Results tagged “ITC Giving”

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This week I selected the cynic hat from my French shabby chic hat stand in preparation for a meeting with ITC Classics about its new brand ITC Giving.

The strapline for the voluntourism arm of the luxury operator is 'A service of integrity to thinking people who want to use their skills and experience to make a difference in the world'.

In my mind sentences like this generate an image of Michael Jackson dressed in white pyjamas gyrating while bound loosely to a crucifix imploring me to stop destroying the planet, take a look in the mirror and make that change. Shammon. 

This is not because it's a bad sentence: it's because sentences like this have historically been insincere or full of false promise. 

The desire to 'make a difference' is far from new. And just seconds younger is the desire to appear to be making a difference.

The little black public relations dress has desperately taken on a variety of shades of green as companies kowtow to the Bono brigade with their fingers crossed behind their back. 

Just over a decade ago while considering the concept of a 'Gap Yah' the cookie cutter approach to finding oneself did not appeal.

A round the world ticket, a stint building a well or helping some animals in Africa, six weeks in a Kibbutz and a bungee jump.

At 18 I could barely mow the lawn or keep the Bichon Frise alive - why on earth would these Africans want me to build their wells or look after their animals? 

That was going to be question one.

Unfortunately Sallie Grayson, founder of ITC's partner for this brand People and Places, ruined question one.

"This is not about building wells." she said. "We would never allow volunteers to do work a local person could do," she said.

The ins and outs are detailed on the website so I shall let you read about it in depth there.

But to summarise Sallie told me the tourists who take part are vetted and must have skills that will be of some use to a particular community.

Unless you can be of genuine use you don't get to go. And if the community doesn't want or need you, you don't get to go. You can't simply buy these trips, you have to earn them.

But Sallie is excited about ITC's clientele - and not because they can write big cheques.

Apparently, as welcome as big cheques are, it is last on the list of things the projects People and Places work with want.

"These wealthy clientele tend to be driven and talented business leaders or very successful in their chosen field and therefore can inspire the children and more importantly their teachers," Sallie added.

"And by spending time at a project an emotional bond is formed and they become long term supporters."

This is not about making a museum of poverty and it tears apart the idea that spending the day in a community project and the night in a beautiful hotel is hypocritical or crass.

"Who said you have to be poor to help the poor?" was Sallie's parting point and one with which I agree wholeheartedly.

Luxury travellers have the potential to become more powerful than any NGO but they need to be told how to do it effectively, correctly and within the confines of busy lives and the desire to combine it with a decent holiday.

Equally, travel agents need to be able to rely on the likes of ITC and in turn People and Places to get this right for their customers.

The undertaking is a challenge to say the least but I implore you leave the cynic hat on the hat stand for a few minutes and give this brave move by ITC a closer look - it's the start of something that could spark a wave of change in the way luxury travellers approach voluntourism.

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