TRADITIONAL longhaul markets to Malaysia have developed an appetite for volunteer tourism, with travel consultants reporting growing interest in the niche segment.
Diethelm Travel Malaysia’s managing director, Manfred Kurz, said: “Traditionally, CSR programmes appeal only to meeting and incentive groups from European markets. But we have seen growing interest from the FIT segment over the last couple of years.”
To harness rising demand, Diethelm Travel will work with established tour operators in Germany to promote more volunteer tourism programmes in Sabah and Sarawak for the FIT market this year.
Sarawak-based Masama JS Adventure Tours’ business development manager, Marco Wunsch, said: “In 2012, we saw 30 per cent year-on-year growth (in the number of participants) for our turtle conservation programme at Talang-Talang Island, with the most requests coming from FITs from the Netherlands.”
Masama works with the Sarawak Forestry Corporation for this programme.
Wunsch said: “This year, we would like to develop more conservation tours in Sarawak, especially those with the rare Irrawaddy dolphins in the Santubong area.”
Alex Lee, CEO of Terengganu-based Ping Anchorage Travel & Tours, explained the difference between the regular leisure tourist and a volunteer tourist. “The FIT tourist involved in volunteer tourism spends at least 50 per cent more than the average tourist, as they even pay the locals a fee to be involved (in activities).
“This year, we plan to develop more volunteer programmes in Terengganu, involving local culture, heritage and nature. Tourists will be able to decide on the programmes they wish to be involved in, based on their budget and length of stay.”