Two weeks in the life of a volunteer
Every year, we work with TUI UK & Ireland to run Project Discovery – a volunteering programme that matches employee skills to Travel Foundation project needs. TUI employees apply for posts, cross their fingers, and the lucky ones get to immerse themselves in all things sustainable for a week or two. Designed to plug a gap in resources, volunteer experiences can often help to fulfill research needs for TF projects. For the first time, Project Discovery volunteers have travelled to a snowsports resort, organised by experts at Crystal Ski Holidays who added a touch of logistical magic!
The first volunteers of 2015, Robert Ansell (Assistant Product Manager) and Rosie Stanyer (Distribution Training Consultant), were “so excited when we found out we’d been selected to take part in the first Project Discovery to visit one of TUI’s specialist destinations – the French Alps”.
Thermals at the ready, off they headed tasked with finding out more about sustainability issues in the snow. They outline the mission for their trip below…
“Once we arrived in the ski resorts we were on a fact-finding mission to investigate what sustainability looks like in the resorts of La Plagne and Les Arcs. Our two weeks in the mountains involved everything from self-guided orientations around the resorts to formal meetings with the town mayor, piste management companies and the tourist authority. The brief allowed us the flexibility to follow leads as we came across them and we ended up learning a great deal about the sustainable practices and considerations that go into running an alpine resort.”
Here are some highlights from Rob’s diary…
Day 1: St Pancras à Les Arcs
A very early start for a Saturday! Met Rosie at St Pancras at 08:30 to begin the trip and spent the day getting to know each other on the 9hr Eurostar ride. Got excited when passing Disneyland and even more excited when it started to snow as we approached the Alps. We discussed the approach to the meetings and what we wanted to get out of them.
The 8 hour journey flew by surprisingly fast and travelling by Eurostar the whole way was very comfortable. It’s definitely a viable, as well as more sustainable, alternative to flying.
Day 4: Mayor, SAP & Tourist Office
Went across to La Plagne for a morning meeting with SAP quality managers and an afternoon one with the Mayor, the head of the tourism authority and the head of SAP. Was clear that there was a sense of pride in their home, a desire to do what they could to prolong it and they were all happy to talk about the work that they’re doing.
Day 5, 6 and 7:
A brilliant day of skiing with the ADS quality manager in Les Arc. She showed us a behind-the-scenes view of the area, stopping on runs to point out sustainability initiatives. Lots of writing up to do from meetings, fresh snow outside but we wanted to get it all down on paper while it was still in our minds! We met with various Crystal reps in the area to gather feedback based on their interactions with customers and time on the mountain.
A big highlight of the trip was going on a guided ski tour around Les Arcs with the resort’s Sustainability Manager. This experience really brought sustainability to life for us as we were able to see a range of piste management activities first-hand. Not only was our guide a great ambassador of sustainable practices, but the sheer number of initiatives that are in place to protect the surrounding ecology put the snowy slopes in an entirely different light for us. The best part about the whole experience was meeting local people and seeing just how invested they are in protecting the resorts from the negative effects of tourism; as far as they’re concerned they’re just protecting their homes.
Day 11: Time to hit the pistes!
Snowboarding! First day off and spent every minute of it enjoying the pistes. Rosie went paragliding which was breathtaking, even just to watch, let alone how she must have felt!
Day 12 and 13:
Sat down with the Resort Team Manager and his rep team leaders. They had a good amount of experience between them, both from multiple seasons here and elsewhere so their comparison to other resorts was invaluable.
The information gathered by Robert and Rosie will feed into making improvements to the Greener Snowsports tool, help tour operators to work with snowsport resorts, and help businesses to operate more sustainably.