Whole Foods Market Branding Voluntourism?

We hear Whole Foods Market (WFM) will offer voluntourism to customers. Its Whole Planet Foundation has teamed up with Global Vision International (GVI) to create its own Volunteer Program. Whole Foods Market founded Whole Planet Foundation (WPF) in 2005 with the mission to create economic partnerships with the poor in those developing communities that supply their stores with product.

wholefoods - Whole Foods Market Branding Voluntourism?

They will offer 15 day tours to Guatemala, Costa Rica or India with costs ranging from $2,345-$2,595 (excluding airfare). The package includes local style accommodation, all meals, in-country staff, all in-country transportation, excursions, activities, park entrance fees where applicable, and contribution to Whole Planet Foundation.

Here is an excerpt from their draft Program Guide:

“Customers are able to learn about and engage with the country, its communities and environment, and how WFM interacts with its in country Stake Holders. Customers will:

• learn about and engage with local micro-financing through the Whole Planet
• receive 10 hours of language lessons to meet and work with community members
• meet WFM Whole Trade suppliers, seeing how and where the produce is grown
and meeting the people who supply our stores
• learn about organics and the importance and benefits of Whole Trade
• work on a well respected Whole Foods education and sustainable development
project in a local community
• enjoy a local cookery lesson using local produce from the nearby market
• explore the stunning locations and environments and be immersed in the local
culture and customs
• see and engage with sustainable development initiatives”

We think this program is a great way for Whole Foods to provide faithful customers an introduction to its suppliers, supply chains and philanthropic activities overseas; to bring awareness to its corporate commitment to social responsibility; and to build customer loyalty. Obviously this is targeted at WFM’s loyal customer base. It could be perceived as company indoctrination for the cynically minded among us. You will experience and work with local communities, but essentially these trips are for customers to see and endorse the “Whole Foods philosophy” – with customers footing the bill.

More importantly, by incorporating elements of its own activities in these trips, WFM is essentially “branding” – could this be the start of branded voluntourism?

What do you think of Whole Foods Market’s entry into branded voluntourism? Would you go?

Photo by leezie5

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