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International Voluntourism Guidelines Research Launched

Toronto, Canada, May 09, 2011 --( Planeterra and The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) Bring Industry Leaders Together to Collaborate on Global Voluntourism Initiative to Transform Good Intentions Into Best Practice.

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) and Planeterra, a leading non-profit foundation dedicated to sustainable community development and environmental conservation through travel, are collaborating to develop a set of criteria that will help international voluntourism providers plan and manage their programs in a responsible and sustainable manner.

An increasing number of travel companies are adding volunteer opportunities to their tour itineraries worldwide, and the trend, which is now commonly known as voluntourism, is growing rapidly. The 2008 Condé Nast Traveler/MSNBC poll, for example, stated that the number of regular volunteer vacationers has doubled since 2002, and the number of those who have volunteered at least once has tripled. According to the 2009 Green Traveler Study by CMIGreen, 59.1% of those surveyed said they were interested in volunteering during a future trip.

With this growth, a myriad of issues and challenges has emerged, including: project development concerns, impacts on host communities, travelers' skills and experiences, and the potentials for positive change. There is an increasing need for effective tools that help providers and travelers make smart decisions. The goal of the TIES-Planeterra effort is to address these challenges and to outline parameters that will guide both project leaders and travelers alike.

“Travelers are searching for new authentic experiences worldwide, like voluntours, that put them face to face with some of our most important global challenges,” says Megan Epler Wood Executive Director of Planeterra “There are now more opportunities for travelers with skills, in areas like engineering and health care, to assist local communities and help develop beneficial projects, like assisting with clinics and developing clean water systems for villages that lack adequate services,” says Epler Wood.

To ensure that this project incorporates a diverse range of industry knowledge and experiences, TIES and Planeterra are working with an International Expert Committee representing a variety of industry sectors and regions:

Bodhi Garrett, Co-Director, Andaman Discoveries, Thailand
Valeria Gracia, Asociación Civil Voluntario Global, Argentina
Sallie Grayson, Programme Director, People and Places, U.K.
Nancy McGehee, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Virginia Tech University, U.S.A.
Paul and Thandi Miedema, Founders, Calabash Tours, South Africa
Kristin Lamoureux, Ph.D., Director, International Institute of Tourism Studies, The George Washington University School of Business
Lelei LeLaulu, President, Community Benefit Development and Co-chairman, Innovation for Sustainable Development Centre, U.S.A.
Daniela Ruby Papi, Founder, PEPY Tours, Cambodia
Gopinath Parayil, Founder and Chief Executive, The Blue Yonder, India
Marnie Heim-Stafford and Jeremy Stafford, Owners, Voluntours, South Africa
Andy Woods-Ballard, Director of Operations, Global Vision International, U.K.
Dr. Stephen Wearing, Associate Professor, University of Technology, Australia

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with industry leaders and voluntourism experts from around the world,” said Dr. Kelly Bricker, Chair, TIES Board of Directors “We believe that there are a number of opportunities to apply lessons learned from the ecotourism community’s experiences in the past couple of decades to effectively support voluntourism in order to maximize positive impacts of the power of travel.”

About Planeterra
Planeterra is a non-profit organization that helps empower local people to develop their communities, conserve cultures and create a humane and supportive system for their endeavors. The organization supports a steady cycle of giving and investment, via our global network of travel industry partners, in the social and environmental needs of people and places in the destinations we serve worldwide.

Media Contacts:

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES)
Ayako Ezaki, Director of Communications
Phone: +1 202-503-5066 x14

Planeterra Foundation
Liz Manning, Sustainability Manager
Phone: +1 416-260-0999 x1809

Contact Information
Planeterra Foundation
Dave Wiggins

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