In a poll conducted by Condé Nast Traveler and MSNBC, 14% of Americans have taken a volunteer vacation, but 55% indicated they would like to participate. Of those who have gone on volunteer trips, 95% reported that they are likely to do it again. That’s quite a return! But I wonder about that 55%. Who are they? Are they busy working people or high school kids? Are they grandparents, afraid of the rigors of volunteering? As a voluntour organization, how can you motivate that 55% to take the plunge—to reach that decision-making moment when an ephemeral dream becomes a solid reality?
Last week I wrote about multigenerational travel with the Sierra Club. While I was researching that article, I stumbled upon another organization dedicated to family travel: Generations Touring Company (GTC). GTC is a voluntour outfit: they are like a travel agency dedicated to volunteering and humanitarian vacations. But they are distinguished by their focus on projects that cater to the vacationer rather than the gung-ho volunteer. Their excursions are rather light on labor. For older travelers or vacationers concerned primarily with sight-seeing, incorporating even a small amount of volunteering into the mix is worthwhile. It helps families dip their collective toe in the journeys for good ocean. Sometimes, just a taste of the rewards of volunteering is all a family needs to take their service to the next level.
I think, with their more traditionally vacation-oriented volunteer set-up, GTC is appealing to that 55%. There are so many people out there who are afraid of volunteering. While their fears are surely many and varied, most of them undoubtedly spiral around the unknown. The more familiar a voluntour is, the more likely a fearful traveler is to partake. Comfortable accommodations, tours led by guides, and cultural education at-a-distance all allow the anxious traveler to adjust slowly. Once that traveler has become comfortable with her surroundings, volunteering seems less scary. It becomes a natural extension of the rest of the vacation. Remember, of the many fearful people who have had positive voluntour experiences, 95% are likely to do it again. If we can get them out there once, we’ll probably be able to get them out there a second time.
GTC is also a great choice for families with elderly members. Because their tours err on the side of recreation, they provide easy accommodations and relatively low-impact excursions. Families can choose between several different itineraries including forays to Costa Rica (with sea-turtle watching!), Vietnam, and Peru.