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Research Forum

Dr. Nancy McGehee of Virginia Tech University is our resident expert on VolunTourism Research. She has compiled a series of research papers that have been featured in "The VolunTourist" over the last 5 years. Topics have ranged from motivations behind why VolunTourists travel in this way to how residents are responding to visitors spending time in their communities in order to lend a hand.

You will find these papers to be an invaluable resource regardless of whether you are a potential VolunTourist, a VolunTourism Operator, a Nonprofit Organization/NGO, or a DMO/CVB. Take time to browse through them and gather the information that will support you in your goals and objectives as they relate to VolunTourism.

VolunTourism Resources - Research Forum
Nancy McGehee, PhD., Virginia Tech University

Nancy McGehee, PhD - Associate Professor, Virginia Tech University

Nancy has been working in the area of tourism development for over 18 years. She received an MS in Tourism Management from North Carolina State University in 1991, worked for the Appalachian Tourism Research and Development Center from 1991-1994, then received both an MS and PhD in Sociology from Virginia Tech in 1999. Her dissertation focused on how volunteer tourism influenced individual’s participation in social movements once they returned to their home communities. Since that time, Nancy has broadened her research focus to include what really was her “first research love”, resident attitudes toward volunteer tourism. She is in the early stages of what she hopes to be a long-term study of exploring the similarities and differences amongst a variety of communities experiencing a variety of types of voluntourism. Her other long-term project involves raising her two children, both 7 year olds, named Grace and Spencer. Any advice on either project is always welcome!


Research Articles

VOLUNTEER TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND EDUCATION IN A POST-COLONIAL WORLD: CONCEIVING GLOBAL CONNECTIONS BEYOND AID

Author: Carlos Palacios, Ph.D. Candidate, Centre for Research on Social Inclusion, Macquarie University, Sydney

Synopsis: For this issue of the Research Forum section of The VolunTourist Newsletter, we are very pleased to welcome Carlos Palacios from Macquarie University. Mr. Palacios has been looking at the debate regarding who benefits the most from volunteer tourism, whether it be participants or local residents. In the paper that follows, he offers a different view, one based upon his personal volunteer tourism experience in Vietnam, that moves volunteer tourism from the context of aid and development to the context of connectivity between peoples of different cultures and the accompanying learning and exchange of knowledge. Further, he suggests that by doing so, volunteer tourism will be less likely to be critiqued in neo-colonialist terms. More>>>

VOLUNTOURISM AS A CATALYST FOR WISDOM: EVIDENCE FROM THE PAY IT FORWARD TOUR

Author: Andrew W. Bailey, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Recreation & Youth Development
Calvin College

Synopsis: For this issue of the Research Forum section of The VolunTourist Newsletter, we are very excited to welcome Dr. Andrew Bailey from Calvin College. Andrew has been leading, designing, and investigating service and adventure trips for fifteen years. His early interests revolved around poverty-stricken areas in Appalachia, in part because of his being born and raised in that area of the US. As a professor and avid traveler, his current research focuses on the educative opportunities inherent in cross-cultural service activities. Andrew examined the growth in Wisdom, Openness and Civic Attitudes of college students attending a 9-day volunteer travel experience, one that is near and dear to our hearts: The Pay It Forward Tour. More>>>

VOLUNTEER TOURISM: WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT?

Author: Jenny Morgan, Programme Officer, Overseas Development Institute, London, UK

Synopsis: As most of our regular readers know, there is much debate over what benefits short-term volunteer tourism can bring to international development. As a fulfillment of her MSc in Development Studies (2009) at London South Bank University in the UK, Jenny Morgan undertook a study of the volunteer tourism industry; in particular, assessing what benefits it can bring to international development. Following a review of relevant literature, Jenny, using both quantitative and qualitative questioning, questioned the four main actors within the volunteer tourism chain: sending organisations; previous/current volunteers; partner organisations and host organisations/projects. In total, Jenny conducted 42 surveys over 2 months, and what follows are the major findings from her study. More>>>

