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Volunteer tourism : altruism, empathy or self enhancement

Butler, Richard and Tomazos, Konstantinos (2011) Volunteer tourism : altruism, empathy or self enhancement. [Proceedings Paper]

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Abstract

Volunteer tourism being an ambiguous concept could be seen equally as an expression of social conscience and civil duty but also as cynical exploitation of human qualities like altruism and empathy. Still it is recognised that volunteer participants may also gain from their involvement but that should not raise questions about the purity of their motives. It is much less clear where, on a continuum from altruism to self enhancement, volunteer tourism falls, and it is likely that this varies greatly from individual to individual. To some it clearly a holiday, to others a commitment with real costs, and to others something in between, an enjoyable experience with anticipated benefits in terms of career advancement at some point in the future. This paper looks at both altruism and empathy in a theoretical context in an attempt to deconstruct their role in the development and expansion of volunteer tourism opportunities