Digital Catalyst Corps | Interns Team with Tourism Entrepreneurs For Mutual Success

Meg Pier | Last Updated on May 7, 2021

Win-Win for Digital Interns & Cultural Tourism Entrepreneurs

People Are Culture's Digital Catalyst Corps is a program that brings together university students and community tourism companies for mutual success. Both college graduates and tourism entrepreneurs today face bleak prospects thanks to COVID and other systemic weaknesses in both education and the travel industry. Through the use of digital storytelling, PAC's Digital Catalyst Corps offers hands-on apprenticeships for emerging professionals to partner with community tourism companies in promoting local culture and arts.

According to a February 2021 Wall Street Journal piece, millions of students are set to graduate this spring into the worst job market in decades. The Journal cites data from Burning Glass Technologies, a labor-market analytics firm, that found that since the start of the pandemic, hiring for entry-level college graduate positions has fallen 45%, more than for any other category of education. Worse, the article says, is that those who graduate into underemployment are five times more likely to remain stuck in mismatched jobs after five years compared with those who start in a college-level job. Ten years later, three-quarters of workers underemployed at the five-year mark haven’t progressed.

Meanwhile, the travel and tourism sector has been devastated by COVID, on the heels of the dire consequences of rampant over-tourism.

Digital Catalyst Corps

One solution to this multi-dimensional problem is the PAC Digital Catalyst Corps. This innovative apprenticeship program was created to help emerging professionals be prepared for meaningful digital employment and to accelerate the success of cultural tourism entrepreneurs.

The Digital Catalyst Corps takes its inspiration from the practice of apprenticeship, with roots in crafts guilds of the Middle AgesOther models include the Peace Corps, a U.S. volunteer program founded in 1960 by presidential candidate John F. Kennedy to provide international social and economic development assistance; StoryCorps, founded in 2003 to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people.

PAC's Digital Catalyst Corps pairs teams of university students in communications, journalism, filmmaking, marketing or tourism programs with local community-based tourism operators based in emerging destinations.

Together, students and entrepreneurs create digital destination branding campaigns that feature local artisans. Through digital print interviews, photo essays and videos, the campaigns share their personal and professional stories of cultural standard-bearers, against the backdrop of their cultural landscape, heritage and traditions.

These edutainment pieces are featured on the People Are Culture YouTube channel and marketed to students, travelers, and culture enthusiasts. Think National Geographic, multi-billion dollar media property Home Shopping Network and reality TV.

The People Are Culture website and youTube channel both reach an ever-growing global audience that is approximately 50% U.S., 10% U.K., 7% India, and 5% Canada.

Digital Catalyst Corps

Internship Teams

PAC's Digital Catalyst Corps offers university teams the opportunity to engage in a practical and comprehensive program either as content creators or PR/Marketing interns. University teams need to encompass six full-time interns available for a minimum commitment of two months.

Since 2016, PAC has hosted interns from institutions such as Boston University, Endicott College and Hult International Business School in the U.S.; Richmond University in London; and USI in Switzerland. Check out portfolio pieces of past PAC interns and see what they have to say about their experience!

The objective of the internship is to create marketing content for a community-based cultural tourism company that supports local artisans. This content would encompass videos, digital print interviews, stories and photo essays that would be published on the PAC site and YouTube channel, and promoted on its social media accounts.

PAC's Digital Catalyst Corps offers a virtual practicum for university students seeking to develop hands-on experience in designing marketing content, brand campaigns, and social media strategies. Each incoming cohort will work as a team to develop and execute an original storytelling initiative focused on local cultural stewards for inbound community- based cultural tourism companies.

The Digital Catalyst Corps offers a win-win opportunity for students to create success metrics, build impressive portfolios, and develop real-world skills, while also contributing to the success of a tourism business. A university participating in PAC’s Digital Catalyst Corps affords its students an opportunity to showcase their talents and what they’ve created in a unique and meaningful internship program.

Digital Catalyst Corps

Community-Based Cultural Tourism Entrepreneurs

Catalysts for Opportunity, Understanding and Inclusion

Sustainable tourism is often equated with environmental and wildlife conservation. In point of fact, we humans are also a part of most eco systems. So, sustainability encompasses not only the health of our planet, but our ability as a species to create and maintain healthy, resilient and inter-connected communities. In fact, 12 of the U.N.'s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) relate directly to the "people" piece of the sustainability equation--namely, different dimensions of our economic and social well being.

The World Travel and Tourism Council reports that the total contribution of the travel and tourism industry in 2019 accounted for 10.4 percent of the total GDP worldwide.

Yet much of that profit is not going into the pockets of the communities that are hosting tourists. And for every destination that confronted over-tourism prior to pandemic, there are countless places that remain off the radar screen. Such locales may have pristine scenery, rich cultures, and the desire and logistical capacity to welcome travelers, but don't have the marketing expertise or platforms to reach potential visitors.

As travel slowly resumes, under-touristed destinations more than ever need the income that tourism can provide--but lack the means or ability to effectively market themselves on the world stage. How can communities that are economically challenged but ripe for tourism be empowered to use their knowledge of their own culture, their creativity and their voices to let travelers know they exist and welcome visitors?

Digital Catalyst Corps

Bright Spots | Creative Economy & Authentic Cultural Tourism

And while the U.N. has declared 2021 the International Year of the Creative Economy, an Aspen Institute report states artisan enterprise is not generally considered a key driver of economic growth, nor looked to as a major component of development assistance efforts. This is despite artisan activity being the second largest employer in the developing world.

A recent study by OECD states that along with the tourism sector, cultural and creative sectors are among the most affected by the current crisis, and the effects will be long lasting.

Yet there are meaningful bright spots!

According to Travel Weekly, “...‘Living like a local’ will go up a notch with holiday-makers getting so under the skin of a destination, they consider themselves honorary citizens. Fueled by the rise in sustainable tourism and growing awareness to put tourist dollars to good use by supporting local communities, travelers will seek out more local experiences than ever before.”

An Expedia study says getting the authentic version of a place will be of growing importance to travelers. The report says that travelers are eager for cultural experiences that are more interactive than gazing through the window of a tour bus. They want to know where the hidden gems are, and they want to connect with the local culture and people.

“According to our members, travelers want to forge deeper connections to the people, traditions and customs of the places they are visiting, and these experiences add a meaningful and memorable component to a vacation,” says Terry Dale, president/CEO of USTOA, in a report published by travel industry consultants Peak & Skift.

There is a market for local community-based tourism companies that feature artisans. With the support of PAC's Digital Catalyst Corps, emerging destinations can reach travelers around the world interested in experiential, immersive and culturally-focused tourism.

More than 241,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served in 143 countries since that program’s inception. More than a half a million people have recorded their stories with StoryCorps since its launch. With the proper support, PAC’s Digital Catalyst Corps can achieve similar success that can be deployed in fields beyond tourism to fully realize a truly global creative economy.

People are Culture