Tourism Cares is the philanthropic community of the travel and tourism industry.
Paula Vlamings, the nonprofit organization’s new CEO, talked with David Hoekman, managing editor at Group Tour Media.
Q: How would you describe Tourism Cares and its work?
A: Tourism Cares’ broad mission is to advance the travel industry’s social impact to help people and places thrive. We leverage all sectors of the industry to invest in positive impact for destinations and local communities in the U.S. and around the world. We mobilize the industry through our Tourism Disaster Recovery program, and our Global Network program where we aim to drive economic development by connecting travel leaders to social enterprises in places like Jordan and Peru. We also unite the industry by volunteering in destinations, sharing industry knowledge and skills for greater corporate social responsibility, and providing mentoring and scholarships in hospitality and tourism.
Q: What trends are you noticing in corporate social responsibility (CSR)?
A: For one thing, it’s more widespread and there is more pressure to get involved.
In travel specifically, there’s a greater demand from consumers who are interested in responsible travel, especially among the younger millennials, so they are on the lookout for places and companies aligned with their values. Destinations are becoming more CSR savvy themselves — especially those that have become so popular that they risk being overrun by visitors — and we will see them work more with tourism and economic entities to ensure the viability of resources, accommodations and infrastructure while protecting why people come to visit them in the first place. Companies are also getting creative in ways they can use their business as a force for good in our industry. We highlight the ways companies of all sizes are doing good CSR in our Hearts of Travel Awards Honoree brief.
Q: What are you most proud of about Tourism Cares?
A: Tourism Cares with Jordan was a powerful trip where we introduced 67 travel industry leaders to the Jordan community, government officials, media, and most importantly, the individuals whose lives will be changed not only by the visitors who spend money at their destination, but by the industry leaders who helped those visitors get there. Tourism Cares, as an industry nonprofit, has the power to create this community of change makers.
Brett Tollman, chief executive of The Travel Corporation (TTC), and a delegate of the trip, is a great example. He’s incorporating Iraq Al-Amire Women’s Cooperative, which aims to make women in the area financially independent (and is one of the social enterprises from our Meaningful Travel Map of Jordan), into itineraries of TTC’s brands. [These include] Trafalgar, Insight Vacations and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. These new visits will give women additional income — and in turn, travelers can buy beautiful handmade goods at the cooperative.
Q: What’s the next big thing for Tourism Cares?
A: We’re celebrating 15 years at Tourism Cares for New Orleans Sept. 20–21. We will be adopting a neighborhood that our volunteers will work on together: some projects will help ensure that NOLA’s distinct arts and culture continue to thrive, revitalize a neighborhood and support environmental sustainability. We invite anyone who wants to give back to this amazing destination with this committed community of travel and tourism professionals to join us! We’ll be announcing our next big initiative toward the end of the summer, so I hope you’ll stay tuned!
For more information, call Tourism Cares at 781-821-5990 or visit tourismcares.org.