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Volume 2 Issue 2 - Study and Research

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




So You May Know
Wisdom & Insight
Supply Chain
Study & Research


Study and Research


Resident Perceptions Regarding Community Planning for VolunTourism

Nancy Gard McGehee, Ph.D., Virginia Tech, and

Kathleen Andereck, Ph.D., Arizona State University West

In this issue of “The VolunTourist Newsletter”, I want to share Part II of the work we have been doing in the area of resident attitudes toward voluntourism. Once again, Kathy and I would like to thank profusely the staffs of Los Niños and Esperanza, the Promotoras from both organizations, and the residents of Tijuana who opened their hearts and homes to us. Over 130 people completed the questionnaire, often while trying to dress and feed children or get ready to go to work.

Last issue we discussed the fact that most of the research in voluntourism has concentrated on the volunteer tourist as opposed to the residents of the local community who host volunteers. This issue we continue to work to add to the gap in the research by discussing a very important component of voluntourism: community planning.

In many (I would argue most) communities, there are no policies regulating voluntourism. Anyone with the mobility and resources can choose to enter any community and begin a voluntourism program. For communities like Tijuana, this can mean that literally millions of people can come from all parts of the world and develop voluntourism programs wherever they want, doing whatever they want.

In many ways, this is one of the beauties of voluntourism: people who desire to make a difference can do so quite easily, dealing with very little bureaucracy. On the other hand, this can also lead to numerous cases of “the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.” Voluntourism efforts may not be maximized, leading to uneven or mismatched distribution of resources.

It is because of this that we set out to conduct research asking residents of a highly “voluntoured” community about their thoughts regarding community planning for voluntourism.

(You may recall that the target sample for this study was found amidst the folks who work with Los Niños and Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico. Due to a number of factors, including proximity to the US as a border city, accessibility to much of the U.S., it’s exploding population, and large percentage of impoverished citizens, Tijuana is a highly “voluntoured” city. As such, Tijuana is a great place to ask local residents about the issue of community planning for voluntourism.)


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A survey of residents who were likely to be impacted by volunteer tourism (both directly and indirectly) was conducted using a variety of purposive samples (see the previous issue for details). All of the findings I am going to discuss below have basically the same structure – respondents were asked to rate each item on a scale of 1-5, 5 being strongly agree, 1 being strongly disagree.

As is unusual for us “academic types” we did something very straightforward: we simply asked our respondents if they supported community involvement in voluntourism planning! Their response was overwhelmingly in agree-ment: nearly 80% either "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that community planning for voluntourism was important (Table 1).

Table 1: Support for Community Planning for VolunTourism


Strongly Agree
















Strongly Disagree







The response was also supportive when we asked how respondents felt about “growing” voluntourism in their communities – 70% "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that additional voluntourism would be a good thing (Table 2).

Table 2: Support for Additional VolunTourism


Strongly Agree
















Strongly Disagree







These findings in themselves are interesting, but we wanted to dig a little deeper. While overall planning for voluntourism was supported, we wanted to find out if there were any differences within the community. For example:

Does level of education or any other demographic characteristic affect level of support for voluntourism?

What about degree of personal benefit from voluntourism?

Or the respondents perceived positive or negative impacts of voluntourism?

Finally, what about support for additional voluntourism – if you want more, do you also want more voluntourism planning?

To find out, we ran what’s called a regression analysis of the data (for those of you who care, I’d be happy to share the results via e-mail; for those of you who had enough of statistics in college, I will spare you the details here).

Table 3 depicts basically what we found.

Education, income, age, length of residence in Tijuana, or if the respondents lived here as a child did not predict degree of support for community planning for voluntourism, nor did whether the respondents had any personal benefit from voluntourism. It also did not matter if the respondents agreed or disagreed with the positive impacts of voluntourism.

However, a couple of the variables were significant predictors for community planning of voluntourism. The higher respondents rated the negative impacts of tourism, the more they supported community planning. This makes sense doesn’t it? If you perceive the negative impacts of something, you would probably want to see that it is regulated to try and minimize those impacts.

The other variable that predicted support for community planning of voluntourism was support for additional voluntourism – now this is where it gets interesting. The higher respondents rated support for additional voluntourism, the more supportive they were of community planning for voluntourism.

Table 3: Predictors of Community Planning for Voluntourism


Support for VolunTourism Planning

Resident Characteristics


Personal Benefit from VolunTourism


VolunTourism's Perceived Negative Impacts


VolunTourism's Perceived Positive Impacts


Support for Additional VolunTourism


* (0) indicates a neutral relationship – this variable does not have any relationship (positive or negative) with support for voluntourism planning

** (+) indicates a positive relation – this variable predicts support for voluntourism planning in a positive direction

So what can we conclude from these findings, and where do we go from here?

As a voluntourism provider, you may take this information into account as you consider potential communities to be targeted for voluntourism. I think it’s safe to say that all of us who are involved in voluntourism want to see that resources are maximized. In order for that to happen, coordinated planning efforts between and amongst the various stakeholders in communities and the various voluntourism organizations is a pre-requisite. Those who may have a negative view of voluntourism should not be ignored, but rather should be embraced and included in the process, because those are the folks who can most help voluntourism to become stronger and better.

So, before you “take the plunge”, make sure you have involved a wide variety of folks from your host communities in the decision-making process. (Actually, I would argue that you take your cues from them and make sure that the community is in fact "in control" of the efforts, but perhaps that discussion is for another day.) This will allow you to develop a program that many residents are both in support of and have active ownership and involvement in the process.

Hope you enjoyed this month’s Research Forum! If you have any questions about this research, or if you have any interest in conducting research in your own community, please contact Nancy McGehee at nmcgehee@vt.edu.

Nancy McGehee, PhD., Virginia Tech University

See you next issue!

Nancy McGehee , Ph.D.

Hospitality and Tourism Management, Virginia Tech

Blacksburg VA


For more Study & Research Articles visit Dr. McGehee's VolunTourism Research Forum. Go There >>>

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