Report Predicts Big Opportunity for Voluntourism and Travel Philanthropy

The 2009 Sustainable Tourism Report is predicting a dramatic rise in development tourism, particularly in Africa, as a drive by tourism donors to use tourism to achieve the Millennium Development Goals gains momentum.

The report says “Numbers of disadvantaged countries can, at least be assisted with development tourism, which, properly instituted, can help to generate quick and sustainable economic benefits. The natural partners for these activities are the various new forms of voluntourism and the movement for travel philanthropy. There is no reason why this activity could not address, even in part, the food, water and population challenges that less developed countries face.”

Voluntourism and Travel Philanthropy currently appear to be niche growth areas within the travel industry and under developed countries could certainly benefit from an influx of tourists who would not demand high quality accommodation and sophisticated services, but who would also provide assistance and bring much-needed foreign currency.

Donor-funded tourism development appears to be able to assist in the achievement of the following MDG’s:

• Poverty Eradication
• Universal Primary Education
• Environmental Sustainability
• Gender Equality
• Child Mortality Reduction

According to the Overseas Development Institute and the World Bank, tourism brings

• Direct effects – such as employment earnings (tourism is a labour-intensive activity and uses a high level of unskilled and semi-skilled labour). Tourism can be a big employer in urban, and coastal areas and, possibly the only one in rural areas.

• Indirect Effects – occur through the tourism value chain, including inputs through food and beverage, construction, transportation, furniture and many other sectors. This inter-sectoral impact adds an extra 60-70% on top of the direct effects.

• Dynamic Effects – tourism development can affect the livelihood strategies of local households, the business climate for small enterprise development, patterns of growth of the local or national economy, and the infrastructure or natural resource base of the destination. Tourism also tends to employ a relatively high proportion of women and to purchase products, such as food and crafts, produced by women in the informal sector – and, as a result, may be able to enhance women’s economic positions and help overcome gender barriers.

The report is priced at:
Commercial entities & NGOs: UK£200, US$300, €240
Students & educational establishments: UK£100, US$150, €120
Any one of the 12 sections may be purchased individually at UK£25, US$38, €30 each.

VISION on Sustainable Tourism readers can benefit from a 50% discount on the above prices for orders made by 3 April 2009 ONLY

For further details and to order email: or visit:

Dos and Don’ts of Travel Giving

This is a great booklet that was just released by the Centre for Responsible Tourism, with so many volunteers coming back from their trips wanting to give back it seems only right for voluntourism operators to offer this or something similar.

What does your organization do to encourage responsible giving?

Dos and Don’ts of Travel Giving

Travelers’ desire to help, interact, and learn from those they meet during their holiday is clearly positive. However, there are sometimes unintended consequences from these good intentions.

Misguided contributions can perpetuate cycles of dependency, cause corruption, burden communities with unwanted or inappropriate donations, and require recipients to spend time and resources to handle ‘gifts’ they didn’t request or cannot use. As part of our Travelers’ Philanthropy program, the Center for Responsible Travel asked a dozen experienced tour operators and tourism organizations who are engaged in supporting local community projects how they respond to some of the most frequently asked questions and suggestions from travelers about ‘giving’ while on holiday.

Though they sometimes expressed differing views, overall they agree that when, how, and what to contribute needs to be decided by the host community, not the tourist or the tourism company.

To read the full excerpt and CRT’s takeaways visit:

Gap Year Travel Company Goes Bust

From the Daily Mail… what do you think???

A gap-year travel firm has gone into administration, leaving more than 150 cash-strapped teenagers stranded overseas, it was reported. Administrators were called into Global Xperience last week after the company – which places travellers on volunteer and adventure projects spanning six continents – fell victim to the recession.

A total of 163 young people on placements across the globe were given the news by letter and email, The Independent revealed.

Trade association body Year Out Group, said in a statement: ‘On March 13, 2009 Stephen Katz and David Birne of Fisher Partners were appointed joint administrators of The Ethical Travel Group Limited, which traded as Global Xperience. ‘

As a result of the administration Global Xperience is unable to fulfil its obligations in regard to future bookings with the company.’

