Global perspective and travel opportunities are as important as ever for young people. However, COVID-19 has provided a stark reminder that travel is an enormous privilege and we must think differently about how we approach it going forward.
While it’s tempting to focus on ‘getting back to normal’, we believe there’s a better way to shape our collective thinking: now is the time to commit to doing things better than we did previously.
Ideally, as we begin to emerge from the current raft of COVID restrictions and stay-at-home measures, school tours will be shaped to support students’ classroom and global learning experience. They will also allow young people to experience the world while understanding and minimising their negative environmental impacts, maximising the potential for positive, sustainable and conscious travel.
While many of us remain grounded for now, the current situation has provided an important opportunity for a reset of school touring programs. This is particularly true if your tours have been running for years without review for contemporary relevance.
We have identified six reasons why now is the time for school leaders to start working with a strategic partner to reimagine educational touring programs for 2022 and beyond. Over the next few weeks, we will delve into each of these topics in greater detail.
1. Embed a stringent focus on safety
Over the past 18 months, the very definition of what it means to travel safely has undergone a seismic shift.
Safety must always be the number one priority for any touring program. However, COVID safety protocols and risk management requirements across different jurisdictions means there is exponentially more planning and expertise required.
A strategic partner who manages end-to-end touring programs will ensure your people always remain COVID-safe, no matter where you are in the world. They will also help you navigate and manage the risk of COVID-related restrictions or border closures impacting your tour.
2. Create consistency and line-of-sight to school leadership
Prior to COVID, some schools took an ad hoc approach to touring. Individual teachers may have designed touring experiences themselves. In fact, some teachers we’ve spoken to over the years have confided concerns about tour design and administration having the potential to take time away from what they know and love best – teaching!
The other drawbacks of an ad hoc approach include inconsistency in offerings across a wide range of subjects; and difficulty in assessing the transformational value and education merit of tours.
What’s more, this ad hoc approach makes it much harder for school executives to have full visibility over choices made in logistics and operational decision-making, exposing the school to unnecessary financial and reputational risk.
Selecting the right partner will help raise your touring program to the executive level, which will enhance consistency, visibility and free up time for teachers to focus on what they do best!
3. Increase educational merit and outcomes
Touring experiences in a pre-COVID world often veered towards sightseeing rather than encouraging genuine educational outcomes. Post-COVID, we believe it is going to become a non-negotiable for schools to offer programs that are rich in meaning and integrity of experience.
A reset of your touring program in conjunction with the right partner will offer students the opportunity to meaningfully enrich their classroom learning with real-world experiences.
We recommend selecting a partner with deep expertise in experiential learning, such as workshops, simulations, role-plays and themed-guided tours. Students will benefit from experiencing real-world applications of the subjects they are learning; deepening their understanding and creating a space where they can interact with experts in their subject fields.
We suggest looking for a partner that has demonstrated capacity to design programs aligned with your school’s curriculum and unique culture. Ideally, all of your tours will be custom-designed from scratch – avoid “pre-packaged”, or “off-the-shelf itineraries” at all costs!
4. Offer students ethical community engagement and responsible experiences
In the past, many school touring programs included a focus on community service or conservation through service learning programs. Examples of this include orphanage visits, animal welfare programs and community interactions with Indigenous peoples.
These days, such exchanges are ethical grey areas and need to be researched and considered deeply during the planning and booking of your tour. The right touring partner will conduct this research for you and be able to provide specialised advice, ensuring your students are operating in ways which still support local communities, but are also ethically sound.
Your partner may also be able to align your touring program with your school’s Reconciliation Action Plan, as well as help to create pre- and post-tour content or even project-based learning opportunities for your students, maximising the learning impact and longevity of each individual tour.
5. Meet current stakeholder expectations around sustainability
As an industry, travel and tourism accounts for approximately 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, is responsible for disruption to significant habitats and has the potential to create negative social and environmental impacts on local communities.
As noted in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, existing climate change policies have been inadequate, with the planet warming more than previously estimated. What this means is that we are likely to see increased urgency around the implementation of carbon taxes, as well as pressure on organisations to reduce emissions.
We recommend selecting a touring partner with a clear commitment to sustainability and responsible travel. They will also be able to work with you to offset your unavoidable carbon emissions to reduce the environmental impact of your trip, should you wish.
Ideally, your partner will even design the tour so sustainability is a feature – for example, a focus on walking or using public transport in cities, purchasing food from local restaurants and markets, reduced reliance on single-use plastics, and daily reminders for students about responsible use of resources.
Many schools want to ensure programs abide by the highest ethical and sustainable standards. The right strategic touring partner will help you navigate the challenging issues outlined in the previous two points with ease.
6. Enhance your school’s brand, strategy and direction
Traditional off-the-shelf touring solutions limit your capacity to personalise powerful touring programs that are aligned to your school’s strategy, vision, brand and curriculum. What does your school want to be known for? What are your students passionate about?
The right strategic partner will work with you to dig deep into each of these considerations and design a personalised tour plan that is strategic, educational and helps to extend student agency and leadership.
What’s more, a touring program that meets all these criteria will become a compelling brand asset and marketing tool to drive enrolments.
If you are not already considering your school’s touring priorities for when travel restarts, then you are missing a valuable opportunity.
Now is the time to work with a strategic touring partner to build a program that is ‘future fit’ and meets the expectations of all stakeholders. It should be cutting edge, experiential and impactful in educational approach and considered in environmental, economic and social global impacts.
Please get in touch if you would like to find out how Latitude Group Travel can help you reset your school’s educational touring program for 2022 and beyond.
– The Latitude Group Travel Team