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.

Diversification

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.

Alexia

Mental Health Disclosures by Volunteers

Our friends in the Amongst Us group on LinkedIn (which you should join if you direct a volunteer abroad program—email me for an invitation if you’re not a member yet) started a discussion recently about mental health disclosures by volunteers, and I wanted to open it up here as well.

As a volunteer applies for your program, how do you—or do you at all—require them to disclose mental health conditions or history? And how do you work with those volunteers who encounter related issues while abroad?

So far the comments have varied on the types of disclosure required (either by the volunteer himself or from a doctor or therapist), but a common thread in the discussion is that regardless of the process, there always will be some exceptional, rare cases that arise once the volunteer is in the field.

From my perspective, we saw this in Peace Corps as well. With a six- to nine-month average application with the majority of time spent on evaluating mental and physical well-being, we had arguably one of the most stringent application processes out there. Even so, we still had the occasional trainee decide “This absolutely is not for me,” and head home even before swearing in. And we had the occasional volunteer who’d decide the same thing months or even more than a year into service.

So friends: have any thoughts on the topic? How do you try to ensure your volunteers and programs are well matched—either before or during service?

“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?

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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).

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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.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/tat/thailand/prweb10964068.htm

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.

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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.

Volunteer Travel Operators: Get Off Your Asses and Help Your Industry!

Our goal at Voluntourism Gal is to provide insights into and facilitate discussion about the volunteer travel industry. And aside from a few wonderful, vocal people, you’re all clamming up—and that makes the whole “facilitating discussion” thing incredibly difficult.

In 2009, the State of the Volunteer Travel Industry Survey polled 28 U.S.-based organizations with a few short questions, which we’ll get into below. This survey allowed researchers, media, and stakeholders to understand where we were that year and what you guys projected for the future of your own industry.

Well, the landscape has changed and the information on the previous publication is outdated. This spring, we asked you five questions that would allow us to release a brand-new report with updated, relevant information. This report is intended to help the community grow and understand where we’re headed.

As of today, we haven’t received nearly enough responses yet to compile the 2013 edition. Many of you are interested in seeing the report, but you’re not actually participating in the research. Do you want to have a solid answer when someone asks, “Is volunteer travel growing?” How about, “How has your industry fared during the recession?” Do you want something to actually back it up? Do you want to see the most popular countries U.S.-based organizations are sending their volunteers to? How about an average return rate to see how you stack up against the national number? I know I did when I operated my own volunteer travel company. I built the 2009 report into my freakin’ business plan.

Those are answers we want to provide for you—and unfortunately, we can’t release or report on anything until more of you get back to us.

So! As a reminder: all participants’ information will be kept strictly confidential and only the results and a total list of companies that participated, will be produced. Your competitors will not know how many volunteers you specifically are sending abroad, or what your company’s return rate is, or any other information about you individually.

Please take a couple minutes to answer the following five questions (plus the optional ones, if you have time) and send them to me directly at Sarah@FrayedPassport.com or to Alexia at alexia@lassocommunications.com.

And to those that have already responded: Thank you!

MAIN QUESTIONS

  1. To which countries do you currently send volunteers?
  2. What is the most popular activity for your volunteers? Building; Community Development; Conservation—Environmental, Wildlife, or Heritage; Scientific; Health Care; Skills Based Professional; Teaching; Other (please describe)
  3. How many volunteers did you send abroad in 2012?
  4. Do you expect to send more or less volunteers abroad in 2013 than you did in 2012?
  5. What is your return rate for volunteers?

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

  1. Do you feel the economy is affecting your business positively, negatively or unaffected? What, if anything, have you done to counteract the effects of the recession?
  2. Are there any valuable insights or lessons learned you would like to share with the industry?
  3. Which term do you most associate with your organization? Voluntourism, volunteer tourism, volunteer vacation, volunteer travel, volunteer abroad, or other?

To qualify as an operator in this survey, you must have a U.S. office; send U.S. volunteers abroad; not be faith-based in any way; require that volunteers must pay for their placement; and require that travelers work for more than four days of straight volunteering (e.g., cannot be an adventure travel placement with a volunteer component).

Please send all responses to Sarah@FrayedPassport.com or to Alexia at alexia@lassocommunications.com.

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???