A Journal For The VolunTourism Industry
For this issue of The VolunTourist, I am grateful to connect with Dr. Stephen Wearing from the University of Technology, Sydney. He has been a long-time advocate of Volunteer Tourism. This year will mark the release of a book that he co-edited with Dr. Kevin Lyons. And in 2009, Dr. Wearing will be editing the first ever Journal dedicated to Volunteer Tourism: The Journal of International Volunteer Tourism and Social Development. The Journal will be published by Multi-Lingual Matters in the UK. Dr. Wearing was generous enough to take time from his busy schedule to answer this issue's 3Qs.
1) You recently received recognition for your work on Volunteer Tourism with Youth Challenge International (YCI) from the American Express Company. How does it feel to have a representative, in this case, from outside of the YCI and University of Technology Sydney "families," offer a tangible recognition of your work on Volunteer Tourism?
I think the recognition of the 'innovation' from one of the main players in the Tourism Industry is significant. The Tourism Industry has, to a large degree, ignored its corporate social responsibility in any significant way preferring to focus on the Business of Tourism. Volunteer Tourism has allowed it to see a way of meeting this corporate social responsibility while also engaging in what it sees as its main aim – profit.
The twinning of volunteering and holidays has ensured that we now have a future that will encourage the activity of volunteer tourism, see the Industry recognize its relevance and the benefits not only financially but also toward improving its image as an industry. The problem with this recognition could also be as it was for ecotourism - disingenuous operators becoming involved and providing product that is more focused on a high yield rather than the volunteer tourist experience and the assistance that it can provide to communities.
2) In August 2007, the University of Canberra announced that you would be joining a group focusing its attention on Volunteer Tourism research. How do you envision that this will support your efforts in the upcoming release of the book on Volunteer Tourism that you and Dr. Kevin Lyons have co-edited along with your goal of launching the Journal of International Volunteer Tourism and Social Development in 2009?
I think that a group focusing on Volunteer Tourism will provide a platform that will allow the discussion and evolution of the idea of Volunteer Tourism - just as the VolunTourism web site does. This area needs to hear the voices of those who are interested in this area developing and also, just as with other areas that have a social agenda (Ecotourism, Peace Tourism, Pro Poor Tourism etc), enabling tourism to move on from being just a tool for economic development in developing countries to a tool for social development.
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In the case of Volunteer Tourism - in those developed countries that the volunteers are coming from - it may help stem the tide of 'affluenza' occurring in developed countries where a range of behaviors including over-consumption, luxury fever, affluenza, the up-scaling of material expectations, spending and increased debt, work-aholism and the expectation of an unlimited upward mobility have become common.
Volunteer tourism offers some chance to change the individual and hopefully in the future social structures. The new book, Journeys of Discovery: International Case Studies on Volunteer Tourism, Lyons, K. & Wearing, S.L. (CABI - 2008), I hope will provide information to demonstrate this while the new Journal Journal of International Volunteer Tourism and Social Development due out 2009 (Multilingual Matters) will also provide another avenue to promote discussion and debate.
3) What substantive elements in your research, collegial interaction, and work with YCI over the last two decades leads you to the conclusion that it is important to maintain a delineation/separation between Volunteer and Tourism rather than combining the terms into one, i.e., VolunTourism?
My preference is for Volunteer Tourism only because I have never liked acronyms or the shorting of works a great deal - call me a Renaissance Academic if you like or it could just be my reaction to Australian Cultures (Aussie) habit of shortening every work in the English language - I just like the two word option.
Dr. Stephen Wearing is an Associate Professor at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). He has been responsible for a variety of projects in the area of Leisure and Tourism Studies at an international and local level. His practical experience as a town planner, environmental planner and park planner have provided him with real world experiences that he brings to his teaching and research. He has been project director for a range of social sciences in natural resource management projects and research and a team leader for a variety of ecotourism, volunteer tourism and outdoor education activities internationally.
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