VOLUNTOURISM AND HUMAN EMANCIPATION: RESEARCH PROPOSITIONS

Author: Dr. Nancy McGehee, Virginia Tech

Synopsis: For this issue of the Research Forum section of The VolunTourist Newsletter, I would like to present a fairly theoretical piece that I had been working on for some time. As is often the case with emerging areas of research, a theoretical foundation has been difficult to establish in voluntourism.  The inherent contradictions in the discourse of voluntourism, particularly concerning the interplay of oppression and human emancipation, beg to be deconstructed with a critical theory lens. I will present a more in-depth version of this paper at the upcoming meeting of the Sustainable Tourism Conference held on the island of Crete, April 21-23, 2010. More>>>

THE DEVELOPMENT OF CROSS-CULTURAL (MIS)UNDERSTANDING THROUGH VOLUNTOURISM

Author: Eliza Raymond, Global Volunteer Network

Synopsis: For this issue of the Research Forum section of The VolunTourist Newsletter, I am pleased to focus on Eliza Raymond’s research interest in the potential for voluntourism to lead to cross-cultural understanding. Her research was done through the University of Otago, New Zealand, under the guidance of Dr. Michael Hall. Eliza’s academic background is in geography and tourism. More recently, Eliza has been working for the Global Volunteer Network with their partner organization in Peru as well as in their headquarters in New Zealand. More>>>

THE CULTURAL DIMENSIONS OF VOLUNTEER TOURISM

Author: Dr. Anne Zahra, Senior Lecturer, Department of Tourism & Hospitality, The University of Waikato

Synopsis: For this issue of the Research Forum, Dr. Nancy McGehee welcomes Dr. Anne Zahra. Anne has had a twenty-five year personal involvement in volunteering both as a volunteer working with rural and urban poor in less developed countries and as an organizer of educational-based development projects for volunteers in Fiji, Tonga, India, and the Philppines. She has also coordinated AusAid projects in South America through her long-term involvement with Reldev Australia Limited, an NGO registered with AusAid. In this brief, Dr. Zahra discusses the experiences of voluntourists in the cultural context of the Maori people in New Zealand and how this compares to 'traditional' cultural tourism. More>>>

THE EFFECT OF VOLUNTOURISM (VOLUNTEER TOURISM) ON THE VOLUNTEER (THE SELF)

Author: Zoë Alexander, Buckinghamshire New University, UK

Synopsis: For this issue of the Research Forum section of The VolunTourist Newsletter, we are focusing on Zoë Alexander’s research interest in 'the self' (the tourist) and the impact that tourism has on the individual. Her research is being done through the Buckinghamshire New University, UK, under the guidance of Dr. Ali Bakir and Dr. Eugenia Wickens. Ms. Alexander’s academic background is in psychology. More recently, she completed her MSc in Tourism Management and Development to support her business offering self-catering units in Cape Town and Scotland. Her commercial background is Project Management and has worked for a large retailer in the UK. Her long-term personal interests lie in the development of ‘self’ and hiking. More>>>

RESEARCH VOLUNTEER TOURISM: DEFINING THE EXPERIENCE

Author: Dr. Angela M Benson, Founding Chair ATLAS (Association for Tourism & Leisure Education) Volunteer Tourism Research Group University Of Brighton School of Service Management

Synopsis: For this issue of the Research Forum section of The VolunTourist Newsletter, I am pleased to present a synopsis of research from Dr. Angela M Benson, University Of Brighton. Dr. Benson is the Founding Chair of the Volunteer Tourism Research Group of ATLAS (Association for Tourism & Leisure Education).  She recently presented findings from this study at the Greater Western chapter of the Travel and Tourism Research Association’s annual meeting, which included a symposium entitled “The Voluntourism effect: Case Studies and Investigations.”  Dr. Benson reminds us of the broad and varied perceptions of voluntourism (often as neither volunteering nor tourism) and the “semantic challenges” of terminology we face as researchers of the subject. Her research presentation at the conference resulted in lively academic discussion, so we hope that it will do the same for you, wherever you are! More>>>

UNDERSTANDING THE VOLUNTEER TOURIST: A QUALITATIVE INQUIRY

Authors: Justin Taillon, M.B.A., Ph.D. Student, Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences, Texas A&M University, Tazim Jamal, Associate Professor Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences, Texas A&M University

