosts must defy gravity and inertia to lift their customers from their armchairs to a place far from home by stimulating desire and imagination. Hosts must paint pictures that trigger a desire strong enough to generate a “click,” then a booking and sustain interest and enthusiasm through the rigours and unpleasantries of passage to the source of the anticipated experience.

In my forty-four year career, I have observed first-hand how marketers have progressed from one promise to another as their customers became more sophisticated in their needs and demands. While I like to look forward, sometimes an understanding of context and history can be helpful.

Read the full article here.

 

By Anna Pollock from Conscious Travel

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The same people and organizations we admire for protecting our wild places also have a history of being apathetic—or plain antagonistic—toward issues of race and social justice

Given the history of conservationists elevating endangered plant life over endangered black lives, it is environmentalism’s soul that most needs saving.    Photo: Kristen Rogers Photography/Stock

 

Facing a new White House administration led by Donald Trump, environmental leaders recently signed an accord pledging their allegiance to civil rights and social justice. Among the signatories are several leaders of the Sierra Club, including its executive director, Michael Brune, who in recent years has steered the organization toward rather bold stances on a range of issues that aren’t traditionally recognized as “green.” In 2013, its board of directors voted that the organization should advocate for immigrant rights. The following year, the Sierra Club endorsed and defended the Black Lives Matter movement. Since President Trump came into office, the organization’s resolve has only strengthened, as Brune indicated in a November 18 blog post: “I’m proud of how the Sierra Club has begun to address the intersection of climate with inequality, race, class, and gender, and I guarantee that we’ll go even deeper.”

This shift toward racial justice matters has not been universally accepted among the Sierra Club’s ranks and may even have cost it a few members. Those who disapprove have often expressed sentiments amounting to “racism is not the environmental movement’s responsibility.” But Brune says the organization won’t be backing off anytime soon, a position he forcefully defended on the group’s blog. He will assure his members, he tells me, “that we are continuing to protect wildlife and wild places, and this is how we can best do that in the 21st century.”

What Brune is acknowledging is the darker legacy of the green movement. Some may believe that environmentalism has little to do with social justice issues, but the mission of the Sierra Club, and many conservation groups like it throughout the late-19th century and most of the 20th century, was anything but race neutral. In many ways, racial exclusivity actually shaped the environmental mission, which is what makes the Sierra Club’s leap toward civil rights advocacy such a radical move. It’s important not because a network like Black Lives Matter needs environmentalists, but because environmentalists need black lives. Given the history of conservationists elevating endangered plant life over endangered people of color, it is environmentalism’s soul that most needs saving.

 

Read the full article here.

By Brentin Mock from Outside

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#TravelEnjoyRespect

The United Nations 70th General Assembly has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

 

To that end, please explore the official IY2017 website at www.tourism4development2017.org, which is their primary tool for coordinating the worldwide celebrations of the year, and on which more than 200 events and activities have already been registered. The UNWTO kindly invites you to upload your IY2017-related initiatives, as well as to share your best practices, stories and/or knowledge. Your initiatives will be visible on the website’s calendar and global map, and you will be able to use the IY2017 logo in all your communications. Kindly note that all the information they receive will be included in their final report to the UN General Assembly in 2018.

Furthermore, UNWTO is organizing a series of events and activities, the details of which you can find in the attached document. For instance, they are running a consumer-oriented awareness-raising campaign “Travel.Enjoy.Respect.” with six useful tips for responsible travel, and would very much like you to help disseminate it as broadly as possible. In addition, UNWTO is organizing 14 IY2017 Official Events, as well as producing two flagship reports related to the themes and objectives of the IY2017, for which your support and input would be more than welcome and on which more info will follow shortly. As part of their awareness-raising activities, they have also initiated a Special Ambassadors programme, currently comprising seven high-profile individuals who will help spread the relevant messages regarding tourism as an agent for positive change.

Read more: PATA Sustainability & IY2017 Initiatives

 

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Panamanian Jungle

It’s 10 am on a Tuesday in the Tres Brazos jungle, a jagged two-hour trek outside Panama City, where a handful of American twentysomethings have been awake and working since sunrise.

Aaron Prairie leads a group of biology students on a nature hike, using a machete to hack his way through an overgrown trail. Max Cooper cuts long strips of plywood with an electric saw powered by a solar generator, the beginnings of an open-air thatch hut he’ll eventually build by hand.

Jake Cardoza is on his hands and knees in the adjacent permaculture farm, planting a baby banana tree. A few yards away in the kitchen, also fashioned as an open-air thatch hut, Brigitte Desvaux chops onions. Later, she’ll saute them for dinner along with with fresh katuk, a tropical green with a nutty taste, harvested from the farm that morning. By Carly Schwartz. Read more.

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Can a Trip Ever Be ‘Authentic’?

Indonesian tourists pose in front of members of the Stone Age Dani tribe in West Papua, New Guinea. The tribe maintains many of its costumes and traditions — and charges visitors for the honor of observing them. Credit Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

In a globalized age — when a McAloo Tikki is just as Indian as the Taj Mahal — has the very word lost its meaning?

I once spent an unforgettable day in the traveler’s treasure-house that is Sana’a, capital of Yemen. Stained-glass windows glittered from thickets of high tower-houses as night began to fall, and khat-chewing men with daggers at their sides haggled furiously in the Salt Market. Clay walls surrounded one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements on the planet, where groups of turbaned shopkeepers headed toward 1,400-year-old mosques as the call to prayer echoed through the dusk. It wasn’t hard to feel, amid the dusty lanes of a large section of town that’s now a Unesco World Heritage Site, that nothing had changed since the Prophet’s time; here, I decided, was the Old World, all slowness and prayer and tribal custom, in stark opposition to the fast-forward, hyperconnected, young society I know in California. By Pico Iyer. Read more.

November 02 2015 – “Pain?” asks Jorge Molina, my hiking guide. Yes, there is a little pain, but it’s too late for cold feet. Or, more accurately, it’s too late not to get cold feet, because we’re already shin-deep in a swift icy river. Graeme Greene Read more.

 

October 26 2015 – It’s a chilly evening in late March and I’m standing inside the traditional wooden longhouse at the Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations in Wendake, Que., a cup of tart rhubarb cordial in my hand. Despite the cold it’s cozy in the dim space and the longhouse sleeping platforms look inviting, but I’m not here to stay tonight. Kat Tancock Read more.

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