American Marketer

Events / Causes

Four Seasons Maui highlights local involvement with voluntourism offers

February 10, 2014


Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, HI, is inviting affluent consumers with a penchant for charity to participate in a range of community "voluntourism" offers.

The offers range from Habitat for Humanity to meal distribution services and present guests with results that they can see. Whether guests want to structure a trip around volunteering or integrate an event or two into their itinerary, the concierge team intends to meet preferences.

"[Voluntourism] is something that we care about personally and feel it is appropriate to offer to our guests," said Mark Simon, director of marketing at Four Seasons Resort Maui, HI.

"The numbers are small but we feel they will grow over the years as awareness increases," he said.

Seeing change

Four Seasons Maui has teamed up with local organizations to give guests a chance to make a direct impact on the local community. Although one might expect volunteering numbers to spike around certain periods of the year, Mr. Simon said that patterns are "sporadic."

Habitat for Humanity opportunities entail building homes for the homeless with an experienced team or sprucing up the interior or exterior of low-income homes.

Guests can spend a morning in the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, a project that aims to spread awareness of how native and Polynesian-introduced plants affect economic, social and cultural conditions in Hawaii.

At the Ko'ie'ie Fishpond, volunteers help to maintain the walls with stones and boulders that naturally roll off when pushed by the waves. Fish ponds have played an important role in Hawaiian society, allowing locals to cultivate fish in an eco-friendly manner.

Ko'ie'ie Fishpond

As with the botanical garden, staff and regular volunteers are on hand to give newcomers a better sense of the project's purpose.

Mr. Simon noted that the most popular program is helping Hale Kau Kau serve meals to the needy. The organization serves food every evening and delivers weekly food baskets. Volunteers are asked to prepare, cook, serve or deliver meals.

Hale Kau Kau's Thanksgiving event

Tools, equipment and directions are supplied for most of the projects, so guests just have to show up with a positive attitude. Also, these organizations graciously accept resource contributions for those unable to volunteer directly.

Former volunteers at the property assisted in Four Seasons effort to plant a million trees by working with Four Seasons staff and the conservation organization Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission to plant 2,000 trees in four days.

Four Seasons Maui's Team for Trees

Four Seasons Maui is hosting an event in collaboration with South and Central Maui school garden programs that features top chefs and a silent auction.

Taste of School Gardens

"Voluntourism is experiencing rise in global attention, but the trend itself has been around in one form or another for some time," said Taylor Rains, account executive at Rawle Murdy Associates, Charleston, SC.

"What had been a trend owned by the consumer and their intentions with their travel has now shifted into an established industry segment," he said.

"As a result, voluntourism has become an increasingly viable vacation with a variety of options for consumers. While the trend will likely plateau in the future, it’s well enough entrenched in the travel industry to stick around for some time."

Widespread help

Some luxury hotel brands initiate charity campaigns that include all properties.

For instance, The Ritz-Carlton is expanding its efforts to help students around the world to pursue a fulfilling education by making its “Succeed Through Service” toolkit available to all.

Since the Succeed Through Service project launched with America’s Promise Alliance in 2009, the brand has helped more than 15,000 students. The persistence of children stifled in the United States educational system calls for influential companies to assist where they can (see story).

Four Seasons Maui also has a strong record of engaging with the local community.

For example, the resort is currently hosting the Artisan Showcase series that rotates between 42 artists pulled from the local community. Six different media ranging from jewelry, ceramics, woodworking, glass, painting and and textiles will be featured every day to ensure that the series remains as fresh as possible (see story).

Getting involved with local organizations will make a property seem like a natural fit for the community.

"The best way for luxury hotels to facilitate volunteering among their guests is to work through an established organization," Mr. Rains said.

"Allowing an organization to be the face of a volunteering package, for example, mitigates the risk of the hotel being perceived as disingenuous among potential guests," he said.

"It allows the organization to shine and positions the hotel as a supporter of the cause."

Final Take
Joe McCarthy, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York