Voluntourism: Checkbook Philanthropy Morphing into Participatory Philanthropy

Whether it is responding to the disasters in the Gulf Coast, Haiti and Chile or helping to save sea turtles around Zakynthos island in Greece, voluntourism is fast becoming a popular way to donate one’s time and resources. “Travelers are looking for a sense of purpose in their leisure activities,” says Brian Mullis, president of the Sustainable Travel International, which advises travel companies on voluntourism. “They are looking at new ways of distributing wealth. The age of checkbook philanthropy is morphing into the age of participatory philanthropy.”

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According to the Planeterra Foundation, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and support of small communities around the globe, a voluntour is a type of travel opportunity that offers a tourist “a way to learn about the people and place you are visiting at a deeper level. Participating in voluntourism activities enables a person to establish long-lasting connections (with the host destination) and discover more about cultures around the world (while simultaneously learning more about oneself). It is most definitely a way to give back to the community you are visiting, to lend a helping hand to someone in need, to work towards a cause you believe in, or simply to find a way to make a positive impact through your travels.”

Voluntourism is different though from a volunteer vacation in that there is a balance struck between the tourist offering a volunteer service during the trip on a conservation project, for example, and the tourist enjoying the natural surroundings and wildlife habitats through ecotourism activities such as kayaking and hiking.

For more information about voluntourism resources and conservation-oriented trips, check out these sites:

View Conservation Education Trips