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Volunteer tourism: the new ecotourism?

Tomazos, Konstantinos and Butler, Richard (2009) Volunteer tourism: the new ecotourism? Anatolia, 20 (1). pp. 196-212. ISSN 1303-2917

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One of the more recent forms of tourism to emerge is what has become known as Volunteer Tourism, the practice of individuals going on a working holiday, volunteering their labour for worthy causes. While volunteering is a well-established activity, the combination with tourism is relatively new and has already changed considerably over a very short period. This paper reviews the process by which volunteer tourism has developed, focusing on its transformation from an individual altruistic endeavour to a more commercial form of conventional tourism. The paper reviews the growth in number of websites devoted to volunteer tourism, and discusses the changes that have taken place in the content and focus of these websites, the locations used as destinations and the organisations they represent over the last two decades. It is apparent that over the last two decades the organisations offering volunteer tourist vacations have increasingly focused their attention on conventional commercial tourism markets which is a similar pattern of evolution to that of ecotourism. The paper concludes that volunteer tourism is likely to become increasingly diverse in scale, distribution and focus in the future, in the same way as ecotourism has broadened its market and appeal, but in so doing, will lose more of the distinctive features that characterized its initial form.