Planeterra Lunch N' Learn at Tourism Cares HQ

“When you’re riding with one of the women, don’t forget to look at all the drivers passing by with their mouths gaping open that a woman is not only driving but driving a commercial vehicle in India!” 

Jamie Sweeting, president of Planeterra Foundation, led a lunch n’ learn at our office last week where he talked about Planeterra projects, one of them being Women On Wheels in New Delhi— a business that empowers women by providing the training and resources they need to become professional, self-sustaining commercial drivers. Women who take the course are also trained in basic first aid and self-defense, in addition to lessons in communications and human rights. Women On Wheels is the official airport pick-up partner of G Adventures, so if you take one of their tours through New Delhi, you’ll get to meet one of the extraordinary women whose life has been changed through this program.

This project is just one example of the foundation’s model of empowerment through sustainable tourism. Planeterra was created by G Adventure founder, Bruce Poon Tip, in 2003 to improve people’s lives by creating and supporting local enterprises that bring underserved communities into the tourism value chain. In 2016 alone, they successfully implemented 11 new social enterprises to the G Adventures market. Planeterra projects are introduced in locations that have a high number of tours and passengers passing through, giving community members the customer base they need to see their business succeed.

In 2016 Planeterra officially launched their “50 in 5” campaign with a goal to integrate 50 new social enterprise projects into G Adventures trips in five years and they are well on their way to reaching their goals! If you want to learn more, visit: https://planeterra.org/get-involved/.

Thank you, Jamie, for the inspiring visit and updates on your work. We’re so happy to be in good company, helping to create a world of good.

If you’d like to visit Tourism Cares and present a lunch n’ learn opportunity to the staff, please email info@tourismcares.org.

 

 

Reflection: Tourism Cares for Detroit - Travel’s Big Give Community Workshop

Last week hundreds of travel professionals volunteered in the Motor City for Tourism Cares for Detroit. In addition to the traditional physical work projects, we kicked off a skilled volunteering pilot with a community workshop: Traveler Trends and Building Your Brand Promise. We brought together travel industry experts and Detroit’s mission based travel organizations to help the local organizations better understand and engage tourism.

Organizations represented included MotorCities National Heritage Area, Michigan DNR Parks and Recreation, Detroit Zoo, and many more. Attendees learned how to distill their mission into a succinct, emotional brand promise, highlighting the value for target audiences.

Special thanks to Jeanne Chapel, strategic account manager for Amadeus and Mike Geraci, chief strategy officer of MERCURYcsc, for their presentations.

Jeanne shared the latest research from Amadeus, "Future Travel Tribes 2030." We learned about the six traveler tribes: social capital seekers, cultural purists, simplicity searchers, ethical travelers, obligation meters and reward hunters.

Mike focused on consumer branding framework for today’s nonprofits, sharing several examples of the good, bad and ugly mission statements and brand positions out there, honing in on what’s really important.

Brand position is the one thing you want to stand for in the market. Anytime you start looking at the laundry list of a mission statement, it’s got this, this, this, this . . . the brand position is one thing to put a stake in the ground, what do we want to stand for?” – Mike Geraci, MERCURYcsc

Mike led an accelerated case study of local nonprofit The Detroit Experience Factory to illustrate the brand positioning process.

"It was such a great experience! It made me think about our mission and brand in a new way that will be a big help moving forward." - Jeanette Pierce, Detroit Experience Factory

The second half of the session focused on skilled volunteering, assessing the needs of three local organizations, The Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3), Arab American National Museum, Detroit Historical Society (DHS), include tourism strategy development, website update/redesign, marketing, and social media. Stay tuned for more information as this program develops.

We’ve wanted to add knowledge and pro bono volunteering into the mix of our well established group volunteering. To leverage all the mind power we bring to cities, helping far more organizations around the community and tourism.” – Mike Rea, Tourism Cares

Both slide decks are available for download, Amadeus and MERCURYcsc. The breakfast was recorded via Facebook Live, please visit our Tourism Cares Facebook page to view the workshop.

