We’ve interviewed Denis Smorchkov, General Manager of TravelWorks, who after starting a successful outbound Youth and Student travel company, he decided to offer similar work-experience opportunities by bringing students to Russia:
Tell us your story. How did your business get started?
For the past 15 years TravelWorks has become a large international company with its main headquarters in Russia and Kazakhstan, that evolves Russian-speaking outbound branch of Youth and Student Travel industry. Gaining more and more influence and popularity in the industry and being successful in what we do, we decided to go into inbound development. Our one and only mission is sharing Life Changing Experience and promoting the concept of intercultural exchange. For a long time we have worked with Career Development and Volunteering programs, sending students to almost 50 countries from all over the world, when it hit us – we live in a fabulous country, which is not represented on the world’s arena anyhow. But no one can ever challenge the fact that Russia is always in the middle of global society’s attention despite its twisted reputation. Promotion of our country for already 6 years shows that our programs not only valued for the working component, but for giving a one in a lifetime opportunity to get to know this country, to feel how amazing it is and understand how misinformed we are.
What are your unique selling points? What makes you different?
Being the only inbound provider in our motherland is already a thing which makes us different from other companies. We are not like others from in the first place. But I can tell you why our work is unique:
Our headquarters is located outside Moscow, we can have more staff members with less financial expenses for high-quality productiveness. e.g. our overseas relations officers speak a number of European languages plus Mandarin. In addition to that we are proud of our in-house marketing department and IT support team, they enable us to provide great individual marketing for our partners.
As TravelWorks has been performing on this market in terms of outbound opportunities for a number of years, right now we cover pretty much all Russian regions. It allows us to have a vast network of offices and regional partners, so we are ready to help our foreign guests in no time, always being on hand, no matter where our newcomer is in terms of territory or time zones. Also our host families come from different cultures and backgrounds, not mentioning the diversity of marvellous landscapes and beauties of our nature. So immediate help and support and unbelievable number of host from all over the country are our strengths.
What are some of your success stories?
There has been not a single claim ever since the time we started our inbound branch. We believe this feedback that we get from each and every participant is true success itself. May be not even just success, but the perfect model of how our business must work.
Which trends do you see in types of programmes you offer?
Our programs suit broad audience from undergraduate students to young professionals. Those opportunities can match everyone starting from a teenager to an adult. All the programs we offer are English-speaking, so your home country, native language, gender or religions are not important, the only requirement is fluent English. Anyone can be a summer camp counsellor, an intern or a teacher on paid basis with free board and lodging. The absolute trend is summer camp staff, all our camps are English-speaking, and they are not about standard lessons with teachers, here students play interactive games, attend cookery masterclasses and simply hang out with other foreigners. They are situated in suburbs or popular holiday destinations in Russia. The most popular locations our participants choose are the Black Sea coast and the well-known city of Sochi, home of of the 2014 Winter Olympics. But if participants are more interested in the beach, then they would be suited to Anapa, Gelendzhik or Tuapse.
Which challenges do you see in the educational/study programmes for companies?
We try to live up to our values, making our work meaningful. The idea of Russia being not represented in the industry at all made us start the promotion of inbound programs. It’s difficult to imagine: our part of the world, almost ⅙ of the land isn’t presented to the audience. To be more specific, it is presented, however this image is totally different from what is real and what we can show. I believe this lack of trustworthy information is a great challenge not only for us, but for plenty companies. The way how we deal with it is our Alumni Network, which lives and flourishes with help and support of our ex Career Development participants.
What activities outside of work do you offer for young people?
At first, everyone arrives to Moscow, no matter where he/she is placed. It provides a great chance to experience the capital, giving two days’ guided tour of Moscow, with hotel accommodation included in the cost of every program. It’s only a beginning of cultural part of the program, working and living in a chosen city candidates with host families as well as new friends and colleagues go to concerts, local festivals, get a taste of the nightlife and visit other cities on the days off. During pre-arrival meetings personal coordinators encourage both applicants and host family members to travel more, immerse into culture and get the insider’s opinion on the country.
What support/safety is provided for young people joining your programmes?
Before new comers arrive in Russia, they undertake a briefing with a personal TravelWorks coordinator, in which they discuss travel details including the flight and arrival at the airport, what is needed to bring with you, details about the accommodation, working conditions and human and working rights. During this briefing participants have the opportunity to discuss any issues or questions which might be concerning them. The same coordinator is responsible for 24/7 support from the first moment of country’s entry. Undoubtedly, medical insurance for the whole trip is provided from our side.
What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?
We are motivated by the same values that made us to take this high road. We want to change this industry from the inside, bringing positive innovation and trends and we can do it together with WYSE Travel Confederation. TravelWorks is always open to new projects and proposals, eagerly making them affordable and desirable for the youth.
For more information visit their website http://travelworks.ru/.
To meet more companies like TravelWorks, join us at WETM-IAC Conference in March 2017 in Munich. You can register for WETM-IAC Conference 2017 at our conference website.
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