We heard from one of our Partners…

Professionals doing good sat down to talk with Kristen Davis, founder and director – along with her husband – of Travolution, a brand-new online travel guide aiming to promote sustainable tourism in remote areas of Cambodia that are not on the tourist map yet. As one of our partnering host organizations working with us, we discussed the work Travolution does for supporting the local communities and how a professional and skilled intern helped aid the organization’s focus and mission.

Kristen, tell us about Travolution and what drove you to found it?

Travolution360 is an online travel guide. It was founded on the concept of encouraging people to discover not only the key historical and cultural aspects of tourism destinations, but to arm them with the ability to strike out and find more unusual and overlooked areas on offer. This not only allows for a more rewarding, enriching experience on the part of visitors, but for tourism dollars to have a higher reach in communities.

We’ve merged this with an intuitive search-and-find platform, allowing rapid identification of options within a person’s interests. There is a very strong Cambodia concept as we are familiar with the area, although the platform as a whole will cover countries on all continents.

What makes Travolution a socially responsible organization in Cambodia? 

While tourism numbers increase, the trickle-down effect of benefits does not always reach communities. Allowing tourists to identify a wider reach of options has multiple benefits, including longer visits and trips away from major tourist hubs.

There are multiple Community-Based Organisations in Cambodia running a variety of businesses, some of those catering to tourism. In addition, there are many sites of interest that receive little or no promotion, or locations where access is not always clear. Given this, there is potential to highlight both known and unknown sites around the country. As these sites receive more visitors, there will be more spin-off revenue and chance for local entrepreneurs and communities to benefit.

Why was your organization looking for a skilled intern and in what way did Professionals doing good support you in the process?

Pdg sat with us and encouraged us to visualize not only what we needed doing, but what type of person would be best suited to providing what we needed.

Travolution had been highly focussed on background technical data (information to be offered, background database development, platform accessibility), and had only some initial basic visual layouts and concepts of what the product would look like. Maria Ana (came to us as a professional graphic designer. She worked with us through the visual concept development, from updating and refreshing our logo, creating a corporate identity manual to ensure all future branding is standardized, working through final web design graphics and layout, and on a variety of advertising materials. In additional, she worked with us to understand and explore various programs including Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign to give us the tools to work with the foundation she created.

What advice would you give to someone willing to volunteer in Cambodia? What does it take to make it a successful experience?

Matching of skill sets (what is offered vs what is required) is key. Professionals doing good do an in-depth analysis on both organisational requirements and volunteer abilities, in order to ensure a match that will benefit both sides. Beyond that a level of flexibility is required; as in working in any new country, norms differ to standards you are used to. Areas or concepts you would normally take for granted may require far more attention than you would have anticipated, while other areas you would normally put high focus on may not be so relevant, or are dealt with from a differing angle. This can at times lead to a ‘think on your toes’ approach, which can either be frustrating or satisfying depending on your personality and work-style. Regardless, the experience can allow to you re-examine how you normally approach things in the longer term.

Maria Ana not only brought in a wealth of experience from previous projects, but brought an open mind, and was able to suggest and work on concepts she felt would be beneficial to our goals

What advice would you give to a hosting organization looking for a professional volunteer? What does it take to make it a successful experience?

Professional volunteers can contribute to your organisation’s knowledge gaps. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in the areas you need – people tend to focus on what we know how to do and skirt around areas where we are not as knowledgeable. A professional volunteer can establish a strong business or organisational framework, improve your human resources, or your media image – depending on your needs. An important part of this is capacity transfer to your staff, to ensure continuity. You can work together with your volunteer to implement a training plan on relevant aspects.

Are you going to repeat the experience and search for another pro volunteer in the future and why?

Our experience with Maria Ana was very positive, and her work has had a fantastic impact on our project. We are very interested in another professional volunteer. We are currently doing an analysis to see the best fit, and would be excited with the chance to work further with Professionals doing good.

“We are a new start-up with the goal to promote tourism in rural areas and poor communities by ‘placing’ them on the map. We strongly believe that the best way to discover a country is the way of the locals.