A Student's View: NTA TREX 17

By Emily Ayscue

If you have checked out NTA’s page for Travel Exchange ’17, you might have noticed TREX described as more than professional networking but a “chance for members to meet the travel world under one roof…and make lifelong friends while you’re at it”. This potential seemed achieved after seeing the keyword “relationships” noted five separate times in my conference notes. 

I observed three different types of relationships during TREX including those between TREX attendees, between myself and between the tourism industry and the rest of the world. 

Social capital dictates the currency of our industry. I witnessed many appointments shadowing my mentors where a portion of the time was spent sharing family photos or catching up on other personal developments. Even the appointments between new acquaintances were electric through the conduit of a love for travel and an altruistic desire to help one another succeed.  These authentic bonds inspire me to carry that tradition of the industry forward wherever my career path takes me.

Shadowing two mentors in different positions of the industry was an invaluable experience. Sitting with Lisa Itel at the Travel Oregon booth exposed me not only to their progressive programs such as “Travel Oregon Forever,” but also the symmetry between their state travel office and the other Oregon CVBs in this block on the trade show floor. This type of accessibility between organizations regardless of their scale of operation seems paramount in the pursuit of social capital.

As I walked around the trade show floor, I noticed a blackboard with people writing their goals for attending TREX. I grabbed a piece of chalk and wrote that I wanted to have connections we need in academia. In the bubble of academia, I sometimes feel disconnected from the industry that I love and study. The disconnect stems from a place of producing knowledge with uncertainty of who would use it. Our CVs are inundated with tourism research conferences, but TREX will be the first solely industry conference to fill those pages. I am proud of this experience, but invigorated to maintain industry engagements as part of my portfolio. This goal was especially inspired by my time with Melody Johnson, my second mentor. Her entrepreneurial journey has offered her many opportunities in the industry from owning and operating an inn on Mt. Hood to now running Falcon’s Crest Inc. In academia, we often read and write about entrepreneurs as the engine of innovation in tourism industry, but I am not sure how many of us receive the opportunity to spend time with one with their boots on the ground. What struck me the most about Melody was her upbeat attitude even when it was drawing close to quitting time on the floor. Noticing how full her appointment book was, I commented on how tired she must be. She promptly informed me “there is no time to be tired” and then invited me for some ice cream from the Oregon booth.

Honestly, I do not think she could be tired simply because how much she loves her job. In the bubble of academia, I sometimes feel disconnected from the industry that I love and study and do not really get to interact with the people who actually make it all work. Because of my mentoring opportunities, I have found this connection again and have recommitted myself to remain relevant to our industry through building relationships with those at every scale of its operations.

Before TREX, I also felt disconnected from fellow sustainable tourism researchers, because the field is young and growing. My connection with a fellow Tourism Cares scholar, E’Lisha Fogle, also working towards her sustainable tourism Ph.D. was beyond reassuring. While publications tend to dominate the currency of academia, for those with goals of extending the academy to stakeholders, relationships with like-minded colleagues is equally important.

It is exciting to have developed a friendship through TREX who shares the same pursuit of sustainable tourism development. The diversity of career goals and experiences of my other fellow Tourism Cares Scholars was equally impressive.

During our first student session “How to succeed in travel,” each Tourism Cares Scholar was able to talk a little bit about their career goals. From concert management, to finance for cruise lines, to education abroad, it seemed every aspect of the industry was covered. What struck me most was that a quarter of us around the table indicated the pursuit of a degree specifically focused on sustainable tourism development. The career specializations and pursuit of responsible tourism certainly speaks to the ever-evolving nature of this industry. One of my favorite times together was dining at Zia’s in The Hill Italian district. We dined, wined, and laughed the evening away before heading to the Tourism Rocks event. As we move forward, connecting through LinkedIn and Facebook, I have no doubt that we will all remain close allies towards building and supporting a tourism industry that future generations can also enjoy.

