Collette pledging $200K to support Ukrainian humanitarian efforts

PAWTUCKET – Being in the travel industry, Collette Travel Services Inc. has had a close eye on the unfolding crisis going on in Ukraine with Russian forces invading the neighboring country and observing it with shock and sadness.

Now, the local travel agency is making a substantial contribution through its Collette Foundation charity initiative to help Ukrainian refugees and other individuals impacted by the invasion. Collette announced Monday it has through the foundation pledged $200,000 to support humanitarian organizations on the ground in Ukraine.

Collette President Jaclyn Leibl-Cote told Providence Business News Monday that one of the initial grants funded through the contribution, $25,000, will support food nonprofit World Central Kitchen to provide hot meals to Ukrainian refugees. Funds will also be given to California-based humanitarian nonprofit Direct Relief for health and medical needs, she added.

Collette Foundation has made pledges in the past, such as doing a “Million Meals” campaign to help hungry children, Leibl-Cote said, but this is believed to be the first such humanitarian pledge provided by Collette to a war-type situation. Leibl-Cote said Collette will continue to assess the situation and give organizations helping Ukrainians additional funds within that $200,000 pledge where needed.

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“It’s just the right thing to do,” Leibl-Cote said, “to help and support either trying to leave the country and just support them any way we can.”

Additionally, Collette has decided to cease operating tours in Russia and withdrew all other business interests “for the foreseeable future,” Leibl-Cote said. She said Collette will not support any tourist dollars going into Russia while Vladimir Putin is president and the invasion into Ukraine continues.

Leibl-Cote said Collette had a Russian tour that was designed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic taking hold, as well as a Baltics tour that also visits St. Petersburg, Russia. The Russian tour and the St. Petersburg portion of the Baltics tour have been taken offline by Collette, she said.

Leibl-Cote said Russia was a destination people were traveling to before the pandemic and the financial implications for the company in temporarily taking the country off its tour schedule is unknown at the time.

“We’re just still in the recovery stage from COVID,” she said, “and hoping this [Russia-Ukraine situation] stays contained as travel resumes.”

Leibl-Cote also said trends are showing that people are once again interested in traveling after two years of the pandemic putting much of that on hold. She said Collette, while not projected to hit 2019 figures, is still looking at growth in excess of 200% from two years ago. She also said there was “a lot more” domestic travel in 2021 and now international travel is starting to rebound.

Europe, Leibl-Cote said, is a “key destination” and the company hopes other European destinations, such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Iceland, can be highly attractive for travelers in lieu of Russia.

“Those places aren’t close [to Ukraine and Russia], so people are still comfortable and … there’s still that itch to travel after being shut down for so long. It is a balancing act and we’re continuing to watch what’s happening every single day, and make decisions to pull any product offline as needed.”

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.