Friday, August 6, 2010

What is Voluntourism?

Voluntarism is travel which includes volunteering for a charitable cause. In recent years, ‘bite-sized’ volunteer vacations have grown in popularity. The different types of volunteer vacations can vary, from cleaning up local wildlife areas to providing medical aid in a foreign country.

The roots of volunteerism go back to the U.S. Peace Corps and the Volunteer Services Overseas. But only in the 90’s did ‘voluntourism’ become popular, as the travel industry was able to package the concept in ‘bite size’ bits that combine philanthropy and leisure. Some have argued that trips such as these can only provide very superficial help and delude people into thinking that they have done something important. Others argue that it is better to volunteer one’s time on a trip than simply lie on the beach.

Why do people try voluntourism?
It’s a great way for people to travel and help people while they do it. You may wind up visiting a place you would never have visited before.

What do people do when they volunteer travel?
People engage in the following activities when volunteer travelling:

17% Conservation
22% Building
18% Community Development
22% Teaching
12% Health Care
6% Humanitarian Aid
2% Skill Based
1% Unknown

Where can you go voluntouring?
You can go almost anywhere as there is a need for volunteering all over. Many people in the USA can stay in the country in places like California, Florida and Louisiana.

Is volunteer travel increasing?
Between 2007 and 2008, the number of people travelling as part of a voluntourist group increased by 46% (from 4.7 million people to 6.2 million people).

Who can you contact about taking one of these voluntours?
There are some travel agencies that offer these kinds of tours, such as the company aptly named VolunTours. You can also contact organizations like the International Red Cross and Doctors without Borders and see where a need exists and schedule a trip yourself!

What’s a luxury voluntour?
It’s a volunteer tour that is taken by people that wish to be pampered a bit more. Unfortunately it leads to more touring and less volunteering.

What kinds of people like to go on volunteer trips?
Anybody can go on volunteer trips, but generally it’s younger people between the ages of 25 and 34, which constitute 42% of volunteers, or between the age of 35-44, which constitute 29% of volunteers.

Do people get anything for voluntouring?
People do it so they can help others while seeing a new place. The feeling of helping others instead of just vacationing is the benefit.

What do people do on a voluntour trip?
Usually a trip of this sort is organized by a travel agency with an itinerary. You help a worthy cause and see the sights. It’s a win-win situation.

What’s bad about voluntouring?
It encourages people to volunteer only once in a while; a majority of the money for the trip goes to the travel agency.

How much does it cost to go on a voluntour trips?
Prices vary by destination and the travel agency involved. If travelling within the US, it can be relatively inexpensive, but if you plan on going to more exotic locations, it can be quite costly.

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