As noticed from my time on the Oregon block, the symmetry between everyone was unmistakable through the fast friendships we developed over the course of a few days. The gamut of educational backgrounds was also represented including bachelors, masters, and doctorate around the table speaking to the evolution and subsequent specializations of the industry

In many other fields, hierarchies persist based on the accumulation of knowledge, but I am proud to be a part of the field where experience is equally valued and where relationships matter more.

While we create relationships with each other over this uncanny passion to travel and provide hospitality to those on the move, we also have an inherent relationship with the communities that host us. These communities provide infrastructure, culture, and space for tourism to succeed. The work of organizations such as Tourism Cares who are committed to providing corporate social responsibility (CSR) training and support for the tourism industry is essential in identifying ways to give back to these communities in meaningful ways. The Tourism Cares workshop on “Engaging Clients in Giving and Meaning” sets an example for other tourism conferences, research and industry focused ones alike, where opportunities for conversations about how to integrate socially responsible practices into the industry can be had. The panel had an excellent array of industry stakeholders and of CSR initiatives implemented by each company represented.

I learned that CSR tends to optimally perform when initiatives meet the needs of our communities and reflect the values of the companies implementing them. Hard Rock Café has created their CSR groove in the industry with their charity “Hard Rock Heals.” With a goal to support music centric health and wellness programs and fund scholarships to cafes around the world described by panelist Tara Hippensteel, they seem to have found CSR in a way that truly represents their company. Communities are not always defined by physical borders. Sometimes, they exist across individuals with similar attributes, values and interests. Academic Travel Abroad panelist Kate Desvenain, spoke of their company’s focus on communities of diverse students traveling to non-western European countries through their “Fund for Education Abroad,” which exemplifies another type of CSR in which the industry can engage. Their company has also found ways to engage their employees in a socially responsible way by allotting a special day off for philanthropy pursuits.

Socially responsible initiatives could also mean contributing to the health of our environments for future generations to enjoy. In honor of the centennial of the National Park Service last year, Nish Patel from Mayflower Tours described how the company donated $5 per person for each National Park visited to Tourism Cares for restoration projects within the parks. Channeling their CSR through Tourism Cares exhibited solidarity within the industry and support for an organization whose mission is to help businesses implement their initiatives. To incorporate CSR into your business strategy, it has to make economic sense. Our panelist from Travel Oregon, Lisa Itel, described the “Travel Oregon Forever” fund which business owners can join to donate to projects all across the state to support the tourism industry in return for distinction through preferred marketing and other incentives. This example of CSR not only accomplishes the environmentally and socially responsible goals of tourism development in Oregon, but provides the economic incentives that make CSR economically feasible for these businesses. 

All of these internal and external relationships we forge in this industry provide us with social capital to accomplish our common goal, which was nicely said by Bruce Beckham: “In travel and tourism you make people’s dreams come true.” Through our commitment to authentic bonds and progressive development pathways such as CSR, I believe that we can continue fulfilling dreams in many years to come.

Getting the feels for Detroit

By Jessica Ahern, Director of Volunteer Programs

Cars, abandoned buildings, the Lions—those were  my only points of reference to Detroit outside of articles I’ve read when researching the headlining city for Tourism Cares for Our Cities .

Boy, did I have it wrong.  Detroit is most definitely a city on the move. There is construction everywhere – condos going up, commercial space being renovated, and beautiful historic buildings being transformed.

I thought it best that Kati and I try to see the city through a different lens on our first visit to the Motor City; we needed more than our typical site visit to be able to showcase this city in May to the hundreds of travel professionals attending “Travel’s Big Give”—the first annual summit of travel professionals dedicated to corporate social responsibility—in conjunction with Tourism Cares for Detroit.  I asked a new friend, the hilarious Mark Denson of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, to show us around – and we fell in love with Detroit fast

We explored the amazing neighborhoods – Midtown, Corktown, Downtown, Eastern Market – each with its very own character, history and appeal. We learned about the neighborhoods, how the city is working to connect and make them more accessible from the downtown corridor. New sidewalks, bike paths and green spaces are popping up all over the city, making it easier to get to and from all the distinctive parts of town.