Synopsis: For this issue of the Research Forum section of The VolunTourist Newsletter, our research guests are Justin Taillon (jtaillon@tamu.edu) and Dr. Tazim Jamal (tjamal@tamu.edu) from Texas A&M University. In their research, they examine the motivations of volunteer tourists in an effort to more fully understand why there is such a broad divide between the number of actual participants and the number of individuals who have expressed interest in participating as volunteer tourists. Additionally, they question whether entities within the volunteer tourism community are, in fact, utilizing appropriate marketing and promotional efforts, especially given their discovery of the importance of word-of-mouth promotion. Finally, they recommend additional research be conducted to build on the qualitative data collected through their study and suggest that more comprehensive understanding of benefits accrued, or not, by host communities be studied in the future. More>>>

VOLUNTOURISM AT CONVENTIONS

Authors: Tara Pazanski, University of Florida, Lori Pennington-Gray, PhD, University of Florida

Synopsis: For this issue of the Research Forum section of The VolunTourist Newsletter, our research guests are Tara Pazanski and Dr. Lori Pennington-Gray from the University of Florida. In their research, they examine the meetings & conventions market to explore meeting professionals' intent to include voluntourism as part of an annual meeting or convention. How may an individual's intention have been influenced? To answer this question, they focused their research on four variables: 1) Industry knowledge, 2) Attitudes, 3) Motivations, and 4) Past experiences. More>>>

INITIAL THOUGHTS & REFLECTIONS ON THE VOLUNTOURIST SURVEY

Authors: Nancy McGehee, Virginia Tech University, David Clemmons, VolunTourism.org

Synopsis: For this issue of the Research Forum section of The VolunTourist Newsletter, our research ”guest” is our very own David Clemmons. He is introducing a research project that you will be hearing more about in the coming days: an online survey of folks interested in participating in voluntourism. David and I are currently wading through this very interesting data, but we wanted to share with you a bit of background as well as a few “teasers” in terms of the responses we received. More>>>

COMING HOME TO CULTURE SHOCK: A PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS OF VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCES

Authors: Simone Grabowski, School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism, The University of Technology, Sydney, Stephen Wearing, School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism, The University of Technology, Sydney, Danielle Lee, School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism, The University of Technology, Sydney

Synopsis: For this issue of the Research Forum section of The VolunTourist Newsletter, we are fortunate to have as our research ”guests” Simone Grabowski (Simone.Grabowski@uts.edu.au), Stephen Wearing (Stephen.Wearing@uts.edu.au), and Danielle Leigh, all of The University of Technology, Sydney. In their research, they examine the motives that drive young people to participate in some form of volunteer or humanitarian activities while on a leisure trip and the benefits and impacts that the volunteer tourists derive from the experience on their return. Perhaps more importantly, they are in the midst of a longitudinal study to assess levels of re-entry shock and their determinants, a little-studied area in volunteer tourism. More>>>

Emerging Best Practices In Adventure Tourism And Volunteering

Author: Christina Heyniger, Founder, Xola Consulting, Inc., and Kristin Lamoureux, Director, George Washington University's International Institute of Tourism Studies (IITS)

Synopsis: For this issue of the Research Forum section of The VolunTourist Newsletter, I am pleased to present findings from research on best practices recently conducted by Christina Heyniger, of Xola Consulting, Inc., and Kristin Lamoureux with the International Institute of Tourism Studies, George Washington University. Christina and Kristin would also like to thank Amanda Charles, research assistant to Ms. Lamoureux, for her assistance in pulling this together for The VolunTourist. More>>>

Healthcare Volunteers: Preferences & Trends

Author: Neilesh Patel, Founder, HealthCare Volunteer

Synopsis: For this issue of the Research Forum section ofThe VolunTourist Newsletter, I am pleased to present a summary regarding recent research conducted on health-related volunteers from Neilesh Patel (lead investigator) and Elliot Mendelsohn of HealthCare Volunteer, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that created the world’s first research on global health volunteering preferences and trends. Neilesh Patel is a student at UCLA school of dentistry and is the CEO/Founder of HealthCare Volunteer, a global health volunteering organization whose mission is to connect any volunteer with a health-related volunteering opportunity regardless of training (www.healthcarevolunteer.org) Mr. Patel has collected and analyzed some very important data regarding health-related volunteers and the communities in which they work, which once again reminds us of the importance of research in the area of voluntourism!  Mr. Patel claims that a major discrepancy in volunteer location preferences exists and that we must establish new programs in locations with dire need. More>>>

