Volunteer Tourism: An Exploration of Socially Responsible Tourism Practices
MetadataShow full item record
This study explored the practices of commercial volunteer tourism operators in order to determine their perspectives on the role certification may play as a strategy for socially responsible volunteer tourism. It was guided by two objectives: 1) To determine the current perceptions of volunteer tourism stakeholders regarding social responsibility in the volunteer tourism sector, 2) To consider additional measures (e.g., certification) as tools to enhance socially responsible tourism practices. The study was conducted in two phases. Research during phase one provided a background understanding of the issues related to the volunteer tourism sector. I specifically sought to understand issues surrounding the social responsibility of operators within the sector and methods that could possibly be utilized to improve the sector, such as certification. This was achieved through an assessment of the perceptions of key informants within the volunteer tourism sector, which were gathered through semi-structured interviews. Phase two involved case study analysis, whereby the practices of two large commercial volunteer tourism organizations, Projects Abroad and ME to WE, were examined. Data for phase two were gathered through semi-structured interviews conducted with key players (employees) within the organizations, as well as each organization’s website and publication materials. Cross-case analysis of data gathered from both organizations revealed two major themes: (1) operating towards making a difference and (2) creating social responsibility within the volunteer tourism sector. Combining the results of phase one (background understanding of the volunteer tourism sector and certification) and phase two (analysis of the practices of two volunteer tourism organizations) allowed for the development of an in-depth understanding of the role social responsibility plays within the volunteer tourism sector. This study has shown that the operations of volunteer tourism organizations are an important component of the tensions present within the sector. This study has revealed the perspectives of volunteer tourism operators and other stakeholders within the sector, a cohort whose perspectives have not been studied in much depth in past research Furthermore, it identifies the opportunity and need to better align volunteer tourism operators with more socially responsibility within the sector. This study has illustrated that the socially responsible practices that are implemented at an operational level could aid in understanding the actual contribution that an organization will make within the sector. The majority of the participants from phase one and phase two of this research identify that they would subscribe to a certification as a responsible tourism implementation strategy. Finally, it is proposed that a new approach and definition for volunteer tourism should be considered within the literature: Socially Responsible Volunteer Tourism.