Voluntourism, a form of tourism in which travelers participate in voluntary work, usually for a charity, has sparked interest in large companies of luxury tourism.
Valerie Wilson Travel, Virtuoso, that handle management needs for companies and organizations in a diverse array of industries, from fashion and finance to publishing and pharmaceuticals, hosted recently in New York a panel titled What Keeps You Up at Night about travel market watch and trends discussion and among the topics was the role of voluntourism and sustainability in luxury travel.
“I think it’s something that is becoming ever-more apparent” in what the consumer wants, VWT co-owner and co-president Kimberly Wilson Wetty said. “They want to be able to have a more authentic experience, feel locally, but also really contribute and give back”, she added.
So voluntourism is among the top trends in luxury travel for 2018 and beyond.
According to Virtuoso co-president the modality can range from improving the quality of life in underdeveloped destinations to doing your part to help rebuild a destination affected by a natural disaster.
In the same meeting Marett Taylor of Abercrombie & Kent said the tour operator uses four pillars when creating its voluntourism itineraries: education, health, conservation and enterprise. “I think that philanthropy is very, very personal for the luxury traveler,” Taylor dijoquoted by Luxury Travel Advisor website.
“Some people want a day; some people want an entire voluntourism trip. We’ve made it possible on our Tailor Made journeys to have an element, or to actually preplan with an advisor an entire experience, for the family to do in every area of the world”, she added.
Recently A&K opened a bike shop in Nakatindi, Zambia. It brought over hundreds of bicycles and helped the women open a shop. Marett says the women worked with the community to sell and repair the bikes. With the money they earned, the women were able to purchase more bikes. Another venture of A&K’s included opening a maternity ward, also in Nakatindi.
Alexis Romer from Marriott Luxury Brands said it has hotels in both the Caribbean and Hawaii, which were affected by the hurricanes and the recent volcano eruption.
“We’re really taking our time coming back in Puerto Rico. Durado Beach, a Ritz Carlton Reserve, and The St. Regis Bahia Beach did not really sustain a lot of physical damage; there was some damage to foliage and a lot of the grounds, but they’re really taking their time coming back. They’re not going to reopen until October” Romer added according to Luxury Travel Advisor report.
The global promoters of “voluntourism” argue that sustainable travel enables tourists to become true travelers, who explore with purpose. They added that this form of travel provides with opportunities to give back to local communities and in turn, helps to evolve eco-friendly tourism, while keeping natural environments safe while and fostering cultures and traditions in communities.
One reason for that kind of support is that traveling sustainably is a rewarding experience. The defenders of voluntourism affirm that these types of trips guide tourists through different heritages and cultures, and help to engage actively to preserve history and the environment. And tourists help to preserve the environment.