ArticlePDF Available

The Possible Negative Impacts of Volunteer Tourism

Authors:

Abstract

Volunteer tourism is an increasingly popular form of travel that is attracting growing research attention. Nevertheless, existing research has focused primarily on the benefits of volunteer tourism, and many studies have simply involved profiling volunteers or investigating their motivations. However, there are numerous possible negative impacts of volunteer tourism that deserve increased attention from both researchers and project managers: a neglect of locals' desires, a hindering of work progress and completion of unsatisfactory work, a disruption of local economies, a reinforcement of conceptualisations of the ‘other’ and rationalisations of poverty, and an instigation of cultural changes. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
ABSTRACT
Volunteer tourism is an increasingly
popular form of travel that is attracting
growing research attention. Nevertheless,
existing research has focused primarily on
the benefi ts of volunteer tourism, and many
studies have simply involved profi ling
volunteers or investigating their
motivations. However, there are numerous
possible negative impacts of volunteer
tourism that deserve increased attention
from both researchers and project managers:
a neglect of locals’ desires, a hindering of
work progress and completion of
unsatisfactory work, a disruption of local
economies, a reinforcement of
conceptualisations of the ‘other’ and
rationalisations of poverty, and an
instigation of cultural changes. Copyright ©
2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Received 28 August 2008; Revised 19 November 2008; Accepted
17 February 2009
Keywords: volunteer tourism; alternative
tourism; development; demonstration effect.
INTRODUCTION
Volunteer tourism has been hailed widely
as a promising sector of tourism that can
benefi t both tourists and host communi-
ties (e.g. Wearing, 2001, 2002; Broad, 2003; Brown
and Morrison, 2003; Ellis, 2003a; Uriely et al.,
2003; Gunderson, 2005; McGehee and Santos,
2005; Clifton and Benson, 2006; Conant, 2007;
McIntosh and Zahra, 2008; Lepp, 2008; Wearing
et al., 2008). Perhaps it is logical and inevitable
that such optimism would be inspired by a
growing interest among tourists to devote
their vacation time to performing charitable
work, and, indeed, the popularity of volunteer
tourism may indicate a laudable development
within the tourism industry. However, opti-
mism towards volunteer tourism has been
complemented by a fairly uncritical approach
towards the sector, when in reality it should be
critically analysed just like any other form of
tourism. Even though volunteer tourists’ benev-
olence may seem refreshing, there appear to be
numerous possible negative impacts of volun-
teer tourism that are receiving little attention.
This paper, which is based on a review and
analysis of the relevant tourism literature, will
highlight a number of potential negative
impacts of volunteer tourism: a neglect of
locals’ desires, caused by a lack of local involve-
ment; a hindering of work progress and the
completion of unsatisfactory work, caused by
volunteers’ lack of skills; a decrease in employ-
ment opportunities and a promotion of depen-
dency, caused by the presence of volunteer
labour; a reinforcement of conceptualisations
of the ‘other’ and rationalisations of poverty,
caused by the intercultural experience; and an
instigation of cultural changes, caused by the
demonstration effect and the actions of short-
term missionaries. By highlighting several
specifi c possible negative impacts of volunteer
tourism, this paper questions the somewhat
idealistic depiction of the sector that is evident
in many existing studies, and thereby aims to
inspire future critical research into volunteer
tourism. Moreover, the list of possible negative
impacts this paper presents is meant to serve
as a framework to guide future critical research
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF TOURISM RESEARCH
Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 537–551 (2009)
Published online 26 March 2009 in Wiley InterScience
(www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI: 10.1002/jtr.727
The Possible Negative Impacts of
Volunteer Tourism
Daniel A. Guttentag*
Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
*Correspondence to: Mr. D. A. Guttentag, MES Candidate
in Tourism Policy and Planning, Department of Geo-
graphy and Environmental Management, University
of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West Waterloo,
Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1.
E-mail: dguttent@uwaterloo.ca
538 D. A. Guttentag
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 537–551 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr
into volunteer tourism and to assist the devel-
opment and management of new and existing
volunteer tourism projects.
Despite the critical stance that this paper
takes, it should not be misconstrued as an
insinuation that volunteer tourism should
be considered ‘worse’ than other forms of
tourism. Rather, it is contended that all forms
of tourism exhibit positive and negative char-
acteristics, and should be viewed accordingly.
Furthermore, the needs and desires of host
communities are varied, so it is naive and
counterproductive to assume that one type of
tourism will always be better than another.
Additionally, the list of volunteer tourism’s
possible negative impacts should not be inter-
preted as an unavoidable series of conse-
quences that are produced by every volunteer
tourism project. Rather, the impacts are pre-
sented as possible consequences that must
be recognised and avoided. Finally, this paper
does not intend to imply that volunteer tourism
is so detrimental that it should be wholly aban-
doned. Rather, it is simply argued that the
volunteer tourism sector may cause various
negative impacts, and a greater awareness of
these impacts will allow project managers
to develop volunteer tourism ventures in a
manner that is more benefi cial to both host
communities and the volunteers.
Volunteer tourism: defi nitions, trends, and
current opportunities
Volunteer tourism is generally recognised as a
form of alternative tourism (e.g. Wearing, 2001;
Brown, 2005; Callanan and Thomas, 2005;
McIntosh and Zahra, 2008; Matthews, 2008),
and both Coghlan (2006) and Wearing (2001)
agree that some volunteer tourism experiences
fall within the realm of ecotourism, but other
volunteer tourism experiences are distinct from
that categorisation. The most commonly cited
defi nition of volunteer tourism seems to be the
one provided by Wearing (2001) in his seminal
book on the topic. Wearing defi nes, ‘The
generic term “volunteer tourism” applies to
those tourists who, for various reasons, volun-
teer in an organised way to undertake holidays
that might involve aiding or alleviating the
material poverty of some groups in society, the
restoration of certain environments or research
into aspects of society or environment’ (p. 1).
For the purpose of this paper, any tourist who
participates in volunteer work while travelling
will be considered a ‘volunteer tourist’, regard-
less of whether the volunteer work is the sole
purpose of his/her vacation. However, those
volunteers performing work lasting longer
than one year, such as Peace Corps workers,
are not being considered.
Volunteer tourism actually began well before
the emergence of terms like ‘alternative
tourism’ and ‘ecotourism’, as ‘the modern phe-
nomenon of travelling overseas as a volunteer’
began nearly one century ago (Wearing, 2004,
p. 210). During the late twentieth century, both
volunteering and international tourism experi-
enced signifi cant growth, thereby setting the
stage for an increased interest in volunteer
tourism (Callanan and Thomas, 2005). A recent
study published by a tourism research fi rm
claims that the most signifi cant growth in the
volunteer tourism sector has occurred since
1990, and the study estimates that 1.6 million
people participate in volunteer tourism
projects every year (Tourism Research and
Marketing, 2008). Statistics regarding volun-
teer tourism are predictably diffi cult to esti-
mate (Campbell and Smith, 2006) and should
be viewed accordingly, but even if the cited
gures are not completely accurate, research-
ers appear to agree that the popularity of
volunteer tourism has increased dramatically
in recent years. For instance, Young (2008)
states, ‘Volunteer tourism is certainly an
expanding sector of the tourism industry in
many countries in both the developed and
developing world’ (p. 207), and Raymond and
Hall (2008) agree, ‘In recent years, there has
been a rapid increase in the number of indi-
viduals taking part in short-term, organised
volunteer tourism programmes’ (p. 531).
Volunteer tourism projects exist all over the
world and are organised by a wide variety of
‘sending organisations’ (Raymond and Hall,
2008), which include private companies, NGOs,
charities, universities, conservation agencies,
religious organisations and governments
(Broad, 2003; Ellis, 2003b; Söderman and Snead,
2008). The projects involve many different types
of work, with some of the most common project
categories being community welfare, environ-
mental conservation and research, education,
Negative Impacts of Volunteer Tourism 539
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 537–551 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr
construction, business development and health-
care (Callanan and Thomas, 2005). Also, pro-
jects vary in terms of their duration, although
volunteers seem to often participate for less
than one month (Ellis, 2003a; Callanan and
Thomas, 2005; Fitzpatrick, 2007).
Existing trends in volunteer
tourism research
The volunteer tourism sector often has been
viewed very positively, and one simply must
consider the introduction of a New York Times
article on the subject in order to sympathise
with this attitude. The article’s introduction
focuses on a man who spent one winter vaca-
tion lounging on the beach in Puerto Vallarta,
then went to Sri Lanka on his next winter vaca-
tion in order to assist with clean-up efforts
after the 2004 tsunami (Gunderson, 2005). With
such uplifting anecdotes, it is natural to view
volunteer tourism in a positive light. Further-
more, researchers have identifi ed a range of
possible benefi ts provided by the volunteer
tourism sector, such as the work that the
volunteers achieve, the revenue that host com-
munities or sending organisations can generate,
the environmental conservation that the sector
commonly promotes, the personal growth that
volunteers may undergo, and the intercultural
experience involving volunteers and hosts that
can foster a better understanding between
cultures (Wearing, 2001; Wearing, 2002; Ellis,
2003a; Galley and Clifton, 2004; Brown, 2005;
McGehee and Santos, 2005; Clifton and Benson,
2006; Gray and Campbell, 2007; McIntosh and
Zahra, 2008; Lepp, 2008; Wearing et al., 2008).
