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Through Partnership with Planeterra the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference Features Voluntourism Activities for the First Time

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Delegates Will Leave Positive Footprint by Rolling Up Sleeves to Work on Community Garden and Outdoor Ecological Restoration Activities

TORONTO – For the first time in the event’s history, delegates of the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC) held Sept. 8-10 in Portland, OR will have the opportunity to participate in actual volunteer activities during field sessions.

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) and the destination hosts Travel Oregon and Travel Portland are working with the ESTC Voluntourism Partner Planeterra, a world leader in volunteer travel, to bring volunteering to the forefront this year in recognition of the increasing importance of voluntourism as a niche of sustainable tourism.

This is the first time that TIES is offering hands-on volunteer activities at its annual conference, and the delegates will be invited to be part of the roll-up-your sleeves, hands-on voluntourism field sessions offered at the ESTC 2010. The voluntourism field sessions include the opportunities to create a community garden, and to work on ecological restoration at an outdoor environmental education center and wildlife refuge.

Richard G. Edwards, Planeterra Director, said this effort underscores the increasing importance of voluntourism as a niche of sustainable tourism. “These field sessions will allow delegates to get a hands-on voluntourism experience and give back during their visit to Portland. This is the type of activity we encourage travelers to participate in that leads to a richer traveler experience and inspires people to continue to give back. Our community development projects around the world benefit from receiving volunteers who in turn continue to contribute for years afterwards thanks to the connections they made and their desire to make a difference over the long term.”

Voluntourism sessions are planned for a half-day at the beginning of the conference, Wednesday, September 8, at the outdoor environmental education center, Columbia Springs, and for Thursday, September 9 at one of Portland Parks and Recreation’s community gardens. A third activity planned for Friday, September 10 at Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge will give participants a chance to do maintenance on a tree-planting project. Each project offers the opportunity to positively contribute to the sustainable development of the Portland Area, and highlights key elements of voluntourism that typify the over 50 diverse, life-enhancing projects Planeterra spearheads in 25 countries around the world.

“Come get your hands dirty,” says Laura Guimond, Communications & PR Manager, Sustainability, Travel Portland. “These opportunities are a great representation of the many ways individuals can make a positive difference when visiting a community.” In addition to consistently receiving the recognition as “the most sustainable city” in the country, Portland, OR – according to – is among the leading US cities with largest numbers of volunteer activities.

In addition to the field sessions, the ESTC 2010 will also feature a Voluntourism Panel (Thursday, September 9, 6:00pm – 7:30pm) with international experts discussing issues surrounding this nascent tourism niche. There are several diverse opinions and complexities interwoven within voluntourism: development implications, travelers’ experiences and impacts on host communities, among others. This panel will be open to the public and will serve as a platform to gain insight and best practices for operators and travelers alike.

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