Welcome to VoluntourismGal.com. We are a group of like-minded women dedicated to international volunteering. We have volunteered abroad, worked in the field and are committed to voluntourism and its role in making the world a better place.

As we look to relaunch this blog we wanted to first understand better the current state of affairs in the industry.  We have reached out to a handful of larger international volunteer providers to hear their take on the state of the industry.

Here is a brief summary of what we heard:

Volunteer Placement Organizations Struggling

Without exception our conversations focused mostly on the downturn in volunteer numbers.  One organization cited a decline of over 50% in placements.  This was attributed to the economy, changes in travel type (increase in internships and working abroad), and also the ability of in country smaller NGOs to effectively recruit volunteers.

Trend Towards Partnering With Local Organizations

The traditional goal for many voluntourism organizations was to create their own local infrastructure, hire their own local staff and create and control their own local projects. This model is expensive and as one director told us “Local organizations can do a better job with greater community buy in and it’s more affordable.”  The cost savings seems to be the biggest motivating factor for those organizations who have moved from homegrown projects to local partners.

Cost is a Factor

The one organization who told us they had marginal growth in 2012 and this year provides a low-cost program.  Organizations have been more focused on partnering with fundraising resources and offering discounts based on financial needs. While the economy has been stalled for several years some providers feel that the past two years in particular have demonstrated a latent impact from years of a challenging economy.

Word of Mouth

Real world marketing still trumps online marketing for the majority of the providers.  Word of mouth referrals are still the most reliable and highest efficiency leads.  The online referral websites provide traffic and leads but continue to represent a minority of actual participants.


Two providers are focused on diversifying quickly. Nervous about the state of volunteering abroad and the possible timeline for recovery has led at least two of our interviewees to create new programs including study and volunteer abroad.

Proliferation of Organizations

Several organizations discussed the effects of the number of new providers and competition as a negative factor. The barrier to entry is very low and almost any motivated volunteer alum can create a new organization quickly.  The concern was the quality of the new providers and the spreading of a shrinking market across more providers.

We are going to look more deeply into these issues in the coming posts. What are you experiencing?  If your numbers are down, what are the causes?  Are their any influences we didn’t mention?

Voluntourismgal is currently undergoing some cosmetic updates and will return shortly with a team of voluntourismgal(s) ready to take on the issues in our field and share the latest news. Stay tuned.

This is Voluntourism Gal, Signing Off

It’s been a great few years running this blog, we’ve had some great debates and some awesome issues brought up. My life is just more adventure travel and my horse business now and this blog is something I’m struggling to maintain. The industry deserves more than that. This blog has a captive audience and it needs someone to run it that can actively be involved everyday – Sarah has been a gigantic help in keeping the blog going and THANK YOU for that.

Alas, it is time to say goodbye to @VoluntourismGal. Aidan will be taking over the blog and the Twitter account and is excited to bring a new perspective to the voluntourism scene. I wish her all the best and to everyone who has read this blog over the years, joined debates and supported the cause…. THANK YOU! It’s been quite a ride.


“Voluntour” Your Way Around the World for a Year, All Expenses Paid, for a Six-Figure Salary as Jauntaroo’s Chief World Explorer

What do you think of this contest? It’s something the BBC tried to do years ago and had no success, a couple other companies tried to do something similar and got some big PR bang for it.  Does it attract the right audience to voluntourism? What is the ‘right’ audience?


New York, NY – (NewMediaWire) – August 22, 2013 – Forbes Magazine called it “possibly the best job ever”.  Condé Nast Traveler said it’s “probably the best job of all time.”  Travel website Jauntaroo is seeking a Chief World Explorer (CWE) to travel the globe for one-year and receive a $100,000 salary to share the experiences along the way through online webisodes and social media.

The itinerary is expected to comprise as many as 50 destinations, including Berlin, Calistoga, Costa Navarino, Fort Worth, the Maldives, Nassau-Paradise Island and St. Lucia.  Applications close September 15, 2013.

Entries are welcome from anywhere in the world. However, the successful applicant must speak and write English fluently as well as be at least 18 years old.  Within the last week, the CWE job posting has received media coverage from places as far afield as Israel, Romania and Macedonia.

“This is simply the best job in and around the world,” said Tom Wilson, Jauntaroo’s Chief Commercial Officer.  “But it’s not just beach walks and Mai Tais. We’re committed to environmental awareness and sustainable tourism so the successful CWE candidate must also give back to the destinations he or she visits.  We call it ‘VolunTourism,’ which might include harvest picking, keeping beaches clean, or learning about reef preservation. Even a few hours of time can help make a difference.”

