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Volunteer tourism is called voluntourism or international volunteering. This can be defined as the tourism whereby tourists voluntarily organize themselves and use their holidays in visiting places with positive reasons or objectives.
The objectives may include helping the needy groups in the society, bringing polluted environments into restoration or doing research of unique environment or societies around the world (Singh, 2012).
For instance, the organized tourists may start projects that might help societies to preserve and conserve their environment or even educate them on community welfare.
Good examples of volunteer tourist include the Non Governmental organizations, Agencies for conservation, the sending companies, religious organizations, governments, among many others (Wearing, 2001).
The Development of Volunteer Tourism
According to the Tourism Research and marketing (TRAM), volunteer tourism started a few years ago and has become a global phenomenon with predictions of expansion or growth in the near future (Mintel, 2008; Benson, 2011).
The growth of volunteer tourism product in the market place is as a result of other emerging organizations offering the same services, but indirectly digging from the pockets of the people in the societies. A study to understand volunteer tourism was conducted to define the term volunteer tourism (Carlsen & Charters, 2007).
Grounded theory was developed whereby the voluntourists were interrogated with the help of the questionnaires. The questionnaire was created in a design that encouraged people to complete it. The questions were simple to answer and not ambiguous.
For instance, the questions asked of the volunteers were on what they would do on the project; how they would spend their free time; what they understood by the term international volunteering and the reasons that made them participate in that holiday (Goulding, 2002).
The data collected in the questionnaires were reviewed, coded, contrasted, and analysis was made. This was done in order to allow categories of themes related to volunteer tourism to emerge. A core category of engagement emerged accompanied by its concepts and their properties.
The examples of the concepts included participation, integration, interaction, immersion, involvement among others. There are those people who responded that they were ready to assist workers in the children’s home and attend to the children’s needs.
They also engaged in helping the project to attain its set goals. They indicated that the tourism involved activity engagement to further charitable causes (Brink, 2007).
Another concept of volunteer tourism is volunteer work. Its concepts are choice, range, payment, time and purpose. As for the concept of choice, voluntourists had a right to make their own choice when it came to picking projects, area preferences, providers for voluntourism and many others (Riecken, 1952).
The range concept provided a range of projects. These include humanitarian projects that required the voluntourists to have the knowledge to improve peoples’ life through health, education, and construction; projects for conservation that involved the protection of animals, plants, lands, and the buildings and controlling disasters (Benson, 2011).
The voluntourists were to pay some amount of money to cater for them in the volunteer tourism (concept of payment). Time, also a concept of volunteer work, was for indicating the duration the work was supposed to take.
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The purpose concept was used to ensure that the volunteer work served the project, the provider and the voluntourist (Rieckon, 1952).
A concept of tourist, also one of the categories of volunteer tourism, was innovated to motivate people to become voluntourists. This category included sub-concepts and properties that are countless. It indicated almost all the objectives or reasons that made people voluntourists.
The examples include exploring, to learn, to meet new people and make new friends, cultural exchange, to see another culture, to spread personal beliefs, cultural immersion, to escape, to see another part of the world and very many other reasons. Some could give positive reasons.
For instance, wanting to be of service to others, improve other peoples’ lives, give back, assist, spread skills and many voluntary reasons (Smith, Robertson & Macleod, 2009).
Every society has its own culture. Acquired in early childhood, culture controls the lives of many individuals. Individuals see their culture as the perfect one, and it is because of that strong belief that the culture enables them to choose between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
Defining culture is not easy as it keeps on changing (Jandt, 2010). Many societies are heterogeneous. In this case, it is not easy to tell whether a certain society’s culture is dominant or not. An inter-cultural exchange involves sharing of different peoples’ life by copying behaviours from one another.
Traditionally, communities in societies restricted their people from adopting different cultures from the outside societies (O’Dowd, 2007; Kohls & Knight, 1996).
In the countries that were more advanced, the tourists saw the citizens of the developing countries as primitive and even associated them with animals. In return, the citizens in the developing countries criticized cultures of the developed countries (Hallett & Kaplan-Weinger, 2010).
For instance, they viewed their way of dressing as unclean and not recommendable. I agree with those who oppose inter-cultural exchange, but warn them that there is too much good for societies who share some of their beliefs (culture). Indeed, the benefits of this are uncountable.
Individuals, communities, societies, and nations at large are of no exception when it comes to benefiting from inter-cultural exchanges (Jack & Phipps, 2005).
There are various factors that affect the nature of inter-cultural exchanges in the volunteer tourism. They include the identities of culture, race, ethnicity, gender role, social class, age, role and individual personality.
The cultural identity refers to the norms and practices that people adopt in their communities or societies (Gudykunst, 2003; Landis, Bennett & Bennett, 2004). It also includes how they differ from those of other people brought up in different societies.
The racial identity affects people of different races in the workplace who come from different cultures. Ethnicity, another factor affects the interaction of two people from different ethnic groups in the workplace (Gudykunst, 2005).
Societies view the roles of men and women from different perspectives. This is often referred to as the gender role identity factor. The other factor is that of social class identity. The level that individual possesses in the society determines how they will interact with other people in the workplace.