These possible positive impacts of volunteer
tourism are quite exciting and should not be
overlooked. However, any possible negative
impact similarly should not be overlooked, yet
much of the existing literature on volunteer
tourism focuses predominately on its positive
aspects while giving little attention to its
negative aspects. Consequently, the volunteer
tourism literature abounds with markedly
positive assessments of the sector. For example,
Wearing (2001), whose book focuses on the
personal growth experienced by volunteer
tourists at a project in Costa Rica, claims
volunteer tourists ‘are seeking a tourist ex-
perience that is mutually benefi cial, that will
contribute not only to their personal develop-
ment but also positively and directly to the
social, natural and/or economic environments
in which they participate’ (p. 1); Lepp (2008),
who researched how different types of volun-
teers were impacted by their work at a project
in Kenya, claims many volunteers ‘developed
a new perspective on life at home. They dis-
covered an intrinsic need for meaning and
purpose in their lives’ (p. 98); Broad and Jenkins
(2008), who researched the motivations of
volunteer tourists at a project in Thailand,
state ‘Volunteering on a wildlife conservation
holiday is an intense type of experience, during
which people can interact with wildlife in a
manner that is authentic and meaningful’ (p.
72); McIntosh and Zahra (2008), who researched
a project in a New Zealand Maori community,
introduce their study by stating, ‘Importantly
for this chapter, volunteer tourism is seen to
foster a reciprocal and mutually benefi cial rela-
tionship between the host and guest’ (p. 166);
McGehee and Santos (2005), who conducted
focus group discussions with past volunteer
tourists, state volunteer tourism ‘may impact
participants’ lives by providing a community
of individuals with common goals and values,
providing fertile ground for both the develop-
ment of networks and consciousness-raising
experiences’ (p. 764); and Brown and Morrison
(2003), who conducted a survey on travelers’
interest in volunteer tourism, claim that volun-
teer vacations create a potential scenario in
which ‘every volunteer traveller can be an
ambassador of peace’ (p. 74).
These exceptionally positive assessments of
volunteer tourism that dominate much of the
literature are complemented by a repeated
research objective to simply profi le the
volunteers and investigate their motivations
for participation. Existing research with such a
focus has already been conducted on tourists
in Ontario (Halpenny and Caissie, 2003),
Thailand (Broad, 2003), Indonesia (Galley
and Clifton, 2004), South Africa, (Stoddart and
Rogerson, 2004), Costa Rica (Campbell and
Smith, 2006), and Latin America (Söderman
and Snead, 2008), among other places. This
pattern within the literature was recently
recognised by Gray and Campbell (2007), who
note, ‘Academic interest in volunteer tourism
remains scant, focussed primarily on the
540 D. A. Guttentag
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 537–551 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr
identities, behaviours, values, motives and
personal development of the volunteers’ (p.
464). The interest in conducting such research
is understandable, because investigating why
tourists would be willing to devote their money
and vacations to performing volunteer work
is a compelling topic. However, as Gray and
Campbell (2007) point out, ‘While it is impor-
tant to understand the volunteers, they repre-
sent only one half of the story’ (p. 464). Even
though a small number of studies have focused
on host communities and found that volunteer
tourism can be benefi cial to them (e.g. Clifton
and Benson, 2006; McIntosh and Zahra, 2008),
further research is undoubtedly needed in this
area. Moreover, the repeated focus on profi ling
volunteer tourists and their motivations fre-
quently seems to derive from a marketing-type
goal of better understanding volunteer tourists
so that their desires can be better met. This
focus, however, implies a prerequisite accep-
tance of the actual benefi ts of volunteer tourism.
Such an attitude is epitomised by Brown (2005),
who researched American volunteers’ motiva-
tions and perceived benefi ts, based on their
recollections of past experiences. She states,
‘We are identifying a new and unique market
segment. . . . Implementing this concept will
create authentic cultural experiences unlike
any other in the industry. . . . The out-
come . . . can potentially generate new market
dynamics and promises while enabling every
traveller to be an ambassador of peace’
(p. 494).
Despite these trends in the volunteer tourism
literature, a small number of studies have,
in fact, critically analysed volunteer tourism
and sometimes even considered its possible
negative impacts. For example, McGehee
and Andereck (2008) studied how volunteer
tourism can create dependency in host com-
munities and how the communities may resent
the religious components of some sending
organisations; studies by Simpson (2004)
and Raymond and Hall (2008) question the
personal growth that volunteer tourists sup-
posedly experience and the value of the cross-
cultural interaction that occurs; Callanan and
Thomas (2005) argue that, in some projects, the
volunteers are primarily interested in personal
gain and the project benefi ts are questionable;
and Gray and Campbell (2007) studied
the sometimes inconsistent values held by dif-
ferent stakeholders involved with a conserva-
tion project in Costa Rica. Moreover, some
of the volunteer tourism studies that have
embraced a notably positive approach towards
the sector have briefl y acknowledged its poten-
tial risks. For instance, Wearing (2001) recog-
nises volunteer tourism should not be viewed
as a ‘panacea’ (p. 51) and states that if the vol-
unteer tourism sector becomes too commer-
cialised, it could end up endangering associated
communities and environments. Nevertheless,
an analysis of the relevant literature clearly
reveals an overriding acceptance and promo-
tion of volunteer tourism that has widely failed
to recognise its possible negative impacts. By
identifying and elaborating on a variety of pos-
sible negative impacts, this paper will illustrate
that volunteer tourism is not a fl awless form
of tourism, and it requires far more critical
analysis in future research.
A neglect of locals’ desires
The numerous studies that have researched
volunteer tourists’ motivations have often
found that participants are not simply moti-
vated by altruism, but also largely by personal
reasons (Wearing, 2001; Galley and Clifton,
2004; Brown, 2005; Coghlan, 2008; McIntosh
and Zahra, 2008; Broad and Jenkins, 2008;
Söderman and Snead 2008). For example,
Söderman and Snead (2008), who studied the
motivations of gap-year volunteer tourists in
Latin America, conclude, ‘Altruism was often
part of the motivation, although usually in
combination with benefi ts for oneself, and thus
more in line with “reciprocal altruism” ’ (p.
124). Similarly, Coghlan (2008), who studied
project leaders’ estimations of volunteers’ moti-
vations, claims, ‘Although there may be an
element of altruism that motivates volunteer
tourists, there exists an equally, if not stronger,
element of self-gratifi cation that drives partici-
pation in these projects’ (p. 189). This phenom-
enon is also nicely illustrated by a quotation
made by a volunteer during Wearing’s (2001)
research. The volunteer states, ‘I think most
people would be lying if they didn’t say there
was some selfi shness in why they were going.
Because it was really to benefi t themselves, not
just the environment and community in Santa
Negative Impacts of Volunteer Tourism 541
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 537–551 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr
Elena, even though it is really important’
(p. 70).
Although volunteer tourists are not solely
driven by altruism, this situation has not
generally been viewed as reason for concern.
Wearing (2001) and Söderman and Snead
(2008), for example, point out that past research
into general volunteerism also reveals that vol-
unteers are typically motivated by some degree
of self-interest. More importantly, as long as
one assumes that volunteer tourism is benefi -
cial, then the idea that volunteer tourists are
motivated by personal factors becomes com-
pletely irrelevant. In fact, satisfying the volun-
teers’ motivations becomes desirable because
it is a necessary measure for attracting project
participants. As Broad and Jenkins (2008) state,
‘Understanding volunteers’ motivations is
vital to the design and operation of successful
conservation programmes that rely on volun-
teers as their primary labour source’ (p. 72).
Many volunteer tourism organisations
undoubtedly understand this reality, and it
has certainly infl uenced how some projects
have been developed. For example, in the vol-
unteer tourism project he studied in Kenya,
Lepp (2008) found that the project’s managers
had reacted to the differing motivations
of ‘community’ and ‘wildlife’ volunteers by
granting one group signifi cantly more freedom
and independence than the other. Similarly, in
describing Earthwatch, a non-profi t organisa-
tion that runs trips for research volunteers,
Speer (1994) explains that the popularity of a
research topic infl uences whether a project
proposal is accepted, and ‘Earthwatch has a
good handle on what sells — proposals involv-
ing coral reefs and tropics are likely winners,
as are furry animals and pretty birds’ (p. 21).
