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The VolunTourist™ is a premium Newsletter for the Travel Trade. For those interested in discovering what is happening in the world of VolunTourism™ and seeking emerging practices, general information, and case studies, this is your Source.

Volume 6 Issue 2 Highlights

 

FEATURE ARTICLE 2

Further Insights On VolunTourism Marketing: Better Understanding Their Perception Of Your Passion

In 2006, I wrote a short essay entitled "VolunTourism: The New P's of Marketing." It was inspired by my discovery that VolunTourism has elements to it that do not fit well within the traditional marketing model of Four P's attributed to E. Jerome McCarthy in his book, Basic Marketing. To clarify, I suggested that 'peace of mind' (price), 'partnerships' (place), 'perception' (promotion) and 'passion' (product) would more accurately represent the natural characteristics of VolunTourism. As a follow-on to that piece, I would like to review the Hofstede Dimensional Model of National Culture to see how it may assist VolunTourism providers in better understanding potential VolunTourists' 'perceptions' of your resepective 'passions.'

Introduction

VolunTourism is about to undergo a dramatic change in terms of market demographics. Those of you who keep track of where your potential voluntourists come from may have already noticed a shift in interest from a CANNU-centric (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States) marketplace to one that is beginning to include the G-BRICs (Germany, Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and other Asian markets (Malaysia and Singapore, in particular). Social media, 'global weirding,' and natural & manmade disasters are compelling citizens the world over to reconsider, not only where they travel, but how they travel. The notion of responsibility is moving from a thought-based, decision-conscious approach of incorporating such things as carbon offsets to one that demonstrates an active participation in supporting the well-being of destinations and residents.

Given these shifts, will the approaches to marketing and promotions introduced more than a half-century ago, the original Four P's of Marketing - product, price, place, and promotion, continue to yield the results VolunTourism marketers are seeking? We all know the answer to this rhetorical question. The real question to be asking, and discovering an answer to, is: "What do we do?"

The first item of business is to create some common ground from which to carry on a discussion regarding VolunTourism Marketing. Is everyone comfortable with the idea that although you may be 'promoting' your 'products' and services to potential VolunTourists, what you are really doing is enhancing VolunTourists' 'perceptions' of your 'passion'?

If we are in agreement on this, then we can move to the bulk of this specific discussion which will focus on better understanding how we do so. I will review The Hofstede Dimensional Model of National Culture, the pioneering work of Geert Hofstede. I will then follow up with some suggestions based upon six of the dimensions and their implications for VolunTourism. Here we go.

The Hofstede Dimensional Model of National Culture

Two additional dimensions have been explored and discussed both by Geert Hofstede and others. In the April 2010 Issue of "A Community of Respect Newsletter," published by A Community of Respect at Texas A&M University, we read:

There is an abundance of research that offers support for the Hofstede Model, however, of the most critical reviews comes the work of Brendan McSweeney, author of "Hofstede's Model of National Cultural Differences and Their Consequences: A Triumph of Faith -- A Failure of Analysis." In his concluding remarks McSweeney writes:

Possible Perceptions Of VolunTourism Based On The Hofstede Model

Now that we have provided some critiques of Hofstede's work, let's see what Hofstede's Model might offer in terms of insights into the perceptions of potential VolunTourists and what may assist you, as a VolunTourism marketer, in effectively understanding those perceptions. In the following chart, I offer some suggestions as to what may appeal to members of a given society, in terms of their perceptions, as they consider participating in a VolunTourism experience.

