Increased awareness of world issues and global needs has led to a rise in the desire to help others abroad. Travelers want to reconnect with humanity, find a sense of meaning, and help their global neighbors in a hands-on way, rather than simply through monetary contributions. While there has been some push-back questioning the merits of voluntourism, many eager travelers are still looking for opportunities where their time and skills will be useful to others.
What is Voluntourism?
Voluntourism, the responsible travel experience which combines helping, learning, and exotic traveling, is becoming increasingly popular for people of all ages who are concerned with world issues and social responsibility. Travelers use their holidays to give back to others, rather than as pure recreation. These trips can be anywhere in length from a few days to a few months. Projects can involve teaching, building schools or other infrastructure, helping with agriculture, or assisting with disaster relief.
Participants typically pay their own expenses when volunteering abroad, but some costs can be tax-deductible. In exchange for their time, voluntourists typically receive an affordable alternative to a vacation that includes orientation, language and technical training, a safe place to live and work under conditions common to the country, and a network of logistical staff to help plan the trip.
Types of Voluntourism
1. Philanthropic or donor travel. Travel philanthropy differs from other types of voluntourism in that its purpose is to supplement a philanthropic gift. Charitable organizations sometimes plan or even sponsor trips for their donors so that they can experience first-hand the work that the organization is doing. The trip could be intended to research a cause, establish a relationship with the recipient, or as reassurance that a philanthropic gift is worthwhile.
2. Private or group travel. Individuals or groups who want a charitable experience during vacation can participate in cultural or community exchanges in which they can volunteer their time. Families, groups, or individuals can create their own voluntourism holiday with a tour operator or join an existing trip with an organization.
3. Urgent service travel and disaster relief. There is an abundance of intense volunteer opportunities in second-response disaster zones after any type of natural disaster. This type of voluntourism tends to be less expensive than other types, although some organizations require that the participants raise additional donations above the cost of the trip. Skilled professionals like doctors and construction workers are in high demand, though almost anyone can help to provide immediate relief.
Voluntourism Marketing Strategies for Destinations:
- Review the region’s current service assets to identify unique opportunities for visitors.Creativity and uniqueness are important, because travelers have a variety of volunteer opportunities to choose from. Offering one-of-a-kind experiences to travelers with differentiate a destination from its competitors.
- Build on exisiting organizational relationships.Choose service projects that will also support tourism-related causes, issues, and events, such as museums, zoos, historic buildings, national parks, and conservation efforts that will interest tourists as well as connect them to the region’s other offerings.
- Add information about volunteering to destination websites. The Alabama Gulf Coast’s website promotes future travel experiences in voluntourism on its website and across its social media platforms as a fun activity to participate in that will preserve the coast for generations to come.
- Create a catalog of volunteering options for travel planners.Providing a program of unique voluntourism activities will interest tour operators as well as individual travelers. For example, partnering with zoos and national parks can provide sustainable conservation opportunities, while arts programs and museums can provide cultural opportunities for volunteers.