Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Voluntourism, a partnership with a Hotel

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, in partnership with Everglades National Park, essentially created the term voluntourism.

A letter to guests of Mandarin Oriental reads:

"Mandarin Oriental (MO), Miami is a member of the World Heritage Alliance for Sustainable Tourism, created by the United Nations Foundation and Expedia, Inc. to engage the travel industry to promote environmentally and economically sustainable business practices around UNESCO World heritage sites. Through our partnership, we are working closely with Everglades National Park (ENP) to learn about the challenges they face and to develop opportunities for the hotel to help through voluntourism programs. These interesting and fulfilling day trips include tree planting, recycling projects and weeding out exotic plants. We hope you take some time to learn more about this important World Heritage site during your visit with us. Please speak to the concierge if you would like to participate in our voluntourism program or to arrange a trip to the Everglades just to see this wonderful World Heritage site."

Below is an edited excerpt from an article in Points North Atlanta magazine, March 2011, as a result of the Everglades and Mandarin Oriental partnership. (

A Mission to Do Good in the Everglades and Feel Good in Miami.
Written by Heather KW Brown

“In my mind, I was bushwhacking through unchartered territory while alligators lurked in the thick soupy swamp around me. In reality, my biggest challenge was trying to keep oversized work gloves secure on my hands as I clipped overgrown palm fronds along a 1-mile asphalt trail. Precarious, it was not, but I had successfully immersed myself in Miami’s other “wild” side. It all started when I learned the Mandarin Oriental, Miami, located just an hour’s drive from the Everglades, had launched a voluntourism program, I couldn’t resist.

This is precisely how I found myself beside a knowledgeable park ranger and several other volunteers, all of us armed with shears and dutifully clearing a trail. We talked. We discovered new creatures. And when quiet settled in among our group, I’m inclined to think each of us was processing the experience. Truth is, I’m a beach girl whose love of nature previously didn’t include relinquishing a place in the sun or swapping a swimsuit for shears. That was just one of my pleasant surprises to come from my stay at the Mandarin Oriental, Miami.

Partnering with Everglades National Park, isn’t limited to the park itself. With my hands out, palms down, a masseuse pressed what she described as weighted tea bags made of naturally therapeutic ingredients up and down my back, legs and arms. And from this pampering came preservation: one live oak, bald cypress or gumbo limbo tree gets planted in the park for each guest who books the Herbal Thai Compress Ritual here at Miami’s only Five-Star spa.”
As a result of customers being pampered, on June 28, 2011, eight associates of MO spa braved thunderstorms and insects to volunteer, and successfully planted fifty-three trees.  A blog was subsequently posted about MO’s voluntourism on an online travel agency for the world's best hotels.

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