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GUEST POST: The Importance of Giving Back: Vacations with a Purpose

October 17, 2012 -- Anonymous
Bruce Beckham, Executive Director and CEO of Tourism Cares

Intro from Christine: Today we will hear about the importance of giving back from Bruce Beckham, Executive Director and CEO of Tourism Cares.  While he is retiring next year, in his 12 years at the organization, Bruce’s leadership has turned Tourism Cares into one of the most premiere non-profits in the travel and tourism industry, helping preserve important and historic sites for future generations, including bringing more than 3,500 tourism industry volunteers together to help restore sites across the U.S.; granting more than $2 million to tourism-related sites; as well as awarding more than $500,000 in scholarships.  I am honored to have Bruce offer his exclusive insights.

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As schedules seem to increasingly fill up, and a lack of “enough time” takes an ever-increasing toll on nearly all working Americans, volunteering time has remained relatively constant. Today, volunteering doesn’t stop when people are vacationing, which has become more popular with every passing year, particularly on cruise vacations. In fact, several cruise lines offer shore excursions that provide passengers a volunteer opportunity while ashore.

Volunteers provide a powerful economic and social benefit to communities across the nation and around the world.  In 2010, in the US alone, 62.8 million adults served almost 8.1 billion hours of volunteer time. Tourism overall generates nearly $2 trillion in economic benefits for the U.S. each year, and cruising alone contributes $40 billion to the U.S. economy. It’s important to preserve and give back to the communities across the country that support our industry each day and are so vital to travel and tourism. And the cruise industry is responding with many of the excursions it offers. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but “traveling with a purpose” is often good for the soul and always good for the community.

The trend begs the question: If travelers are willing to volunteer while on vacation, why shouldn’t the travel industry itself volunteer to help tourism related sites that are important to their customers?  That’s why Tourism Cares, in 2003, (then USTOA’s Travelers Conservation Foundation) initiated the Tourism Cares for America program.  The organization brought the travel and tourism industry together to volunteer their time, talent and services to help restore tourist  sites that had fallen on tough times due to budget cutbacks, natural disasters or neglect.

The Tourism Cares initiative began in the spring of 2003 at Ellis Island in New York Harbor, when more than 300 travel professionals came from across the U.S. to lend a hand in restoring and cleaning up the island.  Since then, Tourism Cares has brought more than 3,500 tourism industry volunteers to more than 20 sites across the U.S. for restoration projects including: George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Mississippi Gulf Coast, and Gettysburg.   

The cruise industry is continuing its trend of giving back by donating to and sponsoring our latest program, which hosted nearly 250 travel professionals volunteering from 80 different companies who painted, landscaped and rebuilt areas in Old Sacramento, a National Historic Landmark District and State Historic Park located along the Sacramento River. Old Sacramento holds deep historical significance, and is a popular tourism stop, as the starting point of the California Golf Rush, and the western terminus of the Pony Express postal system, the first transcontinental railroad, and the transcontinental telegraph. 

We appreciate the cruise industry’s ongoing participation with Tourism Cares, and look forward to continuing to work together.

For more information on the many programs of Tourism Cares, please visit www.tourismcares.org.

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Bruce Beckham is the executive director and CEO of the travel industry’s premier non-profit organization, Tourism Cares. He is a Certified Tourism Professional, the former owner of a travel agency and packaged tour company and a former president of the National Tour Association (NTA). 

After selling his travel companies in 1992, Beckham began a new career as a professional speaker and consultant, producing and presenting educational workshops and seminars throughout North America on marketing to and serving the packaged travel industry.  In 2000, he took a part time position as the executive director of what was then the United States Tour Operators Association’s Travelers Conservation Foundation (TCF).  What was part time became full time with the merger in 2005 of TCF and the National Tour Association’s National Tourism Foundation (NTF) that formed what is now Tourism Cares and the official philanthropy of several travel and tourism associations.

Under Beckham’s leadership, Tourism Cares has been recognized for its many accomplishments including the World Travel Market’s Environmental Award, and Global Tourism Award (twice), the US Department of the Interior’s Take Pride in America Award, the Society of American Travel Writers’ Phoenix Award, and the Association of Travel Marketing Executive’s “Inspiration Award” in 2003 and 2010 for Tourism Cares ongoing development of the tourism industry’s highly successful volunteer program, Tourism Cares for America. Now in its tenth year, Tourism Cares volunteer activities have marshaled more than 3,500 volunteers donating nearly 30,000 service hours at a value of more than $500,000 in donated services and on site restoration assistance to sites such as New York’s Ellis Island, New Orleans, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mount Vernon, Gettysburg and Alcatraz Island.  Tourism Cares also awards hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to natural, cultural and historic sites throughout the world on an annual basis and provides $100,000 in scholarships each year to students preparing for careers in the travel and tourism industry.  Tourism Cares has now expanded its philanthropic activities overseas with its inaugural Global Outreach project in Peru in May of 2012.

Throughout his career, Beckham has demonstrated the highest standards of the travel and tourism industry and served as a role model for others in the industry.

 

 

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