The Booking.com Sustainable Travel Report released this April for Earth Day confirmed that demand for sustainable travel continues to grow. In this case, sustainability is defined in the broad sense: travel that promotes local economies, social services, and culture as well as the environment – both local and global. The report indicates that 87% of global travelers want to travel sustainably. However, 48% indicate they never, rarely or only sometimes manage to travel sustainably, suggesting there is still plenty of room to turn intentions into action.
Travel agents can play an important role in guiding clients towards sustainable travel, particularly in the case of sustainable volunteer vacations. Travel agents often know their clients far better than an online search engine and can link clients to the right sustainable travel and volunteer options.
But travel agents are limited by the lack of connections between traditional vacations and pro-sustainability causes. Most people want to stay in comfortable hotels, yet most volunteer vacations use mediocre lodging. Travel agents also know that much “voluntourism” is justly criticized because the “cause” is invented to please tourists, not make a difference.
BeachCorps believes a great vacation can support a great cause, and we’re starting in the Dominican Republic. Travelers come to the sunny resorts of the Dominican Republic and never manage to get outside the resort walls; they enjoy the beauty of the beaches while missing out on the beauty of the people. BeachCorps wants to work with travel agents to create a new kind of volunteer vacation in the Dominican Republic. We are partnering with the biggest excursion provider in the country, Runners Adventures.
BeachCorps is creating a platform to allow a vacation that is part fun and relaxation, part volunteering for (and donating to) an established nonprofit cause. BeachCorps will allow volunteers to choose their hotel and their cause, with discounts for stays in hotels that promote sustainability through our #SustainabilityPledge program. The BeachCorps model squarely addresses the top five obstacles to sustainable travel that Booking.com identified in its study:
- Cost: BeachCorps is less expensive than comparable volunteer vacations (which cost $2200-$3000 for 8 days in the Dominican Republic).
- Lack of Information: BeachCorps guides travelers to ensure their volunteer work and hotel stay promote sustainability.
- Time Consuming: BeachCorps allows travelers to fold meaningful impact into a regular vacation.
- Unappealing Destinations for Impact Travel: Beach vacations are the MOST popular kind of
- Lack of Luxury/Comfort: BeachCorps lets travelers pick their own level of lodging luxury.
We believe a volunteer can best help with their time for people-to-people engagement, their donation to a worthy cause, and their 500 Facebook friends once they see with their own eyes the cause is worth supporting. BeachCorps volunteers might paint a wall, but they might also play baseball or put on a bi-cultural musical show. You do whatever helps the cause.
After many years preparing alliances with the best nonprofits in the Dominican Republic, BeachCorps is launching sales this summer for ongoing projects that start in the summer of 2019. BeachCorps led an official club-to-club partnership presented in the June 2018 Rotary Global Conference in Toronto designed to make Rotary the world leader in impact travel. Know any Rotarians you can approach? BeachCorps encourages travel agents to use ourfree pilot volunteer excursions this summer and fall 2018 to reach out to customers and book a trip.
What market segments can travel agents target? BeachCorps sees particularly strong demand in volunteer vacations from:
- Businesses: Incentive travel that boosts employee morale and a company’s corporate social responsibility program and profile.
- Families: Parents who want to teach their children about the world while enjoying time at the beach.
- Millennials: The so-called “Generous Generation” has a strong interest in volunteering.
We are already working with Green Earth Travel to promote Dogs and Cats of the Dominican Republic and Rescatame, two nonprofits that help stray dogs and cats and the communities that love them. We are looking at how the impact and sustainability travel agency Myght can help us advance our projects in the summer of 2019 for English programs targeting kids from underserved communities with the Puntacana Group Foundation, part of the Puntacana Group that is the great pioneer of sustainable tourism in the Dominican Republic and also the owner of the spectacular Punta Cana Resort and Club.
We share the vision of Visit.org, a social enterprise that is building “the world’s leading platform for social impact travel experiences.” BeachCorps hopes to help Visit.org develop more trip opportunities for excellent causes in the tourism areas of the Dominican Republic so these causes and activities can develop strategic plans and results reporting that fit the BeachCorps model.
BeachCorps is offering volunteer excursions as an English teaching assistant all summer long in 2019 in a Rotary project supporting the Punta Group Foundation. BeachCorps is also partnering with Chic Hotel Punta Cana to help raise awareness about Chic’s commitment to sustainability.
In short, we are trying to create a new kind of tourism that doesn’t exist in the world that will use traditional vacations to support the best local nonprofit causes. And we are searching for partners with experience in the travel industry. We would like to invite all travel agents to join us for a Facebook Live at 7pm EDT on Sunday July 29 so you can ask us questions. Or just email email@example.com. BeachCorps plans to prove that there is strong demand in this new kind of travel and then develop alliances with travel agents and hotels to make the model sustainable.
We invite travel agents to use the free opportunities that BeachCorps is providing to reach out to clients and advance this new kind of sustainable travel.
David Searby is the President and Founder of BeachCorps. David retired in 2016 from the U.S. Foreign Service after a 27-year career that included extensive work supporting multi-sector partnerships, including Super Chef Panama, a reality TV cooking show that gives underserved youth in Panama a chance to compete to be great chefs.