A critical perspective on volunteer tourism
- Development of volunteer tourism
- Critical perspective on volunteer tourism
The special interest tourism segment has been the new tourism of the 1980s and 1990s. According to Knowles and Curtis (1999), mass tourism will be replaced by a ?more responsible and more realistic, variety of mass tourism, where price is no longer the critical factor'. Uncontrolled mass tourism is not as attractive as before since it threatens destination development and environment as well as damaging the natural and cultural assets (Poon, 1993).
In his study, Poon (1993) also stated that: ?The economics of the new tourism is very different from the old - profitability no longer rests solely on economies of scale and the exploitation of mass undifferentiated markets'. In response to that change, tourism industry has developed niche tourism products to diversify their product base and establish individualized niches. This allows smaller independent tourism operators to compete in a highly price sensitive and competitive tourism market. One of the fastest growing niche products in the tourism industry is the volunteering tourism, which saw a proliferation in number of organizations offering such activities (Brown & Morrison, 2003; Bakker & Lamoureux, 2008; Butcher & Smith, 2010). The increase in number of volunteer tourists can be explained by a shift towards more responsible forms of tourism (Rowe & Hall 2003; Wearing 2001) and an increase in sense of global citizenry (Crabtree 1998; McGehee 2002; McGehee & Santos 2005). Indeed, volunteer tourism may be considered a sustainable form of tourism and provide a model of ?best practice', which focuses on what the tourist can contribute to the destinations (Wearing 2004). Potentially, volunteer tourists can help bring funding and enthusiastic labor as well as new ideas and skills to important projects.
However, volunteering programmes from development NGOs and other ?development' agenda cannot be exempt from critical examination. The assumption is that any effort to ?help' the less fortunate (usually in a less developed country) is inherently positive in nature or the outcome is misleading, and various scholars have studied on the ineffective and even harmful consequences of the idea of ?development'. Moreover, the efforts of development NGOs, which were seen as the beneficiaries of these interventions, can bring not as many benefits as expected and can cause reproduction of global poverty.
[...] Conclusions There has been growing awareness that benefits of volunteer tourism cannot be assumed without careful plan and management. Especially with short-term volunteer tourism programs, the ability for young and unqualified volunteers to contribute to the host country has been continuously questioned (Roberts 2004; Simpson 2005b). In order to offer worthwhile experience, volunteer tourism organizations must avoid unhelpful or even harmful tendencies, which happen wirh many gap-year volunteer tourism experiences. The ?gap-year' experiences of privileged young volunteer often aimed at their personal satisfactions and little else. [...]
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