What is Volunteer Tourism?
Volunteer Tourism or ‘Voluntourism’ is a concept of alternative tourism that combines volunteering and tourism. It is explained through two definitions. The first clarifies organised holidays to aid poverty, restore certain environments and research environments, societies and cultures, embarked upon by tourists who volunteer to assist in achieving mutual benefits. Alternatively, from the perspective of tourism providers, voluntourism is a tourism practice that has a volunteer component with the objective of offering travellers an opportunity to participate in a cultural exchange with the local people and utilising their current abilities to assist the community, whilst also learning new skills.
Why is Volunteer Tourism relevant?
Volunteer tourism is said to be an escalating tourism niche, an alternate form of tourism and an indication of a key socio-cultural change. The uniting characteristic of all volunteer tourism operations is that tourists are seeking an experience that is mutually beneficial, for themselves and their chosen destination. This involves positive contributions to personal development as well as the social, natural and economic environment. LEMCO knows that volunteer tourism is one of the most rapidly growing tourism sectors worldwide and hence, is a huge opportunity for developing nations.
We have seen a shift in traveller attitudes within our modern socio-cultural context, which has resulted in increased emphasis on a meaningful and authentic travel experience for tourists. It is the unique amalgamation of tourism and volunteering that allows for the circumstances needed for tourists to positively explore a new destination and assist in achieving sustainable development. Travellers live with local families, and assist with activities such as agricultural work. The cultural immersion sustained from such an experience is impossible under normal travel circumstances.
LEMCO sees mutual benefits for communities and tourists through our volunteer tourism initiatives. Pertinently though, benefits to local communities are:
- Voluntourism helps to implement long-term development. The passing on of knowledge and skills can positively impact these communities for years to come.
- Voluntourism positively contributes to the local economy. Volunteers make the most of their time in the destination by sightseeing and attending tours and activities, therefore make direct injections into the economy. This is particularly important as most developing nations rely heavily on tourism generated income.
- Volunteer tourism companies employ local community members as staff. Hence, jobs are created.
- Additionally, local community members are given the opportunity to receive training and education.