The individual personality factor determines how a person communicates with others from different cultures depending on his or her own personality and where they rank themselves (Ting-Toomey, 1999).
Age was used in determining the relationship between the various age clusters. In the US, the culture allows individual to care less about the old aged. In this case, the elders’ advice if often ignored.
However, in countries like China, Cambodia, and Thailand, people pay great attention to the advice of their elders and take it into account when it comes to deciding on important matters (Singleton & Ryan, 2004).
Volunteer Tourism and Intercultural Exchange
I agree that volunteer tourism also called voluntourism or international tourism promotes intercultural exchange that rationalize poverty and reinforces tourism as neo-colonialism (Wakounig, 2012). Quite a number of researches conducted have supported this argument.
An example is the establishment of American Field Service (AFC) in 1914. Originally, the organization belonged to a corps of civilian volunteers who used to drive ambulances to battlefields, during the first and second world wars.
In the late 1940s, the American Field Service started to work hard to ensure the promotion of peaceful coexistence. This promotion targeted high schools and volunteerism. Students are taught about the importance of cultural exchange by their teachers (Lengel, 2004; Ickstadt, 1997).
The organization is now one of the largest organizations in the world with branches in 52 countries and another 30 countries with the program activity. Hong Kong and China are two good examples of the countries where the program has been established are.
In Hong Kong, the high school students undertake the course, some in the short term and others year-long. In developing commitment to the philosophy of volunteerism, students and the American Field service volunteers take part in the community service activities (Kenny, 2002).
AFS in China started in 1983 after forming a partnership with China Association for International Educational Exchange (CAIEE). Many Chinese teachers have been placed in schools within different countries to teach about cultural exchange with their international counterparts.
A cultural exchange programme was launched in China in the year 1997. Students from the developing nations are often provided with scholarship support by the American Field Service, which sources the funds from private and corporate donors (Bricker, Black & Cottrell, 2013; Moore, Walton & Lambert, 1992).
In a case of Indonesian tourists within Australia, it is clear that the greater the inter-cultural exchange, the more they need of awareness, understanding, and acceptance of differences in culture by the tourism practitioners.
The cultural differences between the two nations helped the two nations realize the need of cultural understanding in staffing people in the tourism industry sector. If there were no cultural differences, the behaviour of every participant would have been understood, and cultural conflicts would have been eliminated (Yunus & Weber, 2007).
A research by Parasuraman et al (1994) observed that expectation measurement measures the service quality. However, in this research there were no cross-cultural samples that were involved. The findings were proved wrong by other research that involved cross cultural samples.
The study came up with an answer that expectations that appeared to be significant existed between cultural groups. In addition, the expectation measurement did not improve the service quality.
The study concluded that customer satisfaction, customer preferences, quality of services and retaining them was influenced by the encounters between different groups with different cultural values (Bricker, Black & Cottrell, 2013).
A cross-cultural study on casino guests as perceived by the casino employees is another reason that should make one appreciate the cultural exchange, which is instrumented by volunteer tourism. In Korea, the casino industry is viewed as a tool for developing the economy.
It is accepted as product of tourism, and this has encouraged tourism development. A research study’s objective was to learn more about the cultural elements that led to the interaction between the workers in Korea’s largest casino and the guests (Dwyer, Gill & Seetaram, 2012).
The visitors (tourists in this case) were grouped into five cultural groups. These groups included the Japanese, the Chinese, the abroad Korean residents, the westerners and others comprising of Sri Lankans, Philippines, and Thais.
Each group responded differently to the services offered by the employees. Some groups’ cultures almost resembled each other. Through the way the employees perceived the guests from each cultural group, the management benefited a lot by learning about the dislikes and likes of each group.
The cultural differences helped the management to develop new skills. This was evident on marketing, staffing, and providing quality services to the guests (tourists) (Prideaux, Moscrdo & Laws, 2005).
The casino management was then able to make corrections on the games available and the range of services it would provide.
The management considered formal training program development to the employees that incorporated cultural training to enhance the understanding of cultural behaviours of different nations (Market Research Society, 1963).
From the study, we learn that the cultural exchange did not only benefit the Walker Hill Casino, but also benefited the people of Korea and the economy at large. We also learn the importance of gaming in the tourism sector as one way of promoting cultural exchange (Uysal & Perdue, 2012).
Tourism in Burma is the other evidence I will use in agreeing with the statement that: Volunteer tourism promotes inter-cultural exchanges that rationalize poverty and reinforces tourism as neo-colonialism.
The history of tourism in Burma can be divided into three: the parliamentary democracy, the socialist period, and the period of the opening up of the tourist market (Hallet & Kaplan, 2010).
At the time of parliamentary democracy, entrepreneurship was promoted in Burma. The tourist visas were valid for a month, and Tourist Burma was assigned with informing and guiding tourists (Lubbe, 2003). When it reached 1962, the validity was reduced to 24 hours.
This was aimed by the authority to reducing tourism in the country in order to protect the traditional culture from foreign influences. In 1990, the military government took power from a dictator and looked for a new strategy to open market for foreign investment.
