Under the umbrella of the World Heritage Alliance, Expedia, Inc. and the United Nations Foundation announced today two groundbreaking programs in the Yucatán Peninsula – the Expedia® Employee Program and the World Heritage Alliance Industry Training Program on Responsible Tourism. The programs, taking place June 19-30, are the first major programs to be launched under the recently created World Heritage Alliance and will benefit the World Heritage sites, nearby communities, consumers who travel to these sites, and Expedia® employees.
First, the Expedia® Employee Program will pair selected Expedia staff volunteers with a local Sian Ka’an community-based tourism enterprise, Community Tours Sian Ka’an, working to enhance sustainable tour offerings in this World Heritage site located a few hours south of Cancun. The second, the World Heritage Alliance Industry Training Program on Responsible Tourism, is the partners’ first effort to encourage hotels, tour operators, and other tourism companies in the region to promote responsible tourism to the region’s World Heritage sites. The World Heritage Alliance Industry Training Program on Responsible Tourism will run in four locations in the Yucatán Peninsula: Campeche, Mérida, Cancún, and the Riviera Maya.
“We applaud Expedia for setting a vision for how the tourism industry can work together with local sustainable suppliers, and the industry as a whole, to encourage travelers to visit and enjoy the world’s treasures in a responsible way,” said UN Foundation President, Timothy E. Wirth.
Millions of people travel to Mexico every year to enjoy the Yucatán region’s five World Heritage sites – Chichen Itzá, Uxmal, City of Campeche, Calakmul, and Sian Ka’an. Recognizing this large interest in World Heritage tourism, the World Heritage Alliance Industry Training Program will work with travel industry representatives from throughout the region to shape the way travel strengthens and sustains these sites in the future. The local site sponsors involved in this Program are Campeche and Merida Tourism Board, Hyatt Hotels in Merida, Grand Melia in Cancun, Grand Xcaret, Best Day, Hotel Tankah Paradise and Quintana Roo Tourism Board.
The goal of the Training Program is to help employees at concierge desks, activity desks, or in any customer service role to promote World Heritage and explain the benefits of responsible tourism to travelers. The Alliance has teamed up with The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) and Destination Ventures, Ltd., to create interactive learning seminars, online learning programs, and educational brochures for the Training Program.
National Geographic Traveler and the Mexico Tourism Board have also joined this effort and will each design free, educational materials available to travelers throughout the region. These resources will provide information about World Heritage sites and helpful tips on how to travel responsibly when visiting these destinations. All Training Program participants will receive these materials for distribution to their customers as a way to practice the skills learned through the Program.
“We are proud of both our employees and our suppliers in the Yucatán region who have taken the initiative to work with us on this important cause,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Expedia, Inc. “This is the first of many activities Expedia will be participating in to advance sustainable tourism in destinations in which we do business.”
The Expedia® Employee Program will help meet the complex business needs of Community Tours Sian Ka’an (CTSK), a locally, predominantly Mayan owned tourism cooperative working to ensure protection of the delicate mix of coral reefs, mangroves, clear deep water pools, and forests, which are increasingly drawing tourists southward from nearby Cancún and the Riviera Maya. The Expedia® Employee Program will include a two-week knowledge-sharing effort between five selected Expedia employees and participating members of CTSK. The teams will work together on product development, relationship management, and website design, helping CTSK enrich tourists’ experiences and strengthen their community while still preserving the World Heritage site.
More than 60 Expedia, Inc. employees submitted applications for this first-ever employee volunteer program, which the company created and funded as part of its commitment to advancing community-based tourism development in and around World Heritage sites. The five who were selected are Megan Kiester, group program manager; Olger Palma, finance manager; Janice Lichenwaldt, category manager; Dustin Warr, director of strategic accounts; and Josh Williams, senior UI designer.
“It’s encouraging to see a corporation take a responsible stance as Expedia has in supporting sustainability, and I’m excited that I have been chosen to participate,” said Josh Williams, an employee of Hotwire®, a subsidiary of Expedia, Inc. who will work with CTSK on improving its web site design as a way to draw in new customers and streamline booking procedures.
The participating Expedia employees will blog their experiences with CTSK online at: http://whavolunteerprogram.wordpress.com.
Expedia is also helping to promote responsible tourism in the region through the Sian Ka’an World Heritage activity, newly launched on Expedia.com® with the help of Community Tours Sian Ka’an. This activity, which will feature CTSK’s “Muyil Forest and Float” and “Punta Allen Eco-Adventure” tours will be added to the other 11 featured World Heritage vacation packages currently available on Expedia.com®. All profits from the World Heritage destinations featured on http://www.expedia.com/worldheritage will be donated to the Friends of World Heritage Fund at the UN Foundation.
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About the World Heritage Alliance
The World Heritage Alliance works to support World Heritage conservation, sustainable tourism, and local economic development for communities in and around World Heritage sites. The UN Foundation and Expedia, Inc. created the World Heritage Alliance in the fall of 2005. For more information, visit: www.worldheritagealliance.org.
About the UN Foundation
The United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation) is a public charity created in 1998 with businessman and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic gift to support United Nations causes. The UN Foundation promotes a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world through the support of the UN. Through its grant-making and by building new and innovative public-private partnerships, the UN Foundation acts to meet the most pressing health, humanitarian, socioeconomic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century. In one of its largest projects, the UN Foundation works with UNESCO and other partners to preserve and support World Heritage sites by encouraging economic development that vest local residents in the preservation of the sites.
About Expedia, Inc.
Expedia, Inc. is the world’s leading online travel company, empowering business and leisure travelers with the tools and information they need to easily research, plan, book, and experience travel. Expedia, Inc. also provides wholesale travel to offline retail travel agents. Expedia, Inc.’s portfolio of brands include: Expedia.com®, hotels.com®, Hotwire®, Expedia® Corporate Travel, TripAdvisor™ and Classic Vacations®. Expedia, Inc.’s companies also operate internationally with sites in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, and China, through its investment in eLong™. For more information, visit http://www.expediainc.com/. (NASDAQ: EXPE).
For More Information:
• Individuals looking to get informed and involved, please visit: www.friendsofworldheritage.org
• Travelers looking for World Heritage trips, please visit: www.expedia.com/worldheritage
• For a full listing of all 812 World Heritage sites, please visit: http://whc.unesco.org/
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U.S. and international media please contact:
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Expedia, Inc.: Laura Pinones at (425) 679-7332 or (425) 533-1212 or email@example.com
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