Creating a Unified Vision for Social Responsibility

In the August 2015 issue of Resort Trades, we looked at how doing good is good for business. With the rise in global citizenship, a commitment to social responsibility is now essential for owner and employee retention. Owners are more likely to remain engaged with a resort that actively gives back to its community, and resorts with social responsibility programs tend to have higher employee morale.

There’s a strong chance that you and your employees are already giving back. I’ve observed that many resorts are deeply involved in their local communities, and the industry as a whole has a passion for social responsibility.

Just consider Christel House, which provides education and other services to children from low-income families. Started in 1998 by RCI co-founder Christel DeHaan, Christel House is the charity of choice for thousands of timeshare resorts worldwide. Companies have rallied around the cause, stocking Christel House coffee, hosting annual golf tournaments, donating auction items, and facilitating voluntary payroll contributions.

In a similar partnership, more than a dozen timeshare developers, travel clubs, and exchange companies provide breast cancer survivors with complimentary resort accommodations through the non-profit Send Me On Vacation. Resorts donate association-owned inventory that would otherwise sit empty, and women who could not afford a vacation enjoy much needed time away with their families.

Both Christel House and Send Me On Vacation demonstrate the timeshare industry’s deep commitment to social responsibility. A similar commitment is evident at the local level, especially among resorts that participate in charity walks, beach clean ups, recycling programs, and volunteer days. In short, there’s no lack of passion for giving and sustainability.

In early 2014, Grand Pacific Resorts began vetting charity partners in conjunction with our rebranding of ResorTime. In the process, we discovered that our resorts, employees, owners, and guests were already supporting a variety of causes. For example, Red Wolf Lakeside Lodge in Tahoe Vista, California, helped raise more than $56,000 for a community dog park, and Hanalei Bay Resort in Princeville, Hawaii, participated in the 36th Annual Kauai Visitor Industry Charity Walk to benefit the United Way.

However, as is true of many companies, our efforts felt disjointed and lacked a clear vision. We needed to identify a unifying outcome—one that recognized the multifaceted impact of social responsibility on our triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. In doing so, we wanted to multiply the positive effect on our brand, reputation, engagement, and overall culture.

Our focus quickly shifted from developing new partnerships to helping our resorts work together in the context of a cohesive social responsibility program. It’s easier and more affordable than you think when you engage employees and owners and take a “What Matters to You, Matters to Us” approach. We launched beCause Destination Matters in mid-2014 and our marketing and communications department became the hub in order to bring greater awareness and support to the totality of our efforts.

Our non-profit partners benefit tremendously from this collaboration. At the same time, we’ve seen our brand grow. Many businesses take a tax deduction and assume they’ve received all the benefits of their donation. But we’ve learned that giving can be leveraged to enhance existing relationships and attract new opportunities through the increased media exposure and positive feelings that giving naturally generates.

Grand Pacific Resorts is still developing a unified social responsibility program. However, our story suggests that there is a significant opportunity for the industry.

What about the hundreds of non-profit organizations receiving donations from timeshare resorts and all the hours spent volunteering each year? What if we had a shared channel for spreading the word about all the impactful things happening at timeshares? If we work together to amplify the power of our giving, perhaps we could do more for our world even as we elevate the industry.

Other industries are coming together to advance social responsibility. Cruise lines have the Cruise Industry Charitable Foundation. Winemakers in my home state have the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. Even U.S. and Mexican produce growers are getting in on the trend, forming the International Fruit & Vegetable Alliance for Social Responsibility earlier this year.

The ARDA Circle of Excellence Community Service and Circle of Excellence Philanthropic Awards provide an excellent platform for recognizing individual resorts and companies, along with the Awards and Philanthropy section of Developments magazine. Is the next step for our industry to consider creating a unified approach to social responsibility?

What are your thoughts? What causes are you already supporting, and how do you think the industry could support your efforts? Let’s get the conversation started.