One could argue that accommodating par-
ticipants’ motivations is logical because it will
increase volunteer tourism participation and,
therefore, provide greater overall benefi ts. In
other words, even if sea turtles, for example,
receive more attention than other animals, this
situation is preferable to an alternative in which
not even the sea turtles receive assistance.
However, a problem emerges once one consid-
ers the possibility that when tourists’ desires
are focused upon, they may be considered
before the needs and desires of host communi-
ties. Such a situation would seem especially
possible when a volunteer project is organised
by a private business that may be primarily
interested in earning a profi t. In fact, Wearing
(2001) recognised several years ago that private
businesses could undermine the potential ben-
efi ts of the volunteer tourism sector, and this
point was repeated by Lyons and Wearing
(2008a, 2008b) more recently with an acknowl-
edgement that ‘evidence of a move towards
the commodifi cation of volunteer tourism is
already at-hand with large tourism operators
competing for a share of this new market’
(2008a, p. 153). This observation by Lyons and
Wearing is confi rmed by a recent study con-
ducted by a tourism research fi rm that looked
at hundreds of worldwide volunteer tourism
organisations and determined that the
commercial segment is growing rapidly, even
though non-profi t organisations still constitute
a majority (Tourism Research and Marketing,
2008). As the commercial segment of the vol-
unteer tourism sector grows, it is possible that
more and more communities supposedly
benefi tting from volunteer tourism will be
neglected. In fact, a recent Time article quotes
the director of Tourism Concern, an industry
watchdog, who already claims, ‘The [volun-
teer tourism] market is geared toward profi t
rather than the needs of the communities’
(Fitzpatrick, 2007). In one farcical yet sad
example of this situation, as reported in a
Guardian article, a group of Ecuadorian villag-
ers returned from work one day to fi nd that
volunteer tourists had painted the villagers’
houses without any prior consultation.
Although this example is somewhat hyper-
bolic, there are certainly other examples of
volunteer tourism projects that devote greater
importance to attracting volunteers than
benefi ting host communities.
Lyons and Wearing (2008b) argue that NGOs
are better equipped to avoid the problems
associated with commercial enterprises, stating,
‘In many ways NGOs demonstrate best
practice in alternative tourism, and volunteer
tourism specifi cally’ (p. 7). However, the
authors are correct to subsequently note that
NGOs should not simply be viewed as ‘all
good’ (p. 8) because one should not assume
that NGOs will always consult closely with
host communities. For example, Scheyvens
(2002) criticises the non-profi t conservation
542 D. A. Guttentag
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 537–551 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr
organisation Earthwatch, stating, ‘While Earth-
watch claims to do much of its work in collabo-
ration with host country conservation and
educational organisations, there is no mention
of local community involvement’ (p. 109). She
claims that the websites of most conservation
organisations involved with volunteer tourism
do not typically address the issue of local com-
munity support, and Scheyvens states that
this omission ‘suggests that under the guise of
global environmental well-being, organisa-
tions can forge ahead with such programmes
whether or not they have local involvement’
(p. 111).
Some people may assume that communities
will naturally favour the conservation of their
surrounding environments, but that assumption
would not always be correct. This reality was
made apparent to Matthews (2008) when she
participated in a volunteer tourism sea turtle
conservation project in Costa Rica as part of her
study on the impact of volunteer tourism experi-
ences on young travellers. During the project
Matthews discovered that poaching provided a
livelihood for some locals, and turtle products
were sold by various market stallholders. As the
author explains, ‘Not everybody in the surround-
ing areas viewed our efforts kindly,’ and ‘the
locals we worked alongside (being mostly
National Park rangers) were not necessarily rep-
resentative of the wider community’ (p. 113). Pro-
ponents of volunteer tourism would likely argue
that this situation presented a perfect opportu-
nity for environmental values to be shared with
the host community. Also, the existence of local
opposition to the project certainly does not
indicate that poaching should be promoted or
the project should be halted, as environmental
concern is certainly commendable. However,
environmentalism must also be considered
within the context of a host community’s needs
and wishes. In other words, the lack of wide-
spread local support for this particular project
highlights the necessity of a new approach that
accommodates local needs, such as by providing
poachers with alternate forms of income that
ideally would be associated with conservation.
Gray and Campbell (2007) studied a differ-
ent Costa Rican volunteer tourism sea turtle
conservation project, and this one appeared to
enjoy greater support from the host commu-
nity. This support was apparently infl uenced
by the fact that local accommodation owners
earned income by housing the volunteers.
Nevertheless, the authors found that signifi -
cantly different attitudes towards develop-
ment were voiced by the volunteers and
members of the local community. The volun-
teers and project staff members were primarily
interested in limiting development in the town
for environmental reasons, with one volunteer
claiming, ‘I’d like it to stay the way it is, I
wouldn’t really want any more tourism devel-
opment,’ and a staff member agreeing, ‘I
wouldn’t like to see it more civilized’ (p. 476).
The local accommodation owners, on the other
hand, were more interested in promoting
tourism development in a controlled manner
that ensured benefi ts would be enjoyed locally.
The authors note that the volunteers’ unful-
lled desire for locals to denote value to the sea
turtles beyond their economic value challenges
Wearing’s (2001) notion that volunteer tourism
promotes ‘genuine exchange’ (p. 172), in which
host community attitudes are given equal con-
sideration and mutual learning occurs. Rather,
the volunteers seemed more focused on pro-
moting their own environmental values than
appreciating the desire for development within
the local community. This type of hegemonic
attitude is aptly criticised by Butcher (2003),
who questions ‘New Moral Tourists’’ ‘eleva-
tion of nature above development’ (p. 60),
which fails to appreciate the true problems
facing developing nations. Although Gray and
Campbell (2007) offer no indication that the
conservationist attitudes of the volunteers and
project staff members had any real impacts, in
some situations these attitudes, as espoused by
volunteer tourism organisations and their
volunteers, may actually impede development
that is desired by host populations. This poten-
tial injustice is exacerbated by the fact that a
large portion of volunteer tourism projects
involve volunteers from developed countries
working in far less privileged nations (Higgins-
Desbiolles and Russell-Mundine, 2008).
A lack of appreciation for a host communi-
ty’s needs can exist in non-environmental con-
texts as well. For example, volunteers may
assume roles as ‘experts’ in local communities
about which they may know very little
(Wearing, 2001; Raymond and Hall, 2008).
McGehee and Andereck (2008) describe one
Negative Impacts of Volunteer Tourism 543
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 537–551 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr
such instance, as reported by the director of
development for an organisation that coordi-
nated volunteer tourism efforts in several West
Virginia counties. In this incident, the director
declined an offer from another organisation to
freely distribute a truckload of clothing, with
the director explaining that she preferred to
have the clothing sold inexpensively at a local
thrift store in order to ‘preserve the dignity of
local residents and reduce dependency on
outside sources’. Nevertheless, the director
found that the other organisation was ‘adamant:
they wanted to set up a table with the truck
and “personally hand the clothing to needy
folks” ’ (p. 18). In other words, volunteer tour-
ists wanted to perform work solely based on
their own opinions of what was best for
the host community, and dissenting opinions
voiced by key members of the host community
were deemed insignifi cant.
A hindering of work progress and the
completion of unsatisfactory work
One reason the volunteer tourism sector has
expanded so rapidly is that many volunteer
tourism projects have minimal or non-existent
requirements regarding the skill set one needs
to participate. As Brown and Morrison (2003)
explain, ‘The only skill that is required by
many of these organizations is the desire to
help others’ (p. 77). Not surprisingly, however,
some authors have questioned the benefi ts that
can be provided by volunteer tourists who
potentially do not have useful skills, are not
familiar with the local culture, and only stay
for a very short period of time (Simpson, 2004;
Callanan and Thomas, 2005). Proponents of
volunteer tourism counter that many projects
are long-term, even if individual volunteers
only stay for a short period, and ‘every bit
helps’ (Fitzpatrick, 2007). However, Simpson
(2004), who analysed the marketing materials
used by gap-year volunteer tourism organisa-
tions, found that many organisations do not
even claim to provide much benefi t in terms of
true development. She explains, ‘Searching
through the websites and promotional mate-
rial of various companies it is possible to fi nd
many allusions, but few direct references to
“development”. Rather, a language of “making
a difference”, “doing something worthwhile”
or “contributing to the future of others”,
predominates’ (p. 683).
Moreover, the idea that ‘every bit helps’ may
not always be accurate, because unskilled vol-
unteers actually have the potential to impede
work progress. In fact, the president of one
volunteer tourism organisation, Global Volun-
teers, is even quoted in a Wall Street Journal
article claiming that, if one views the volun-
teers’ labour as the sole objective, then ‘the cost
of having the volunteers might outweigh the
benefi ts’ (Carey, 2001). This comment was
offered in response to statements made in the
same article by the executive director of a
project involved with the construction of low-
income housing in Texas. The executive direc-
tor claims volunteers are often burdensome
and the program only utilises them as a way
to generate awareness. As the director explains,
‘If you get somebody who’s never gotten their
hands dirty, in order for them to be any value
to us, we have to stop and teach them. Some-
times when you add it all up, it’s a negative.
