Essay on Voluntourism

Promotions Management: Volunteer Aid Nepal

Introduction

Volunteer tourism or voluntourism involves travelling for more than just a vacation. It is not only about having fun, but also making a difference in the world and touching the lives of those, who need it the most. It is basically a trip, where one offers himself or herself as a volunteer first and eventually as a tourist towards the end of the trip. It is an exceptional way to gain the experience and contextualize life in other less developed parts of the world. It is also a good way to open one’s eyes to the beauty of life and make them more grateful for what they have or can get back at home.

Volunteer Aid Nepal is a non-profitable, non-political, non-religious and non-governmental organization aimed at attracting volunteer tourists to Nepal. Nepal is a small country located right in the Himalayas range and bordered by India to the east, west and south and China to the north. It is a country that is known for its amazing landscape, spectacular places, like the Himalayan range with the highest peak Mt. Everest, deep gorges, diverse flora and fauna that include a number of endangered species, a rich cultural heritage and very hospitable natives.
The organization operates on a principle of ‘development through volunteering,’ and among the projects that it offers for voluntourists are the orphanage support and child care, teaching English in schools and monasteries, health care and medical aid, social research, community building and construction, information technology education, organic agricultural practices, youth capacity development among others.

Market Segments

The aim of volunteer tourism varies with individuals. The major and most common motivation, however, is to ‘do well’ and make a difference in someone’s life. People opt for volunteer tourism as opposed to the usual tourism, because it justifies their travel expenses, especially in these tough financial times (Tribe 1997). Others become voluntourists, because they need new challenges or world experience. Volunteer tourism is also mostly undertaken for the scientific research and other educational purposes or as a way of gaining experience that may be applied later in school, at work or just in life generally.

Knowing this, it is imperative to note that most volunteer tourists are high school and college students or graduates. They take up volunteer tourism to boost their resumes, spend time with friends, gain new experiences, face new challenges and, above all, relax. Thus, the most viable market segment for volunteer tourism is the youth, in and out of school.

Given that Nepal is in the Himalayan range, exciting activities, such as hiking, can be used to attract this fun-loving market segment, so that they can be assured of fun activities whenever their volunteering schedules allowed them free time.

Communication Objectives

For this promotional campaign, the communication objectives most needed are developing the brand awareness, influencing consumer attitudes and developing the product’s image.

Developing Brand Awareness

For this organization to get more people voluntouring in Nepal, the country has to be known. Thus, the organization should work with relevant stakeholders to brand Nepal as an ideal volunteer tourism destination. These stakeholders may include the government of Nepal and members of its business community.

Influencing Consumer Attitudes

Some people do not associate tourism with volunteering to make a difference. The organization is, therefore, tasked with the responsibility to show such people that it is possible to have fun and help others at the same time. The organization not only needs to highlight the advantages of volunteering in Nepal, but also serve tourist there, as well. This is so as to encourage clients to examine the possibility of having fun and making a difference in the world, all at the same time.

Developing the Product’s Image

The product in this case is the voluntouring travel plan. It should be portrayed in a way that suits the client in question. This means that as much as the clients should already know that they are heading to Nepal for volunteer tourism, which entails a schedule that balances work and play, they should be allowed to participate in creating their schedules. This will give the product a customized look that is individualized as per the client’s wishes. A customized product always tends to please the client.

Creative Strategies

The first recommendation for the organization is to understand the dynamics of today’s cyber based client interaction and more so in the versatile volunteer tourism sector. This involves upgrading the technology to fit with the clients’ attitudes. In order to increase the market awareness and penetration, the organization should segment the market and give a lot of attention to the youth, who are the best clients in volunteer tourism. This target market can be easily accessed through social media advertising, sales promotions during school functions, direct marketing at strategic outlets and personal selling by their peers.

The organization can also take up a brand logo, tagline, corporate identity or even a core message that is in line with the youths’ trends and, therefore, considered to being more of ‘the in thing.’ This is in order to stir up the interest of its target market and create a good following. By designing and packaging their products and services to conveniently suit the desires of the target market and providing an exceptional experience through great trip planning and friendly client service programs, the organization will be able to attract and retain a substantial amount of their clients.

The product differentiation is also a workable strategy that will entice the clients since ‘different is good.’ The organization can package the products in a way that makes them stand out from the competition. This is so as to enable clients to identify with the organization as their choice travel planner. The client engagement is bound to promote client’s loyalty, and this will prove useful as these clients will, in turn, serve as brand ambassadors and carry out product advocacy within their market segments, thus, creating awareness and pushing product sales a notch higher. Bearing in mind that this organization aims to attract volunteer tourists to Nepal, it will need three major creative strategies. The first one is a generic strategy to promote volunteer tourism, the second one creating a brand image for Nepal as a volunteer tourism hub and lastly, the resonance advertising for the organization as one that facilitates volunteer tourism.

