community tourism

Volunteers Split the work in Croatia…

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. This week, we hear from Claire and Pat, who spent two week’s volunteering on the coast in Croatia. Tasked with surveying customers and independent visitors to learn more about the economic impact of the hotels on the area, there was no time to lose and they hit the ground running…

Croatia volunteers“Firstly it’s probably a good idea to introduce ourselves. We are Claire and Pat and together we are the team sent to Croatia on behalf of the Travel Foundation to carry out a survey into the spending habits of tourists staying on the Makarska Riviera. We arrived in Split within ten minutes of each other from Gatwick and Manchester airports and, together with approximately 350 guests, we headed 2 hours south to two newly refurbished hotels on the beautiful Dalmatian coastline.

The aim of our volunteering experience is to determine the economic impact on the local community after the re-launch of both hotels with a different customer base and board offering, through customer surveys. After a significant time being used by Polish, Czech and Serbian customers, the hotels are now marketed to Western European clients, with guests coming from British, Nordic and German markets.

Our first evening saw us introduced to most of the hotel management team and gave us the opportunity to ask questions about the resort and how well the recent changes had been received locally. Day 2 saw us exploring the local area and starting our surveys…

Every day we surveyed customers (mostly British, some language barriers with other guests – but we soldiered on!). Every evening, division of labour saw Pat making notes and blogging our time away, and Claire entering the data into Survey Monkey. Half way through the trip we were on target with 107 surveys out of 200 completed. Claire is a survey machine and keeping us well on course!

Of course our work has focussed on collecting the necessary survey data, but centre stage and playing the leading roles in our time overseas were the many people we met living and working locally who gave us a huge insight to the history of Croatia, and the changing tourism landscape we are seeing today. On our day off we headed to Dubrovnik, and had a great day touring the city. We headed back to the much quieter coast, two hours north, after four hours – the August heat beat us!

Throughout our time surveying, one message from customers came over loud and clear. When asked if they’ll return, more often than not we were met with the response, ” we’ll only return if the charm of the area remains intact”. Customers want to visit Croatia. Yes, they want a quality hotel to stay in, but what is attracting them and making their holiday special is Croatia – the food, the scenery, the people.  No “Golden Arch”, or “Fish and Chips”, no “Brathaus”, or “Southern Fried Chicken” outlet. We guess that the sanguine, pragmatic Croatians will know what is best for them and their futures. Pat hopes so too – he’s already planning to return to the area next year on holiday!”

For more about our work in Croatia, click here.

Feeling alright in Jamaica…

Salli Annette Coral Suzie in JamaicaIn January, our Jamaica team welcomed CEO Salli Felton and Destinations Officer Suzannah Newham to the island. Although Salli has been to the “Land of Wood and Water” several times before, this is her first visit since becoming CEO.

The visit comes at a time when we are starting to work more closely with Jamaica’s national tourism organisation to build partnerships which we hope will be the catalyst for creating more sustainable benefits from tourism. The schedule of meetings and site visits began in Kingston on the southern end of the island, and took us to Montego Bay via the north coastal roads through the scenic interior of the country.

Site visits included several craft markets, the cruise ship pier, the Hip Strip and a tour of Rastafari Indigenous Village (RIV), who are involved in a Travel Foundation project to improve business practice and generate more income from mainstream holidaymakers.

Salli was pleased with her Rastafari ‘immersion’ experience, while Suzannah delivered an important session on costing and pricing excursion products and was able to confirm our commitment to this project for the duration of 2015.

As one of Jamaica’s tourism slogans goes, ”Come to Jamaica, and feel alright”. So of course, there was delicious Devon House ice cream, braised oxtail, coconut water and spicy jerk pork and chicken, as well as Suzannah’s favourite – roasted breadfruit!

We look forward to sharing more on the fruits of our projects in Jamaica in the near future.

Rastafari Indigenous Village members upskill to provide unique tourist experience

18 members of Rastafari Indigenous Village (RIV) and two members of the Montego River Gardens community in Jamaica participated in a 10-day interactive training programme in Tour Guide Skills, facilitated by the Tourism Product Development Company. Members will also gain certification in the national tourism training programme Team Jamaica. The training will support the RIV community in further developing and delivering their unique and informative tour.

Below, we hear from RIV members involved in the training programme… 

RIV TG-20141212-Iyara“Good experience! It’s good to share the knowledge with others and I have increased my confidence.” ‘Iyara’ Tamara Prendergast (Craft artisan/fruit prep/Herb garden tour guide)

“The training is very important! It has helped us build our professionalism. It is very informative and has made us more knowledgeable of our country, ourselves and even our Village, because there are some things I didn’t know about the Village, such as the history of the Labyrinth garden and its value to finding yourself and your centre.”  ‘Queen B’ Izeeta Berham (Cuisine/Labyrinth garden tour guide/housekeeping)

RIV TG-20141212-HadoThe training has been very wonderful! It is good to have everyone in the Village participate. It creates a harmony. Makes it easier to ‘wake up’ (yoga term for experiencing an awakening) and you want to be present. Definitely a lot of laughter in every class and everyone is enjoying the sessions.  The Jamaican cuisine day was special..great sharing food with everyone that everyone had created.” ‘Hado’ Mark  McFarlane (yoga wellness coach/cuisine/housekeeping)

RIV members have also participated in a formal tour at the 5-star ‘Croydon in the Mountains’ attraction to experience an existing guided walking tour. This activity helped sharpen their guiding skills and provided an opportunity to critique an established tour based on the new body of knowledge acquired in their training sessions.

It is hoped that the revised RIV tours will be available to customers from early 2015. Keep an eye on the Travel Foundation website for further information.