The past several months, we have been working on the Good Travels Advisors program (GTA), a professional development course sponsored by Tourism Cares that trains travel advisors in responsible travel, giving and volunteering. Launched at the ASTA Global Convention in Reno, Nevada earlier this month, the certification course provides skills that the travel advisors need in meeting the demands of today’s clients. Research has shown that giving back matters to travelers and travel advisors have a chance to support their meaningful experiences, giving and learning through especially powerful travel experiences, which in turn supports the travel advisor’s business as well as travel destinations.
So far, those that have taken the GTA course have provided positive feedback. Travel advisors receive the “GTA” designation upon completion and they are listed on a public website targeting consumers. In addition, graduates gain access to resources and tools to use with their clients and to grow their business.
The project was quite exciting for us to work on as it meant training an important market in meaningful giving who in turn had access to numerous clients that they can engage. These front line consumer representatives now have an opportunity to create positive experiences for their clients and impact the choices they make when they travel and how to give back to the people and destinations they love.
The travel and tourism industry is huge – it constitutes 10% of the world’s GDP. With a global economic contribution of almost US$7.6 trillion in 2014, the sector employs more than 276,845,000 (9.4% of total world employment). The size of the sector has a significant impact on all segments of society including world peace. Travel professions understand the power of travel and tourism to connect people of different cultures, and how it contributes to the health of communities they and their clients care about. Giving and volunteering play a major role in positive community development too. The UN World Tourism Organization has named 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
Consumer interest in responsible travel is now a growing trend and initiatives from travel suppliers, particularly in the tour, cruise and hotel segments, also illustrate an industry shift to more engaged and authentic travel experiences. The 2015 Good Travels study conducted by Phocuswright and Tourism Cares identified a powerful link between giving back and overall trip satisfaction, showing that the affluent, families and millennials, are especially interested in giving back while traveling, and that 64% of those who gave felt it contributed to their trip satisfaction.
As the travel and tourism industry continues to evolve to provide more opportunities for consumers to engage (i.e., voluntourism, giving back in times of disasters, etc.), we hope it is not a stretch to see how promoting good travels can be meaningful and profitable.