Whats the deal with Volunteer tourism?
Photo: Recycling program in Boeung Kunchung school in Cambodia, This World Exists, Ana Lara.
On this episode we explore one of the most controversial topics of the travel industry: Volunteer Tourism, or voluntourism.
But what exactly is volunteer tourism? According to Rando (2004:7), volunteer tourism involves travel “not only for the purpose of travel experience but also to make a valuable contribution to the host region in the form of volunteering”. Paula Adamek, one of our incredible collaborators on the blog explains that “volunteer projects range in length and purpose, destination and experience required, yet they all seem to have one thing in common: the desire to be of benefit to others.” But is not about being of benefit to others, volunteer tourism offers travellers a way to contribute to something meaningful.
Martine Barker (2008) argues that travellers are seeking for more hands-on travel opportunities, so volunteerism fulfils this desire to visit, experience and give back to other communities.
This sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
Problem is, to what extent will these travel experiences actually help and benefit the host communities? As you can see in other collaborators entries, there are many issues involving this travel trend, such as: commodification of the Other, bad construction of schools and clinics that end up causing more harm than good, as they are built by tourist with little knowledge of construction; travellers doing jobs that could be done by locals to contribute to their local economies, and so on.
To read more about Volunteer Tourism and the experiences different collaborators have had click here!