Case study: Via Vai Travel’s educational programmes

WHO  Via Vai Travel is a Hong Kong-based travel company specialising in cultural trips to various parts of the world.

WHAT Via Vai Travel sends groups of students to overseas summer schools, including The American School in England in the UK and Bodwell in Canada. Other destinations that have been covered include India, Macau, Japan and Israel.

Said Via Vai Travel director, Sef Lam: “We give recommendations based on the students’ ages and what they like. We book the flights and liaise with the school to make sure the children are met at the airport and brought to the school. If there is a flight delay or flight change, we immediately tell the school. On arrival, the school informs us that the children have been met and we call the parents right away. With mobile phones nowadays, the kids also just call home and say they have arrived safely.”

Lam added that she also works with schools for other types of learning trips involving language, music, theatre and drama, etc.

She said: “For example, they may have already chosen the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial or Setouchi International Art Festival in Japan. We give them airline and hotel or hostel choices, and suggest several other places along the way or nearby that they can visit, and local festivals that they can enjoy. We try to arrange for more local interaction like having a meal at a local home. For this, we liaise with 15 different families to make sure there is enough space for the whole group.”

WHY Interestingly, Lam began creating such programmes out of personal necessity. “I started the summer school programme when my own children were growing up and I was looking for summer schools for them. It had to be somewhere they could learn to appreciate a new place, a new culture, learn English and meet students from other countries,” explained Lam.

However, she pointed out that many of her existing clients prefer using a company like hers to find the quickest, cheapest or the best routing for their needs, as booking such trips on their own would be too time-consuming and risky.

TARGET The summer school programmes are more ad hoc, but Lam intends to grow the adult educational tour business, which includes museum and architectural tours as well as themed trips featuring UNESCO World Heritage sites.

As for the school programmes, Lam said the goal was student development. “I have seen students return from a trip changed – so much more mature, so much more aware of their surroundings. They begin to appreciate another culture, and they become more aware of their own culture and history. They learn that people do share a lot of common values, and they develop a more global perspective.

“Travel makes the mind grow, and we hope the students make lifelong friends during these summer programmes and develop a willingness to get out of their own comfort zone, think out of the box and become a world citizen,” she added.

This article was first published in TTG Asia, July 13, 2012, on page 10. To read more, please view our digital edition or click here to subscribe.

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