In Trends

Memorial Day—the unofficial start of summer—has already come and gone, and now the Red Hot Topic of summer vacation kicks off too. To further commemorate the true meaning of this holiday, let’s discuss how travelers are choosing to mix their getaways with good deeds. What more patriotic way is there to celebrate your hard-earned freedom than by giving back to the state or country you call home?

What is this fast-growing travel segment? defines voluntourism as “the conscious, seamlessly integrated combination of voluntary service to a destination with the traditional elements of travel and tourism—arts, culture, geography, history and recreation—while in the destination.” Simply put, voluntourism is a volunteer experience that requires travel to another destination.

It’s cool to be kind.
Voluntourism is gaining popularity, in some measure, because social consciousness is being imparted in every life stage. Developed countries demonstrate growth in service learning from Kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as in colleges and universities. Younger adults are seeking significance amid their routine daily lives, and seniors are striving to maintain purpose during retirement and leave a noteworthy legacy.

Destination marketing organizations (DMOs), CVBs, hotels and suppliers are all integrating voluntourism into their marketing, identifying numerous service projects for travelers and creating outreach programs. But voluntourism isn’t limited strictly to students and adult individuals. Which leads us to this:

Voluntourism is more than a volunteer vacation.
The volunteer vacation is a form of voluntourism, but it’s not the only one. As corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs become more prevalent, so do employee-based, voluntary service programs. For instance, before or after its annual destination meeting, a company may spend a day (or more or less) volunteering for a service project. Also, companies are including voluntourism as another rewarding way to approach incentive travel.

Attendees are motivated to perform and remain loyal. They actively participate, rolling up their sleeves and bonding as a team to pitch in and give back to the community. From a PR angle, this type of promotion easily lends itself to positive publicity and brand awareness for every party involved.

There are various ways the tourism and meeting industries are tapping into voluntourism. By partnering with local charitable organizations, they can arrange opportunities for guests and planners to add volunteerism to their trips and agendas. Ideas are numerous and wide-ranging, and they include:

Helping New Jersey “get back to happy…”
A cause right in our own backyard that’s truly dear to us. For generations, the Jersey Shore has been a beloved summertime destination that holds a special place in the hearts and souls of its visitors. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, that tradition endures.

As the marketing firm for the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism, Dana is proudly showing the world that the Garden State is back in business for summer tourism. But while many beaches, boardwalks and statewide attractions are hosting visitors ready to “Get Back to Happy,” some towns are still recovering from the costly devastation.

Fortunately, in the past several months, volunteers from all over the country have been flocking to help rebuild hard-hit areas. Their generosity remains strong today, making the Jersey Shore, and other zones in Sandy’s path of destruction, hotspots for summer 2013 voluntourism.

…and aiding other great causes around the globe.
In the United States and internationally, voluntourism assists many destinations in crisis or simply in need of helping hands. Projects range from contributing to disaster recovery efforts to planting trees with a youth group, and from serving food at a city mission to constructing Habitat for Humanity housing. Whether devoting a few hours or whole, immersive week or establishing a permanent, sustainable program, participating in outreach initiatives produces a valuable impact on communities, companies and voluntourists alike.

Add voluntourism to your agenda.
Learn how Dana can help you incorporate voluntourism into leisure and business travel programs. Email Lynn Kaniper at

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