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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 4 Issue 3 Highlights



Tuesdays 10am ET/7am PT

Wisdom & Insight

VolunTourism: A Herald Of Sustainable Tourism

How are VolunTourism and Sustainable Tourism linked? How can VolunTourism expand the consciousness and awareness of issues like sustainability for travelers worldwide? What role can VolunTourists play in enhancing the potential of Sustainable Tourism in destinations around the globe? The following is based upon excerpts from a presentation that I recently gave at the Gros Morne International Summit on Sustainable Tourism in Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland.

Story Time

Dr. Goodman, a professor in the School of Business at Cambridge University, and his collegue Dr. Krishnagar, a professor of Hindu Studies, wended their way across campus to the local pub to celebrate a respite from a long week of grading mid-terms. Goodman entered first, raised in hand and saluted the bartender. By the time they sat down, two pints were waiting for them. In keeping with their customary practice, Krishnagar asked his colleague, “What shall we drink to, Sir Goodman?”

Goodman answered, “Sustainability.”

A good-natured philosophical discussion ensued in which Einstein was mentioned at least once along with the Theory of Relativity. Finally, Krishnagar glanced down at an empty mug, and with a wink and a nod to the barkeep, the process of two more pints heading in their direction commenced.

When the new mugs arrived, Goodman asked his colleague, “What shall we drink to, Krishnagar?”

Krishnagar responded, “Reincarnation.”

A more heated philosophical discussion transpired between the two men with mention of law not being subject to human belief, ala “the world was still round when it was ‘flat,’” and other pointed remarks. Suddenly, Goodman's face lit with an epiphany-like gleam. "By Jove, Krishnagar, I think we're on to something! If we can convince folks that reincarnation is true, we may have solved the dilemma of sustainability." He went on, "If you want to get people to be more sustainable, teach them that instead of doing it for their kids, they will really be doing it for themselves - as a welcome back gift!”

Out came the cocktail napkins and the coasters and the men began plotting the work necessary to accomplish their objectives. With a sudden pause in his enthusiasm, Krishnagar quipped, “Sir Goodman, do you think it’s sustainable?”

In an equally brilliant flash of wit, Goodman replied, “I’m not sure, Krishnagar, it may take me another incarnation to figure it out.”

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The Role of VolunTourists In Sustainable Tourism

From our story there are several points worth mentioning. First, Krishnagar and Goodman had to be conscious, on some level, of the topics they were discussing - sustainability, reincarnation, and their potential connection. Second, the story features the importance of relationships. Third, we see different forms of communication utilized to convey different messages and the significance of those methods in a given context. And, finally, we note that there was a distinct process by which all of the activities transpired.

VolunTourists (as "conscious consumers")

We will begin our discussion by looking at consciousness expansion and its relation to VolunTourism. According to the ancient illuminatos of the planet, there are four methods by which consciousness can be expanded. Three of these most readily apply to VolunTourism:

1) Devotion: When considering devotion, think of the life of George Washington Carver who devoted his life to the study of the peanut. He discovered more than three hundred uses for the peanut, one of which was not peanut butter by the way. VolunTourists may have a special devotion to a cause or issue which they hope to address through their journey

2) Wisdom: Intellectual study of the destination and participation in real, meaningful life experiences

3) Service: Voluntary service to the destination - its people and/or environment

VolunTourists Foster Interaction & Strengthen Relationships

Relationships are essential to the progress of any VolunTourism program. There are four primary relationships that are fostered and strengthened through these efforts:

1) People-To-People: Relationships in this category come in several forms - -

  • VolunTourists to VolunTourists
  • VolunTourists to Residents
  • VolunTourists to Experience Facilitators (tour operators, ngo-suppliers, etc.)
  • VolunTourists to The Global Community (pre- & post-trip story telling on the web, blog posts, etc.)

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2) People-To-Destination: Relationships in this category also come in several forms - -

  • VolunTourists to Arts, Culture, and the Heritage of a Destination
  • VolunTourists to Geography
  • VolunTourists to History
  • VolunTourists to Recreation

3) People-To-Self: Relationships with self are introspective in nature with questioning related to - -

  • Personal Values
  • Preconceived Notions, Misinformation, and Prejudices
  • Balancing Expectations/Motivations with Reality
  • Self-image

4) "Silos"-To-"Silos": Relationships in this category focus on cross-sector engagement - -

  • Tour Operators and NGOs/Supply Chain
  • Destination Marketing Organizations and NGOs
  • NGOs and Hoteliers & Other Accommodations
  • Transport Companies and NGOs

VolunTourists Initiate and Facilitate Communication & Dialogue

As catalysts, VolunTourists and their goals and objectives create a demand for communication and dialogue to occur between a variety of stakeholder groups. What are some of the outcomes of this catalysis? - -

  • Previously unopened channels of communication are opened - - (cross-sector dialogue, especially)
  • Participation in VolunTourism experiences leads to a revisiting of the "fix-it" mentality - - (not all needs represent that something has been broken and, therefore, needs to be "fixed")
  • Post-trip, ongoing dialogue between residents and VolunTourists, and other stakeholders - - (areas for improvement, what worked well, etc.)

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VolunTourists Thrive On Procedural Engagement Amongst Stakeholders

Procedure is imperative to the success of any VolunTourism operation. Here are several procedural elements aimed at delivering value to all stakeholders, especially VolunTourists

  • Procedure as underlying necessity - - (many VolunTourists are outcome-oriented; importance of evaluation & accountability; post-trip follow up & reporting; procedure as a means of easily determining transparency)
  • Procedure as removing guesswork - - (deciphering which projects should be addressed by local communities, or VolunTourists, or both)
  • Procedure as reinforcing repetition (VolunTourists rely on process and progress-generated-from-process to encourage repeat visitation)

Summarizing The Connection Between VolunTourism And Sustainable Tourism

Gianna Moscardo, PhD, a Professor in the School of Business at James Cook University, inked a paper entitled Sustainable Tourism Innovation: Challenging Basic Assumptions. In the abstract she wrote:

She continues in the body of the paper:

Dr. Moscardo is correct in saying that the potential of VolunTourism in the realm of development has "yet to be fully explored." Perhaps with a greater connection to Sustainable Tourism, exploration of such topics will be forthcoming. This is not guaranteed, of course; but if it changes our thinking, we may discover new approaches to addressing socio-environmental challenges and stewardship of destinations by including the time, talent, and treasure of VolunTourists. This may lead to a new direction for development, one that includes sustainable voluntary service activities, not as an afterthought, but as a strategic, holistic initiative by destinations and all stakeholder groups.

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