Giveback travel is in growth mode and is on the wish lists of many a traveler these days. Also known as voluntourism (volunteering + tourism), these types of trips allow people to quench their wanderlust while authentically engaging with and supporting local communities in more substantive ways – and maybe even making the world a little bit better for having visited. Here’s more about how travel advisors can increase their sense of satisfaction and their bottom line by tapping into the trend.
Why does it matter?
First off, let’s consider why giveback travel is a good selling opportunity for travel advisors in this post-pandemic travel market.
“People were impacted differently during the pandemic. Some might have gained a better appreciation for life, and the value of living in a state of thankfulness, for the time that they are given on this earth. Being told ‘no’ or ‘you can't’ has allowed the mindset of people to not want to wait anymore, and to go out and see the world and help others in need,” explains Shayla Northcutt, CEO & owner, Northcutt Travel Agency, LLC.
“If people were blessed with an opportunity, such as surviving the pandemic, or as thriving during the pandemic, they are wanting to give back - because good people believe in giving, not taking. You can create an itinerary that shows the different parts of the world. The love and appreciation that people have in other parts of the world that we do not have as much as Americans has had so much impact on changing the way people think and live.”
Travis Paquin, co-owner of 417 Travel, has had a similar experience with voluntourism: “The number of people interested in contributing to environmental and social causes while traveling has never been higher. Consumers are prioritizing social responsibility and other ethical considerations, as well as sustainability, in their purchasing decisions.”
Various travel industry studies have also indicated that voluntourism is on the uptick, with families and Millennials especially interested. It also fits well for solo travelers and couples who are looking to travel with a purpose.
If you haven’t yet booked giveback travel, but you have an interest, consider these examples from other travel advisors who already have success selling this type of journey.
“A very popular tour is one that I just did for volunteering at an elephant camp,” says Northcutt. “There are some camps that actually teach you how to take care of the elephant and show you the signs of distress, from as small as if they slept the night before to as large as checking their pulse. These types of experiences with animals are huge when it comes to animal lovers.
Another example that she gives: “If you were able to pack a suitcase full of clothes, books, and school supplies, and book the tour to drop them off with a local school so that you see the children in Jamaica that it is actually going to help, it gives that person the ‘oh the snorkeling was great, but there was this little boy and he was so funny, he ran up to me and gave me a hug and I showed him some pictures and he just laughed! That smile made it all worth it.’
“If you were able to walk the streets in Sayulita, Mexico, and go into the old market where the handcrafts are made, and local artists are steadily working to make a daily wage, all while their child is sleeping on a mat on the dirt next to them crafting jewelry … You remember that piece of jewelry that you bought, and it has a more sentimental memory - it is not really a tour or a volunteer opportunity, but putting people in the right places might have some type of impact that they will share for years to come.”
Paquin says: “People who go on vacation like to travel, but they also like to do good. We’ve provided several different ways for our clients to engage in giveback travel experiences.
We’ve adopted kids in Puerto Vallarta; delivered suitcases of school supplies and shoes; and have even purchased bicycles for the kids in Cancun. We also purchase dreamcatchers from a Mayan Village and sell them in our agency, and 100% of the proceeds are donated.
“This year, we are most excited about our ‘2023 Party with a Purpose.’ We partnered with the Ozark Mountain Parrot heads to host a group trip to Margaritaville Island Reserve Riviera Maya. We're raising money for St. Jude Children Hospital. We hope to raise over $10,000.
“These trips can be life-changing for clients, employees and their families. There are people looking for ‘safer’ destinations, and there are people looking for ‘socially conscious’ ones
who want to do some good in addition to having fun on their vacation.”
Other voluntourism ideas to ponder include: getting involved in clean-up or sustainability projects, volunteering at a nature or wildlife preserve or animal rescue, supporting local cultures and artists, assisting with research projects, getting involved with education, helping to build a house or a school, or taking a class with a local cook or artisan. Travelers can also be prompted to choose socially responsible travel suppliers and local guides, and buy locally made products while visiting.
Any of the larger giveback travel opportunities must be thoroughly researched to protect your clients and your agency business.
Find good partners
Establishing good relationships with reliable partners in destination is key with giveback travel. This way, you will have vetted your contacts and can depend on them to steer you and your clients to rewarding experiences.
Northcutt recommends: “Definitely partner with a local DMC that can help you navigate the local community. If you want to know more about the culture and what that area needs, you can also reach out to one of your contacts at a hotel to see what their charity of choice is in their local community. Also giving clients a little backstory on how people live in other countries might impact how gracious they are.”
Paquin shares his tips: “Be genuine and find good partners. It’s going to come down to basics with this business. That means genuine business practices and good relationships. At the end of the day, building trust and relationships is what it'll take to find success. Start small to establish trust and then constantly strive to improve the process and the product.”
We bet the wheels in your head are already turning, thinking about which clients you can suggest a giving back component to for their next vacation - and a greater sense of purpose fulfilled through their unique voluntourism adventures.
FROM THE SPONSOR:
ALG Vacations® is North America’s leading tour operator—and is committed to becoming the kindest as well. From a Give-Back program offering travel advisors opportunities to donate or volunteer in global tourism destinations like Mexico and Dominican Republic to partnership with hotels that are making strides in sustainable vacationing, ALGV is honored to stand as a pillar to parent company Hyatt’s mission to create a World of Care.
Investing in kindness begins at home, however. ALGV has rolled out initiatives dedicated to diversity and inclusion across its organization and continues to work with travel’s largest team of BDMs to support local communities and small businesses. In-destination collaboration with sister company Amstar™ DMC connects advisors and their customers to the culture, people, and experiences of each location it serves, fostering understanding and positive impact.
Visit algvacations.com/planwithapro to learn more about ALG Vacations and their vision to support travel professionals in spreading kindness one vacation at a time.