So your clients are looking for more than a week-long whirlwind tour of a new country—they want to befriend the locals, not just see them; they want to understand the history, not just hear about it. A typical tour might not provide that kind of interaction or in-depth enrichment they’re craving. If so, then a volunteer vacation just might do the trick.
And it’s getting even easier to sell these kinds of vacation products as well. Organizations such as United Planet, for example, offer Volunteer Vacations for travelers to experience “real life” in a new country while also helping the local community. With commissionable trips to 18 countries, agents can now get in on the action.
“A Volunteer Vacation allows the traveler to do more than just look at the people and the country,” says Theresa Higgs, v.p. of global operations at United Planet. “The traveler will have the chance to immerse in the local culture; share a cup of tea in a dusty market; laugh with a family over a bowl of rice; or get a hug from an orphan.”
Offering meaningful travel opportunities for 10 years, United Planet has opportunities in countries spanning North and Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. Commissionable Volunteer Vacations are available for durations lasting one to 12 weeks.
While they’re traveling, volunteers will work on a project to help the local community, either by teaching, caring for orphans and homeless children, working in an animal sanctuary, or on environmental preservation, among other experiences. They’ll have the option to stay with a local family, ensuring a first-hand experience in the culture and customs of the area, but can also opt for a hotel, hostel or guesthouse instead.
Work days typically last from four to eight hours during the week, leaving afternoons, evenings and weekends free to take part in activities such as treks and hikes, visiting local markets, dance classes, language or cooking classes.
Following their volunteer quest, travelers are welcome to add a tourism touch to their travels with excursion packages to major local sites or experiences. A sample of these packages includes excursions in Peru, Ecuador and Ghana.
•The Peru Package has travelers spend one week volunteering in Cusco, and adds a 4-day excursion to discover the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail (rates start at $1,755 pp).
•The Ecuador Package allows travelers the option of volunteering in Quito for seven days or the Cloud Forest for 10. After their volunteering is complete, they’ll take a 5-day tour around the Galapagos Islands, with possible stops including Tortuga Bay, Floreana and the Charles Darwin Station (rates start at $2,910 pp).
•The Ghana Package has travelers volunteering for two weeks before continuing to Mole National Park to begin their 5-day crocodile excursion. There, they’ll encounter the tame crocs of the Paga Crocodile Farm, where they can caress or sit on some of the largest crocodiles in the world (rates start at $2,365 pp).
All Volunteer Vacation rates, including those with excursion packages, include pre-departure training, orientation upon arrival, home stay accommodations, cultural excursions and activities and travel insurance. Non-package Volunteer Vacation rates start at $945 pp. For more information, call (800) 292-2316 or visit unitedplanet.org/travel-agent-information.