We saw the community garden spaces, the impressive schools, the gorgeous architecture and design of the Guardian Building. We learned that five years ago there were 48 closed/abandoned buildings downtown, today there are only 3. That’s incredible progress – the city is flourishing with buildings being filled, repurposed and rebuilt.

We added so many restaurants to our list of places to dine that I don’t know if we can plan enough trips to experience it all (and if we do, I might need to buy bigger pants). As a place to start – check out Standby downtown, located down an alleyway covered in beautiful graffiti with great handmade cocktails. In Midtown choose a beer off the massive beer list at HopCat and in Corktown you cannot miss Ottava Via for the incredible Italian fare.

The progress and growth in Detroit is incredible. The city has such a spirit, character, and the food and drink is to die for.  The city still has grit, but it also has local charm, and a small business scene that is so Detroit.

I have lived outside of Boston all of my life and I am fortunate that I get to explore the world and meet the people that support our travel industry volunteer programs. I have always learned a lot at each place I visit, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so surprised and impressed by a city like I am with Detroit.

When boarding our flight at DTW, I completely understood why the New York Times named Detroit one of the cities to visit in 2017 – seriously, it’s one to explore!

I hope you’ll join us in when we bring more than 300 travel professionals to the city for a day of service. And if you can-- make sure to come in a day early; on Thursday we will have lots of tours and experiences available, including the tour Kati and I were fortunate enough to go on.

Returning the Power of Tourism for Nepal

By Mike Rea

WHERE DOES NEPAL FIT in your tourism life? Have you been? Do you send clients there? Do you ever want to go? And after the earthquake last April, did you make a donation to help out? Please read on if your answer is ”Yes,” “I wish” or even “I want to know what tourism can accomplish after a crisis.”

   For that is the story we can now tell as we approach the first anniversary of the Gorkha earthquake, which killed 8,617, injured 16,808 and displaced 2.8 million Nepalese. Tourism Cares, as the charitable community of the travel and tourism industry, acted quickly after the disaster, launching the Nepal Recovery Fund, which gathered more than US$85,000 in contributions from 220 donors, such as The Travel Corporation, Alexander+Roberts, Globus and Abercrombie & Kent.

   Our stories and lessons from Nepal are divided into two related parts: how visiting the country can uniquely support communities, companies and travelers during the recovery phase, and how tourism’s collective philanthropy can help the industry—and the traveler experience—bounce back better than before.

   As a travel professional and influencer, consider this: Today is one of the best and most meaningful times ever to visit Nepal. Crowds are low along famous treks, discounts are available at attractions and the U.S. State Department recently lifted the travel advisory that had been in place since the earthquake.

   Yet what supercharges the Nepal experience is what else you can experience only now: the inspiration of the recovery. Tourism accounts for 400,000-plus jobs in Nepal and about 10 percent of its GDP. The welcome you receive bythe famously hospitable people will be especially warm. A trip to Nepal in 2016, beginning with the earthquake anniversary in April, can be especially meaningful. There are “Wisdom Wednesdays,” hosted at a pub in the Kathmandu neighborhood of Thamel by local nonprofit Next Generation Nepal; it includes speakers on ethical tourism and volunteering.

   You can even be a part of the recovery, as research from Tourism Cares shows that giving and volunteering during travel enhances trip satisfaction. So travelers should consider a service trip, using a company committed to rebuilding and giving back to Nepal (e.g., Crooked Trails). Any trip will help sustain jobs, and you’ll create extra benefit if you pick a rebuilding trek to the Langtang or Gorkha regions that were especially hard hit.

   The greatest power we have for change is our business and clients. So think about Nepal and what you can do to help tourists return.

   Our value to Nepal’s future is far from done. There’s also the power of philanthropic investments, especially ones linked to our business. The goal of the Nepal Recovery Fund is to support tourism during the recovery phase and to invest in the renewal phase afterward. As tourism returns, we want it to benefit more people and produce an even richer experience. This is a vision that only the Tourism Cares community will tackle, and we’ve had some neat successes:

• We partnered with the Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management to offer a special training and certificate for lodge and tea house owners and managers displaced by the quake.