Papers Presented at Voluntourism Effect Symposium

Im in Costa Rica taking media to meet the communities behind voluntourism – so this blog will be quite lame this week. I thought you might be interested in looking at the variety of papers presented last week at the GWTTRA Voluntourism Effect Symposium. If you{d like to see any of the below just let me know and Ill email you the presentations.

“Understanding Voluntourism: A Glaserian Grounded Theory Study” by Zoë Alexander and Ali Bakir, Faculty of Sport, Leisure and Tourism, Buckinghamshire New University

“The Mystery of The Voluntourist” by Nancy Gard McGehee, Hospitality and Tourism Management, Virginia Tech; David Clemmons,; and John Lee, Hospitality and Tourism Management, Virginia Tech
“Research Volunteer Tourism: Defining the Experience” by Angela M Benson, School of Service Management, University of Brighton

“The Sport Voluntourism Experience: Case Studies of Volunteers at the Olympics” by George Karlis, School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa

“The Global Citizens Network Model – An Intergenerational, Team Approach” by Linda Stuart, Global Citizens Network

“Carrying the Gift of Water, a Voluntourism Event” by Claudia Jurowski, School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, The W.A. Franke College of Business, Northern Arizona University

“Journeys of the Self: Volunteer Tourists in Nepal” by Eugenia Wickens, Faculty of Sport, Leisure and Tourism, Buckinghamshire New University

“Through the Eyes of Marx: The Labor in Volunteer Tourism of New Orleans” by Jennifer L. Erdely, Communication Studies Department, Louisiana State University

“Destination Marketing from a Sustainability Perspective” by Maria Aguilar, Deepak Chhabra, Kathleen Andereck, School of Community Resources &Development, Arizona State University, John Schlacter, WP Carey School of Business, Arizona State University
“Marketing in a Tough Economy” by Alexia Nestora,, Christina Heyniger, Xola Consulting, Inc.

Voluntourism Survey – Please Participate

Lasso, in conjunction with XOLA Consulting, is doing a survey of the voluntourism industry thru mid April. We’re hoping that since both Lasso and XOLA are not operators and are unbiased that we will be able to truly get some meaty results.

Here is where I beg for your participation.

How many times has a reporter asked you what the size of the voluntourism market in the US is? How many times do we have to hem and haw or use a number that we’re not sure where it came from? We’ve decided to put an end to the guessing game, let’s get some real meaty numbers.

Please participate so we can get an accurate pulse of the industry, this will help all of us.

All participants’ information will be kept strictly confidential and only the results, and a total list of companies that participated, will be produced – for free, for all to see.

Two ways to participate: wait until Christina Heyniger and I call your organization, or just send me an email with your answers (much appreciated).

Criteria to qualify as an operator in this survey:
– Have a US office
– Send US volunteers abroad
– Not faith based in anyway
– Volunteers have to pay to volunteer
– Travelers work for more than 4 days of straight volunteering (the idea with this is to eliminate the adventure companies that offer voluntourism as an activity)

Questions for operators that meet the criteria:

- To which countries do you currently send volunteers?

- What is the most popular activity for your volunteers? Building; Community Development; Conservation – Environmental, Wildlife, or Heritage; Scientific; Health Care; Skills Based Professional; Teaching; Other (please describe)

- How many US volunteers did you send abroad in 2008?

- Do you expect to send more or less volunteers abroad in 2009 than you did in 2008?

- What is your return rate for volunteers?

- Will you participate again next year if this becomes an annual survey?

Optional, if you have time:

- Do you feel the economy is affecting your business positively, negatively
or unaffected? What, if anything, have you done to counteract the effects of
the recession?

- Are there any valuable insights or lessons learned you would like to share
with the industry?
-Which term do you most associate with your organization? Voluntourism, volunteer tourism, volunteer vacation, volunteer travel, volunteer abroad?

Hotel Launches Voluntourism to Help Galveston Recover from Ike

I normally don’t put press releases up on the blog, but I thought this one was especially fitting when I received it. For all the voluntourism we advocate abroad, there are still real issues at home and Hotel Galvez has taken a shot at offering volunteer opportunities to help communities recover from the too often forgotten about Hurricane Ike.

