Giving until it hurts?

Volunteer-related travel has been one of the biggest trends in tourism in the past decade but who is measuring how much good it is doing?  With “voluntourism” now a mainstream commodity, many are questioning to what extent the good-natured intentions of travellers are being matched by benefits to communities.

“With the growth in the area, there’s a real concern about why people are doing projects and whether it is just to make them feel good,” says a Sydney-based expert in responsible tourism, Dr Stephen Wearing. “It has been commoditised by mainstream tourism and they [tourism operators] have realised they can turn a profit out of it. I think there can be a profit made but I would really like to see more transparency in where the money is going.”

Concerns about the contradictory nature of some voluntourism programs have prompted the International Ecotourism Society and Planeterra – a non-profit foundation created by adventure tourism operator G Adventures – to commit to developing a set of guidelines for the sector. The organisations say the guidelines, which will be released in coming weeks, will help operators plan and manage their programs in a sustainable way and help travellers make “smart decisions” about which programs to support.

Wearing, who is an associate professor in leisure and tourism at the University of Technology Sydney and is on the panel developing the guidelines, says there are widespread concerns about… (click here to keep reading this article by Jane E. Fraser)

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