Hotel voluntourism programs are perfect for those travelers looking for volunteer service trips that are less intense and take the least amount of planning. More and more hotels are joining the growing list of hotels offering service opportunities for their guests. It’s also the perfect alternative for travelers who don’t want to stay in a hostel or don’t like the idea of staying in a stranger’s home for accommodations. As an extra incentive, many hotels around the world offer voluntourism packages that provide discounts to guests who either join their volunteer efforts or show proof of volunteering in the area while staying at the hotel. Many of the hotels are members of the World Heritage Alliance for Sustainable Tourism. This alliance encourages “the travel industry to promote environmentally and economically sustainable business practices around World Heritage sites, educate travelers about the importance of responsible tourism around the sites, and support sustainable development of local communities around the sites.”
One of the most luxurious hotels that offers volunteer packages is the famous Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami. The hotel is well-know for its work with the Florida Everglades National Park, which is home to many endangered species. Guests can choose to spend their days helping to keep this park in pristine condition. By helping to clean up the national landmark, guests will have the opportunity to see some of the local wildlife up close! Some of the activities include planting trees, removing dangerous exotic plants, and participating in recycling projects throughout the reserve. Guests will arrive to the park by hybrid vehicle and have their lunch provided by the Mandarin Oriental. The package includes daily breakfast, hotel stay for two nights, a hybrid rental for a day, and the day trip to Everglades National Park. Package rates are $798 peak and $698 off-peak.
In South Florida, the Marco Island Marriott Resort treats their guests to a 15% discount at their spa to volunteers who help the local YMCA with landscaping efforts. The Doral Golf Resort & Spa invites their guests to help cleanup the beach at Biscayne Nature Center. Those who volunteer will receive complimentary breakfast.
Guests staying at The Lake Quinault Lodge in Quinault, WA usually come to see the Quinault Rainforest and they now have the chance to volunteer to preserve it! The hotel provides guests with incentives to boost their environmentally-friendly initiatives by giving gift certificates for the Lodge to visitors who come in “Earth-Friendly” vehicles and offering discounted rate on their room.
For four days of volunteer work, travelers can stay at the beautiful Six Senses’ Soneva Fushi Resort in the Maldives for a month at the cost of two weeks! The Six Senses hotel chain has always been involved in giving back to the community and wants more people to join their efforts. Currently, they give back .5% of their revenue to the Social and Environmental Responsibility Fund. The hotel rates start from $600, so not exactly for the budget-minded. You have to book your trip a few months in advance so that the volunteer end of the trip can be worked out. The upside of staying at this resort is that there are more volunteer opportunities to choose from. Most hotels offer one or two forms of volunteer services. However, with Six Senses, you can choose from a variety of things like teaching or helping at local doctor offices and hospitals.
The Ritz-Carlton offers “Give Back Getaways” for their guests. The guests can choose to volunteer in making food for those in need or conservation activities in the host cities. There is an extra cost for these volunteer opportunities, usually ranging from $50 to $100 depending on the opportunity. A donation to the charity will also be made from this cost.
Colorado RockResorts offers opportunities for conservation work in the White River National Forest for their guests. Reduced rates on the rooms and gifts will be given back in exchange for the hard work. The RockResorts that offer these getaways are the Hotel Jerome in Aspen, CO, The Pines Lodge in Beaver Creek, CO, The Keystone Lodge & Spa in Keystone, CO, The Arrabelle at Vail Square in Vail Square, CO, and The Lodge at Vail in Vail Village, CO. The Colorado RockResorts gives all guests the opportunity to donate $1 per room night to the National Forest Foundation.
Lapa Rios Ecolodge in Costa Rico is a beautiful resort that is comparable to paradise. It was envisioned to be a nature reserve. The enormous Lapa Rios Reserve was designed to help conserve the forest and beach that surround it. The Ecolodge was built to preserve the rainforests around it. Guests can become involved in local community projects to keep the rainforest in the condition that it was meant to be in.
Hotel Provincial offers a rate of $79 a night to people who want to volunteer to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The hotel has already completed more than $3 million in post-Katrina renovations. If you have a group of at least 20, the hotel will provide one complimentary hotel room per night. There are many opportunities to volunteer, such as through Habitat for Humanity and soup kitchens. Just show your proof of volunteer service to receive the reduced rate.
Hanalei Colony Resort will help you to enrich your vacation experiences at the Limahili Garden. There are various plant species, a large rainforest, and other spectacular things to look at. Guests are required at least two to four hours of volunteering to qualify for the discounted rate. The package includes accommodations at the Hanalei Colony Resort, picnic lunch for two, kayaking, massage for two, and an arrival gift. There is also a yearly membership to the National Tropical Botanical Garden.
Contributed by Nicole Rutledge