New Orleans Marriott Introduces Voluntourism Program

To meet groups' demand for more volunteer opportunities in post-Katrina New Orleans, the New Orleans Marriott has launched a new "voluntourism" program that pairs meetings with community service, it announced last week. Called Voluntour Gumbo—named for the native New Orleans stew that blends influences from the city's convergence of cultures—the new program creates a one-stop shop for groups that want to enrich their meetings by volunteering in the local community.

"In recent years there has been a tremendous outpouring of support to help continue the rebuilding of our great city," Senior Sales Manager Melissa Thiele, one of several Voluntour Gumbo founding partners, said in a statement. "Based on numerous requests from our group clientele seeking tailored volunteer programs, we partnered with locally-based service projects to create Voluntour Gumbo in order to cater to attendees' varied interests."

The first program of its kind in New Orleans, Voluntour Gumbo matches group "voluntourists" with service projects in the region and customizes itineraries to create a personalized experience for meeting attendees.

"By joining forces with these local organizations we are helping to create a meaningful experience and providing the resources to ease groups' planning process while assisting overworked and understaffed recovery agencies," Thiele continued.

Launching Dec. 16, Voluntour Gumbo includes for participating groups of 10 or more rooms a special nightly room rate of $84 per night. Daily service fees for volunteer projects, meanwhile, range from $25 per person for family, school, church or nonprofit organizations to $50 per person for corporate teams.

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