By Greer Schott; Photograph courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Austin
Get rewarded for giving back this summer as hotels hop on the voluntourism bandwagon. Traditionally done through socially and environmentally conscious outfitters, hotels are now offering voluntourism promotions with heavily discounted rates (save up to 50 percent!) when you spend part of your vacation volunteering through one of their programs.
RockResorts, who have offered successful voluntourism packages in Colorado for four years, recently expanded its Give & Getaway package to all nine of the company’s resorts. Work trail maintenance in Beaver Creek or harvest locally grown fruits with St. Lucians and receive heavily discounted hotel rates. With such low prices, you’ll gladly sign up to donate $1 per night to the National Forest Foundation (doubles from $59, dates vary).
“When the program started, there weren’t many things like it out there,” says RockResorts’ PR representative Lorianne Lacey. “But we’ve seen it more and more in the past few years. It’s a way for guests to get involved in the environment, and it definitely seems to be building momentum.”
In Austin, the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts recently announced its Pay It Forward Voluntourism Package, where guests receive up to a 46 percent off their accommodations when they sign up for a half-day working in a local soup kitchen or picking up litter. That leaves the afternoon to check out the local music scene and explore miles of road cycling in the surrounding Hill Country before retiring to luxurious Four Seasons digs.
This idea of giving back locally has long been part of the company culture. Since 2004, the hotel has sent managers to volunteer in an area soup kitchen once a month. When general manager Tom Segesta noticed a trend in voluntourism promotions, “it felt natural for us to join in,” says the Four Seasons’ Kerri Holden. The response was so big that they extended the deal to include discounts throughout the fall. “You volunteer out of the goodness of your heart, but we do offer a really attractive rate,” says Holden. “Its nice to feel appreciated.” (Rates start at $225/night with volunteering, May 1st – September 6th 2010, November 15th 2010–February 28th 2011.)
The trend has gone global, too. In the Maldives, stay free for half of the nights on your 10-day vacation at the Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili by Six Senses resorts when you donate 25 hours of your vacation towards volunteer efforts this summer. Help with local composting, plant trees, or spend your days diving amongst parrot fish and hawksbill turtles, learning how to promote reef recovery from the 2004 tsunami and coral bleaching caused by El Niño in 1998 ($1,040/per villa per night, June 1st – October 12th 2010).
So play hard and work hard on your vacation this summer. As Holden points out, “There’s a bigger incentive.”