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The volunteer tourist as 'hero'

Tomazos, Konstantinos and Butler, Richard (2010) The volunteer tourist as 'hero'. Current Issues in Tourism, 13 (4). pp. 363-380. ISSN 1368-3500

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Abstract

Volunteer tourism is a rapidly growing form of tourism which has a weak conceptual basis and which is generally defined rather simply in terms of participants' actions while on holiday, ignoring elements such as reasons for participation, behaviour, and influencing forces. This article argues that an appropriate conceptual base for volunteer tourists is Campbell's 'Hero's Journey' and draws analogies between participants in volunteer tourism and the 'Hero' in Campbell's writings. The article discusses data on volunteer tourists, which reveals their self-expressed reasons for participating, and their specific situations. The data were collected by field research based on covert participation at an orphanage in Mexico. Volunteers interviewed revealed the traits explaining their participation in volunteer tourism that were similar to the characteristics and driving forces found in the participants on Campbell's 'Hero's Journey' and in medieval and classical myths. While participation in volunteer tourism may not match contemporary understanding of heroes and heroic behaviour, there is considerable similarity in reasons given by respondents for participating in the activity, and a conceptual model is developed to illustrate this