University of Washington Graduate Students Plan $1M Mission of Hope to Thailand

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A team of graduate students plan to send 1,000 goodwill ambassadors on an urgent Â?Mission of HopeÂ? to tsunami stricken communities in Southern Thailand. The goal is to inject $1M into the local economy, providing an economic boost to victims of the tsunami and their families who rely on tourism revenue for survival. Details can be found at http://www.springbreakrelief.org

Beginning March 18, a team of graduate students from the University of Washington’s (UW) School of Marine Affairs and Business School plan to send 1,000 goodwill ambassadors on an urgent ‘Mission of Hope’ to tsunami stricken communities in Southern Thailand. The goal is to inject $1M into the local economy, providing an economic boost to victims of the tsunami and their families who rely on tourism revenue for survival.

The team plans to send goodwill ambassadors from every state to witness history on an eight-day experience in Thailand. They will tour three communities hit by the tsunami and will interact with survivors who rely on the tourism industry. Thanks to participation from Rattana Dutthepnimit, the Managing Director of Krabi Thai Village Resort, Azumano Travel, of Portland, Oregon (an American Express Travel Services Representative), and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA http://www.pata.org ), this mission has been granted special airfares and hotel rates to make it very affordable for college students. The team has also developed materials to assist students with funding ideas and has arranged for some students to be eligible to receive academic credit.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for students from many disciplines to study the effects of a natural disaster while expressing their solidarity with the victims, providing a much needed economic boost, and most importantly, personally delivering a message of hope,” said Benjamin Brigham, the mission’s organizer.

This mission was inspired by the recent trip taken Feb. 6-18 by Brigham, a Master’s Candidate at the UW School of Marine Affairs who is studying the effects of the tsunami on the Tourism Industry. Brigham was invited to join the PATA delegation on the 61-member Flight of Friendship-A Journey to Save Jobs (http://www.flightoffriendship.com), a mission organized by PATA member Azumano Travel.

“While groups like NW Medical Teams and Mercy Corps are doing their best to help victims of the disaster, we must do something to get people who rely on tourist dollars back to work, helping their families,” said Sho Dozono, President and CEO of Azumano Travel.

“Without tourists, many local families are wondering how they and their businesses will make it until next year,” says Brigham. With current vacancy rates near 90%, Brigham hopes this mission will help stabilize these popular tourist communities. According to the Research and Statistics Division of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, an American tourist contributes $96 per day in tourism revenue, which suggests that if the team meets their goal of sending 1000 ambassadors, this ‘Mission of Hope’ could generate nearly $1M in tourism revenue for three communities who desperately need it.

The team plans to have groups departing each week between March 18 and June 30. Booking information is available at http://www.springbreakrelief.org. For more information please call 206.853.1804.

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Ben Brigham

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