Jauntaroo, who call themselves “vacation matchmakers,” will be utilizing their matchmaking skills to find the right cultural fit for the role.  Energy and enthusiasm are a plus.

Applicants must apply at Jauntaroo.com by posting a 60-second video explaining why they should be chosen.  Family and friends can show support by “liking” candidates’ profiles and videos. Jauntaroo will announce the top 50 candidates and the final five will be invited to in-person interviews.

Jauntaroo already donates $1 for each booking made through their site to “Travel With A Cause,” its philanthropic initiative supporting nonprofit organizations dedicated to education, health, well-being and, of course, VolunTourism.  With their hire of the CWE role, the company is stepping up its efforts to make giving back a consideration for world travelers.

Each destination hosting the successful applicant will nominate their own program of VolunTourism activities.  Whenever the destination does not outline a program, Jauntaroo will rely on sources like its partner Live Different to recommend activities during the visit.

“We’re so proud to partner with Jauntaroo as they find their intrepid world traveler, heightening awareness of sustainable tourism in the process,” said Christal Earle, Co-Founder of Live Different.  “Our program, Hero Holiday, provides opportunities for youth to get involved in building infrastructure to strengthen some of the communities we sometimes only think of as leisure travel destinations.  Voluntourism benefits everyone involved, turning a great vacation into a meaningful, life long experience.”

Read the whole release here

New Adventure Tourism Report Reveals $263B Market, Up 65% Per Annum Since 2009

Yes, voluntourism is part of the adventure travel market, stop thinking we are separate because the lines have blurred. Impressive growth.

Seattle, WA –  Growth in the adventure travel market has accelerated at a 65 percent yearly rate since 2009 according to the newly released Adventure Tourism Market Study – a consumer report by The George Washington University (GW) conducted in partnership with the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA, www.adventuretravel.biz).


The 2013 Adventure Tourism Market Study uses the same methodology and approach as the 2010 study allowing for direct comparison between the studies and growth trend analysis. It included three key outbound regions: Europe, North America and South America. These regions account for nearly 70 percent of overall international departures, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The study estimates the value of the global outbound adventure travel sector to be US$263 billion, excluding airfare, up from US$89 billion first reported in the benchmark consumer study. When this US$263 billion is combined with the estimated $82 billion spent for related gear, apparel and accessories, adventure travelers spent more than $345 billion in 2012 for travel related to adventure.

“Adventure tourism’s steep climb is attributed to growth in the global tourism industry, a significant increase in the percentage of adventure travelers, and an increase in the average amount spent per adventure travel trip,” said ATTA President Mr. Shannon Stowell. “This comes as positive news, of course, and reinforces the ATTA community’s rising commitment to safety, education, training and development of innovative and culturally and environmentally sound travel options. As we watch adventure travel tourism grow it is imperative that we continue to provide travelers with transformative experiences, all while helping to protect and respect the very people and places visited.”

Have a read of the whole article here.

And make sure to check out this great infographic!

The Tourism Authority of Thailand Joins Forces with Global Voluntourism Agencies

With the intention of promoting volunteer tourism in this fascinating country, Tourism Authority of Thailand has joined forces with a number of voluntourism agencies to raise awareness of the many exciting and rewarding opportunities that Thailand has to offer. TAT’s commitment to promoting voluntourism is certainly no gimmick with a view to merely boosting the tourist industry. In fact, by working in unison with new partners who specialise in volunteer tourism, TAT is helping to ensure that Thailand’s worthwhile causes receive much deserved exposure.

Check out the press release here.


Check out Hopify, a New Platform for Volunteering – Or a Scam???

Below is the initial post and then I realized that half of this video was stolen from Daniela Papi and PEPY Ride’s work. So clearly, like many things voluntourism, Hopify is not what it appears to be. They also have no contact information anywhere. So let’s all stay away.


Hopify’s aim is to create an independent platform, not connected to project or tourist operators, to link potential voluntourists to meaningful projects.

Check out their presentation video http://youtu.be/hC9H9K1otaA

Watch this space! These guys seem to have a good grasp of what’s needed.

Attention all PhD / Masters Thesis Voluntourism Researchers!

