Here at EF Education First, we follow seven core values that guide everything we do, from how we interact with each other to the life-changing experiences we deliver to people around the world. We live our core values with joy and optimism – look to Fast Company’s review of our Very Blue Book (our culture book) that playfully guides new hires through what they can expect from their EF journeys.
Time and time again, when the going gets tough, EFers turn to these core values – and Entrepreneurial Spirit and Innovation have proved particularly useful during the COVID-19 pandemic. As would-be travelers followed orders to stay home, the team at EF Go Ahead Tours, our adult travel business, worked hard to bring the world to their travelers.
The solution? Online Escapes – a series of live, interactive classes and cultural experiences hosted by EF travel experts and partners that helps our travelers to expand their worldviews from home. From exploring ancient Egypt with an Egyptologist, to honing your photo skills with the help of a Costa Rican nature photography expert, to joining a local whiskey tasting in Scotland hosted by a small batch family distillery, Online Escapes has mobilized EF experts from around the world to offer experiences that are truly one of a kind and benefit a good cause.
“EF has an incredible legacy of in-person educational travel experiences, but we have a proven track record of digital innovation, too,” said Heidi Durflinger, President of EF Go Ahead Tours. “Online Escapes is just the latest example of that.”
This isn’t the first time EF activated its digital know-how during the COVID-19 pandemic. In China, EF’s language schools had to pivot online incredibly quickly. Working remotely, EF’s education, customer service and IT teams created a remote learning platform that students could use from home. More than 200,000 students in China have been migrated onto the platform.
EF Go Ahead Tours hopes Online Escapes will be a gateway through which customers can follow their travel passions long after their travel experience (or even before they start!). Tour Directors are a vital piece of that, and their knowledge is what makes EF’s group travel experiences so fun and memorable.
“Online Escapes has allowed people to come together and learn again, and to reach into different parts of the world in a very personal and fun way. Online, our travelers can see and talk to each other, and can experience that special ‘on tour’ camaraderie once again,” said Matt, a Tour Director for EF Go Ahead Tours. “This ability to share our passions with enthusiastic people has been a fantastic opportunity for us to work again in an industry that has been so affected by coronavirus.”
In designing Online Escapes, EF Go Ahead Tours wanted to support not only its travelers, but the areas in which many of them reside. Communities across the United States need extra support given COVID-19, so EF Go Ahead Tours teamed up with Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in the U.S. All proceeds from Online Escapes go toward providing the equivalent of 100,000 meals to Feeding America, as well as to supporting Tour Directors and hosts. EF has a longstanding relationship with the Greater Boston Food Bank, which is part of Feeding America’s program; EF’s annual holiday drives in Boston have donated more than 40,000 food items to the Greater Boston Food Bank.
“This was an important opportunity to support a crucial nonprofit here at home,” said Durflinger. “Online Escapes stands to create real impact for all involved, but, most impressively, no one was assigned to work on this project. A few people saw the potential, drafted a proposal, and ran with it. That desire and empowerment to do new things is a critical piece of why we love to work at EF.”
EF Go Ahead Tours offers more than 175 guided trips across all seven continents. Each carefully planned, expertly led tour makes it easy for curious travelers of all ages to get to the heart of a destination.