Galveston Hotel – Hotel Galvez Offers Giving Back to Galveston Voluntourism Package

GALVESTON ISLAND, Texas (March 6, 2009) – Hotel Galvez, A Wyndham® Historic Hotel and National Trust Historic Hotel of America, is offering a Giving Back to Galveston Voluntourism package geared at travelers willing to roll up their sleeves to help the city recover from the effects associated with last year’s Hurricane Ike. According to city officials, Galveston has sustained an estimated $3.6 billion in damages and losses from Ike.

Confirmed guests are introduced to Help4Galveston, an organization dedicated to helping the city recover from Hurricane Ike. The package is based on double occupancy and is subject to availability and blackout dates.

The Tremont House, A Wyndham Historic Hotel which is anticipated to reopen in late May, will offer its Giving Back to Galveston Voluntourism Package beginning in June.

“There are many people are interested in helping Galveston recover,” said Patty Rouse, Hotel Galvez area director of sales and marketing. “We encourage these individuals and couples to visit and give a helping hand to the island and its residents.”

What is Social Media Marketing Anyway?

I tend to blab on about the importance of social media campaigns when I speak at conferences, and most of you look at me like I have two heads – so here is a little social media 101 from the folks at SEO Optimise as well as a Common Craft Video that’s really helpful.

“Yeah, I’ve launched an SEO campaign based on generating buzz through the blogosphere and increasing my link juice to ensure I get great SERP positioning…”

What is social media marketing
CC Image Credit: Flickr

Online marketing is a strange world to the outsider, filled with jargon, buzzwords and rapidly developing language. One phrase in particular which seems to confuse many of my clients is social media marketing. I often get asked: “Do you mean, erm, Facebook? when I go on about the benefits.

So – just what the hell is it?

Social media marketing

It is the use of social media websites, namely those which publish user-generated content and build online communities, to generate positive publicity and manage web-based corporate personas.

It is about conversing with consumers rather than pitching at them.


Well, where are customers conversing online? You may decide to go to them via existing online communities, or you may decide to entice them to you using specially-created forums, blogs and other content designed to drive debate and encourage comment and participation.

The web is filled with these communities. From big names like Beebo, Facebook, Twitter, and Digg to more niche spaces, such as NetMums, Econsultancy, even Cat Chat – whatever is best suited to whatever it is you sell.


There are numerous options and before starting any social media marketing campaign, you’ll need to decide what fits with your corporate identity. You probably would not, for example, use Beebo if you make cleaning technology for hospitals – it is not appropriate for your business.

You also need to decide whether or not you intend to go to your customers via existing communities, encourage them to align themselves with your brand through setting up groups within these communities, or create your own content and spaces to entice them to come to you.

As with all social marketing tactics, a combination should be designed based on your company’s specific identity, needs and goals.


Don’t pitch. Don’t pitch, don’t pitch, don’t pitch, don’t pitch. People using social media are socialising. You wouldn’t leap on a group in the pub and try to market at them, because that would create anger and bad feeling about your brand. So don’t do it online.

You need to add value to their internet time; doing that will encourage them back to your site, back to your brand, back to your products or services. However, simply trying to sell at them will swiftly alienate your clients and you will end up actually damaging your reputation.


A serious point to remember is that social media marketing is developing and, by its very nature, cannot be easily defined. A successful campaign is a carefully tailored one, there is no simple solution which works for all brands.

Furthermore, having begun this kind of marketing effort, it is essential to remember it is a long-term strategy; it won’t create overnight returns and it will take time to build these successful conversations. Building online relationships can be enormously satisfying, both in terms of creating a strong business image and through driving sales.

Financial Times Covers Voluntourism

Going on a Trip to Count Kenya’s Elephants By Michelle Jana Chan

There are grey elephants and brown elephants and black elephants – but nothing compares to the red elephants of Tsavo. Elephants may be created equal but, after a vigorous wallow in mud, the Tsavo breed of south-east Kenya are ablaze in the colours of terracotta, vermilion and claret. It is as if they are anointed by the burning equatorial sun and the rich, brick-red African soil.

I first saw them when I was seven. There were herds so vast that my dad turned off the engine of our rental car for half an hour until they had all crossed the road. Drought in the 1970s and the “ivory wars” of the 1980s decimated the population. At the last census, there were 12,000 elephants in Tsavo, one of Africa’s biggest national parks. Even after two decades of recovery, that number is one-third of what it was 40 years ago.