Voluntourism: A Brief History Of Tourists As Witnesses And Advocates For Justice

Author: Dr. Phaedra C. Pezzullo, University of Indiana

Synopsis: For this issue of the Research Forum section ofThe VolunTourist Newsletter, I am pleased to present a short essay from Dr. Phaedra Pezzullo of the University of Indiana. Dr. Pezzullo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University. This essay is adapted from her recently published book, Toxic Tourism: Rhetorics of Travel, Pollution, and Environmental Justice ( University of Alabama Press, 2007). Dr. Pezzullo reminds us of the importance of our roles as voluntourists, both as witnesses of the things we see and experience as well as agents of change and advocates of justice. More>>>

WEEKLY WEBCAST

Tuesdays 10am ET/7am PT

Adventure VolunTourism - Part II

Author: David Aabo, Peace Corps Volunteer

Synopsis: Once again we welcome David Aabo, all the way from Lima, Peru, to the Research Forum section of The VolunTourist Newsletter. Mr. Aabo uses the “case study approach” to reserarch, this time applying it to what he calls “Adventure VolunTourism.” In this contribution to the VolunTourist, David provides evidence from the case of the Peruvian Foundation for the Conservation of Nature, ProNaturaleza, to point out the importance of including the right balance of adventure, service, and conservation in this example of Adventure VolunTourism. More>>>

Adventure VolunTourism - Part I

Author: David Aabo, Peace Corps Volunteer

Synopsis: I am very excited to welcome David Aabo to the Research Forum section of The VolunTourist Newsletter. Mr. Aabo writes to us from Lima, Peru. His affinity for adventure travel started while studying Business Administration at Colorado State University.  He then went to Africa and served in Peace Corps Mauritania's Small Business Education program. Currently he is furthering his education in South America in the Master's International program with Peace Corps Peru and the School for International Training, where he will shortly receive a MS degree in Organizational Management. Mr. Aabo’s research is in a slightly different form from previous entries: he uses the case study approach, which can be extremely valuable for both novice and seasoned voluntourism practitioners. In this contribution to the Voluntourist, Dave provides a do’s and don’t’s for what he is calling “Adventure Service Tourism.” Enjoy! More>>>

Resident Attitudes Towards VolunTourism - Part II

Authors: Nancy Gard McGehee, Ph.D., Virginia Tech University, and Kathleen Andereck, Ph.D., Arizona State University West

Synopsis: 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. More>>>

Resident Attitudes Towards VolunTourism - Part I

Authors: Nancy Gard McGehee, Ph.D., Virginia Tech University, and Kathleen Andereck, Ph.D., Arizona State University West

Synopsis: In this issue of The VolunTourist Newsletter, I want to share some work I (along with my Colleague Kathleen Andereck) have been doing with Los Niños in the area of resident attitudes toward tourism. For those of you who attended the Voluntourism Forum, I apologize for the redundancy. For those of you who did not, you missed a great networking and informational experience!

Kathy and I would like to thank profusely the staff of Los Niños and Esperanza, the Promotoras, 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. More>>>

Choosing Your Conservation-Based Volunteer Tourism Market Segment With Care - Part II

Author: Alexandra Coghlan, James Cook University

Synopsis: For this issue of The VolunTourist Newsletter, we once again welcome Alexandra Coghlan to the Research Forum. Ms. Coghlan writes to us from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. More>>>

Choosing Your Conservation-Based Volunteer Tourism Market Segment With Care - Part I

Author: Alexandra Coghlan, James Cook University

Synopsis: This issue I am extremely pleased to welcome Alexandra Coghlan, another of our Australian friends, to the Research Forum section of The VolunTourist Newsletter. Ms. Coghlan writes to us from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, where she is starting her academic career. Alexandra selected the subject of conservation-based volunteer tourism for her dissertation as a result of her strong concern for the state of the natural environment and a perceived lack of public understanding and involvement in conservation issues. Her thesis on the experiences of conservation volunteer tourists illuminated some interesting pointers when it comes to creating a satisfying volunteer tourism experience. In the first of a two-part contribution to The VolunTourist Newsletter. Alexandra focuses on what she learned were:

