Expectations and Experiences of Volunteer Tourism: A Look from Different Perspectives
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While the study of volunteer tourism has been growing over the past decade, there is limited literature that takes a global approach, whereby one explores the perspective of a number of stakeholder groups in such experiences. The aim of this project was to fill this gap by looking at the volunteer tourism experience from four perspectives, namely the volunteer, the organization, the host family, and the community at large. The focus in this case was on the experiences and expectations of these groups. The research was qualitative; based primarily upon interviews. The research for this project took place in Ghana. It was found that the three local stakeholders (the organization members, the host family members and people from the broader community) generally viewed the experience similarly. Volunteers often expressed views that set them apart from the other groups. Main themes for the groups generally revolved around cultural differences, communication and progression through stages of the experience. The stages of the experience showed three main stages, those referring to the time before the volunteer, during the volunteer’s stay and the time after the volunteer’s departure. Cultural differences included discussions of culture shock, stereotypes, and mis-communications in cross-cultural dialogue. Communication was a major issue, and was to be found lacking between all groups. In regards to communication there was also a suggestion for continuing contact and relationships between the locals and volunteers beyond the volunteer’s time in the community.
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