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Master's thesis: Volunteer Tourism - could it be good?

Master's thesis: Volunteer Tourism - could it be good?

The idea of travelling for volunteering is to assist others while experiencing unfamiliar conditions, being able to manage those and returning enriched. Thus, volunteer tourism is a dichotomy between altruistic charitable work and a hedonistic leisure play.

Many actors have taken advantage of the substantial growth in demand for volunteer tourism, turning volunteering into a profit-making business. On the other hand, many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have sought to provide more ethical and philanthropic ways of volunteering. However, little research has been done on the role and practices of NGOs in facilitating volunteer tourism projects.

In her Master’s thesis, Toma Simkute interviewed representatives of Nordic non-governmental organizations that focus on international volunteering opportunities. The results show that volunteer tourism, even when enabled by NGOs, is a multifaceted phenomenon. Some of the interviewed Nordic NGOs are more in line with local community needs and tend to decommodify volunteer tourism projects – they select only skilled volunteers, assign them to tasks according to their expertise, and provide education on ethical and cultural issues. By contrast, some organizations are more oriented towards the neoliberal market and prioritize personal development of volunteers over community needs. The study provides insights not only for NGOs but also for other actors that are interested in enhancing more responsible forms of volunteer tourism.

Toma Simkute: Decommodifying Volunteer Tourism? Insights from Nordic Non-Governmental Organizations

The supervisor of the thesis was Senior lecture José-Carlos García-Rosell.

Master’s theses of Tourism Research are available online at Lauda.

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