Frolicking in the crystal Caribbean waters, exploring scenic coastal towns in Maine, and riding a spaceship at Disneyland Resort sound like the perfect family vacation. But more and more families are now favoring luxury voluntourism over typical trips to amusement parks, zoos and New England ski resorts. By combining custom-made luxury tours with an opportunity to get in touch with the host community, luxury voluntourism provides a more profound travel experience for families.
But why choose luxury voluntourism?
Spending short trips in destinations with exciting activities only makes limited experiences for children and teens. There’s more to building sandcastles in luxury beach destinations in Aruba or Barbados. In the 2016 Resonance Luxury Travel Report, America’s wealthiest travelers (or the top 1%) prefer having a transformative experience or “learning new things” to shopping and nightlife. They like to reassert the way they view the world through meaningful travel while staying in top hotel brands and getting spa treatments.
Families who want to embark on a different kind of family bonding while teaching their children the virtues of kindness and goodwill deserve customized luxury vacation. Through the philanthropic volunteering concept, family trips become holistic, genuine and sustainable. They arrive as tourists and volunteers to exotic travel destinations and give back to local communities through charitable work.
Think of spending the summer in South Africa. An itinerary may include a walking tour in the ruins of Chavonnes Battery in Cape Town as well as teaching conversational English in a nearby rural location. Parents who want to immerse their children in local life such as this make lasting difference in communities that value their help.
“The whole experience was fabulous! We loved the country, the people, the scenery, the history, and it was inspiring to have the opportunity to teach in a township, get to know these wonderful children, and play a small part in improving their future. The guides were excellent,” says a mother from New York who traveled with Hands Up Holidays to South Africa together with her husband and three kids.
Of course, the travel experience won’t be complete without a tour of landmarks, tourist spots and interesting places. Family voluntourists get to spend their free time at the beach, explore local cuisine and drinks, swim with expert divers, and shop for souvenirs to name a few. Our most popular destinations for young children include Australia, Thailand and Costa Rica where they get to experience wildlife conservation.
Why not just donate to communities without leaving home?
It’s easy to think that donating financial resources to local communities is an end it itself. While there’s no denying that charities and nonprofits need funding to support their operations, voluntourists have made a dent in the philanthropic world as well. By immersing in an environmental project or a destitute neighborhood, they connect meaningfully with locals, making a profound experience in their lives and others.
According to the 2016 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy by Bank of America (BoA), there are more wealthy households that experience personal fulfillment through volunteering (63%) than charitable giving (42%). Luxury voluntourism therefore is a perfect venue for parents and children to gain valuable insights by working with the community and understanding how their culture has developed. It is also the perfect opportunity to be more engaged in the progress of the cause that they’re supporting.
Studies also show how being present and committed in the cause or project, it can influence charitable contributions significantly. In the same BoA report, 84% of high network individuals managed to give more money to charities where they volunteer than people who do not. This is also supported by a 2014 Fidelity Charitable survey where 50% of respondents said they provide more financial support to a charity when they become volunteers.
Are all voluntourism tours the same?
In August 2016, JK Rowling surprised her Twitter followers. The 51-year old author and activist slammed an organization for asking her own charity to be associated with voluntourism. Rowling scathingly addressed the appeal as the reason why these so-called orphanages are now commercialized.
It’s a pity how this $172 billion industry has been abused by certain organizations. For instance, it’s been long reported that some orphanages in Asia adopt children who have parents that cannot send them to school. Another problem is a non-holistic approach. Assisting in the upkeep of a Kenyan wildlife sanctuary can do wonders for their animal conservation efforts. However, if the hotel where you’re billeted in is a major violator of pollution control norms, then you’ll create a reverse ecological impact instead.
Luxury voluntourism operators must carefully screen partner organizations that they support. There must be a genuine need for additional backing when families visit. Likewise, volunteers are advised not to dive into a community project just because they feel it’ll be a good narrative when they come back.
By matching their skills with the community’s needs, their expertise can complement that of the locals. Once they arrive, families will be ready to roll up their sleeves when assisting in the rehabilitation of injured animals in Costa Rica or repainting homes for favela (slum) families in Brazil.
What are the trips available for families?
There’s a country for every destination and activity tailored for families. You can trek to enchanting monasteries and valleys in Bhutan and work with local teachers in tutoring poor kids in the countryside. Or your family can catch the big waves in Hawaii and build a sanctuary for many homeless cats in Kauai. From Asia Pacific to America, you’ll never run out of options.
And your vacation time is guaranteed to be nothing but special. Families are booked in eco-luxury hotels known for their environmental conservation efforts. They dine in restaurants that serve locally grown, organic food that children will love. They also get to ride in eco-friendly transport. The motive completely goes beyond traditional philanthro-volunteering.
By being in an unfamiliar environment and making sure that your expenses support the local economy, everyone can develop a deeper appreciation for the life that they have and the rich connection with people from another part of the world.
Now, volunteers who desire a meaningful trip have a significant role to play in the host community. Luxury voluntourism helps families bond together and allows them to share their time and skills through genuine commitment with a long-term social impact.
For more information, check out our luxury family travel brochure to help you with volunteering planning. Likewise, you can download our free Guide to Making Your Luxury Family Travels Meaningful to optimize your travel experience.
Chris Hill is the founder and CEO of luxury voluntourism operator Hands Up Holidays.