Tourism Cares for South Florida

By Codie Richards, Elm Grove Travel

 Our kayak glided just above the calm water as we made our way in for the day. We were about to cross the channel, and I noticed a bigger object peeking out of the mangroves. My kayak partner and I paddled over and as we approached, I reached out to grab one last piece of “garbage” to load in the kayak and bring in with us.

 To my surprise, I flipped over the square piece of wood to find a picture frame—one of those vintage ones with beautiful character around the sides. This is when I stopped using the term “garbage” when referring to the mangrove debris. Nothing we picked up that day was garbage, or at least it wasn’t supposed to be. A lot of these items we were picking out of the mangroves came from a person’s home. This frame most likely once held a family photo or a portrait of a loved one.

 When looking at the aftermath of something as disastrous as a hurricane, it seems like an overwhelming situation. We often think how could we possibly make any type of difference or where do we even start to lend a hand?

 However, the recent Tourism Cares for South Florida program was a reminder that everyone can play a hand in making a difference, big or small. When individuals come together to each help just a little bit, the difference can be huge.

 For example, about 40 out of the 150+ Tourism Cares volunteers worked in kayaks and on the shores cleaning up debris in No Name Key, each person bringing in a few trips full of debris picked out of the mangroves. A little bit here and there ended up being 20,960 pounds. In other words, this small group of people who gave a few hours of their time made a huge impact on an area in need. The mangroves now have a little more relief, and the coral reef is one step closer to safety. 

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 From cleaning and rebuilding to snorkeling and planting, each person who was involved in the Tourism Cares for South Florida program aided in accomplishing four months’ worth of work in one day. To see the various roles of people in the travel industry come together and share the same role for a day was inspiring.

 Whether it’s a dedicated volunteer trip or simply being proactive and picking up a loose piece of trash you see on the side of the walkway, it will assist in making the world a better place. Until you put yourself in the shoes of those who returned to damage homes and a declining eco-system, it’s hard to understand the catastrophe that hit this specific area. There is still lots to be done, and organizations such as the Conch Republic Marine Army are continually looking for volunteers who’d like to make a difference.

One baby step at a time will soon lead to the finish line, and I was glad to be a part of one of these steps towards recovery for the Florida Keys.


Planning Tourism Cares for South Florida: First stop The Keys

Here I sit in a Miami airport hotel room, feet up for the first time in three days.

What a whirlwind.

The last time I was in South Florida and the Keys, was with my best friend and we had an “intoxicating” kind of vacation. This trip was different: I was here for work and can’t get my job done with that many margaritas. This time, I learned so much and leave with a different perspective on a place I thought I knew.

I am here to continue the search for meaningful volunteer projects for Tourism Cares for South Florida

“The clock is ticking, the pressure is on,” I thought as I landed in Miami on a beautiful, warm Sunday night. I had to find projects that would help our volunteers make a difference.

And boy, did I.

My journey along the Keys began early Monday morning and was navigated by Barry Wray, executive director of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition. Barry showed up as my guide in his Keys uniform: flip flops and a floral shirt - immediately I knew he was legit.

In visiting some of our potential site partners I learned a lot about this coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida. For example, did you know that only 3% of coral reef remains in the Florida Keys? 3%! Talk about a crisis. That’s why organizations like the Coral Restoration Foundation and MOTE exist. They build coral trees and install them under water to create “coral farms” to help the species spawn and flourish. The Coral Restoration Foundation alone has a goal to install 20,000 new trees this year – their loftiest goal so far–and they rely on volunteer support to get it done.

Imagine you’re on a Keys vacation--a true Keys vacation, not like my last one-- you come here to snorkel, to dive and to see the incredible ecosystems that live underneath the waters off shore. Picture yourself-- instead of just being a passive observer under the water--as an active participant in making the experience better for others while getting an up-close look at sea turtles and reef sharks.

That’s what you can do with the Coral Restoration Foundation , and what a handful of our volunteers will get to do during Tourism Cares for South Florida. They’ll be under water cleaning and installing coral reef trees to ensure the coral survives and future generations will get to see and experience healthy coral reefs right n Florida.

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I met with many inspiring locals who work to keep the environments on each key thriving and listened to their recovery stories. One of Barry’s friends, a lovely woman named Jeannie whose family has lived in the keys for generations, showed me around her property that had views of the ocean any one would kill for. I saw high-water lines up to my chest in the main house, seaweed in the closets, and completely shattered windows. The damage was so severe that Jeannie decided to sell. The generous buyer is allowing Jeannie a small guest cottage on property that she can still use when visiting from her new permanent home in Cape May, New Jersey. Jeannie’s is a story like many others in the area.

