Voluntourism is one of the fastest growing trends in the travel industry, says David Clemmons, founder of VolunTourism.org, a Web site dedicated to providing resources and tips for tying activities into travel. In a nutshell, voluntourism is about incorporating voluntary service into a business or leisure trip in order to give back to the community, and it's seeing a lot of interest from meeting professionals looking to integrate socially responsible activities into their corporate events.
Clemmons himself is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has been an active volunteer for more than 30 years. In 2000, he started working with meeting and convention groups in the greater San Diego area, helping them to connect with volunteer opportunities, and in September 2003, he launched the VolunTourism site as an educational resource for travelers. “I realized that there needed to be a resource out there to better educate people on this type of travel and the opportunities available to get involved.”
The Web site provides information via weekly podcasts, online articles and case studies, an e-newsletter, and regularly updated listings of volunteer trips. Sections geared specifically toward meeting professionals and incentive travel planners offer niched advice and information.
Clemmons has seen increased interest in recent years from corporate groups wishing to take part in activities that give back: “More and more companies are focusing on tying corporate social responsibility into their meetings and making that connection to the overall goal of the event.”
Volunteer work can be more than just a feel-good experience for attendees, he adds. For the meeting planner, benefits can include generating increased interest in the event and helping to fill a room block, as well as providing positive internal and external public relations for the organization. “After the event, you have a real opportunity to showcase the service project throughout the remainder of the meeting or convention,” says Clemmons.
CMI editor Barbara Scofidio recently spoke with VolunTourism.org's David Clemmons about ways that companies have included voluntourism service projects in their meetings. Listen to the podcast at meetingsnet.com/podcast.