• With Seeing Hands Nepal, a massage clinic, we supported the training for another five visually impaired massage therapists, fostering a direct link to the tourism economy.

• On behalf of our contributors and media partners, we supported tour operator disaster preparedness trainings with the Adventure Travel Trade Association.

• We have promoted effective volunteering in the wake of crisis. This was all made possible by you: NTA supporters, friends of Tourism Cares and the tourism industry itself. It is the magic of Tourism Cares, which is far more than your standard charity.

   So thank you for what we have done to support Nepal and what we can do.

Mike Rea is the CEO of Tourism Cares. This post first appeared in the April 2016 issue of Courier magazine.

 

How Tourism and Training are Helping Nepal Heal

Tourism Cares and the Harvard Kennedy School Nepal Fund (funded by students at the school), recently sponsored a training program for people displaced from the Langtang region of Nepal by April’s earthquake, which triggered a series of landslides that destroyed their villages.

Upasana Khadka from the Fund reports:

Women and a few men, currently living in Kathmandu, the capital, were provided a ten day course on Lodge and Small Hotel Management at the Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hospitality Management (NATHM).

Because Langtang is one of the most popular trekking destinations in Nepal, most of its residents are involved in the tourism sector. While men are involved in both trekking as well as hotel management, women are mostly involved in the latter.

Therefore, the course allowed them to get equipped with skills that will help them better run their hotels and teahouses in addition to helping them pass time productively as they wait idly in the capital. The course included the following topics: housekeeping, hygiene, reception, cooking, bakery and waste management. Given that the course was 6-7 hours long per day, we also provided them with transportation and dinner at NATHM.

Lhakpa Jangba, one of the few men who took this course, kindly sent us a review of his experience at NATHM. Lhakpa used to be a baker in Kyanjin Gumba where he ran a small bakery called “Dorje Bakery Café”. He took this course to enhance his knowledge and be able to provide his customers with better services.  As one of the few people in the group who is able to read and write, he expresses “I was a little worried in the beginning because many of our women are not educated. However, NATHM understood our situation and tailored the course such that we had 90 per cent practical classes and 10 per cent theory classes that enabled us to learn much better. Everyday, spending 6-7 hours in the course also allowed us to get closer as a community as we were able to share our thoughts and help each other. The 10 days passed so quickly that by the time the course ended, we were wishing for more.” He further continues, “I was able to understand the women from my village better, their aspirations and the questions they have regarding what happened and what lies ahead. I too don’t have answers to many of their questions and am always thinking of ways to improve the situation of our community. We enjoyed the course and learnt a lot about high quality hotel management and once our normal lives resume, we want to use our cooking and baking skills. Most of the women mentioned that they felt refreshed and the course gave them a lot of willpower to move forward with their lives.” He hopes that he will be able to upgrade his café to a new level with a combination of local and western food items.

Just like Lhakpa, everyone in the community has incredible stories of loss and survival. Two volunteers from Langtang, Tsering and Jangbu, kindly conducted interviews of a few trainees:

Dhamjay was sobbing when she got off the helicopter as she had lost everything during the earthquake. When she saw the landslides coming, she hid in a hole otherwise was used to hide potatoes during winters to prevent them from rotting. She could not breathe nor move as she was completely covered with snow. When her son Tsewang helped free her, she was in a lot of pain both because her right leg was fractured and also because she realized that she had lost her husband and her daughter. But because her other three children survived the disaster, she had to stay strong despite the pain.

Cho Pema Tamang, a native from Langtang, used to be a farmer who grew barley, buckwheat etc. When the earthquake hit, she was in her field planting barley with her daughter, son and 6 other villagers. The minute the earthquake started and the avalanches followed, they ran under a rock in the field and stayed there till everything stopped. Everything was covered in snow. Once she dug out her children from the snow, they headed upwards and hid under a big rock which was relatively safer. They stayed there with 15 other villages without any food or blankets. Five of them were severely injured in the head, leg or hand while the rest had minor injuries.