On this trip, I was coming back to count elephants as a volunteer on an Earthwatch conservation project. Travel industry pundits are calling this type of holiday “voluntourism” or, worse, affluent activism. A trip like this costs roughly the same as a beach holiday in Lamu in the Kenyan archipelago, with about the same time commitment, meaning you don’t have to quit your job or take a sabbatical.

Our group met in Nairobi at the Fairview Hotel. It turned out we were all women, which is not uncommon, according to Earthwatch. There were six of us, aged between 22 and 60 years, from Australia, the US, Japan and the UK. One was a student, one unemployed, another had a sparkling law career. It turned out we were all single – either widowed, divorced, broken-hearted or looking for love. Two had never seen an elephant in the wild; one was on her third “Elephants of Tsavo” expedition.

To read the rest visit:

Want a better, safer world? Volunteer

Voluntourism covered in the Christian Science Monitor again! Who says this story is dead???

Want a better, safer world? Volunteer By Michael Honda and Thomas Petri

To say that the Peace Corps changed our lives, our perspectives, and now our modus operandi as members of Congress, is a sweeping understatement. Serving in El Salvador and in Somalia respectively, we returned to the United States fundamentally transformed.

The impact was so profound that we are eager to urge every young American to consider serving in the Peace Corps or a domestic equivalent. Aside from the potential personal influence programs such as the Peace Corps can have on the individuals who volunteer, the capacity building is exactly what the world needs during these economic times.

If we could make assignments available to the 15,000 some Peace Corps applicants who applied in the past year, we would. If we could provide all the countries, who would like to host volunteers but don’t, with the human resources necessary to be successful, we would. If we could appropriate sufficient funds so that returning volunteers could continue to give back to underserved communities in the US, we would.

At the crux of this is the concept of service – service to our neighbors, near or far, in desperate need of a helping hand.

This is the ethos that was at the epicenter of Sargent Shriver’s work when he became the first director of the Peace Corps, as well as when he founded VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), the domestic equivalent. The model for these and other service programs is to recruit, train, and fund volunteers to work in local communities, enhancing skills, capacity, and knowledge in the areas such as education, health, business development, environment, youth, and agriculture.

While the Peace Corps is rightly oriented toward helping the global poor in the far reaches of the developing world, here in our own American backyard we have ample service opportunities – especially in the midst of our economic recession.

America is struggling. It ranks highest among developed nations in inequality levels and poverty rates.

Since joblessness often stems from lack of skills and poor education, one way of increasing employment is to better fund capacity-building service programs within high-need, low-income communities. By doing this, we can equip poor populations with the tools needed to better their economic situation.

Increased service in America can simultaneously make our country and global community safer because employment, education, and peace are interlinked. Statistics tell us, for example, that a 1 percent increase in unemployment is accompanied by a 6 percent increase in homicides. They tell us that a 10 percent drop in male enrollment in secondary school increases the risk of violent conflict by roughly 4 percent. And they show that the higher the percentage living in relative poverty, the higher the number of violent offenses.

Now apply these numbers to a city such as Baltimore, with relatively high unemployment and school dropout rates approaching near-pandemic levels. Baltimore maintains one of the lowest secondary school graduation rates in the country, only about 34 percent who enter, graduate. The fact that the city also tops the charts on violent crime with five times the national murder rate, three times the national robbery rate, and nearly three times the national aggravated assault and arson rates, is not lost on city educators and labor departments.

Or apply these numbers to the US security quagmires, such as the tribal regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where unemployment rates are staggeringly high, educational enrollment is low, and average income rates are as meager as $15 per month. The violence there, too, is not coincidental.

Why Pay to Volunteer – How do you answer that question?

‘Why pay to volunteer’ – probably the question we all hear most from potential travelers – how are you answering? If you have a link on your site that explains it then copy and paste below in the comments so we can all learn.

This article is by Le Ann  Joy Adam and I’ve seen it used a lot – my questions are: 1. is this still valid? 2. what would we need to add to encompass the full experience?

Why Pay Money to Volunteer?