We’ve thought of telling them to go away’
(Carey, 2001). Similarly, in her research on
sending organisations, Raymond (2008) was
told by the coordinator of a volunteer tourism
project in Argentina, ‘When we bring an intern
without strong Spanish skills, it is unavoidably
going to be a burden rather than an asset to the
organization’ (p. 55). Such circumstances can
also even exist when the volunteers are skilled.
For instance, an article critical of short-term
mission trips published in a Christian maga-
zine describes a Nicaraguan doctor who runs
a busy health clinic servicing poor families, but
must spend three months each year preparing
to host US medical brigades. Even though the
doctor feels the brigades accomplish very little,
he is reluctant to complain because an organi-
sation associated with the brigades funds his
clinic (Van Engen, 2000).
In other situations, volunteer tourists may
not only impede work progress, they may
actually perform unsatisfactory work. For
example, Ellis (2003a) and Foster-Smith and
Evans (2003) all express a positive attitude
towards the use of volunteer tourists in scien-
tifi c research, but note scepticism within the
scientifi c community regarding volunteers’
ability to gather quality data. Foster-Smith and
Evans (2003) studied the reliability of data
544 D. A. Guttentag
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 537–551 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr
gathered by volunteers at a project in Scotland
and found that the volunteers performed quite
well when working on simple duties, but were
unable to adequately perform one of the more
complicated tasks. These results did not change
Foster-Smith and Evans’ overall positive
attitude towards the use of volunteers, but the
risk of poor data impacting scientifi c research
should remain a serious concern that cannot be
overlooked. Also, in non-research settings, the
implications of unsatisfactory volunteer work
can be just as severe. As Simpson explains in a
Guardian article, gap-year volunteers ‘get a
level of experience and decision-making which
they would not get at home, but [are] also
doing things in other people’s hospitals and
schools that would be never be allowed at
home’ (Brown, 2003).
A decreased labour demand and
a promotion of dependency
Wearing (2001) states that one primary concern
with traditional tourism, which can be
addressed by volunteer tourism, is the lack of
nancial and vocational benefi ts directed
towards host communities (p. 146). Such ben-
efi ts certainly are possible, as Gray and Camp-
bell (2007) found at the project in Costa Rica
where volunteers supported local accommo-
dation owners. Also, in their research on a
volunteer tourism project in Indonesia, Clifton
and Benson (2006) found that its economic
benefi ts were limited, seasonal and restricted
to local elites, but the authors still note that the
sector can provide much-needed income
opportunities and will likely involve a rela-
tively low multiplier effect. However, just
because a community is hosting a volunteer
tourism project, one should not assume that
the community will inevitably benefi t econom-
ically. In fact, the presence of volunteer labour-
ers may have the opposite effect and may
actually negatively impact labour demand or
promote dependency.
Several decades ago, Pearce (1980) estab-
lished a list of criteria to identify jobs that were
appropriate for volunteer workers, and the
rst requirement mentioned was that the jobs
‘do not fall within the domain of paid workers’
(p. 448). Although Pearce was discussing jobs
for non-tourist volunteers working in the
tourism sector, such as local volunteers at a
state park, his principles can easily be applied
to the volunteer tourism sector. Unfortunately,
because many volunteer tourism projects are
based on unskilled labour, volunteer tourists
frequently perform jobs that locals could do
instead. This situation was highlighted by Van
Engen (2000), who states in her critique of
short-term mission trips, ‘Short-term mission
groups almost always do work that could be
done (and usually done better) by people of
the country they visit’ (p. 21). Similarly, in Ver
Beek’s (2006) study on short-term mission trips
to Honduras after Hurricane Mitch, one pro-
moter of a Honduran agency associated with
the trips remarks about the volunteers, ‘They
gather money to come here to do work, work
that we are capable of doing’ (p. 483). The
problem when volunteer tourists perform
work that could be performed by local com-
munity members is that volunteer tourists
naturally work for free — and actually pay for
the opportunity to perform the work — so they
may undercut competing local labourers. This
issue was recognised as a concern by a repre-
sentative from one sending organisation who
was interviewed by Raymond and Hall (2008).
Although that organisation claimed to make
deliberate efforts to ensure projects did not
undermine local labour markets, it is doubtful
that all organisations are so cautious. More-
over, the abundance of volunteer tourism
projects involving construction work in devel-
oping countries would seem to leave construc-
tion workers particularly vulnerable to this
possible phenomenon.
The presence of free volunteer labour may also
disrupt local economies in a broader sense by
promoting a cycle of dependency. Wearing (2001)
acknowledged this risk early on, stating that a
principal danger with volunteer tourism ‘is that
volunteers can reiterate the ethos of the ‘expert’,
thus promoting deference in the local commu-
nity to outside knowledge, therefore contribut-
ing to the curtailment of self-suffi ciency’ (p. 51).
This issue was subsequently studied by McGehee
and Andereck (2008), who were told about the
West Virginian organisation’s deliberate efforts
to reduce locals’ dependency on outsiders, as
was discussed previously. The authors also
found that a similar organisation in Tijuana had
instituted a ‘no handouts’ rule and other policies
Negative Impacts of Volunteer Tourism 545
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 537–551 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr
to prevent volunteers from encouraging depen-
dency in the communities where they worked.
However, the authors report that volunteers
often defi ed these policies after building relation-
ships with locals. In other words, these examples
suggest volunteer tourism projects may need to
deliberately oppose the promotion of depen-
dency, and even concentrated efforts to do so
may not always be fully successful.
Conceptualisations of the ‘other’ and
poverty rationalisations
Even if the tangible benefi ts of volunteer
tourism are dubious, the sector is often
defended for its less defi nable benefi ts: the
personal growth that volunteers may experi-
ence and the intercultural interaction between
volunteers and hosts that can lead to greater
understanding and compassion for others.
For example, Wearing (2001) states, ‘The most
important development that may occur in the
volunteer tourist experience is that of a per-
sonal nature, that of a greater awareness of self’
(p. 2); McGehee and Santos (2005) argue
that volunteer tourism organisations ‘provide
opportunities to encourage or intensify social
movement participation and activism support,
either through the establishment of network
ties or via various consciousness-raising
experiences’ (p. 761); and McIntosh and Zahra
(2008) claim, ‘With volunteer tourism, more
intense rather than superfi cial social interaction
can occur; a new narrative between host and
guest is created, a narrative that is engaging,
genuine, creative and mutually benefi cial’ (p.
179). Similar attitudes are also promoted from
within the volunteer tourism sector. For instance,
the founder of a non-profi t organisation that
helps volunteer tourists fi nd projects is quoted
in a Condé Nast article stating, ‘An important
part of what comes out of voluntourism is social
capital: It breaks down stereotypes. For the tra-
veler, it can help you retool and rethink your
life philosophy, and the local people end up
with a different image of foreigners’ (Elliot,
2008). Similarly, the director of the Kenyan vol-
unteer tourism project Lepp (2008) researched
states, ‘The purpose of [volunteer tourism] is to
get a lot out of the experience and really to just
benefi t from it. I mean, it isn’t all about seeing
a project completed. A lot of it is about that
meeting of minds which occurs when people
come together and share an experience’ (p. 95).
It is instinctive to sympathise with these atti-
tudes, as one is naturally inclined to believe that
a volunteer working with a host community
will have a more ‘meaningful’ interaction with
locals than a tourist in an all-inclusive resort, for
example. Such meaningful and benefi cial expe-
riences certainly sometimes occur, but one
should not assume that volunteer tourism will
always involve such positive results (Raymond
and Hall, 2008).
The studies that have applauded the intan-
gible benefi ts of volunteer tourism have
primarily relied on statements about personal
growth or intercultural understanding made
by volunteers (e.g. Wearing, 2001; Brown, 2005;
McGehee and Santos, 2005; Lepp, 2008).
However, such comments may be infl uenced
by bias, as some volunteers may make state-
ments that they believe are desirable or ratio-
nalise the cost of a trip. For example, Ver Beek
(2006) found that over half of his study’s
respondents claimed to have increased their
donations towards the agency that had organ-
ised their mission trip, but when Ver Beek
checked donation records, he found that 75%
of the participants had not sent any direct
donations to the agency in the two years fol-
lowing the trip, and overall donations, made
either directly or via church offerings, increased
by only a small percentage. Ver Beek’s study,
therefore, also raises a second question, which
is whether attitudes felt and expressed by
volunteers during their trips are enduring, as
is suggested by Brown (2005) and McGehee
and Santos (2005). The possibility that such
attitudes are not always lasting was voiced by
a project staff member surveyed by Coghlan
(2008), as the staff member states, ‘The [volun-
teers’] commitment is hard to gauge, as many
were committed while on site but have shown
little long-term interest since returning home’
(p. 187). Additionally, even if volunteers’ com-
ments refl ect their genuine feelings, it should
not be assumed that changes in a volunteer’s
attitude towards an individual are comple-
mented by changes in the volunteer’s attitude
towards that individual’s nation or culture.
