Voluntourism: An explanation

A refresher of what voluntourism is, who is voluntouring, and resources available to those interested in learning more about the pros and cons of voluntourism.

The concept of voluntourism isn’t new, but it was a cutting edge way to volunteer less than 10 years ago. Since this creative way of volunteering made its way into world of both for-profit business and non-profit organizations, voluntourism has taken off. Let’s refresh ourselves to what voluntourism is, who is voluntouring, and resources available to those interested in learning more about the pros and cons of voluntourism.

According to voluntourism.org, voluntourism is the conscious, seamlessly-integrated combination of voluntary service to a destination with the traditional elements of travel and tourism – arts, culture, geography, history and recreation – while in the destination. Voluntourism.org explains that the voluntourism encompasses the term “volunteer vacation” but also comes in the form of leisure travel and business travel, such as corporate voluntary service projects. This idea has grown substantially over last decade. According to The VolunTourism Newsletter, in March 2005 they had around 30 subscribers in four countries. Today they have over 5,000 subscribers from more than 100 countries.

Voluntourism.org groups voluntourists into three categories and provides the following explanation for each age group’s motivation for voluntouring:

  • Age 25: Individuals tend to be in the discovery process
  • Ages 25-50: Individuals are searching for life-meaning amidst the daily routine of work and family.
  • Ages 50 and over: Individuals are striving to develop and maintain life purpose following retirement or in preparation of retirement and hope to leave a legacy.

Assumedly popular with individuals under the age of 25, such as college students conducting internships and young people looking to gain experience in traveling or missions, voluntourism.org survey data is indicating that might not be the correct assumption at all. Voluntourism.org goes on to explain that the results of their voluntourism survey showed that the 26- to 35-years-old age group was the largest audience of potential voluntourists. They claim this to be a shift in student-based participants to professional-based participants.

There are a plethora of resources available for individuals wanting to learn more about voluntourism. The following resources focus on organizations that provide more information about being a voluntourist and opportunities to voluntour:

There are also several organizations that have conducted research on the concept of voluntourism. This includes studying organizations that provide opportunities for individuals to be a voluntourist, as well as studying.

Be aware that there are also articles and research that weigh the pros and cons or positives and negatives of voluntouring. These articles and research provide information to the reader and allows them to create their own conclusions. Such articles and research include:

To learn more about volunteering with Michigan State University Extension, please visit your local Extension office.

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