Friday, May 09, 2008

Vacations With A Higher Purpose

More than just a time to renew body and spirit, vacations can also be opportunities to learn something new or try out different careers, as we've noted before. For guests at Ritz-Carlton hotels worldwide, they can now also be a time to give back to the local community.

Last month Ritz-Carlton launched its Give Back Getaways program, which gives guests the opportunity to volunteer their time to improve and assist the local community in which they are vacationing. At The Ritz-Carlton in Cancun, for example, guests can join a biologist from the Cancun Department of Ecology for hands-on experience protecting mother sea turtles during nesting and helping them return safely to the sea. Through a program employees have already been participating in for more than a decade, guests will head out at night to search for nesting turtles, gather sea turtle eggs and bring them to a safer location. Visitors to Berlin, meanwhile, can roll up their sleeves and accompany hotel staff as they launch a spring clean-up of the SONNENHOF facilities for children with serious illnesses. Additional Give Back Getaways include cooking and serving meals at the North Texas Food Bank; restoring homes in the ancient water town of Wuzhen, China; planting native Cyprus trees in the dwindling wetland forests of the Florida Everglades; and building homes with Habitat for Humanity in Jakarta and New Orleans. Costs vary between roughly USD 50 and USD 150 per adult participant.

Simon F. Cooper, Ritz-Carlton's president and chief operating officer, explains: “We have come to recognize the interest many of our guests have in becoming more involved in the region where they are spending their vacation. Many of them are active volunteers in worthwhile activities at home, and want to continue this spirit of giving when they visit other parts of the world. We believe Give Back Getaways is a unique way for our hotels to partner with guests to provide an experience both memorable and personally enriching.”

Experience, of course, is what it's all about, as the hotel goes beyond furnishing a purely functional place to stay to give guests a lasting, potentially transforming experience they'll remember forever. Long live the experience economy—and the companies that make it happen!

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