For instance, Raymond and Hall (2008), who
researched the role of sending organisations
546 D. A. Guttentag
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 537–551 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr
in promoting cross-cultural understanding,
found, ‘Several interviewees implied that
the positive relationships they had developed
with individuals from different countries
were simply “exceptions to the rule”
(p. 536).
Not only are the personal and intercultural
benefi ts of volunteer tourism possibly over-
stated, but in some instances, volunteer tourism
participation may have the opposite of its
desired impact and actually reinforce stereo-
types. This possibility was suggested by
Simpson (2004), who points out that in her
interviews with gap-year volunteers, some
volunteers ‘are emphasizing difference and
establishing a dichotomy of “them and us” ’ as
opposed to ‘fi nding commonality between the
developed and developing world’ (p. 688).
More recently, Raymond and Hall (2008) have
supported Simpson’s claims based on their
own research, which also indicated that some
volunteers’ stereotypes were reinforced instead
of reduced.
In fact, based on her analysis of marketing
materials used by gap-year volunteer tourism
organisations, Simpson (2004) claims that
many of the organisations actually promote
simplifi ed imagery of destinations and local
cultures in order to appeal to potential volun-
teers’ imaginations. Simpson explains, ‘The
dominant representations of destination coun-
tries offered by much of the gap year industry
are based on simple dualisms and essentialised
concepts of “other” ’ (p. 682). As examples of
this imagery, Simpson cites quotations describ-
ing how Brazilians exhibit ‘energy and joy’,
Paraguayans ‘are unfailingly charming’ and
welcoming, and Bolivians are ‘generally shy
and gracious’ (pp. 682–683). Even though none
of these particular descriptions is overtly nega-
tive, they are questionable and clearly over-
generalising. Furthermore, Simpson points out
that the volunteer tourism organisations often
focus on the ‘need’ within host communities,
as this need is essential if a project is to be
worthwhile. Such a focus is epitomised in a
quote from the volunteering page of one gap-
year website, which was cited by Simpson
(2004, p. 686) but has changed slightly since
her paper was published. The quotation now
states, ‘You could fi nd yourself working with
people living in unbelievable poverty, disease,
hunger and you will come away with an
amazing sense of achievement and hopefully
pride in what you have done’ (Gap-year.com,
2008). As Simpson notes, such descriptions
highlight the ‘otherness’ of host communities
by simply defi ning them by their needs.
Because volunteer projects frequently
involve participants from developed nations
working in developing nations (Higgins-
Desbiolles and Russell-Mundine, 2008), it is
true that volunteers will sometimes observe
levels of poverty with which they are unfamil-
iar. Studies by Lepp (2008), Simpson (2004),
Raymond and Hall (2008), and Ver Beek (2006)
all found that volunteers commonly remark on
how happy locals appear despite their lack of
material wealth. Achieving a greater aware-
ness of poverty in the developing world can
certainly be valuable, and Lepp (2008) claims
that ‘confronting global inequality and wit-
nessing the resiliency of Kenyans in the face of
it enabled volunteers to put their own prob-
lems in perspective’ (p. 94). However, Simpson
(2004), Raymond and Hall (2008) and Ver Beek
(2006) all voice concern that volunteers’ ‘poor-
but-happy’ (Simpson, 2004, p. 688) remarks
may indicate a rationalisation of poverty as a
struggle that locals accept. For example, when
discussing the Peruvians she has worked with,
one volunteer interviewed by Simpson (2004)
remarks (albeit apparently mistakenly with
regard to the lack of televisions), ‘Here they
don’t have TVs but it doesn’t bother them
because they don’t expect one, I think they are
a lot more grateful for what they get’ (p. 688).
Similarly, Raymond and Hall (2008) were told
by one volunteer to South Africa, ‘They don’t
know any better and they haven’t had what we
have so to them that’s quite normal and they’re
quite happy being like that’ (p. 538). Simpson
(2004) argues, ‘This [“poor-but-happy” atti-
tude] in turn allows material inequality to be
excused, and even justifi ed, on the bases [sic]
that “it doesn’t bother them” ’ (p. 688). In fact,
Simpson even discovered that some volunteers
came to romanticise ideas of poverty and asso-
ciate it with social and emotional wealth.
Simpson (2004) also found that many volun-
teers reacted to the poverty they observed by
acknowledging their own luck in having been
born into more favourable conditions. This rec-
ognition is certainly accurate, and Raymond
Negative Impacts of Volunteer Tourism 547
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 537–551 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr
and Hall (2008) point out that it may represent
a valuable lesson for some volunteers. Never-
theless, Simpson (2004) notes that the volun-
teers’ focus on their own situation, rather than
that of others, is concerning. Additionally, she
states that a focus on luck eliminates genuine
‘discussions on inequality and oppression’,
meaning ‘social responsibility then is allowed
to languish in favour of an optimistic belief in
the justice of fate’ (p. 689).
Cultural change: the demonstration effect
and short-term mission trips
Because many volunteer tourism destinations
are quite poor, one stated benefi t of volunteer
tourism is that it directs tourism money to des-
tinations that would not normally profi t from
tourism (Galley and Clifton, 2004; Fitzpatrick,
2007). A second stated benefi t is that volunteer
tourism offers tourists ‘direct contact’ with
locals (Wearing, 2001, p. 42), which is perceived
as more meaningful and benefi cial than typical
tourist–host interactions (Broad, 2003; Brown,
2005; McIntosh and Zahra, 2008). However,
these two characteristics of volunteer tourism
must also be perceived as risks. These risks
were highlighted by Butler (1990) nearly two
decades ago in his critique of alternative
tourism, in which he notes that alternative
forms of tourism may affect relatively large
amounts of change because they potentially
‘penetrate further into the personal space of
residents’ (p. 41). In other words, the contact
between volunteer tourists and a host commu-
nity, which in some cases may be poor and
have little previous experience with tourists,
may in fact function to negatively impact the
host culture.
The ‘demonstration effect’ is a term denot-
ing the process by which a host culture is
impacted when tourists draw attention to their
lifestyles and items of wealth (Wall and Mathie-
son, 2006, p. 236). Obviously, host communi-
ties may often be exposed to foreign infl uences
independently of tourism, for example, via the
media (McElroy and De Albuquerque, 1986),
and preventing local communities from
interacting with foreigners would be quite
patronising and unjust (Butcher, 2003).
The demonstration effect also can sometimes
inspire positive change (Wall and Mathieson,
2006), but Wall and Mathieson (2006) note,
‘More commonly, it is detrimental and most
authors indicate concern for the effects of
foreign domination of the industry and the
impacts of tourists who parade symbols of
their affl uence to interested host communities’
(p. 236). Locals may respond to the presence of
wealthy tourists by trying to imitate the tour-
ists’ consumption patterns, and discontent can
emerge when these items of wealth are beyond
the reach of a host community (Wall and
Mathieson, 2006).
Because volunteer tourism projects fre-
quently involve volunteers from wealthy
nations working with communities that
are — by defi nition in some cases quite
poor, the demonstration effect is clearly a pos-
sible consequence. As Simpson (2004) points
out, ‘Western volunteer-tourists can . . . be
seen as ‘modelling’ a way of living, a lifestyle
of cultural and material values’ (p. 685). More-
over, Wall and Mathieson (2006) state that
young people are supposedly especially vul-
nerable to the demonstration effect, which is
noteworthy because many volunteer tourism
projects involve work with children. The
potential impact that volunteer tourists may
have on children via the demonstration effect
was specifi cally recognised by Clifton and
Benson (2006) in their study on an environ-
mental research project in fairly remote areas
of Indonesia. The authors state, ‘Casual dis-
plays of wealth by visitors in more remote
areas experiencing low levels of income which
are the focus of research ecotourism can accen-
tuate cultural as well as economic differences
between visitor and resident, leading to jeal-
ousy or aspirations particularly in younger
members of the resident community which
may be impossible to achieve’ (p. 242). Fortu-
nately, Clifton and Benson found that locals
they interviewed did not generally see the vol-
unteers as threatening traditional norms and
values. Nevertheless, the demonstration effect
is certainly a danger that volunteer tourism
poses, and it is a phenomenon that projects
will have to consider in order to avoid eroding
local cultures or creating tension with host
communities.