Daniela sent me the below, I totally agree – we get these emails all the time!
It seems that every few days I get an email from another person who is doing their PhD or masters thesis on the impacts of volunteer travel, orphanage tourism, pro-poor tourism, etc…. Is there a place on the web where all of these people can post up a list of what exactly they are focusing on in their research, as I think it would be so interesting to see where there is overlap, what people are interested in, and what gaps there are.  If there isn’t already a place for this…… how about we make this it?!?!  Let us know what you are researching as it relates to voluntourism/travelers philanthropy/or other related topics, where you are studying, and any other things you want to share!
Maybe some of you who are doing all this research want to start a blog or a share center and we can refer everyone that calls/emails us to it???

If Everyone Loves Your Travel Marketing, It Isn’t Any Good

Love this article by Alexi, had to share – view the full article here: http://www.mercurycsc.com/blog/2013/03/12/if-everyone-loves-your-travel-marketing-it-isnt-an/

There is an old adage that has long been a barometer used by travelers (as opposed to tourists) when choosing a destination:

Bad roads = good tourists.
Good roads = bad tourists.

Until now, that is.

The World Tourism Organization reported over a billion tourist arrivals in 2012, up from 350 Million in 1987. The fastest growing segment of the tourism industry? Geotourism, which includes ecotourism, cultural tourism and adventure travel is growing at 17% per year while mainstream tourism is growing at only 4% per year.

The increase in global tourism combined with the growing popularity of Geotourism has been a financial success for tourism suppliers and destinations that cater to this market. That’s good news.

The bad news is that those bad roads (or no roads) leading to awesome destinations are a lot more crowded than before. Tourists are no longer perched in rental cars at the edge of the concrete where it meets the dust, afraid to lurch forward and discover what’s past the bend. They know what’s past the bend.

Why? Because we told them.

As travel marketers, we’ve all been trained to think of our marketing efforts as a tackle box of lures—travel marketing as an attractor. People pay lip service to the importance of a target audience but in reality most travel marketers are chumming the waters hoping for a bite, no matter what kind of tourist they drag in.

But great travel marketing is not about being a bigger lure. It’s about being a better filter.

Admittedly, there already exists a fair amount of filtering in travel marketing. Unfortunately, it’s filtering by price. The result is that places eventually become exclusive domains for the wealthy or overpopulated resorts for the price conscious. Think Monaco versus Daytona Beach.

Travel is a contact sport. Who we see in the hotel bar, on the chairlift or out in the lineup affects the experience. In travel, the experience is the brand. In other words, who you invite to the party determines what kind of party you’re going to have.

And homogenization of any kind makes for a very boring party.

Walking the Walk

Travel marketers need to look deeply into their brands and uncover their true sense of purpose. While this may sound philosophical, it is in-fact exceedingly pragmatic for filter marketing.

If your purpose is to “create memorable experiences for travelers frustrated with the airline industry,” like it is for Nature Air, then delaying a flight to transport an injured dolphin is on brand. If a passenger complains? Here’s a full refund and the telephone numbers to the other airlines you should fly. “Thanks, but no thanks.”

We must tell stories that are effective in attracting the right travelers and alienating the wrong ones. For years, research indicated that the average traveler’s perception of Montana was, “There’s nothing there.” So, how do you turn a potentially negative perception into a meaningful marketing campaign? You tell your audience what they already know—“There’s Nothing Here.” That campaign ignited the interest of the core audience and let the state’s non-core audience know exactly what to expect (and not expect) from a trip to Montana.

How do we know filter marketing works? Because the wrong types of customers just stop calling. This is where most travel marketers get freaked out. Influencing some people to stop calling is simply not in their DNA. It runs counter to everything they try so hard to do (i.e. get the phone to ring), particularly in a seasonal business like travel.

What’s the alternative? Getting people to buy who don’t value your purpose. These travelers will never be happy with whatever you deliver and more importantly they’ll make every other traveler around them miserable as well.

We don’t just advise clients on filter marketing. We do it for ourselves. For example, we publish our manifesto on our site. If you like what you’ve read, we’d love to hear from you. If you don’t, you probably won’t call, and that’s fine by us.

A Billion Baby Turtles

We all have done or offer to clients a sea turtle project – everyone loves them and the imagery associated is great. Below is an article written by an expert in the field I thought you might enjoy!



A Billion Baby Turtles

-Dr. Wallace J. Nichols

If you’ve watched Animal Planet you know that odds are generally working against sea turtles.

