Sensing growing consumer preferences (and market opportunity) for meaningful and give-back travel experiences, travel operators such as hotels and cruise lines, eager to expand their products, are quickly adding voluntourism to their program offerings. Another sign of voluntourism being mainstreamed.
Holland America just announced its pilot program, Cruise With Purpose(SM), which enable cruise guests to participate in meaningful community volunteer work and scientific data collection on specially designed tours as part of their shore excursions. Beginning with their Alaska cruise this summer (May through September 2009), they will feature volunteer opportunities with local Alaska non-profit organizations.
“By combining a tour experience with a volunteer opportunity, guests are experiencing the destination in a different, rewarding way,” said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs.
Local tour operator Gastineau Guiding, in partnership with the Alaska Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory Program and the Alaska Marine Conservation Alliance, created the Marine Wildlife Research Exploration shore excursion which takes guests on an exploration vessel to look for and help document individual humpback and orca whales.
Guests will identify individual whales by their tail “fingerprints” and record their songs using an underwater microphone called a hydrophone. Participants will also collect water samples, trawl for plankton and record ocean temperature readings. Since plankton is a significant indicator in predicting the success of Alaska’s salmon runs, this data will help manage this precious wild resource. All collected data and water samples are contributed to the body of research maintained by Alaska Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory Program.
The beach landing vessel will then make a stop at a secluded cove or shoreline where guests become volunteer beachcombers. A naturalist-guide provides interpretation on the flora and fauna of the area as guests help pick up any non-native debris in support of the Alaska Marine Conservation Alliance’s efforts.
The cost of this Cruise With Purpose(SM) offering is $219 per person. Guests will be able to track the projects they contributed to at the program’s web page.