Although the demonstration effect involves
tourists causing unintended cultural change,
with short-term mission trips, cultural change
548 D. A. Guttentag
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 537–551 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr
may be wholly desired and serve as a primary
objective of a project. Some people may ques-
tion the classifi cation of short-term mission
trips as a type of volunteer tourism, but indi-
viduals who participate in short-term mission
trips that do not simply involve evangelising
certainly fall within Wearing’s (2001) fre-
quently cited defi nition for volunteer tourists:
they are tourists who go on vacations that
include an element of volunteer work (Van
Engen, 2000; Ver Beek, 2006). In fact, McGehee
and Andereck (2008) even point out that vol-
unteer tourism has its roots in early mission
and relief work, and the authors state, ‘The role
of organized religion in volunteer tourism
often seems to be the “elephant in the living
room” that no one wishes to discuss’ (p. 20).
Different short-term mission trips obviously
place different levels of importance on the reli-
gious elements of their trips. Nevertheless,
these trips often have an implicit or even
explicit goal of imparting certain religious
beliefs on the host community (Van Engen,
2000; Ver Beek, 2006). For example, Ver Beek
(2006), whose research appears in a journal
devoted to mission studies, claims, ‘Propo-
nents [of these trips] argue that North Ameri-
can participants change the lives of those they
serve by providing needed goods and services
and sharing the gospel’ (p. 478). Also, Van
Engen (2000) states that evangelism ‘is a main
goal of many groups’ (p. 21). Ver Beek (2006)
appears to support the religious elements of
short-term mission trips, and one revealing
variable he measures in his Honduran study is
whether the trip participants had a ‘spiritual
impact’ on the project benefi ciaries, with the
author hypothesising that this impact would
occur because the participants were ‘sharing
their love of God in both actions and words’
(p. 480). Such a desired impact inherently pre-
vents this form of volunteer tourism from truly
valuing a host community’s culture or allow-
ing a ‘genuine exchange’ (Wearing, 2001, p.
172) between volunteers and hosts. Quite the
opposite, the motive demonstrates a deliberate
attempt to impact the culture of host commu-
nities, even though this impact may not be
desired. For example, McGehee and Andereck
(2008) explain, ‘During interviews with Tijuana
residents, many referred to getting ‘the God
talk’; e.g. asking ‘when are we going to get the
God talk?’ as if this is an expected price that
they will pay in exchange for the volunteer
work’ (p. 21). Likely resulting from this dis-
satisfaction, the authors also found that locals
ranked ‘faith-based organisations’ as the least
preferred type of volunteer group when asked
to rank their preferences towards different
types of volunteers.
Conclusion
This paper has highlighted a variety of possi-
ble negative impacts that can be caused by
volunteer tourism. If volunteer tourism is pro-
moted for its potential positive impacts while
overlooking its potential negative impacts, the
sector risks becoming a ‘Trojan Horse’ (Butler,
1990) that communities embrace without real-
ising its possible consequences. Fortunately,
the negative impacts associated with volunteer
tourism are not necessarily inevitable, and can
likely be mitigated when projects are properly
planned and managed. For instance, McGehee
and Andereck (2008) note various local volun-
teer tourism administrators they interviewed
recommended regulating the sector and pos-
sibly reducing the quantity of volunteers, while
matching volunteers’ skills with the needs of
the community. Additionally, Raymond and
Hall (2008) recommend sending organisations
‘should develop programmes which will be of
genuine value for the local communities’,
should approach projects ‘as a learning process
rather than simply an “experience” ’, and
‘opportunities for interaction with other cul-
tures should be deliberately facilitated’ (p.
541). Nevertheless, just like volunteer tourism
may be an advisable option for some commu-
nities while not for others, any detailed recom-
mendations for improving the sector may be
better suited for some communities than others.
For example, some communities may have
little desire to reduce the number of visiting
volunteers while other communities may have
little desire to spend their time interacting with
volunteers. Therefore, no single formula can be
used to develop benefi cial volunteer tourism
projects, but rather a greater awareness of the
sector’s possible negative impacts is necessary
so that projects can be independently devel-
oped and managed in a way that avoids these
impacts.
Negative Impacts of Volunteer Tourism 549
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 537–551 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr
So far, research has focused primarily on the
benefi ts of volunteer tourism and the profi les
and motivations of the volunteers. The benefi ts
of this sector are important to recognise, but
this paper has demonstrated that volunteer
tourism projects can also cause a variety of
possible negative impacts, so volunteer tourism
requires no less critical evaluation than other
forms of tourism. The possible negative impacts
of volunteer tourism require far more research
attention than they have currently received,
and the list of impacts outlined in this paper
can provide a guide for future research into
this area of inquiry. Only with an improved
understanding and awareness of volunteer
tourism’s potential negative impacts can proj-
ects be planned and managed to avoid such
consequences. As a result, volunteer tourism
could then become more genuinely benefi cial
to both the host communities and the volun-
teers, thereby allowing it to truly deserve the
acclaim it already often receives.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
I am grateful to Dr. Geoffrey Wall for the
invaluable guidance and insightful comments
he has provided regarding the issues discussed
in this paper.
REFERENCES
Broad S. 2003. Living the Thai life — a case study of
volunteer tourism at the Gibbon Rehabilitation
Project, Thailand. Tourism Recreation Research
28(3): 63–72.
Broad S, Jenkins J. 2008. Gibbons in their midst?
Conservation volunteers’ motivations at the
Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, Phuket, Thailand.
In Journeys of Discovery in Volunteer Tourism, Lyon
K, Wearing S (eds). CABI Publishing: Cambridge,
MA; 72–85.
Brown P. 2003. Mind the gap: why student year out
may do more harm than good. The Guardian. Sep-
tember 6. Available at http://www.guardian.co.
uk/uk/2003/sep/06/highereducation.gap
years (accessed 12 November 2008).
Brown S. 2005. Travelling with a purpose: under-
standing the motives and benefi ts of volunteer
vacationers. Current Issues in Tourism 8(6):
479–496.
Brown S, Morrison A. 2003. Expanding volunteer
vacation participation: an exploratory study on
the mini-mission concept. Tourism Recreation
Research 28(3): 73–82.
Butcher J. 2003. The Moralisation of Tourism: Sun,
Sand . . . and Saving the World? Routledge: New
York.
Butler R. 1990. Alternative tourism: pious hope or
Trojan horse? Journal of Travel Research 28(3):
40–45.
Callanan M, Thomas S. 2005. Volunteer tourism:
deconstructing volunteer activities within a
dynamic environment. In Niche Tourism: Contem-
porary Issues and Trends, Novelli M (ed.). Elsevier:
New York; 183–200.
Campbell L, Smith C. 2006. What makes them pay?
Values of volunteer tourists working for sea turtle
conservation. Environmental Management 38(1):
84–98.
Carey S. 2001. The virtuous vacation? More
travelers sweat, teach as volunteers on time off:
the burden of do-gooders. The Wall Street Journal.
July 27. p. B1.
Clifton J, Benson A. 2006. Planning for sustainable
ecotourism: the case for research ecotourism in
developing country destinations. Journal of Sus-
tainable Tourism 14(3): 238–254.
Coghlan A. 2006. Volunteer tourism as an emerging
trend or an expansion of ecotourism? A look at
potential clients’ perceptions of volunteer tourism
organisations. International Journal of Nonprofi t
and Voluntary Sector Marketing 11(3): 225–237.
Coghlan A. 2008. Exploring the role of expedition
staff in volunteer tourism. International Journal of
Tourism Research 10: 183–191.
Conant E. 2007. Having fun doing good. Newsweek.
October 16. Available at http://www.newsweek.
com/id/49470 (accessed 12 November 2008).
Elliot D. 2008. Voluntourism. Condé Nast Traveler.
May. Available at http://www.concierge.com/
cntraveler/articles/12200 (accessed 12 Novem-
ber 2008).
Ellis C. 2003a. Participatory environmental research
in tourism: a global view. Tourism Recreation
Research 28(3): 45–55.
Ellis C. 2003b. When volunteers pay to take a trip
with scientists Participatory Environmental
Research Tourism (PERT). Human Dimensions of
Wildlife 8: 75–80.
Fitzpatrick L. 2007. Vacationing like Brangelina.
Time. July 26. Available at http://www.time.
com/time/magazine/article/0.9171,1647457,00.
html (accessed 12 November 2008).
Foster-Smith J, Evans S. 2003. The value of marine
ecological data collected by volunteers. Biological
Conservation 113: 199–213.
Galley G, Clifton J. 2004. The motivational and demo-
graphic characteristics of research ecotourists:
550 D. A. Guttentag
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 537–551 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr
Operation Wallacea volunteers in Southeast
Sulawesi, Indonesia. Journal of Ecotourism 3(1):
69–82.
Gap-year.com. 2008. Gap-Year.com —Volunteering.
http://www.gap-year.com/browse.asp?catID=
789&sNode=789&Exp=Y#789. (accessed 12
November 2008).