 Many in our industry have spent the last few months bunking with friends or staying in hotel rooms while continuing to do their jobs in the tourism because the Keys are coming back –and guests are heading back to the Keys.

Many hotels have had their doors open since Irma with new properties opening throughout the year. The vibe is positive, and communities resilient with help from organizations like Keys Strong who’ve combined forces with others from Key Largo to Key West. I was fortunate enough to meet with their small and mighty staff who are thrilled for help from our volunteers. We will be their largest group to date, and will clear out debris in the mangroves in neighborhoods like Jeannie’s.

When I walk away from these scouting trips, I always feel a sense of relief because I have a vision of what our volunteer day will look like. This time felt different: I have a vision (with lots of details to iron out) and I also have this incredible feeling of excitement and anticipation. This place, 180 miles of islands, is a community where people know and care about one another deeply. It’s more than intoxicating and I can’t wait for our #TCVolunteers to be a part of their recovery story--to unite and show that we are #KeysStrong.

More details to come as we plan this program; we have some cool possibilities as well! Stay tuned and follow us for more details - @TourismCares.

Carlos Alberto Arrarte Chairman, LimaTours – President, Lima Tours Foundation & Turismo Cuida 1954 – 2017

By Robin Tauck, Tourism Cares Global Committee Chair, on behalf of the Tourism Cares Board of Directors

Our travel industry is deeply saddened by the loss of Carlos Alberto Arrarte who lost his life October 13 in a traffic accident in Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley of Peru. He was 62.

An inspirational and visionary leader, Carlos was launching the new 5-year Plan Wallata, a public/private sustainable tourism project 2016-2021 to honor this beautiful, authentic “living town” and region, where visitors board the trains for the scenic journey to Machu Picchu.

Carlos was chairman of the board of LimaTours, a large tourism company founded by his father Eduardo R. Arrarte in 1956, celebrating its 61st Anniversary this year. LimaTours is a receptive operator to tour, cruise, FIT, alumni and student tours from all over the world, holding a high standard of excellence; the company was sold to TUI Group in 2012, and Carlos stayed on to oversee the continued growth in Peru and the South American region.

He worked in the family company for 37 years; first as LimaTours receptive manager in Miami in 1980, then as general manager in 1997 in Lima. Carlos was an ambassador and outstanding spokesperson building global tourism with governments, corporations and non-profits. He was an original and ever loyal allied member of USTOA, a member of ASTA , founding president of SATA, director of APOTUR and executive director of CANATUR and TURPERU.  He had networks and connections all over the world was loved and appreciated for his insights, humor, hard work, dedication and humility.

Innovation and pioneering inspired him to work in all regions of Peru and the Amazon; he watched over world heritage sites, such as the Qhapaq Nan (Inca Trail System) inscribed in 2015 by UNESCO in Paris.  He pioneered 90% of the cruise services in Peru; built the Amazon Star luxury ship; and created the “Peru Collection” offering culinary, health and wellness, archaeology and adventure tourism.

A leader in Sustainable Tourism and “Turismo Cuida” 

As a renowned tourism executive, he knew that sustainable growth of his beloved industry is based on the welfare of communities and care for the environment.  In 2008, he created LimaTours Foundation, to promote access, health, education and equal opportunity to all Peruvians. Social responsibility was Carlos’ passion and he involved his employees, partners, friends and government officials.  He was recently named Peru’s Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC ) regional leader in September 2017.

In 2012-13, Carlos pioneered Turismo Cuida, the first sustainability-focused tourism non-profit in Peru. Carlos led the Tourism Cares global delegation of 30 USA travel executives to Cusco and Sacred Valley for an education conference on sustainable tourism and a restoration of the Mercado Central  de San Pedro  (1925). Turismo Cuida gave 14 grants to local groups and implemented RECUSCO project to eradicate  plastic bottles out of the Cusco region. Members of Turismo Cuida include Aranwa Hotels Resorts & Spas, Amazon Expeditions, Belmond Hotels, Coltur, Delfin,  Fiesta Tours Peru, Inca Rail, Libertador Hotels, Resorts & Spas, LimaTours, Peru Rail, Strategik, Travel Group Perú, Viajes Pacifico and Viracocha Turismo Internacional.

Jose Pedraza, director general of LimaTours laments “We have experienced a great loss.  Yet, his commitment and dedication and love for his family and his Lima Tours family, will always inspire us to offer the best experiences to our clients, partners and fellow citizens.”

