Paying It Forward, One Hotel Guest at a Time

The Ritz-Carlton’s Give Back Getaways inspire community action.
Sep 26, 2011

While some hotels are undeniably strong supporters of their local communities, the Ritz-Carlton chain really put its money where its mouth is when it created Give Back Getaways, a project dedicated to helping needy and often lesser-known nonprofits.

As part of its wide-reaching Community Footprints social responsibility program (which also encompasses corporate team-building exercises known as VolunTeaming), the company makes more meaningful use of its guests by putting them to work on vital projects in areas close to its properties—on a voluntary basis, that is.

 Hotel guests help with park conservation. (Photo: Ben Fink)

According to Sue Stephenson, Vice President of Community Footprints, it’s a crucial way for the upscale chain to pass on its high standards of customer care and human interaction to those who may require it. As she explains, “Our employees are immensely proud to be able to share their passion for service to others with our guests.”

Indeed, while the Ritz-Carlton may not be within everyone’s price point, its commitment to the community is proof that the terms “luxury” and “charity” don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Give Back Getaways focuses on three spheres: hunger and poverty relief, children’s wellbeing, and environmental conservation, with causes and projects selected by the hotels themselves. Guests can take part in anything from serving at urban soup kitchens to planting trees, from Atlanta to Tokyo, via Moscow and Jamaica.

Some events are daily, for instance the trip to Hainan Island, China, to help marine biologists carry out conservation work on endangered sea turtles; weekly ones include the Everglades Eco-System Protection, which supports Audubon of Florida, while others such as the community breakfast in aid of the Urban Peak shelter for homeless youth in Denver take place once a month. Most are complimentary; for others, guests pay a small fee, part of which goes to the charity in question.

(Photo: Ben Fink)

New programs are added all the time, while existing partnerships may be bolstered in response to major disasters (as in the case of the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo, which, as a result of the earthquake and tsunami earlier this year, now offers guests the chance to volunteer at the food bank’s Akihabara location).

Since the project’s inception in 2008, more than 2,000 guests have participated.

So what is it exactly that makes them willing to give up their poolside cabanas and bottomless daiquiris for some hard graft?

“Many of our guests are active volunteers in worthwhile activities at home, and want to continue this spirit of giving when they visit other parts of the world,” states Hervé Humler, President and Chief Operations Officer of the hotel group.

 Giving back in Shenzhen. (Photo: Ritz Carlton)

Participants themselves cite the “inspirational work” and “appreciation from the local community.” As another puts it, “At the end of the day, I’m not quite sure who benefited more, them or me, but I do know that it was an experience that I will cherish and hope to do again.”

And, as one guest sums up, “It’s a part of our vacation that we’ll remember more than sitting in a beach chair.”

For more details on the Ritz-Carlton’s Give Back Getaways, click here

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