The story of Voluntourism: Carrying the world’s solutions in your luggage?
By Adrienne Aust
Voluntourism is defined as “a form of tourism in which travelers participate in voluntary work, typically for a charity”. This type of tourism is extremely popular today and has done a fantastic job in expanding its market. Whether you’ve read about it in a pamphlet or book, have travelled with an organization whose vision correlates with that of voluntourism, or know of someone who has, in some way we have all been affected by this new phenomenon. At first glance, these types of organizations are seen as valuable, generous and resourceful to countries around the world including South Africa, Mexico and India. However throughout my own experience, education and research, I believe advocates are too quick to praise these associations that combine vacation with charity work. They give a false representation of role models, take jobs away within the local community, glorify the West and give short term solutions for long term problems. Because of this, voluntourism is an exploitative and selfish act that benefits the volunteer more so than the communities in which aid is most needed.
To better understand where the industry of voluntourism stands today, we must first understand its past. The concept of combining both tourism and aid abroad wasn’t created by one organization or even during one specific time. It has been an ever growing industry that has been influenced