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.

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.

Dear diary…

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!

Rosie and RobThe 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.

DCIM100GOPRODay 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 DCIM100GOPROparagliding 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.

A pinch of Sal: a year of projects in Cape Verde

Volunteers Cape Verde

Volunteers in Cape Verde

Our three projects in Cape Verde – Better Beaches, Discover the Real Sal and Cape Verdean Craft – all launched in January 2014, with the aim of supporting the island of Sal to become a leader in sustainable tourism.

I visited Sal for the first time in May and was struck by its stark beauty and semi-lunar landscapes, and the carefree attitude of its residents. Life seems to dance around finding the perfect wave, followed by happy hour at a Santa Maria bar. Many visitors to Sal don’t have a chance to experience this side of Cape Verdean culture and I left hoping we might be able to change that.

Two particular achievements from 2014 really stand out for me. Firstly, creating the Travel Foundation’s first National Volunteering Programme, recruiting and training 12 volunteers who, from October to December, spent over 500 hours conducting surveys with residents and visitors and collecting data against Greener Beach criteria on eight beaches. The volunteers gained work experience, an insight into the tourism industry in Sal, and the chance to interact with people from different cultures.

Cape Verde craft training

Secondly, I’m particularly proud of the five day workshop we held with 15 craft producers and 11 vendors, covering topics such as costing and pricing, the green market and product design. Craft consultants Unearthed facilitated the training based on their decades of experience supporting producers in Africa, and I was lucky enough to be in Sal at the same time.

Handing out training certificates to the producers at the end of the week was a particularly emotional moment, and I know the training will have a real impact on how they make and sell products.

Now the pressure is on to keep up the momentum for 2015 and support the craft producers in product design and development, and help them get their wares into hotel shops.


– Isabel Kearney, Destinations Programme OfficerIsabel

Read more about our Cape Verde programme here >

Lights… Camera… Project Discovery!

Project Discovery Volunteers

Project Discovery Volunteers

The Travel Foundation welcomed film-makers earlier this week to our headquarters in Bristol. Members of staff gave interviews for an upcoming film created by TUI UK & Ireland about Project Discovery, our volunteer programme for TUI staff.

Project Discovery is a volunteering scheme run within TUI giving staff the opportunity to work on a Travel Foundation project and experience sustainable tourism on the ground.

It is a benefit to the Travel Foundation as it provides an extra resource to use on projects and also allows us to draw on the wider skill sets that are available across TUI . Over the years the scheme has grown and places are extremely sought after and competitive.

In her interview, Jasmine Wong, Industry Programmes Officer, emphasised that the programme makes sustainability learning available to everyone, no matter what their job role.

The film will be out soon – watch this space…