Gray N, Campbell L. 2007. A decommodifi ed expe-
rience? Exploring aesthetic, economic and ethical
values for volunteer ecotourism in Costa Rica.
Journal of Sustainable Tourism 15(5): 463–482.
Gunderson A. 2005. More vacationers answer the call
to help. The New York Times. February 20. Avail-
able at http://travel.nytimes.com/2005/02/20/
travel/20volunteer.html (accessed 12 November
2008).
Halpenny E, Caissie L. 2003. Volunteering on nature
conservation projects: volunteer experience,
attitudes and values. Tourism Recreation Research
28(3): 25–33.
Higgins-Desbiolles F, Russell-Mundine G. 2008.
Absences in the volunteer tourism phenomenon:
the right to travel, solidarity tours and transfor-
mation beyond the one-way. In Journeys of Discov-
ery in Volunteer Tourism, Lyon K, Wearing S (eds).
CABI Publishing: Cambridge, MA; 182–194.
Lepp A. 2008. Discovering self and discovering
others through the Taita Discovery Centre Volun-
teer Tourism Programme, Kenya. In Journeys of
Discovery in Volunteer Tourism, Lyon K, Wearing S
(eds). CABI Publishing: Cambridge, MA; 86–100.
Lyons K, Wearing S. 2008a. All for a good cause?
The blurred boundaries of volunteering and
tourism. In Journeys of Discovery in Volunteer
Tourism, Lyon K, Wearing S (eds). CABI Publish-
ing: Cambridge, MA; 147–154.
Lyons K, Wearing S. 2008b. Volunteer tourism as
alternative tourism: journeys beyond otherness.
In Journeys of Discovery in Volunteer Tourism, Lyon
K, Wearing S (eds). CABI Publishing: Cambridge,
MA; 3–11.
Matthews A. 2008. Negotiated selves: exploring
the impact of local-global interactions on young
volunteer travellers. In Journeys of Discovery in
Volunteer Tourism, Lyon K, Wearing S (eds).
CABI Publishing: Cambridge, MA; 101–117.
McElroy J, De Albuquerque K. 1986. The tourism
demonstration effect in the Caribbean. Journal of
Travel Research 25: 31–34.
McGehee N, Andereck K. 2008. ‘Pettin’ the critters’:
exploring the complex relationship between
volunteers and the voluntoured in McDowell
County, West Virginia, USA, and Tijuana, Mexico.
In Journeys of Discovery in Volunteer Tourism, Lyon
K, Wearing S (eds). CABI Publishing: Cambridge,
MA; 12–24.
McGehee N, Santos C. 2005. Social change, dis-
course and volunteer tourism. Annals of Tourism
Research 32(3): 760–779.
McIntosh A, Zahra A. 2008. Journeys for experience:
the experiences of volunteer tourists in an indi-
genous community in a developed nation a
case study of New Zealand. In Journeys of Discov-
ery In Volunteer Tourism, Lyon K, Wearing S (eds).
CABI Publishing Cambridge, MA; 166–181.
Pearce II J. 1980. A volunteer worker placement
model for business. Annals of Tourism Research
2(3): 443–454.
Raymond E. 2008. ‘Make a difference!’: the role of
sending organizations in volunteer tourism. In
Journeys of Discovery in Volunteer Tourism, Lyon K,
Wearing S (eds). CABI Publishing: Cambridge,
MA; 49–60.
Raymond E, Hall C. 2008. The development
of cross-cultural (mis)understanding through
volunteer tourism. Journal of Sustainable Tourism
16(5): 530–543.
Scheyvens R. 2002. Tourism for Development: Em-
powering Communities. Prentice Hall: Toronto.
Simpson K. 2004. ‘Doing development’: the gap
year, volunteer-tourists and a popular practice of
development. Journal of International Development
16: 681–692.
Söderman N, Snead S. 2008. Opening the gap: the
motivation of gap year travellers to volunteer in
Latin America. In Journeys of Discovery in Volun-
teer Tourism, Lyon K, Wearing S (eds). CABI
Publishing: Cambridge, MA; 118–129.
Speer T. 1994. Eco-travelers spend big bucks to
rough it. American Demographics 16(4): 21.
Stoddart H, Rogerson C. 2004. Volunteer tourism:
the case of Habitat for Humanity South Africa.
GeoJournal 60: 311–318.
Tourism Research and Marketing. 2008. Volunteer
Tourism: A Global Analysis. Atlas: Barcelona.
Uriely N, Reichel A, Ron A. 2003. Volunteering in
tourism: additional thinking. Tourism Recreation
Research 28(3): 57–62.
Van Engen J. 2000. The cost of short-term missions.
The Other Side January and February: 20–23.
Ver Beek K. 2006. The impact of short-term
missions: a case study of house construction in
Honduras after Hurricane Mitch. Missiology:
An International Review 34(4): 477–496.
Wall G, Mathieson A. 2006. Tourism: Change, Impacts
and Opportunities. Pearson Prentice Hall: Toronto.
Wearing S. 2001. Volunteer Tourism: Experiences that
Make a Difference. CABI Publishing: New York.
Wearing S. 2002. Re-centering the self in volunteer
tourism. In The Tourist as a Metaphor of the Social
World, Dann G (ed.). CABI Publishing: New York;
237–262.
Negative Impacts of Volunteer Tourism 551
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11, 537–551 (2009)
DOI: 10.1002/jtr
Wearing S. 2004. Examining best practice in volun-
teer tourism. In Volunteering as Leisure/Leisure
as Volunteering: An International Assessment,
Stebbins R, Graham M (eds). CABI Publishing:
Cambridge, MA; 209–224.
Wearing S, Deville A, Lyons K. 2008. The volunteer’s
journey through leisure into the self. In Journeys of
Discovery in Volunteer Tourism, Lyon K, Wearing S
(eds). CABI Publishing: Cambridge, MA; 63–71.
Young T. 2008. Mediating volunteer tourism alter-
natives: guidebook representations of travel
experiences in Aboriginal Australia. In Journeys of
Discovery in Volunteer Tourism, Lyon K, Wearing S
(eds). CABI Publishing: Cambridge, MA; 195–209.
... In some developing countries, such as Cambodia, Bali and Thailand, approximately 80 per cent of children living in orphanages are not orphans as they have at least one living parent (Palmer 2019). This scenario was noted earlier by Guttentag (2009), who highlighted a variety of potential adverse effects that can be caused by international volunteer tourism such as instigation of cultural changes, disturbing the progress of work, decreasing employment opportunities and promoting dependency, and reinforced rationalisations of poverty (e.g. Guttentag 2009;McLennan 2014;Palacios 2010;Zavitz and Butz 2011). ...
... This scenario was noted earlier by Guttentag (2009), who highlighted a variety of potential adverse effects that can be caused by international volunteer tourism such as instigation of cultural changes, disturbing the progress of work, decreasing employment opportunities and promoting dependency, and reinforced rationalisations of poverty (e.g. Guttentag 2009;McLennan 2014;Palacios 2010;Zavitz and Butz 2011). ...
... The disparities between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' are illustrated and highlighted in the Western-centric context whereas the non-Western context embraces the concept of sameness. As discussed earlier, Western-centric international volunteering is often associated with unequal global power structures (Guttentag 2009;Simpson 2004). This form of volunteering frequently emphasizes the mentality of 'us versus them' or 'othering' (Appe, Rubaii, and Stamp 2017). ...
... This change can benefit the host community, environment, and tourists. The importance of the volunteer involvement of the host community and the tourists in encouraging sustainability has gained recognition, and various studies have measured such effects (Guttentag 2009;Sin 2009;Halpenny and Caissie 2003;Lyons 2003;Raymond 2011;Wearing 2004;Cole 2006;Gursoy et al. 2002;Teye et al. 2002;Tosun 2006). Education and imparting rules in the destination region are imperative for creating such an approach. ...
Article
Full-text available
The rising usage and destruction of natural resources pose a severe threat to humans and their environment. It is miserable that interventions have not worked well within the conspicuous human lifestyle. The present study aims to obtain detailed knowledge of tourists' concerns about the environment by investigating the multidimensional constructs of environmental concern in a critical urban Himalayan destination in India visited by tourists worldwide. The study uses structural equation modelling (SEM) to confirm the items. The latent class analysis (LCA) model was used to group the respondents based on their responses to the variables in the questionnaire. LCA model is a valuable tool for studying the ecological concern among tourists. For analysing the concern, data were obtained from the 400 respondents who had visited the Kashmir valley in India. The results reveal three tourist segments: reflective, unconcerned, and pro-environmental. Unconcerned tourists show less concern for the environment, while pro-environmental tourists show responsible behaviour towards the environment. This study aims to assist policymakers and destination managers in framing informed sustainable tourism policies for the region.
... Volunteer tourism is widely hailed as a selfless and charitable industry that benefits both tourists and host communities (Guttentag, 2009). However, despite this benevolent depiction, there exists limited discussion on any negative impacts this sector may have. ...