Carlos is survived by his wife, Anne and three children Maria Elizabeth, Sebastian and Alejandra Maria and two grandchildren Antonia Maria and Isolde Maria, as well as four siblings, Ana Maria, Eduardo II, Jose Luis and Maria Arrosa.  A third grand-daughter is due in February 2018.

A memorial mass will be held on November 21 in Lima, Peru;  and an additional memorial service will be held November 30th at the Diplomat, South Palms Beachfront Court in Hollywood FL, USA.

Donations may be sent to:  LimaTours Foundation (Peru).   



The news is hardly ever uplifting, but lately, even more so. For a naturally anxious person like myself, it’s best to strategize news consumption and find the light that seeps in through the cracks of it all. Lately, I’ve seen the light creep through in one of the most unlikely of places—my inbox. My main role at Tourism Cares is to tell our story—and to tell stories from the #TCCommunity. Recently, we’ve been gathering your stories on how #TourismResponds to the recovery of destinations affected by Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey. You have offered to help us in many ways and sent inspiring stories and bits of hope between the descriptions of hardship, like in this email we received from Sue Schmidt, Volunteer Coordinator at the Pacific Battle Center at the Battleship IOWA Museum:

We’ve got family headed down to St. Thomas on the 10th to do an assessment and see what they can arrange for tools and equipment. It’s really a wreck.  We have elderly family down there as well, and a house in the mangroves that got completely thrashed. It’s hard to get information. The power will probably be out for at least six months and cell service is very spotty. Fuel is in short supply, so even if you have a generator, you may not be able to run it. Most of the supplies that make their way to the Virgin Islands either come from Puerto Rico or Florida . . . no need to explain that one. There’s one guy in the area with a working back hoe who’s in such high demand, he’s charging through the roof. We talked to another close friend down there a couple days ago who said that the toughest part is that it’s so relentless. There’s no power or water and it’s all so damned depressing, especially with all the denuded trees and muck and debris everywhere, what everyone needs is a vacation to recharge their spirits. I guess that’s part of why we’re trying to get the restaurant back online.

Sue frequents St. Thomas and as a result, built a close connection to S.O.S Coffee & Bar owned and run by “a couple of young spark-plugs with tremendous talent, passion and drive.” Sue has put out her own SOS for the restaurant with a GoFundMe Campaign. Every little bit helps.

The ways in which people are helping range from tiny to huge. They are being done by large companies, medium sized ones, start-ups, and individuals—all over the world. There are families who have emailed us asking how they can spend their winter vacation helping areas rebuild. (Pro tip: Use a Good Travels Advisor, a travel agent specialist who can help find reputable volunteer travel options.) Travel businesses in the Caribbean are pooling their resources and helping each other through the One Caribbean Family Initiative, a cause-related marketing campaign exemplifying how we #GiveBetterTogether.

If you want to do something to help tourism recover in hurricane affected places, our list is just a sample of ideas, but the best and most helpful way to help is still to donate and to visit. More than 70% of the Caribbean was not damaged and places in Texas that are ready to receive visitors include Galveston and Houston.



Many of us can relate to Sue. Many of us have connections to the Caribbean, Texas or Florida in one way or another. If you don’t, you may have family or friends who work in the travel industry whose job may be an unfortunate casualty of the next disaster. You know somebody, or somebody who knows somebody or that some body was you at one point after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

My own connection to the Caribbean isn’t uncommon. I’ve been to a few islands on vacation, and I got married in Aruba in 2009. It was a magical celebration in a destination I had never been to, at a venue I only saw pictures of, with the help of a travel agent and event planner I had never met. Their help and service were extraordinary. I could not have done it without the incredible people who went so far as to build wheelchair ramps on the beach to the dance floor so that two of our guests in wheelchairs could celebrate with us. They did not charge extra. They did not laugh in my face when I asked them for this favor on top of my other requests. That’s the mentality of the Caribbean people; they will push the limits to help you (all while smiling! How?!)—and now it’s up to us to do the same.

Please keep sharing your stories with us on social media using #TourismResponds and email me at We will update our list periodically, and hope you find a bit of respite, hope and inspiration going through them as I do.


Destination Disaster Recovery Update: Sharing When the Need is Greatest

By Tourism Cares CEO, Mike Rea

I was contacted this week by the chairman of a Dominica resort wanting to donate monthly to help after Hurricane Irma, and by the time we connected on a call, conditions worsened and he had to rush off to prepare for Maria.  I’ve not heard from him since.

These are tragic days. Three major hurricanes, plus floods and earthquakes. Thousands dead; the health and livelihoods of millions threatened. Entire geographies destroyed.  Unspeakable hardship for people and places we love, separated through tourism by far less than seven degrees.

