Month: August 2015

Getting a buzz out of volunteering…

Every year, TUI employees have the opportunity to apply for ‘Project Discovery’, a volunteering scheme exclusive to TUI, whereby Travel Foundation matches employee skills to those needed on overseas projects.

Alex and RosieMost recently, successful applicants Alex Morris, Senior Retail Marketing Manager, and Rosie Sumner, Product Manager, jetted off to sunny Cancun, Mexico, on 9th August to begin their placement. Here they explain what they’ve been up to whilst they’ve been away:

“Our volunteering project is building upon the success of the Jungle Jams project. Supporting a local Maya cooperative ‘Muuch Kaab’ to sell their honey-based products to tourism-focused businesses and the domestic community. This provides the community with the opportunity to earn a living from tourism, without the need to move away from their villages and families. The project also helps to support the conservation efforts of the Melipona honey bee, which is a unique stingless bee that is in danger of becoming extinct.

Our aim is to support the development of Muuch Kaab’s branding and marketing, whilst guiding two hotels (El Dorado Royale Spa & Resorts and Grand Park Royal Cancun Caribe) on communicating ‘buying locally’ to their guests.”

Alex says….

‘From day one we’ve been really busy – meeting the local Travel Foundation representatives, visiting the rural community where the project is based, meeting local hoteliers and talking to customers to understand their views on sustainability practices and local produce’.

Rosie says..

‘For me it’s been an incredible experience to understand how these women have overcome so many challenges and yet still managed to grow their business so successfully from scratch. There’s such a huge contrast between the simple lives they lead in their village, and the hustle and bustle of Cancun which is just an hour’s drive away. It’s a side to Cancún that tourists never really get to see, and it’s really made me realise how important it is that TUI as a tour operator and the wider tourism industry here in Mexico work together to support communities like this’.

brand workshopDuring their time in Cancun, one of the elements of the trip was to deliver a branding and marketing workshop to the community group. Alex says…

‘One of the highlights of the trip has been delivering a branding and marketing workshop to the Muuch Kaab group- we decided to use similar techniques to how we would normally work here in head office, with mood boards and sample beauty products for them to touch and feel. We gathered some really useful feedback on what they want their brand to look like going forwards and sketched out some new designs for them. It was a unique experience and one I’ll never forget’.

Rosie and Alex have a few more days remaining in Cancun, when they’ll be visiting the members of Muuch Kaab one last time to share their findings and feedback, and visiting some local hoteliers to deliver their recommendations on how they improve the communication of their local procurement policies.

And it’s not all hard work, as Rosie explains:

‘Although our itinerary is jam packed with meetings and report writing, we have a few days off whilst we’re here – we’re planning to visit Isla Mujeres on our last day and we’ve also been out visiting some of our other key hotel concepts in between exploring the local area – we’re trying to fit in as much as possible before we head back to our desks in Luton!’

Project Discovery provides extra capacity and expertise on Travel Foundation overseas projects. It also helps build an understanding of sustainability for those who work in the industry, but have UK based desk jobs.

All One, All One… a day in the life of my Maasai office

Kenyan jewellery makers
I am sitting under a large acacia tree overlooking the Maasai Mara listening to the sound of cow bells as a group of young Maasai boys pass by with their grazing herds. Overhead a flock of Crested Cranes fly by making their harmonious “All One, All One” call of unity.

In all directions as far as the eye can see, the black dots of wildebeest are interspersed with the red robes of Kenya’s Maasai people, drifting across the plains to take part in today’s meeting under the tree.

I am here to kick-start a new Maasai women’s livelihood initiative in partnership with the Travel Foundation and the local Kenyan fair trade crafts intermediary BawaHope.

About 100 Maasai women settle down under the shade of the acacia tree and we begin today’s workshop on new product design. I am amazed when the colour wheel the women excitedly paste together from torn out magazine snippets matches exactly the colours forecast to adorn supermodels on the catwalks of London, Paris and Rome next year!

When I ask why they only use bright primary coloured beads to make the jewellery they sell to tourists, the women reply in unison “Because they are our colours – we have always used them”. They would also love to design jewellery in new colours if they could only get the beads.

Kenyan jewelery makingThrough our new “Guaranteed Maasai Crafts Project” we are working hand-in-hand with Maasai women in the Mara Triangle and Suswa, jewellery producers in Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenyan designers and the eminent UK beadwork jewellery designer Marilyn Phipps, to design an inspiring new range of contemporary Maasai jewellery that will be wearable and attractive to the UK tourist market, along with the affluent Kenyan domestic market.

We will bypass exploitative brokers by using wholesalers who respect fair trade principles to get the new product range stocked in the gift shops of safari lodges, hotels and retail outlets in Mombasa and Nairobi, giving the Maasai access to new ‘fair trade’ markets and, importantly, a lifeline out of poverty.

As the day draws to a close and we make our way on foot across the African savannah back to the Maasai villages, the boys with their herds of grazing cattle catch us up and cheekily enquire “When are you coming to work with us Maasai men again – we too can make jewellery!”.

Guest Blog by Dr Cheryl Mvula, Director of the social enterprise Tribal Voice Communications 

Find out more about our Guaranteed Maasai Craft Project