Reflections from Nicaragua on the Benefits of Arranged Volunteerism by Le Ann Joy Adam

There was a time when I fully shared the thinly veiled suspicion behind this frequently asked question. At a time when many young people have some of the most sought-after skills in a booming job market, it is easy to understand a student’s reluctance to pay to volunteer. One of the most common requests from my advisees is for assistance finding volunteer opportunities in developing countries, so the issue of why one should pay for placement in a volunteer internship comes up again and again. It would be easy to simply explain that the placement organizations have certain overhead costs. But instead I try to educate them about the realities of short-term volunteer work that I have learned from experience.

Last summer I was a volunteer in Nicaragua for six weeks. The year before that (after Hurricane Mitch), I worked to send medical supplies and other aid to the needy throughout Central America with community groups and Central Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area. I found my niche as an organizer, information resource, and fundraiser, and I felt that I was making the best contribution I could.

I lacked technical knowledge and experience providing aid to victims of natural disasters and feared I would be more a hindrance than a help if I went to Central America then. I did, however, make plans to spend the summer as a volunteer in Nicaragua, after the worst of the crisis had passed. I wanted to use a Spanish language school as a base so I could improve my Spanish, benefit from a homestay, and also have an established connection with the local community. I felt I was experienced and resourceful enough to arrange a volunteer internship on my own and imagined I could save a lot of money with the extra effort. I also wanted to be completely independent of any political or religious affiliation that might influence my experience.

Using the Internet, I searched for nongovernmental development organizations seeking volunteers. Estelí, the second largest city in Nicaragua, has two Spanish language schools, numerous nongovernmental organizations associated with the women’s movement, and a long history of contributions by international volunteers. The organization seemed to offer the potential to work with a variety of community issues: domestic violence, street children, and hurricane recovery efforts. After one phone call and limited email correspondence with the organization, I committed to spending the summer working with them, hoping to learn and to contribute.

When I arrived in Nicaragua, the organization I had planned to work with had fallen victim to a lack of funding and interference from government bureaucracy. However, determined to make good use of my time in Estelí, I studied Spanish in the mornings and in the afternoons worked with members of the community in development projects and political and social action groups.

The Importance of Continuity in Volunteering

Overall, it was a powerful learning experience. But having learned the hard way that the kind of relationship you envision cannot always be established in a short period of time, I now encourage everyone I talk to about volunteer internships to go through a well-established placement organization. Organizations establish long-term relationships with community groups and help compensate them for the time they spend mentoring volunteers. This is particularly important in poor, grass-roots settings.

In Nicaragua, I often heard the comment that “volunteers come and go” without apparent regard for the importance of long-term, sustainable development. I also learned that volunteers are sometimes “more a burden than an asset” to many organizations because of their lack of technical knowledge, language skills, and cultural sensitivity. Yet volunteer programs do benefit the host country’s economy, promote positive values, enrich lives, and serve the important purpose of strengthening the people-to-people ties that have proven such a powerful instrument of international mutual understanding. Placement organizations have invested the necessary time, patience, and resources needed to build trust and ensure safe and appropriate placements for volunteers.

The Benefits of Volunteer Organizations

While going through an organized program can also have its pitfalls the benefits include:

  • Orientation. This usually includes important predeparture reading material as well as on-site orientation on local culture, history, and customs.
  • Language and technical training.
  • Arranged accommodations. A supportive and caring homestay environment provides an important connection to the culture and a first-hand view of social and political events in country.
  • A Safety Net.Staff are there to provide logistical and emotional support.
  • Clear Expectations.The volunteer’s responsibilities are clear and well-defined.
  • Affordability.When you calculate the difference between traveling to a country on your own and the cost of participating in a program, you might be surprised by how little the difference is. Of course, many people successfully arrange their own volunteer internships. But in virtually every case, those who come away with a satisfying experience have strong ties in the host country as well as technical experience or specialized skills in areas such as medicine, teaching English, construction, and agriculture. Even with an organization, there is no guarantee that the experience will be 100 percent trouble-free. Those who want such guarantees should probably consider a vacation on a cruise ship.

My advice to the would-be volunteer with good intentions, great organizational skills, and a real interest in international development and cross-cultural education is to allow an experienced organization to channel that energy, intelligence, good intentions into an established internship program.

LE ANN JOY ADAM worked as the Overseas Resource Coordinator at Stanford Univ.