Voluntourism & Travel Agents?

I recently had a travel agent ask me which voluntourism operators gave commission to agents and to be honest I didn’t have an answer for her. Traditionally working with travel agents seemed too ‘mainstream’ and commercial for such a niche section of the travel market – but things have changed.

As more and more stories are written up in outlets like CNN and the NY Times travelers are now asking their travel agents for volunteer vacation information, if you’re not offering commission to agents I think you’re missing a very obvious recruitment channel.

I know Cross Cultural Solutions doesn’t offer commissions and i-to-i does (or used to) – so where does your company stand?

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6 thoughts on “Voluntourism & Travel Agents?

  1. I’ve been wondering this too! I understand a lot of hotels and resorts are jumping on the bandwagon to some extent — if not through voluntourism, then through philanthropic support (donation to charity as part of reservation, etc.).

    I would imagine the next logical step is for travel agents to jump on this as well. I do understand there are booking agencies out there that offer resort-style accommodations and placement on an adventure tour, cultural immersion project, or volunteer project, but they seem to be independent for the most part, rather than partners with well known agencies.

  2. $100 “thank you” per volunteer or teacher.

    And we take it a step further. There are many high school orgs that offer free trips to high school teachers if they recruit 6+ students. We partner with five of them. They will keep their 9-day and 14-day “tours” but if they take out 1, 2 or 3 days of traditional touring and add in 1, 2 or 3 days of community service we provide those days at a project and we lower the fee substantially.

    Enough time has gone by that now some of the high school students who were juniors or seniors at the time are now in college and several are volunteering with us this summer on much longer projects.

  3. Hands Up Holidays pays commissions for sales, but as the vast majority of our trips are tailor-made to suit a client’s exact needs, it often works best to provide agents with a net price, to which they add a mark-up…but we are flexible, and can structure according to the agent’s preferences.

  4. i-to-i has been paying commissions to travel agents in North America since 2008, plus over 1400 agents have attended i-to-i product training webinars last year. i-to-i also has a password protected online agent resource center at http://www.itoiagents.com and will soon have a voluntourism products cut and paste web section there so agents can easily use it to create their own voluntourism section on their sites.

    The steady growth in demand for these experiences is known to savvy agents and more and more of them are becoming experts and need and want these products for their clients. Even traditional Spring Break beer bust marketers have realized there is a growing segment of parents and their student offspring who are seeking something more “Meaningful” to do and need these programs to sell.

  5. Global Volunteers was named ASTA’s charity of choice in 2007, and as a result, we started working with a lot of travel agents. We have some very specialized partnerships now and do pay commission. However, our experience is that travel agents really don’t know how to “sell” development, and volunteers tend to get confused before they contact us. I’m not sure it’s an obvious fit, and you have to be very discriminating on both sides to make it work.

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