VolunteerTourismViews is a vehicle to air some commentary, enter some debate and discuss the developing industry sector that is Volunteer Tourism – highlighting the good and could-be-better. I do hope others will contribute.
Why Volunteer Tourism and not Voluntourism?
I don’t like the latter as a word very much, that’s all. That’s not to sound snobbish, I do use it, when speaking with industry colleagues in context, but here in the UK it’s not a layman’s term greatly used by the consumer public. And as a marketing person, I generally believe in communicating to your audience in language they understand.
What about me?
I’m Vicky. If you want to find out about why I started this blog, read my Hello Volunteer Tourism World first post. That will tell you a fair amount. The CV background stuff is below.
From Ski, Lakes & Mountains and Travel…
After a Dual Honours BA in French and International Business, I worked as a ski resort manager for the biggest UK ski tour operator in France. I didn’t really intend for it to become the foundation of a career in travel, rather I liked the thought of a winter in beautiful mountains, continuing my French, skiing and boarding which I already loved, and socialising a LOT. Well, I did all that, and the immense hard work that goes with it, and soon realised I was learning more about fluency, sales, marketing, operations, customer service, child care, financial management, staff management, legal issues,supplier dealings and a lot of chalet maintenance than I could have ever possibly come across in a narrow, blue-chip, milk-round graduate recruitment job such as friends at home were doing. And so I stayed for a number of years, travelling independently in between seasons or working the Lakes & Mountains summer, abroad or UK based, with bigger winter resorts and more properties and more staff and more issues… until the day came when the fun went out the window, I stopped learning and all I did was deal with endless problems for little money, when I could be earning a decent salary in the UK, with weekends and evenings off, and the opportunity to ski and socialise more in a season with paid annual holiday than working as a seasonnaire. But it was the best grounding in the travel industry I could have asked for, an industry which offers opportunities not only to people to work their way up, but which I believe needs people who have done so, to understand consumer needs, operational logistics and supplier requirements, to be able to think on their feet and deliver with a smile, despite no sleep.
…to Internet Technologies and Ecommerce…
I moved to London and got a job in international conference organisation which would offer a great transfer of skills and build my CV, as well as offer me the opportunity to travel every few months to scratch my itchy feet with First Conferences who set up EyeForTravel. They set me off in their new Internet for Business sector. The US web world was just starting to take off and it was a thrilling time to be dealing with online businesses in the rise of the first dotcom bubble, writing conference programs, getting speakers, agreeing sponsorships, dealing with venues and doing the sales and marketing to make profitable conferences from a gem of an idea. Country-specific conference like Internet Norway, technology-specific conferences like Intranets for Knowledge Management and industry-specific conferences such as for Travel awaited. I ran the world’s first conference on Ecommerce in the Aerospace Industry! But soon I became more interested in the development of the conferences’ websites and year-round online communities than the offline events, and in the marketing of the websites, starting my first forays into Display, Search and Email marketing in around 2000.
Since then I worked client-side. I managed the development of the ski and holidays sections for the first website for TeletextHolidays, prior to that only on analogue TV. I looked after ecommerce and online marketing development for Virgin Holidays and Inghams. I set up affiliate marketing initiatives, managed major PPC, CRM and Social Media campaigns and oversaw several website redesigns.
…to Africa, Responsible and Volunteer Tourism
But in the middle of that, in 2006, I went to Southern Africa. I had been to Africa for holidays before, but this time was different. I spent the best part of 6 months travelling and volunteering through South Africa, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia and it changed my life. It gave me a perspective and took a place in my heart I will always take with me and for which I am always grateful. I saw at once the true importance of tourism and the serious positive and negative impacts it can have. I felt I’d found a home and true vocation. And so on return I determined to put my online and marketing skills to use and work in tourism for Good. Initially, for Different Travel a Responsible Tourism tour operator involved with voluntourism and charity challenges, and for whom I still enjoy trip guiding during my day-job annual leave – it gets me out in the field and keeps me in touch with destination and project needs and customer desires. I’ve trekked Kili, kayaked the Zambezi, done some Big Gardening in the Galapagos, hiked Inca trails to Macchu Pichu, pig trails in the Borneo jungle, camel trails across the Sahara and had a ball, all to help a lot of charities at home and abroad achieve fundraising, aims and objectives. I’ve also been back to Africa several times, travelled and volunteered more, plus qualified as a Field Guide (ranger) at Shamwari Game Reserve who have won the World Conservation awards for many years – I’m passionate about nature and strongly believe in conservation to support community development. And so I came to study at the International Centre of Responsible Tourism under Professor Harold Goodwin and my tutor Xavier Font.
I do have a busy day job. Still with online travel and responsible tourism, I’m a marketing manager for a technology company who support local tours and activities suppliers worldwide with reservations and ecommerce systems. So I get to deal with great companies globally doing many of the things I love to do!
I’m also extremely fortunate to be able to experience life-changing trips every year in my trip guiding for Different Travel, learn from the awesome clients (and I mean that in the truest sense, many on charity challenges are dealing with huge adversity and inspire awe) and importantly for me, infuse in them the realisation that never will they want another “normal” holiday again, that responsible tourism and volunteering can offer so much more than lying on a beach or by a pool.
Finally, I finished my ICRT MSc in Responsible Tourism Management with a professional report (dissertation) on “An Analysis of Online Positioning of Responsible Volunteer Tourism” ie. the role online content plays in the level of responsibility displayed by UK volunteer tourism organisations. Bit of a mouthful, but an important one with serious impacts. An edited version was published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism entitled, “Volunteer tourism, greenwashing and understanding responsible marketing using market signalling theory” which received much positive press coverage, consumer and trade.
Looking forward to having a positive impact on the travel world in my own little way,
Want to get in touch?