Volunteer tourism is undertaken by the tourists in the local communities where they volunteer to help the by helping eliminating material poverty. It is an alternative form of tourism because the tourists opt to make their travel locally.
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Motivations for participants in volunteer tourism
The main motivation of this kind of tourism is to volunteer in working for the host community as the tourists learn more about their culture and other things. They satisfy the desire to work but not to be just tourists. They work for no pay in the communities that they travel to and this benefits in providing free labor, though short term to the host country or community.
There are other tourists that are motivated by the desire to give (Sin, 2009, 487-491). When they visit these communities they try to alleviate poverty materials by giving items to the people. The needy people benefits from these items and the tourists are satisfied. They argue that they feel good when they give. There are other tourists that participate in volunteer tourism in order to contribute to the host community in any way possible.
This is done through community service activities that these participants undertake. They do volunteer work that help the community and they themselves feel that they have contributed to the community.
Others argue that they learn a lot through community service because they get a chance to interact with the people in the community and learn a lot from them. They learn cultural differences between different communities and how they differ from each other. They also learn how the reception is done by different communities and how they differ from each other.
According to (Sin, 2009, 487-491), volunteers in this kind of tourism are also motivated by the desire to try themselves out in doing something.
There are people who engage in it in order to try whether they can do volunteering. This is mostly for people who are doing it for the first time and who are curious to know whether they are capable of doing it. This motivation has increased volunteer tourism in most countries. People also do it in order to try their ability in doing some activities. They test their capability in doing that particular activity.
Benefits of volunteer experience
Volunteer experience causes intrinsic motivation which is a result of mutually beneficial interaction. The intrinsic motivations tries to satisfy intrinsic needs like self actualization and therefore the tourists will feel satisfied when they are in volunteer travels. This is basically for people seeking self actualization (Stebbins & Graham, 2004, 28).
The host community and the tourists benefits from the volunteer tourism. The host community gets help from the tourists while the tourists gain satisfaction from the tour. The benefits of volunteer tourism are built by both the host community and the tourists. The level of interaction also determines the level of satisfaction. The tourists have to prove beneficial to the community so that the community can create a good environment for tourists.
As stated by McIntosh & Zahra (2007, 549-550), volunteer tourism gives somebody a meaningful self experience as one interacts with the local people in the host community. Volunteers get to learn more about the culture of other people and compare with their own culture. One learns to appreciate other people and to help them in times of their needs.
One of the volunteers interviewed by McIntosh & Zahra argued that he learned to give support to those in needs as he learned that he was better than them (McIntosh & Zahra (2007, 549-550). In other words, volunteer tourism enables somebody to interact with people and know them better, their culture and that some need your help. Volunteer tourism also enables the tourists to experience a cheaper travel than what other forms of tourism would cost them.
To travel as a tourist is more expensive than when one is doing volunteering. There are usually subsidies offered to volunteer tourism. For instance, the universities subsidize trips for students to other countries where they go as volunteers. The volunteers find it cheaper than the actual tourism.
They therefore travel to volunteer because of the cost effectiveness associated with the volunteer tourism. The tourists also gains interpersonal experience as they interact with the people in the host communities. They enjoy moments of sharing about their lives and cultural differences (Guttentag, 2009, 549).
They also builds bold and genuine relationships with the host community as they continue interacting with them and this gives them the desire to travel again to that particular communities and others to make more friends. Volunteer tourism also enables the tourists to know many local places in the host country.
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The tourists travel to the local communities helping them in doing activities and then giving material things. This exposure allows the tourists to know more about the local communities; their activities, locations, believes and values among others. This is different from the formal tourism where the tourists only visit the tourist sites in a country but will not have chances to know other places in that community.
Relation to reference material and theories of tourist motivation and behavior
One of the basic theories of motivation suggests that tourism is basically done to satisfy the psychological needs of the tourist. These are the intrinsic needs that a person feels from within and seeks their satisfaction (Rogers, 2007, 23). For volunteer tourism, the tourists also have the desire to satisfy the intrinsic needs or the self actualization needs. The volunteer tourism therefore has some aspects of the formal tourism as far as the needs are concerned.
The only notable difference is the activities the tourists in the two kinds of tourism are involved in. in volunteer tourism, the tourists engage themselves in volunteer activities and they derive their satisfaction from them. In formal tourism, the tourists obtain their satisfaction from touring the tourist magnificent sites that are present in that country and not through the volunteer activities in the local communities.
Volunteer tourism is becoming very common in many parts of the country. People prefer it because of the fulfilling experience it gives them. People are motivated by different factors in doing the volunteer travels
Guttentag, D. A. (2009). “The possible negative impacts of volunteer tourism”. International Journal of Tourism Research, 11: 537-551
McIntosh, A.J. & Zahra, A. 2007. A cultural encounter through volunteer tourism: Towards the ideals of sustainable tourism. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 15(5): 541-556.
Rogers, M. (2007). “Volunteerism is on the rise”. In Travel Agent, 17 September, 20-24.
Sin, H.L. 2009. Volunteer tourism – ‘involve me and I will learn’? Annals of Tourism Research, 36(3): 480-501.
Stebbins, R.A. & Graham M.M. 2004. Volunteering as Leisure- Leisure as Volunteering An International Perspective Wallingford: CABI