Is There a Need for a New Voluntourism Association?

I know, I know, don’t roll your eyes… This conversation has been had by many of you, many a time at many a conference. However, there is a real push now by a couple key players to start a new ‘Global Voice’ association that would unite folks like the ATTA, Year Out Group, BBC, APTA, WYSTC under one umbrella and address voluntourism issues on a global scale. All of the current organizations focus mainly on their specific niche or their geographical market – is there a need for an association that has a broader reach?

An association that wouldn’t just be a place you pay dues to every year but something that focuses on two aspects: 1. how to help you grow your business, 2. how to grow the industry as a whole.

There would be webinars on the latest marketing techniques/legal issues/country problems, opportunities to post job openings, regional conferences for in person get togethers, a leading media spokesperson to promote the industry, forums where people from all over the world can discuss issues, etc.

People have been talking about this forever and they’ve been rallying around me to start it as I’m ‘neutral’ and not associated with a big volunteer company. My question is… would this be useful or just yet another place to send dues in every month?

Feedback please!!!




4 thoughts on “Is There a Need for a New Voluntourism Association?

  1. Hi Alexia, as a newbie to the voluntourism scene and currently having concerns over which association to become a member of, I definitely think something under one umbrella would be incredibly useful! Especially if it does add value to the members and the areas you mentioned above certainly would add value to my offering and to me individually. Great idea!

  2. Upon reflection, I’ve changed my position on this topic.

    I prefer to see an annual conference, much like we had last summer, rather than a new association.

    I cannot speak for ATTA, Year Out Group, or APTA. We do belong to the BBC, but we don’t participate in most of the activities because a) we don’t have the infrastructure and b) our participation of all things global is through WYSETC, better known as WYSTC.

    It is inconceivable that WYSETC would ever merge with anyone. WYSETC is a “confederation” of other organizations such as ISTC, WYSE, IASIS, IAPA, etc. ISTC is worth millions of Euros, and I can’t imagine that they have any interest in spreading the wealth even more. That impacts WYSETC, since ISTC mostly funds the confederation. Each smaller member organization has its own Board, its own bank account, etc. What a nightmare that would be. You’re talking about ISTC that was founded in 1949.

    That’s another issue that is overlooked by the youngsters in the industry today. Many of these organizations go back 60+ years. It is hard to dismantle or even merge such organizations with that much history. Youngsters tend to think they invented this stuff. I assure you, they did not.

    The BBC is another great example. Their mission really doesn’t lend itself to adventure or “pure” travel organizations. And membership is pretty open, accepting not only senders but receivers, schools, corporations for a unified cause. IVPA is a closed association and a “protective” one at that. It would be great if they would share, but they have proven over time they have built their own sandbox and hold the invitee list very close.

    But I most certainly don’t speak for any of them.

    I just can’t think another association is in anyone’s best interest. And lets even say a couple of the orgs you mention might have a passing interest…it would be years before such a merger could take place. Any “confederation” would require a majority vote by members and then ratified by several Boards.

    That leaves a loosely held organization that really would not serve much but to meet. WYSETC runs the WYSTC conference in September and the WETM conference each March.

    I found the conference we had in Denver last year to be very helpful. It was the right size. The agenda was compelling. The timing was great.

    I understand there will be another, in DC, this August. For those of us involved with the WYSTC conference in September…we probably can’t make it. And that’s too bad. May or early June is perfect. Our busy selling season is winding down and we’re ready to reflect and it isn’t too soon to start getting ideas for next year.

    These are my thoughts.

    What seems to be lacking is research. That takes people trained in how to do objective research. And how to report it. This is the one thing lacking. Everyone flies by the seat of their pants, or hearsay, but no one has really come forth with really data on voluntourism that spans global models. If someone want to make a huge impact, it would be here. The Confederation study is about members only. Other studies to come out have been far too small and voluntary, without real objective verification.

    My 2 cents.

  3. Being quite new to voluntourism, and one of the only ‘groups’ (very loose definition) in Australia – I agree with the above post. A conference (perhaps one with webinar options) would suit better than an international organisation.
    Jen Fry
    Green Guardians – Tasmania, Australia.

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