In 1992, the Ministry of Tourism and Hotels was established, and this led to the development of infrastructures of tourism (Miller & Twining, 2005).
In 1996, the military junta opened the door for tourists. The reasons why the junta prioritized tourism were for economic necessity and to regain prestige. The Burma nation benefited from tourism by sourcing foreign currencies to buy arms that the military government needed in order to stay in power.
The generals also wanted to show the other nations a new face of Burma through trips organized by the government, hiding, or putting undercover the political and human rights disasters (Reid & Grosberg, 2005).
Come the year 2000, the tourist entry requirements were eased to motivate the volunteer tourists into the Burmese land, and the validity period of the visa was increased.
In the year 2004, an electronic visa was introduced, which became possible to acquire in the mid of 2010 immediately after the tourists’ arrival to airports. This greatly facilitated the tourists into entering the Burmese land (Hanne, 2008).
The growth of tourism has helped the third world countries to develop. In this case, the third world countries have been able to move from underdevelopment and become developed countries (Telfer & Sharpley, 2008).
The third world governments have promoted tourism because they have seen how it can transform nations that are underdeveloped. Tourism is also the source of income and employment (Holmes & Smith, 2009). It cannot be compared with any other export industry in a nation. It impacts a nation’s economy positively.
The tourist expenditure such as parking and admission fees, taxes for local businesses hotels and services, generates income for both the public and the private sectors (James, 1996).
The case study that compared wine tourism destinations, Canada’s Okanagan Valley of British Columbia and the Niagara can be related to tourist development. The communities in the Okanagan relied on long hot summers and mild winters in attracting tourists.
Wine tourism was later on built to ensure the strong captive market during the winter season (Bramble, 2000). The challenges included a challenge to attract tourists outside the short seasons of summer; a challenge of targeting a very small local population; limited land for agriculture and fear of inadequate water in the future (Dougherty, 2012).
Despite the challenges, the industry managed to grow in a short period of about two decades. It had a nice production and quality wines. The number of wineries and the land available for vineyards became smaller to handle the project.
A comparison of the two wine tourism destinations of Canada: the Okanagan and the Niagara wine region were conducted. Thirty eight grape wineries in Niagara were contrasted to 44 wineries in the Okanagan (Low & Burstyn, 2005).
The Niagara’s wineries emerged to be the best because it was big in size and had a strong tourism orientation. Most of the Okanagan wineries did not have websites at the time the comparison was being made. The Niagara led because the region was highly populated (Bramble & Coon, 2003).
It had natural resources abundantly and was surrounded by features that easily developed. The examples of the developments in the Niagara Falls were additional accommodations, hotels and restaurants, institutions that taught cooking and retail operations (Chambers & Dearden, 2008).
One of the bases of comparison and benchmarking found that it was not necessary for all wine regions to have the same yield and the power to develop. This is obvious especially when one compares the case of Niagara and that of Okanagan (Coers, Elliott & Henderson, 2001).
Despite of all the challenges, the Okanagan had a good side too. Summer tourist attraction favoured it, good infrastructure and the migration of people from the rural to urban, making the population of the urban centres grow.
Being a tourist attraction, the residents of the Okanagan benefited a lot from the tourists for instance in securing job opportunities; learning more about agriculture from the foreigners; cultural exchanges and many others.
The nation too was not left behind as it generated foreign exchange hence economic growth. The cultural exchange helped the nation build good interrelations with other nations and many more (Getz, 2000).
International tourism also referred to as voluntourism or volunteer tourism promotes intercultural exchanges, which helps nations learn from one another (Moufakkir & Kelly, 2010).
A comparison of tourism policies of Hong Kong and Singer pore can evident this statement. The research study was conducted to show how mutual learning affected the competitiveness and sustainability of Singer pore and Hong Kong (Carty, 2010).
The two nations have many similarities and it is this having many things in common that led the researchers into surveying them. When the top official of the government was interrogated about the interrelationships between the two countries, they agreed that there is a lot they share due to inter-cultural exchanges.
The Hong Kong government can get ideas from Singapore about the proactive help it applies to industries, leadership with vision and the eagerness the country has to learn. In correspondence, the Singapore government can learn from Hong Kong on how to promote entrepreneurship within the industry of tourism.
This mutual learning helps both nations to grow economically and creates good interrelationships hence promoting peace and harmony (Wright & Kelly-Holmes, 1997; Bricker, Black & Cottrell, 2013).
International tourism also called volunteer tourism is one of the largest industries in the world that creates and promotes economic and social growth, especially for poor nations. When the poor countries get established, the citizen benefit from the transformation.
The poor countries’ major export is tourism, and it is the major source of their foreign exchange. Countries that have received a boost from tourism should ensure that, as their economy grows, the standards of living for its citizens should also grow.
This can be achieved by making changes in institutions, laws, controls and functions that may help in doing away with poverty. Thus, as the nation benefits from international tourism, its citizens should be guaranteed opportunities to improve their economic and social lives. Tourism is of great importance and should be encouraged at all costs.
It facilitates cultural exchange that can impact positively to every nation, society, community and the individuals. It has helped the poor people to become part of the processes that run the industry, educating them about many things.
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