Article
Although virtual reality technology is increasingly being used in tourism, its potential as a shopping tool and as an avenue for marketing and selling tourism products and services has not yet been examined. Likewise, very little is known about how exploring holiday packages through virtual reality affects behavioral intention to visit tourist destinations. This study aims to compare the visit intentions evoked and the process of booking holiday travel packages between an immersive virtual reality environment (displayed through Oculus head-mounted glasses) and a traditional web-based 2D platform. A causal model is proposed and tested for both designs. Using a between-subjects experimental design with a sample of 202 individuals, the experiences of two randomly selected groups were observed as they bought holiday tour packages to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The first group made a simulated purchase in an immersive virtual reality environment using a head-mounted device, and the second group made the purchase on a traditional e-commerce website. The findings revealed that the scores given to sense of presence, attitude change, and perceived ease of use were greater among those who made the purchase in the more immersive virtual reality environment. However, the relationships between the variables in the causal model were stronger for the classic website than for the virtual reality setting. Attitude change positively affected intention to visit a destination more in the virtual reality environment.
Article
Full-text available
Voluntourism has always been portrayed as a crucial role in developing economies. However, as voluntourism evolves and expands, a question of sustainability arises. The majority of populaces served by short-term volunteer trips are predisposed communities. Thus, this raises ethical questions such as voluntourism as a savior or impediment to communities. This study examines the attractiveness of volunteer tourists in recent years in Cambodia and India and how it contributes to future sustainable tourism research. The paper uses KH Coder to collect primary data for the quantitative analysis of text data. Moreover, the paper applies an exploratory approach using content analysis of participant reviews to identify the critical dimensions of experiences. Based on the analysis of trends in voluntourism and their ecosystem, an approach to the sustainable development strategy of voluntourism actors is proposed. First, voluntourism operators and host organizations, a pivotal element of the development strategy of voluntourism infrastructure, are considered. It was revealed that there is a nexus between the well-being of the community/business opportunities and experienced voluntourists. Consequently, these voluntourism activities may provide intrinsic gains for them and the targeted communities, plus its support toward corporate social responsibility. Acknowledgment This study received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
Chapter
Full-text available
This study aims to determine the role of stakeholder orientation, strategic capability, and joint value creation on the competitiveness of Banten’s cultural tourism destinations. This research is located in Banten Province, Indonesia. This research was conducted by distributing electronic questionnaires to 321 respondents. Furthermore, focus group discussions among stakeholders were conducted to balance and strengthen the data collected. The findings of the test results indicate that Stakeholder Orientation (OS), Strategic Capabilities (KS), and Shared Value Creation (PNB) have a significant role in the competitiveness variable of cultural tourism destinations. The results of the partial test found that the diversity of OS and KS was not significant for the competitiveness variable of cultural tourism destinations (DS). This means that in the future the OS, KS, and GNP indicators must be improved, especially the shared value creation (PNB) variable which has the biggest role.
Article
Nonprofits in cities often exist in segregated contexts in which leadership in high-capacity nonprofits reflects the whiteness of surrounding suburbs while leadership in grassroots nonprofits reflects the makeup of residency (low-income people of color). We build upon a small but burgeoning literature that uses critical race theory to better understand whiteness and segregation in the nonprofit sector. Using ethnographic data in Camden, New Jersey (NJ), we identify three key emergent findings on the impact of a segregated nonprofit sector: (a) the sector’s segregation reflects regional, residential segregation; (b) White, suburban overrepresentation in high-capacity nonprofits leads to a defense of White, suburban interests; and (c) these dynamics contribute to economic segregation within the sector. In our conclusion, we lay out a wider theoretical discussion of how these factors are interrelated.
Article
Volunteer Tourism (VT) is expected to foster mutually beneficial relationships between host communities and tourists. However, it has its limitations, such as inefficiency and a low quality of work accomplishments. One possible way to offset such limitations is to position VT as a continuous project, consisting of successive tours. The research examined the changing roles of volunteer tourist groups (VTGs) over time based on a case of 'Otaru Snow Light Festival Korean Volunteers'. They have over 10 years of history supporting a winter event in Otaru City, Hokkaido. The research findings clarify that the roles of the VTGs have changed over time, from a simple, less important one to a more creative, important one. The findings also suggest that the factors behind the changes may include: 'autonomy', 'organizing volunteers', 'acceptance by host communities', 'opportunities to be creative', and 'constructive exchanges'.
Article
In recent years, English-language voluntourism (EVT) has grown in popularity, with many conceptualizing it as a form of cultural exchange between English speaking volunteers and members of a non-English speaking host community. This article explores relationships between and within volunteers and host groups of an EVT program in Lima, Peru. Using a postcolonial analytical framework, we explore how bringing together voluntourists and members of host communities from different socioeconomic backgrounds can reinforce inequality and difference between groups, even when framed as a “cultural exchange.” Presenting the idea of “worlds within worlds,” we argue that EVT, and the diffusion of English as a foreign “world” language, underscore an unequal and postcolonial dynamic between actors and the “worlds” from which they originate, both internationally and intra-nationally. In this way, EVT as cultural exchange creates a microcosm for maintaining wider systemic structures and inequalities.
Chapter
This book provides an overview of the phenomenon of volunteer tourism, its sources and its development as a concept; and focuses on the potential positive social and environmental benefits of volunteer tourism, and the prerequisites for a successful experience. Chapter 2 examines alternative tourism experiences and how tourists themselves construct them, then conceptualizes the concept of volunteer tourism within those boundaries of alternative tourism and, subsequently, mass tourism. Chapter 3 examines one of the 60 environmental projects undertaken by Youth Challenge International (YCI) between 1991 and 1995, which provides a microsocial context for the examination of the Santa Elena Rainforest Reserve experience of YCI participants. Chapter 4 presents the data obtained from the in-depth interviews with participants from Australia, over the 3 years of the Costa Rica project. Chapter 5 examines the elements of ecotourism, volunteerism and serious leisure in conjunction with the themes that emerged from the participant's definitions of the experience and links them to related information in the interviews and the literature. Chapter 6 focuses on the centrality of the natural environment. Chapter 7 explores how volunteer tourism experiences actually contribute to the development of self, framing the experience in the very words of the participants. Chapter 8 examines the growing convergence of aims between local communities and the tourism sector. Chapter 9 argues that the alternative tourism experiences should not be reduced to a dialogic model of impossible realities related to dialectal materialism. Instead, its understanding should be grounded in human interactions and the concrete social reality in which it takes place.
Chapter
This book explores the experiences of the volunteer tourist and the ensuing narratives between host and volunteer as it manifests in diverse and increasingly contested political international contexts. As such, this volume includes case studies conducted in 12 countries across six continents. The book is organized into three parts that explore key approaches to, and dimensions of, volunteer tourism. Part I (chapters 1-5) considers the perspectives of host communities and the organizations that provide them with volunteers as part of a process of social and community development. Part II (chapters 6-11) presents case studies that focus upon the experiences of the volunteer tourist and considers issues of the self, motivation, identity and the impact of volunteer tourism upon the volunteer. The case studies presented in part III (chapters 12-16) consider new and emerging trends that challenge traditional conceptualizations of volunteer tourism and open the door for further investigation that explores their implications in the future. This concluding part asks questions about the future of volunteer tourism and the dialogue that arises if we examine how a commodified or decommodified frame is used to examine it. This book was developed as a resource for scholars, commercial and non-commercial providers and students alike. It has a subject index.
Article
This book includes 15 papers selected from the presentations that were delivered at the 15th World Congress of the International Sociological Association. These papers were prepared for that organization's research committee on international tourism, which took as its overall theme 'the tourist as a metaphor of the social world'. Following the introductory chapter, two contributions (chapters 2 and 3) raise serious fundamental questions about how academics should research (and hence theorize) about tourists. The next two contributions (chapters 4 and 5) provide a critique of conventional tourism wisdom. Chapter 6 suggests that tourism is an intricate and evolving social network with varying degrees of trust that are based on the correlative processes of self-presentation and interpretation. Chapter 7 conceptualizes the tourist and the social world within a paradigm of social facts so that the former becomes a sign of the latter. Chapter 8 sees the tourist as never entirely alone on an uncharted journey, because there are always those who have undertaken it before. Chapter 9 asks the question as to whether or not tourists experience reality. Chapter 10 provides an analogy between tourism and love in all its many phases. Chapter 11 emphasizes that it is necessary to go beyond traditional analyses that focus solely on the 'tourist gaze'. The next two essays (chapters 12 and 13) highlight the fact that not all tourists are identical and hence, by implication, that the tourist as a metaphor of the social world must be understood as a multiple persona figurative of complex reality. The final three contributions (chapters 14-16) present postmodern and futuristic perspectives on tourists. The book has a subject index.