unspoiling the family – guest post from Donna Okell

unspoiling the family – guest post from Donna Okell

How volunteer travel can offer the family a much broader understanding of travel.

I’ve recently read, with interest, a number of articles regarding trends in travel, and in particular in the luxury travel sector. Combine this with my recent and increasing interest in Responsible Tourism, and you have a fairly interesting combination. I’ve often wondered how Responsible and Sustainable Tourism can work effectively in the luxury sector; I believe it can. Listening to Michael Horton from the conCERT programme in Cambodia speak at the fabulous peopleandplaces event in Newport Pagnall last week,  I realized I was not alone in believing in the Responsible Luxury Travel model. He, too, explained that some  volunteers chose to stay in luxury accommodation in the evening whilst working hard as a volunteer during the day.
Many of the wonderful volunteers who attended the people and places event talked to me about their volunteer experiences, and I was struck by how many had travelled either as a couple or as a family. What an interesting and productive way to spend family time together, I thought. These conversations inspired me to do a little research into luxury family holidays and to explore ways in which families could consider spending some of their holiday time engaging in the local communities, gaining a deeper understanding of the places they visit,  and considering ways in which they may support local projects.

According to a survey conducted by AOL and the family magazine Cookie, 94 percent of parents say their children are spoiled. It’s difficult to say whether this alarming statistic is the result of parents overindulging their offspring with material goods, the recent rapid growth of technology, peer pressure, or simply a lack of responsibility on the part of both parent and child.

In today’s UK’s affluent society some families have only ever experienced travel in 4 or 5-star style. Many of them may consider themselves very fortunate and indeed privileged to be able to take holidays in exquisite destinations and have at their disposal every conceivable luxury, from fluffy white bath robes to drinks served at the sun bed beside the infinity pool. However, ITC Giving and peopleandplaces are seeing an increasing trend toward clients who are also seeking a much more meaningful travel experience.

International Travel Connections (ITC) is a highly-respected, independent luxury tour operator which has been creating bespoke, luxury holidays for its clients for almost forty years. Following a number of requests from clients who were keen to better understand and engage in the destinations and communities they were visiting, ITC has worked closely in partnership with peopleandplaces to create ITC Giving which offers a range of short-term structured volunteer travel programmes in exceptional destinations. Please click here for further information

These Responsible Tourism programmes enable individuals, families and small groups to work collaboratively on an established project created exclusively by peopleandplaces for ITC Giving and managed by local partners.

Travellers are keen to understand the challenges faced by the communities they visit and explore ways in which they may help.  ITC Giving offers a range of unique opportunities for families to work together within a community project and witness first-hand the incredible work being carried out by local heroes.  It is a moving experience to observe our British teenagers appreciate that their counterparts in a school in the townships of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, own very little, yet are so keen to learn and for the most part are content with their lives. They work hard and have enormous respect for their families and communities.They do not appear to need a collection of technological gadgets to make their lives complete.

A group of female friends plan to visit the ITC Giving programme in Morocco and engage with the international award-winning Kasbah du Toubkal, which has worked closely with the local Berber community since 1996. Education, healthcare and wealth creation are the focus of their work in one of the most beautiful but fragile national parks in North Africa. This can be a moving and inspirational experience, and certainly an interesting alternative to the regular ladies’ spa weekend!

Many clients may be thinking about volunteering and would like to spend time in a short-term project to understand how they can return and make a longer-term contribution. Others may simply wish to broaden the family’s understanding of other cultures and communities, and explore ways in which they may support those facing much more difficult challenges than those faced by the Western world.

Responsible Tourism and Responsible Volunteering is bringing another dimension to travel – one we hope will continue to make the world a better place.

Donna is the director of our corporate partner on the ITC – Giving programme

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