Volunteer Tourism and Its Effects on Social Life


There are a number of reasons that makes people traverse various destinations in the world. Volunteer tourism comes as a result of accident or opportunity based on education trips. Most of the volunteer tourists explore other countries due to education exchange programs through which they are taught various principles and rules regarding the country of study for the purposes of applying them in their mother countries (Ross, 1992). Volunteer tourism is normally accompanied by activist groups sponsored by prominent institutions especially those operating in Africa. Foreigners easily use these groups to drive their agendas through governments; such actions can be associated with neo-colonialism (Andereck et al, 2005). Currently, most popular voyages people take abroad especially to Africa, are meant to make individuals appreciate various privileges they enjoy within their countries. Africa is mostly chosen for such destinations since foreigners describe it as a place of understanding the real meaning of poverty and underdevelopment (Ap, 1992).

Main Body

Volunteer tourism has profound effects on the social lives of various communities around the world. It is therefore important for governments and individuals at all levels to take responsible actions for the purposes of reducing any form of community backdrop against tourism (Davis et al, 1988). Communities from tourist destinations are considered part of tourism ‘product’ since the actions and behaviours of the residents determines to a larger extent the level of success attained by a particular destination (Teye et al., 2002). Most of the research made on social impacts of volunteer tourism has not addressed the deep-seated issues affecting various destinations (Tester, 2010).

Impacts of Volunteer Tourism on Social Life

Development of the tourism industry within communities requires maximization of all positive outcomes and at the same time minimizing identified negative impacts. Several impacts have been realized and grouped into appropriate categories. Various impacts are dependent on particular features hence making it possible for particular communities not to experience every impact of volunteer tourism. The impacts may range from natural resources, physical developments, social integration of communities and another phenomenon (Cohen, 1978). However, understanding possible impacts, demands that involved sectors work cooperatively and carefully for the purposes of promoting growth in tourism. Specifically, social and cultural ramifications of tourism demand application of strict policies and principles since the effects can either be positive or negative on the society. Effects of tourism can always be felt in the nature of inclinations on community cultural values, individual behaviours as well as family lives (Sirakaya et al., 2002).

There are possibilities of communities trying to incorporate tourist behaviours into their cultures since they desire to please visitors. However, such relationships might inspire creative expressions since they help in providing new progressions either positive or negative amongst the destination communities (Mohammadi et al., 2010). One of the effects realized is inclinations towards different moral conducts such as discovery on new ways of relationships and nature of understanding between sexes as well as an increase in cases of drug use. Despite all these, tourism has made various destinations realize increased development in health facilities, employment opportunities and infrastructure, and on the contrary an increase in the crime rate (Sheldon and Var, 1984). There are cosmetic experiences in which traditional ceremonies are revived due to tourist interests (Snaith and Haley, 1994).

Volunteer tourism impacts the quality of lives within various destinations due to several improvements in infrastructure and recreational centres. There are opportunities for socializing with international communities which allow individuals to express themselves in view of new perspectives (Rothman, 1978). Volunteer tourism leads to cultural enrichment due to inter-cultural practices which leads to an increase in the level of individual exposure. This involves an encounter with historical and cultural exhibits of various communities and such experiences encourages communities to revive their cultural heritage for the purposes of learning. Kind of interests expressed by tourism on local cultures and history supports the endeavours of preserving traditional norms, artefacts as well as architecture. Various interactions lead to satisfaction of psychological curiosity since learning other cultures have the capability of creating unity, peace and harmony amongst communities (Behrens, 2010).

There are negative sides of tourism based on social and cultural beliefs of every community. One possible negative influence involves illegal trade since tourist attraction centres are considered neutral grounds. Teenage drinking and sex tourism are some of the illegal experiences associated with tourist destinations, especially beach communities (Roehl and Fesenmaier, 1987). Such areas provide rich grounds for strangers since everybody in these areas are taken for granted hence possibility of smugglers and smuggled products streaming inside such destinations. Governments usually reduce congestions by altering travel patterns means on locals within tourist destinations hence damaging the cultural and social set-ups within the communities (Mohammadi et al., 2010). Development of infrastructure, hotels and social centres normally leads to complete change in community physical structure. Cultural changes entail change in language, dating habits and may result into cross-cultural marriages which may create sense of stress within some families (Roehl and Fesenmaier, 1987).

Various forms of interest and satisfactions brought by tourism might be a source of threat to local pride. At times tending to the interest of visitors creates some sense of appreciation amongst locals on the kind of resources they own. Development of tourism leads towards creation of different facilities making excitement a priority within the destinations (Mormino, 2005). At times, such developments bring divisiveness amongst the communities and may be between tourists and residents owing to nasty foreign activities introduced by tourists. Such occurrences results into sense of exclusion and alienation towards the various plans on area developmental concerns. There is general feeling of losing control of the community to outsiders, this is since most of developers are sourced from outside the community making natives feel manipulated and exploited (Mohammadi et al., 2010). According to USA today internet page, tourism as explained earlier in this study, has positive and negative impacts on social life. Positive impacts can be explained through infrastructural and social amenities improvement. These facilities are of benefit to the local communities since they support improvement service development. Others are effects on quality life such as drug abuse, prostitution and congestion (Tester, 2010).