The Generic Strategy

A generic strategy is basically general; one that is not specific to the organization in question. It is used by an organization, which seeks to introduce the entire sector, within which it operates. Volunteer Aid Nepal is in the business of volunteer tourism. Thus, its generic strategy should aim at promoting volunteer tourism to possible consumers the market at large. While this might sound vague and probably not directly beneficial to the organization, these generic adverts will cultivate an interest in the subject of volunteer tourism and eventually result in increasingly more people getting curious and seeking more information on the subject (Johnson & Scholes, 2002). Given that these adverts will include the organization’s contact information, the members of the public seeking information will most likely use these contacts and reach the organization. Therefore, the generic message in this case should be, ‘Volunteer tourism, how to make a difference in someone’s life as you travel the world.’

Brand Image

Nepal is a landlocked country with a lot of natural resources that are not being fully utilized to benefit the local population. The citizens still live in poor conditions as the country is yet to be developed. With its rich natural resources, landscape, cultural heritage and hospitality of the locals, it should be relatively easy to market it as an ideal volunteer tourism hub. The Himalayan ranges provide a site for challenging hikes, the flora and fauna include a variety of endangered species, and the rich cultural heritage ensures one learns a lot of new information about the peoples of Nepal.

When branding this country, there is such a wealth of attraction that can and should be tapped. The Mt. Everest particularly as the world’s highest peak is expected to generate a lot of interest and attention, not to mention the view of the entire Himalayan ranges. Thus, in order to create a brand image for Nepal, the message that is to be best conveyed is about the amazing landscape. In simple terms, the message in this strategy should be, ‘Nepal, the hiker’s absolute paradise.’

Resonance Advertising

The resonance advertising entails identifying with a particular market segment and passing a message that they can relate to. In this case, the targeted market segment is the youth both in and out of school. Volunteer Aid Nepal as an organization should seek to identify with this youth as both a vacation planner and a volunteer organization. Given the activities offered by the organization, it is important to emphasize that while volunteer tourism is mainly about making a difference in people’s lives, the volunteer tourists are allowed to use their free time to explore the country and participate in fun activities of their choice, as well. It is, therefore, crucial to let the potential clients know that they actively contribute to how their schedules look like, Thus, they will not end up having all work and no play.
Another important consideration for this strategy is that the volunteer tourism should provide an opportunity for friends to bond and grow together. In order to identify with the youth, the organization needs to embrace the technology and portray itself as youth friendly. Thus, other than having a youthful marketing team, Volunteer Aid Nepal needs to be more “tech-savvy” in its operations by including online services among other things (Kozak 2003).
The organization should employ a team of dynamic youth to reach out to their peers and conduct one on one sales for their products (Kotler & Keller 2006). This is effective for the organization, because popular trends are usually passed on one teenager to another. Using people that they can identify with to sell the products to them ensures that the teenage market segment is totally taken. These young representatives will portray the organization as being ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ as opposed to boring.

Since this team will be working in an informal setting, it will be easier for them to push the organization’s agenda, using their trending language as opposed to in a formal setting, where the use of slang is considered improper. A relaxed environment ensures efficiency and this team will be able to achieve that. The youth consist of a versatile population with a knack for multitasking (Buhalis, Jafari & Werthner 1997). They love having fun and even more so, when it provides an opportunity to actually do something good as well. Thus, this will require a number of adverts with a common message of balancing work and play. These adverts should portray the youth as useful members of the society and possibly have them share the experiences they may have had, while voluntouring in Nepal. The core of these adverts is about having fun and leaving a positive impact on someone’s life, like a completed classroom for a construction student, or a healthy child for a medical student, and so on.

Media Plan

Having established that the youth are the organization’s ideal target market, all the advertisement should be focused on this market segment. Thus, all forms of the media communication require to be undertaken in a forum that is most likely to attract these youths.

Social Networking Sites

The social media is an appropriate forum for the interaction. Approximately all teenagers are a part of these networking sites, and posting advertisements here ensures that at least most of them get the information. The organization can also start relevant discussions in these sites in order to stir up the participants and get their opinion regarding the organization’s products. Through this, the organization can always be on “the know”, when it comes to new demands and changes in the volunteer tourism industry (Robson 1994).
Furthermore, creating an in-house social networking site will promote consumer to consumer marketing and provide a forum, through which the client’s feedback on the organization’s products and their travel and volunteering experiences can be obtained (Wober 2002). This will be a good and cost effective forum for conducting the internal market research in order to find out what more can be done to extend the organization’s market penetration and eventual domination of volunteer tourism ventures. In keeping with its youthful image, the organization will also require a website that will enable interaction with clients and online signings for the volunteer tourism program. In doing this, the youth’s love for convenient services will be recognized and exploited positively.