Possible Perceptions Of VolunTourism Based On The Hofstede Model
Dimension
Description*
High Value
Low Value

Power

Distance

Index

A high value in this dimension would suggest that members of a society would be inclined to participate in VolunTourism if they perceive it to be a means of demonstrating their position in the societal hierarchy A low value in this dimension would suggest that members of a society would be inclined to participate in VolunTourism if they perceive it to be a means of counteracting inequalities within a society and assisting individuals in realizing a more equal status with others (having a home, for example)

Individualism/

Collectivism

A high value for this dimension would suggest that members of a society would participate in VolunTourism if they perceive it as a means of stepping beyond the self and/or one's immediate family to assist individuals who are less fortunate; international VolunTourism would likely be more appealing to this group A low value in this dimension would suggest that members of a society would be inclined to participate in VolunTourism if they perceive it to be a means of demonstrating their loyalty to the whole society; domestic VolunTourism would likely be more appealing to this group
Masculinity A high value for this dimension would suggest that members of a society, particularly males, would participate in VolunTourism if they perceived it to be a means of achieving something to serve the self (self-benefit), while the women in such societies would be far more likely to participate than the men A low value in this dimension would suggest that members of a society would be inclined to participate in VolunTourism if they perceive it to be a means of caring for others; in this society we would expect to see a more equal distribution of female and male VolunTourists

Uncertainty

Avoidance

Index

A high value for this dimension would suggest that members of a society would be more likely to participate in VolunTourism if it is perceived to be something that has existed for a long time with a history of successful implementation A low value in this dimension would suggest that members of a society would be inclined to participate in VolunTourism if they perceive it to be innovative, new, and a change from what already exists

Long-/

Short-Term

Orientation

A high value for this dimension would suggest that members of a society would be more likely to participate in VolunTourism if it is seen as an investment in the future and long-term sustainability of a destination and its residents A low value in this dimension would suggest that members of a society would be inclined to participate in VolunTourism if they perceive it to be a fulfillment of social obligations, a respect for past traditions, and/or a demonstration of national pride
Indulgence versus Restraint** A high value for this dimension would suggest that members of a society would be more likely to participate in VolunTourism if it is perceived to be fun and exciting with an opportunity to have fond memories and experiential benefits accruing to the self as a result of participating A low value in this dimension would suggest that members of a society would be inclined to participate in VolunTourism if they perceive it to be a difficult, intense undertaking with little-to-no benefit accruing to the self and long hours dedicated to voluntary service

* (Source: Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions)
** (Source: Dimensions of national Cultures)

First, we will take a look at Hofstede's Country Scores for the CANUUs. Then we will take a closer look at the G-BRICs.

The Hofstede Dimensions For The CANUUs
Nation

Power

Distance

Indiv./

Collect

Masc./

Fem.

Uncertainty

Avoidance

Long/

Short

Indulgence/

Restraint

Canada
39
80
52
48
36
68
Australia
36
90
61
51
21
71
New Zealand
22
79
58
49
33
75
United Kingdom*
35
89
66
35
51
69
United States
40
91
62
46
26
68
Country Averages
34.4
85.8
59.8
45.8
33.4
70.2

(* Hofstede uses Great Britain [GBR] instead of United Kingdom, and offers separate numbers for Ireland: 28, 70, 68, 35, 24, and 65 respectively.)

We can see some similarities among the CANUUs, as well as some distinctions. Let's take a closer look at the G-BRICs and Malaysia and Singapore.

The Hofstede Dimensions For The GBRICs, Malaysia, and Singapore
Nation

Power

Distance

Indiv./

Collect

Masc./

Fem.

Uncertainty

Avoidance

Long/

Short

Indulgence/

Restraint

Germany
35
67
66
65
83
40
Brazil
69
38
49
76
44
59
Russia
93
39
36
95
81
20
India
77
48
56
40
51
26
China
80
20
66
30
87
24
Malaysia
104
26
50
36
41
57
Singapore
74
20
48
8
72
46
Country Averages
76
36.9
53
50
65.6
38.9

A very different picture from the CANUUs, is it not? And you can even see distinctions within dimensions. Germany seems to align more with the CANUUs in power distance and masculinity/femininity, but not the other four dimensions. And the further 'East' we go, the more distinction we see between the G-BRICs and Malaysia and Singapore and the CANNUs. Alright, is there something that can be learned from all of this and ultimately applied in your respective marketing and communications plans?