From the moment an egg is deposited in a sandy nest on a tropical beach, to the first time a baby turtle touches the sea, to decades later when she returns as an adult to lay her own eggs on very same beach, life is an endless series of life-and-death challenges for a sea turtle.

Nature is stacked against survival, which is why a mother turtle lays thousands of eggs during her lifetime in order to simply replace herself. Predators include dozens of species of crabs, beetles, ants, birds, fish, and sharks. Jaguars, pigs, wild dogs, and raccoons are even on the list of turtle eaters.

For millions of years, sea turtles handled it all just fine.

Yet, when you add modern humans to the mix, the balance suddenly tipped towards oblivion. Over the past century all seven species of sea turtle and their eggs have been hunted, carved, and eaten to the point that many populations are considered vulnerable to extinction. Getting caught accidentally in fishing nets and on hooks just adds to their woes. Throw in plastic pollution, boat collisions, and runaway coastal development on their nesting beaches and you’ve got a situation requiring intervention on a global scale.

But this isn’t a bad news story. That’s because over the past several decades a massive global network of sea turtle scientists, advocates, conservationists, and even lawyers has evolved to work day and night to bring them back. These heroes have been literally working around the clock, saving one egg-—one baby turtle-—at a time. At other times they’ll invest months to rehabilitate a single adult animal before returning it to the ocean. Every turtle released into the ocean is a moment of joy for everyone involved. It never gets old.

Think about it—while you sleep tonight, thousands of scientists, technicians and volunteers are saving sea turtles on the beaches of the world.

These projects are run on “Turtle Time.” Slow, steady, and tenacious wins the race. It takes as long as twenty-five years for a turtle to reach maturity, and return on that turtle-y kind of investment can come slowly.

Turtle people are above all patient and hard working. Many projects have been steadily protecting turtles for more than thirty years. Their work is paying off. Some turtle populations are now on the rise after nose-diving to near extinction before that.

The Black Sea Turtle Project in Michoacan, Mexico celebrated its thirtieth anniversary this year and is experiencing its best season since its inception after watching the numbers of nesting female turtles bounce along the bottom of the graph for a decade.

Its sister project, Grupo Tortuguero, working to safeguard black turtles in feeding grounds a thousand miles away in Baja, is turning fifteen in January.

Turtle hunters and poachers in Mexico have had a change of heart and are now turtle protectors and guides. Everyone reports seeing more sea turtles in the ocean and on the beaches.

Now is not the time to let up, though. To get sea turtles back to their former abundance and to restore their ecological role in the ocean this is just half time.

We know exactly what to do. We just need to continue to execute the game plan.hatchling

Along with my friends Brad Nahill at SEEtheWILD and Fabien Cousteau at Plant a Fish, we came up with the idea of the Billion Baby Turtles, an initiative to help support groups working on the sea turtle front lines. To make a million more adult turtles we need a billion more baby turtles. It’s a one in a thousand situation out there, roughly speaking.

By creatively connecting individuals and small businesses with grassroots projects working to increase sea turtle production, we are helping overcome donor fatigue, burn out, and other second half challenges.

In the coming years we will collaborate widely to further expand the global sea turtle tribe, widen the base of donors through micro-philanthropy, and throw our support behind the men and women working for turtles on the front lines in their coastal communities around the world.

Forty years ago sea turtle pioneer, Dr. Archie Carr, described what it would take to save sea turtles.

“In the long run, marine turtles, like the seas themselves, will be saved only by wholehearted international cooperation at the government level. While waiting for it to materialize, the critical tactical needs seem to me to be three in number: more sanctuaries, more research, and a concerted effort by all impractical, visionary, starry-eyed, and anti-progressive organizations, all little old ladies in tennis shoes, and all persons able to see beyond the ends of their noses…”

That is almost legendary substance.

While high-level official negotiations continue, and the large agencies and organizations fight for pro-ocean and pro-turtle policies, why don’t we all do our small part for sea turtles?

A billion baby sea turtles?


Why don’t YOU lead one to the water?

Join us on Facebook to Help Spread the Word About Billion Baby Turtles & Win Great Prizes.

Bio: Dr. Wallace “J.” Nichols is a scientist, activist, community organizer, author and dad. He works to inspire a deeper connection with nature, sometimes simply by walking and talking, other times through writing or images. He is co-founder of SEE Turtles, SEEtheWILD, & LiVBLUE among other organizations.