Print Media

This should mostly focus on magazines and newspapers that are popular among the target population. For example, school journals and teen magazines would be ideal to pass the message to the target market. The organization also needs to have wrist bands, caps and t-shirts to give to those, who attend the volunteer tourism programs so that when they get back home, they can show off and get their peers to sign up for the program too. Other than t-shirts and wrist bands, the organization can also print leaflets and brochures that provide the detailed information about the program and Nepal as a destination, including the information regarding how to sign up for the program (Okumus & Hemmington, 1998).

National TV Channels

Most national TV channels have teen programs that have a substantial following amongst the teens. The organization can have its adverts slotted during a commercial break for a show like Hanna Montana, which has a large fan base among teenage girls.

Partnership Programs

The organization can seek partnerships with programs that cover the environmental content, like the National Geographic channels among others. These programs tend to attract people, who are more likely to be interested in visiting new natural places, thus, the message will strike home and easily attract a client (Evans, Campbell & Stonehouse 200).

Radio Shows

Some radio stations and radio shows are quite popular among the youth. These should be identified and used to air adverts regarding volunteer tourism in Nepal. These shows can also host an expert from the organization to give more information to interested listeners every once in a while. This will ensure that the information gets to most, if not all the youths. The organization can employ promotional tools, such as database marketing, consumer promotions and client relations management, as a way of attracting clients and fostering the brand loyalty. For purposes of maintaining its market share, the organization should use integration tools that will enable client tracking, marketing automation, web analytics and inbound marketing software. This is all in order to obtain a relevant and accurate feedback on its marketing strategies (Keller 1998).

Conclusion

Volunteer tourism is a trend that is gradually picking up globally. Despite the recent financial crisis, the sector has continued to experience a tremendous activity. This can be attributed to the fact that it involves spending time and money for more than just personal gains. People tend to justify volunteer tourism as a vacation with a higher purpose than just having fun and relaxing in a foreign country. Volunteer Aid Nepal is on the right track with regards to promoting volunteer tourism. Nepal is an exceptional destination for both work and play, given its amazing natural features and low development status.

Promoting volunteer tourism will not require a lot of effort from the organization as this is already a widely recognized phenomenon. The few people, who are yet to discover it, can be reached without much effort. Promoting Nepal as a destination, however, is the ultimate challenge. Being a small landlocked country bordered by the giants, such as India and China, the one sure way to get Nepal noticed is using Mt. Everest, since it is well known for being the highest mountain in the world. Also, the Himalayan range can play a vital role in publicizing the country.
In order to effectively promote Nepal as an outstanding destination for volunteer tourism, the organization simply needs to target youth friendly avenues such as social media, radio stations, television adverts, billboards, personal marketing during school functions, and partnership programs in National Geographic channels and other travel guide programs, among other things.

Following this action plan, the organization is bound to create a boom in the number of volunteer tourists flocking to Nepal not only to experience the great landscape, rich culture and hospitality of the people, but also to work and create a better Nepal. This will end up benefiting not only the tourists and the local populations, but also the government from the tourism revenues it is bound to receive due to the influx in volunteer tourists.

Reference List

Buhalis, D, Jafari, J & Werthner, H 1997, ‘Information technology and the re-engineering of tourism’, Annals of Tourism Research, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 245-248.

Evans, N, Campbell, D & Stonehouse, G 2003, Strategic management for travel and tourism, Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford.

Johnson, G & Scholes, K 2002, Exploring corporate strategy, Prentice Hall, London.

Keller, KL 1998, Strategic brand management: building, measuring and managing brand equity, Prentice Hall, New Jersey.

Kotler, P & Keller, KL 2006, Marketing management, Pearson Prentice Hall, Sydney.

Kozak, M 2003, Destination benchmarking: concepts, practices and operations, CABI, Wallingford.
Okumus, F & Hemmington, N 1998, ‘Barriers and resistance to change in hotel firms: an investigation at unit level’, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, vol. 10, no. 7, pp. 283-288.

Robson, W 1994, Strategic management and information systems: an integrated approach, Pitman, London.

Tribe, J 1997, Corporate strategy for tourism, Thomson, London.

Wober, KW 2002, Benchmarking in tourism and hospitality industries: the selection of benchmarking partners, CABI, Wallingford.