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Voluntourism: Volunteering while holidaying

More and more travelers go for ‘voluntourism’.

29 March, 2007

Vacation travel, mixing holidaying with altruism, is gaining momentum worldwide, especially among the Americans. Surveys conducted recently by Orbitz, Travelocity and the Travel Industry Association of America reveal that more and more people are becoming interested in vacations with a volunteering intention, also known as ‘voluntourism.’

More Americans, the surveys show, are opting for vacations with a charitable or humanitarian purpose. They volunteer to do a range of altruistic activities including building houses or schools, collecting field data, working at a refugee camp or orphanage, and archaeological excavations.

According to the survey by Orbitz, Travelocity and the Travel Industry Association of America, while the voluntourism trend is not easy to quantify, a wide variety of groups such as environmental, medical, nature, children’s and other groups as well as Churches report that participation in volunteer vacations is on the rise.

The volunteer work, once done mainly by non-profit activist groups, are now being encouraged by several travel agencies and tour operators.

Sally Brown, chief of the not-for-profit group Ambassadors for Children, based in Indianapolis, the United States, say that the number of travel organisations of various kinds that offer voluntourism trips has doubled in the past three years.

It has been found that many of the vacation volunteers are baby boomers, who have the money to spend and the time to donate as they move closer to retirement. In fact, inspired by a variety of factors such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina or just having more disposable income, vacation volunteers range from teenagers to retirees.

Voluntourism is catching up in college campuses, where many students would rather spend their spring break doing something altruistic than just merrymaking.

Ambassadors for Children even offers what is called a ‘light mission’ in which travellers stay at a four-star hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and spend three of the eight days visiting an orphanage, library and preschool. That may, says Sally Brown, appeal to a family group wishing to make a cultural connection or just those wanting to mix purpose with pleasure. Sally Brown, a former flight attendant, founded Ambassadors for Children in 1998.




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