Today is also about inspiration. Courage. Immense empathy and selflessness. Tourism Cares is a US nonprofit organization, but it is so much more. It is love activated, from this singularly human industry--through you. 

On behalf of the members, staff and directors of our community, it is my privilege to share your updates:


o   The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) has a robust hurricane information center and together we’re starting to formulate investment approaches for the Caribbean, home to 2.4 million tourism jobs and with travel contributing to more than 80% of GDP for some islands. 

o   The Texas Travel Industry Association (TTIA) is our eyes and ears in the wake of Harvey, and we’ll be at their upcoming state Summit (Oct 2-4); in part we’ll discuss the plight and recovery of Port Aransas, so powerfully conveyed in this article

o   We’re also in touch with the Greater Miami CVB and looking to connect with the hard-hit Keys and Homestead regions.  The Keys aim to be partially back in business by October 20, and Visit Florida is helping the tourism economy resume, with travel itself the best gift anyone can give. 

GIVING TOGETHER: Sincere thanks to all those giving to the Destination Disaster Recovery Fund and spreading the word.  Together we will leverage financial, network and media resources that no one else can or will.  Special gratitude to AIG Travel for its $25,000 investment, as well as NYC & Company, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, Amadeus and the US Travel Association. While Tourism Cares’ 2018 volunteering program will be announced soon, one way to get dirty and involved now is with our national parks and their volunteer drive.  And for a trusted relief option, check out member and longtime impact-maker the Sandals Foundation.

SHARING WITH THE TRAVELING PUBLIC – AND COMBINING FORCES FOR GOOD:  Of course, we are not alone in our love of destinations – our clients care at least as much as we do.  Our call to action has been picked up in AFAR’s spot-on article; Arnie Weissmann has invited companies to engage clients; and tourism’s care has been seen in the New York Times and an Associated Press story picked up by the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and others.

AN INDUSTRY UNITES:  Our community spans the industry thanks in large part to 14 leading associations that have come together to spread the word and also create their own giving portals (ABA and ASTA) to focus and track their members' and partners' giving.

INDUSTRY CHAMPIONS IN GIVING:  Companies also give powerfully individually, and we have been overwhelmed by the inspiring examples our community has shared. Please search on #TourismResponds for the latest and keep an eye out for a blog post with stories from across the world.

MEXICO: We are all also thinking of Mexico, and options for making a difference following its earthquakes include Global Giving and Save the Children.

Let’s pray that going forward we talk far more about inspiration, impact and recovery.  Continue to give well.  Continue to give together; share your stories with #TourismResponds.

Remembering Bobbie

By Bruce Beckham, Tourism Cares founder and executive director emeritus

Bobbie Greene McCarthy – a voice, a smile, a passion that will be missed by many.  Sadly, Bobbie passed away suddenly early this summer. I wish I had called her one more time to let her know what she meant to me and to Tourism Cares.  Memories fade after you leave a job or a career and life goes on, but the memory of what Bobbie Greene McCarthy meant to me and Tourism Cares is crystal clear.

Bobbie was the founder and executive director of Save American’s Treasures from 1998-2012. She raised millions of dollars to accomplish her task – to save America’s treasures.  Because of matching grants from Save America’s Treasures, the Travelers Conservation Foundation (TCF), a precursor to Tourism Cares, was able to raise and donate millions and accomplish twice and more than it could have alone. And it all started with Bobbie Greene McCarthy.

In the late 90’s, Tauck Tours was about to celebrate its 75th anniversary.  The company prepared to make a significant donation to an iconic American historical site.  They found Bobbie at Save America’s Treasures (or she found them) and the story begins.

In addition to choosing Mesa Verde National Park (a company-wide decision), Tauck, along with several tour operator members of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), made contributions to TCF, an organization recently formed by USTOA to save natural, cultural and historic sites around the world.  The restoration of Ferry Building at Ellis Island was brought to TCF’s attention by who else, Bobbie Greene.  USTOA tour operators pledged more than a quarter millions dollars to the cause.  Those dollars were matched by Save America’s Treasures and a beautiful partnership was born and TCF was off and running.

Shortly after came September 11, 2001, which rocked the world and with it the tourism industry. That’s when TCF, by necessity, turned its attention from fundraising to friend-raising. “Volunteer!” became the cry and what better place to begin a volunteer program than iconic Ellis Island across New York Harbor from Ground Zero.  Starting off on a project of this size - more than 300 travel industry professionals from all over the U.S. - in a fragile economic environment, with government agencies and another nonprofit (Save Ellis Island) that knew nothing about TCF  - the task was daunting.  Who did TCF turn to for help?  Bobbie Greene McCarthy, of course.

