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USA Today Article on Gulf Coast Relief Features Richer, Beckham

February 20, 2007

USA Today Article on Gulf Coast Relief Features Richer, Beckham
Feb. 20, 2007 – Mississippi Gulf Coast CVB Executive Director Steve Richer, CTP, and Tourism Cares Executive Director Bruce Beckham, CTP, were quoted in the Feb. 19 issue of USA Today as part of a front-page lead article on the importance of volunteers to the recovery process along the Gulf Coast.

The story, "Katrina ‘Voluntourists’ Make Labor a Vacation," talks about the many ways in which people coming to help rebuild have left their mark on Mississippi’s coastal communities, both in terms of the work they’ve done and in terms of the hope they’ve brought to residents. Richer, who estimates that half a million people have come to help in the past 18 months, said, "[The volunteers] have had a tremendous impact. When I look at the people all of us have been dealing with on a day-to-day basis, they are the one group that has brought nothing but hope."

It also talks about Tourism Cares, NTA’s official philanthropy, which was one of the early corporate organizations to send volunteers to Mississippi when it brought travel industry professionals into the area May 17-18, 2006. The 330 volunteers that helped with the Tourism Cares for America project, many of which were NTA members, worked on cleaning up and repairing seven tourism-related sites in the Biloxi and Gulfport area. The effort garnered national media attention for voluntourism and pointed out the need for more assistance in the areas destroyed by Katrina.

These types of volunteer vacations are nothing new to many NTA members, as they are a regular topic of discussion for the association’s Board of Directors and Leadership Team. Additionally, many member companies have continued to explore more of these types of offerings, as the demand has grown in recent years.

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