My life after Earthquake has been like hell”, says Dawa who another survivor. Her husband, Chenga Tamang, was a worker at local Cheese and Bread Factory. Their business was doing very well as it was the only factory in Langtang. When the earthquake hit, she was on her buckwheat farm clearing weeds with 5 other women. Once the shaking began, Dawa being relatively younger, was able to run faster than others. Other women were knocked down by the avalanche while Dawa managed to hide behind a stone. She saw roof tins flying in the sky along with pieces of woods and iron rods at a great speed. Once the landslide stopped, Dawa rushed towards her house and there was nothing left. After seeing the situation of her husband’s workplace she knew that he is no more. She was then worried about her two sons who had gone to a forest to look for some kind of herb. But luckily they survived by taking shelter under a big stone. She wants to be good in Bakery and wants to give continuation to her husband’s profession.

 Dolma Tamang was returning to Mundu village after working in her field for a few hours in Langtang. When the earthquake started, Dolma and her children ran towards a big stone hoping to hide behind it but the stone started rolling towards them. So they ran towards a field. Her two daughters who had gone to Langtang to drop something at their grandmother’s house were unfortunately killed by the landslide. The next day when Dolma heard that her daughters body was lying somewhere in the field, she went to get their bodies with her husband which was one of the most painful experiences of her life.

All the trainees are waiting to rebuild their lives in Langtang. They enjoyed the course thoroughly and have now gone back to Langtang to recover any belongings that can be salvaged, to clear trails and they will again be back in Kathmandu at the camp over winter. We have a few more projects on the pipeline for our friends from Langtang to help with tourism revival: to provide advanced cooking and bakery courses to a subset of the trainees and to ensure that they have access to baking equipment and ingredients once they setup their teahouses/hotels in Langtang. We are very grateful to the management of NATHM for their support throughout the process.

5 Takeaways from the inaugural Travel Talent for Tomorrow mentoring program

Tourism Cares and ASTA launched a new agent mentoring program at the 2015 ASTA Global Conference, as the first phase of the Travel Talent for Tomorrow program.

The mentoring program brought selected Millennial travel agents to AGC and paired them with senior agents, managers and owners attending the convention to build connections, share insights and get inspired.  

Kim Osmer of Travel Future ran the pilot program for Tourism Cares, and reports on 5 opportunities discussed at a mentor program roundtable (Let us know your thoughts!) --

1.       Develop succession planning models to hand-off of books of business from retiring senior agents
Provide a few financial and contractual models that create both a smooth customer experience, reward the senior agent for mentoring and support and provide the Millennial agent with a significant head start to building their business

2.       Design a clear plan and career path actions to reach and maintain specialist certification
Provide the roadmap for travel agents to build their knowledge, providing certification testing at key levels of achievement towards specialist status and providing ongoing bi-annual certification.

3.       Share technology opportunities that improve and simplify the customer experience
Take the best in class learnings of the variety of travel agency distribution models as well as of personal service excellence by select senior agents to set models for high standards to raise the service bar across the industry and inform agents how to improve their business.

4.       New business model options for newer agents wanting to launch their own business
Define and house new business models at industry level, including those that leverage new media and technologies for new small business entrepreneurs to use to launch new businesses.

5.       Building tailored service and fee model for the Millennial traveler

Recognizing that Millennial travelers value service and are willing to pay for time and knowledge, design services and fee models representing what these travelers value, that differ from generic service fees.

Thanks to our phenomenal mentees and mentors representing many consortia for their active and inspired participation in our breakout sessions.  We are using their feedback as well as other industry leaders to chart the course for further mentor program development.

Let us know your thoughts – which ideas do you think should be developed at an industry level?  We welcome your comments and thoughts.   

An Open Letter on Nepal

An Open Letter on Nepal

Dear friends of Tourism Cares and of Nepal:

As professionals and as humans, we, along with so many others worldwide, have been touched by the terrible disaster in Nepal.  Many of us have personal and professional connections to that special place, and I visited Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and other sites back in 1989.
 
We all want to help and to make a difference, and it is an honor to be a part of the Tourism Cares community today.  Your response has been humbling and inspiring...

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