Consultant Archer-Cunningham: Voluntourism offers major opportunitiesPOSTED: 08/21/15 12:42 PM
ST. MAARTEN / NEW YORK – The Caribbean may be missing an important opportunity by not fully tapping into the growing volunteer tourism or “voluntourism” market, according to veteran community development expert and nonprofit advisor Kwayera Archer-Cunningham.
With more than 25 years of experience as a nonprofit leader, Archer-Cunningham, who travels frequently between her Jamaica and New York offices, said many tourists are traveling to the region with a desire to have a positive impact and make a difference in addition to having fun.
“Unfortunately, too often there are not enough avenues that are visible for visitors to figure out how they can help before they leave and go back home,” she lamented.
St, Maarten has experienced its own share of voluntourism but it doesn’t always work out well. A recent example is the attempt by Rory and Rachelle Mostert, a retired American couple to establish a sea turtle sanctuary in Simpson Bay. They invested more than $20,000, yet the project went to seed for all kinds of reasons. However, the example proves Archer-Cunningham’s point: there are tourists who want to contribute to places they love.
“Many people have great intentions. They want to figure out how they can make the region a home away from home, not just by enjoying the beach, but also volunteering for an hour or helping a school – whether by contributing towards the cost of a computer or a smart board,” said Archer-Cunningham, who specializes in community and organizational development, philanthropy, and social entrepreneurship.
Archer-Cunningham believes that the hospitality industry, especially hotels, should be encouraged to establish strategic partnerships with local and regional media to increase awareness of the social and philanthropic needs within the destination. “We need broad communications channels so that people traveling to the Caribbean – either single or multiple destinations – receive the information and access they need to make decisions about how they can contribute their time, dollars and energy,” she commented.
According to Carrie Kahn, National Public Radio’s international correspondent, more than 1.6 million volunteer tourists are spending about $2 billion each year.
Archer-Cunningham’s firm Global Ase facilitates social transformation by creating strong relationships between the people who want to help and people who need help.