1) The motivators, and

2) Elements of the experience that were most important for the two primary markets in conservation-based volunteer tourism. More>>>

VolunTourism & Community Development

Author: Stephen Wearing, PhD, University of Technology Sydney

Synopsis: Once again, this month I am extremely pleased to welcome Stephen Wearing to the Research Forum section of The VolunTourist Newsletter. Stephen writes to us from the University of Technology in Sydney Australia, where he has been experiencing, writing about, and commenting on volunteer tourism for many years. Stephen was one of the first researchers to recognize the area of volunteer tourism as unique, special, and worthy of a systematic and thorough academic research agenda. This month Stephen has contributed an essay based on his field experience with volunteer tourism that focuses on the unique opportunities that can occur between volunteer tourism and community development. More>>>

VolunTourism - Can It Influence Mass Tourism?

Author: Stephen Wearing, PhD, University of Technology Sydney

Synopsis: For this issue of The VolunTourist Newsletter, I am extremely pleased to welcome Stephen Wearing to the Research Forum section of “The VolunTourist.” Stephen writes to us from the University of Technology in Sydney Australia, where he has been experiencing, writing about, and commenting on volunteer tourism for many years. Stephen was one of the first researchers to recognize the area of volunteer tourism as unique, special, and worthy of a systematic and thorough academic research agenda.

 Amongst those of us who study volunteer tourism, discussion of the research agenda has actively turned toward one question: how can we protect volunteer tourism from becoming commodified and turned into just another form of mainstream tourism? Conversely, how can mainstream tourism be positively influenced, and perhaps decommodified, by volunteer tourism? Commodification occurs where the final outcome of a product is solely defined by its economic value. In other words, all that matters is the bottom line and profit. In general, that is, mainstream tourism is very focused on the commodification of all its products in the search for global profits and the tourist dollar.

Decommodification places social objectives and human rights such as the right to work or to a decent standard of living over that of economic value. In place of the nearly exclusive pursuit of industry profits, volunteer tourism has the potential to prioritize social value on local environments and economics. These may include:

*The unique approaches of indigenous or host communities;

*The quality of interaction of tourism with local communities and with nature;

*The ethics of care for nature;

*A greater appreciation of the consequences of human action on nature and local communities.

So, what are the steps necessary to assure that the focus of volunteer tourism continues to be on helping communities, the environment, and researchers to improve the state of the world? Equally important, how can volunteer tourism positively influence mainstream tourism? The following are some of Dr. Wearing’s comments on the subject. More>>>

Understanding The Motives And Benefits of VolunTourists: What Makes Them Tick?

Author: Sally Brown, PhD, Purdue University

Synopsis: For this issue of The VolunTourist Newsletter, the focus of our segment is on voluntourist’s motives and perceived benefits of participation. This is a second installment from Sally Brown, Former President, Ambassadair Travel Club, and President and Founder of Ambassadors for Children. Sally is also currently pursuing a Ph.D. in hospitality and tourism management at Purdue University with emphasis on voluntourism. More>>>

Expanding The Concept Of Volunteer Vacations: The Mini-Mission Or Mission-Lite Concept

Author: Sally Brown, PhD, Purdue University

Synopsis: Our guest researcher for this issue of The VolunTourist Newsletter is Sally Brown, Former President, Ambassadair Travel Club, and President and Founder of Ambassadors for Children. As if that isn’t enough, Sally is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in hospitality and tourism management at Purdue University! The following is an overview of some of the research she recently conducted in the area of mini-mission voluntourism. More>>>

Making The Personal Political

Author: Nancy Gard McGehee, Ph.D., Virginia Tech University

Synopsis: For this issue of The VolunTourist Newsletter, I am going to talk about another important “social perk” that I unearthed while conducting my research that also comes from the network ties established and self-efficacy gained through volunteer tourism: these elements provide exposure to issues and social problems via a voluntour that can inspire participants to “make the personal political”. In other words, an individual’s personal day-to-day expenditures become actively and consciously influenced by her/his political beliefs. More>>>