And on and on it went, from there to many more Tourism Cares for America projects and other places where TCF gave grants, ultimately the restoration of the 9 foot tall architect’s model of World Trade Center now on display at the 911 Museum with a plaque recognizing that it was donated by the travel and tourism industry worldwide.  All of these projects and grants were the bonding events that brought the world’s travel and tourism industry together to give back and still do.

And it all started with the leadership and foresight of a handful of USTOA tour operators and the joining of hands with NTA, ASTA, IATAN and other travel associations.  But, it wouldn’t be what it is today without the hand of a wonderful lady named Bobbie Greene McCarthy.  I will miss her smiling face.

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Tourism Cares for the Channel Islands with The Travel Corporation

I have a really cool job. This may sound like I am bragging, but it's true. Just like you, my job has its challenging moments, but a few weeks ago I was reminded just how fortunate I really am. I was lucky enough to spend a night sleeping on the ground, eating freeze-dried meals and then work in the hot sun while fighting off a swarm of bees just to get water. Does it really get any better than that? I don’t think so!  Harmless bees aside, I spent two days at one of California’s most beautiful destinations with awesome colleagues— all while helping to preserve a national park.

As the Events Manager for Tourism Cares I have had the pleasure to help our members plan private volunteer events. For the seventh year in a row, I worked with The Travel Corporation and the TreadRight Foundation to give back better—together; this year we focused on Channel Islands National Park. After months of planning, the day arrived.  I boarded a boat in Ventura with 12 Travel Corporation volunteers and together we trekked to the island for a night of camping and two days of volunteering and exploring.

After a boat ride filled with dolphin sightings, it was already clear upon docking at Santa Cruz Island that this was going to be an incredible experience. The island is covered in rolling hills and surrounded by deep blue water that looks like something out of a magazine. After a short hike (which feels longer when you are carrying two days of supplies) we set up our campsite. Most of us had not camped in several years, so setting up our tents required some finessing, but to outsiders, we looked like pros.

That afternoon we met our NPS volunteer leads Dennis and Randy. Dennis and Randy are people who give you hope for humanity. They are volunteers for NPS who come out to the island during their free time and help lead groups like ours on restoration efforts. Their knowledge and passion for the park are infectious. I am grateful to meet locals like them at almost every destination we bring volunteers to; they are a big part of what makes my job worthwhile.

We spent the afternoon removing oyster root and artichoke plant from a trail near our campsite. Randy and Dennis explained that by removing the invasive plants and collecting their seeds and blossoming flowers, we are preventing them from spreading throughout the island. Without these efforts, they would multiply and pretty much ruin the island for everything and everyone—there's a reason why they are called invasive! It never ceases to amaze me what a group of volunteers can accomplish in a matter of hours. Those plants did not stand a chance.

That night I pretended to be a gourmet chef and made dinner for the group by boiling water for freeze-dried meals (full discloser: they were way better than my usual specialty of microwaved dinners). During our meal, the volunteers had fun getting to know one another. Even though the group all work for the same company,  many had not met in person because their office is so large. I love that these events bond colleagues together. It was a blast to hear everyone talking about their jobs, the industry, and life in general. This is another part of my job that is fulfilling: the opportunity to not only meet the people that make up Tourism Cares’ membership but also get to know them on a human level—not just through emails and conference calls.

The next day we started tackling the invasive plants early to avoid the heat and to give us a more time to join Randy and Dennis on a hike to Potato Bay that afternoon. Along the way to the bay we enjoyed stunning views of the ocean and the other islands that make up the park. Many of the California natives with me could not believe we were in their home state and essentially their backyard. As a life-long east coaster,  I could not have been more grateful to experience the island.

 Our national parks are truly breathtaking and this trip was an ideal way to enjoy the Channel Islands. After a night on the island, with two days of volunteering and exploring, it is safe to say that we fell in love with Santa Cruz Island. Everyone in our group walked away with a sense of ownership and a deeper understanding of the great importance preservation plays in keeping natural gems like Santa Cruz around for people to enjoy today—and countless years into the future.

I have a really cool job: I have the opportunity to meet passionate people who donate their time and energy to help make the world around them a better place; I get to meet—and really get to know—the people that make up the Tourism Cares community; and I get to see and experience fascinating places. It really does not get much better than that. 

For more photos of our Channel Islands adventure, visit our Facebook page.

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:

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



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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