Analysis and Suggestions

What we want to pay closest attention to when we take a look at the results of Hofstede's research are data points that are well removed from a middle range of 45 - 55 in any dimensional category. With the CANUU's, the Individual/Collective Dimension represents the best candidate for discussion.

 
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The CANUUs are high on the Individualistic value. I interpret this to mean that they hold a world view that if you cannot help yourself and/or your family does not have the means to do so, you are in a predicament. Such a view lends itself to why CANUUs would be likely to help others, especially those in other countries, when they seemingly cannot help themselves - who else can they rely on but the assistance of 'strangers'? It is assumed that the government or some other over-arching entity isn't going to take care of them. They will need help. Therefore, marketing and communications offered to individuals from the CANUUs would feature language that focuses on 'helping those who cannot help themselves,' for example.

When we look at the G-BRICs and Malaysia and Singapore, it is clear that the Power Distance Index is the Dimension to focus on.

In terms of marketing and communications under these circumstances, it is recommended that the discussion of the merits of being a VolunTourist should be based upon how it helps to define one's position in the societal hierarchy and/or matches the overall expectations of the individual in that societal position.

One could also review any of the following for the G-BRICs, Malaysia, and Singapore:

  • the Uncertainty Avoidance Index for Russia (95) and Malaysia (8);
  • the Individual/Collective Dimension for China (20), Malaysia (26), and Singapore (20);
  • the Long/Short Dimension for Germany (83), Russia (81), and China (87); or
  • the Indulgence/Restraint Dimension for Russia (20), India (26) and China (24)

Scripting presentations to these audiences along any of these dimensions could also prove a worthy experiment in terms of perceptions.

Final Thoughts

When I first came across the Hofstede Dimensional Model of National Culture, I was even more intrigued by its potential applicability in developing and maintaining relationships between communities & voluntourists and communities & voluntourism providers. This is something I would like to delve into in the future. In terms of VolunTourism Marketing, however, because much of the application of Hofstede's Model has occurred in the advertising and communications space, the approach of this current article is probably the best under the circumstances. Thus, you will have access to numerous additional articles and publications to assist you in putting it into context with other products and services with which you are familiar.

Geert Hofstede's work, and its subsequent interpretations, most notably herein by Marieke de Mooij, is, in my estimation, perhaps one of the most helpful tools I have discovered for the VolunTourism Community. Yet, and I am more surprised by this than anything, I have not seen any discussion of Hofstede's work in my reviews of volunteer tourism and voluntourism literature. I hope that this will spark discussion on the subject, or, at the very least, some critical thinking.

One Final Point: Hofstede's Model, in my opinion, can also be looked at from an individual's perspective. Rather than thinking of these Dimensions as societal in nature, I think they also provide some insights into individual mindsets. Most voluntourism providers could likely describe someone that had, for example, a high Uncertainty Avoidance Index, whether or not s/he was from a culture/nation that also scores at that level overall. You may determine that these Dimensions can be utilized in your applications for voluntourists. Should someone score outside certain parameters, you may decide that that individual is not a good fit for your program.

References

de Mooij, Marieke, & Hofstede, Geert (2010) The Hofstede Model: Applications to Global Branding and Advertising Strategy and Research. International Journal of Advertising 29(1), 85-110.

McSweeney, Brendan (2002) Hofstede's Model of National Cultural Differences and Their Consequences: A Triumph of Faith - A Failure of Analysis. Human Relations 55(1), 89-118.

Texas A&M University: A Community of RESPECT, International Programs Office (April 2010) For Your Toolbox - - Geert Hofstede's New Cultural Dimensions. A Community Of Respect Newsletter 3(2) 3. http://bcsrespect.tamu.edu/April2010newsletter.pdf (accessed 30 June 2010).

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