According to statistics, volunteer tourism has contributed towards creation of employment opportunities within host countries. The sector generates over 10% of the world’s income. Tourism contributes either directly or indirectly towards creation of employment mainly in the informal sector. Usually, the revenue collected from tourism enables improvement in education and health conditions amongst natives. Tourism is also viewed as one of the most influential economic tools used in development, making social impacts of tourism to be more subjective and intangible. However, heavy concentration of volunteer tourism activities leads to development of negative attitudes by the natives. The concentration range from increased noise, tourism induced increases in prices of commodities and traffic (Ap and Crompton, 1998).

These relationships have been well explained by the social exchange theory, which focuses on the rewards received by residents from volunteer tourism. Much importance should be placed on the nature and value attached to the relationship which ultimately affects people’s perceptions (Egrest et al, 2012). Such theory maintains that employment opportunities created by tourism to natives, should act as motivating factor, ensuring positive attitude towards the sector (U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Travel and Tourism Industries and Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2009).

Desperate situations within some destinations have contributed towards occurrences of negative phenomenon associated with tourism. High poverty levels, gender inequality and cravings by various governments to earn quick foreign exchange from tourism have led to such cases as sex tourism. The trend has been promoted further with the emergence of globalization and integration within world economic situations (Deloitte, 2010). Weaker gender within the society, such as women and teenagers, are often compelled to indulge in the act of selling their bodies for reasons of supporting their families. The prominence of this action can be noted in fact that most participants come from poor backgrounds, good example is in Philippines. In most of the Asian region, majority of this group come from those considered weaker socially and politically. Like in Thailand most of the supplies to sex tourism within the cities come from poor rural families in northern regions. Such abuses on children and women deprive the world of its true identity (Milman and Pizam, 1988). Sufficient evidence has been gathered from children organizations to attest to the fact that the phenomenon is extensive within Asian and African destinations. In countries such as India, the idea is propagated by cases of unemployment, high rates of illiteracy and poverty which pushes most of the children into prostitution (U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Travel and Tourism Industries and Bureau of economic Analysis, 2009).

Globalization is considered one of the most selective processes which promote exploitation of the underprivileged within the society as well as earth’s natural resources. The concept has led to breaking of concrete values which ensured survival of the ravaged and at the same time dislodged those living under the benefits of the free market society. Most of the criminal activities have come inform of tourist entertainment within casinos and other forms of actions (Bresson and Zeng, 2011). However, the criminal actions associated with tourism have been universalized within the World Trade Organization’s Code of Ethics. Tourism has also been associated with child labour, and this is provided by the informal sector which provides generalized services to tourists. In most countries, casinos are used as means of promoting tourist destinations world-wide (Robson, 1993). However, some aspects associated with such gambling links the actions to criminal activities since organized mafias control such networks for the purpose of obtaining income. The kind of gambling within such sectors is associated with crude activities such as prostitution (Bresson and Zeng, 2011).

Tourist destination governments have sought to introduce such casinos within their countries for the purposes of providing evening entertainment to tourists. Introduction of casinos in hotels, on shore and off-shore enables governments to increase their revenue collections from tourism (Davenport and Davenport, 2006). Such ventures in gambling used as means of income generation, have led to increase in crime rates within tourist destinations (Bresson and Zeng, 2011). However, in some states such as Macau and Nevada, gambling is known to be one of the major employers and at the same time source of revenue to the government. This has made these destinations to be known for high crime rates and other related social evils. Societies which encourage the growth of mafia and underworld experiences negative sides of tourism (Braun and Rungeling, 1992; Simmons, 1994).

There several concepts attached on the role of volunteer tourism to environmental and social issues. Countries and regions acting as tourist destinations should pledge utmost vigilance on negative activities associated with tourism (Gormsen, 1997; Sethna and Richmond, 1978). This should be given extensive consideration due to detrimental effects tourists has on the mental, moral, social and physical dimensions within the society. Programs dealing with promotion of tourism aiming at exploiting communities should be banned and tourism considered as source of promoting understanding between different cultures (Bourne, 2012). The sector should also be seen as source of economic development capable of improving lifestyles of the natives (Crompton and Ap, 1994).


There has been scepticism concerning tourist adventures due to the consequent results. This is since in some countries like Afghanistan foreign ventures are associated with wars, due to the fact that western countries have so much based their peace interventions on military actions. Volunteers are normally carried around in protective gears creating some impression of hostility within the host countries. However, social networking within the tourism sector and youth empowerment programs can be well utilized for the purposes of upgrading community standards and save the sinking nations from internal squabbles (Travel and Tourism, 2008). The issues of awareness created by most volunteer tourists have been taken as a glib approach towards saving the world. For example, the controversial Kony campaign in the year 2012, where a video clip shared on social media angered most youths against the warlord. This video clip at the same time revealed some significant truth based on the growing cult on the relationship between some organizations and developing world (Park and Stokowski, 2009).

Most of the volunteer tourists are motivated by their own self-ambitions since they take such opportunities as chances for testing their career choices and at the same time develop their social networks. Such exchange programs in education always shift benefits from poor to the rich. The idea of earnest inclination towards work within the developing countries creates some notion of neo-colonialism. Developing regions such as Africa should not only be viewed as places of learning negative examples but also as a region for positive developments. At the same time there are possibilities that foreigners who do not understand their mission to Africa may end up grabbing job opportunities from locals. However, providing useful services to the needy communities around the world is a noble course which should be pursued by foreigners. Volunteer tourism grants opportunities to professionals with talents to offer such as doctors and engineers in improving lifestyle of various communities. Good example for positive contributions is the case of building infrastructure such as railways. In Africa most of this work was done by volunteers from India. Improving communities lies in the individual understanding of being effective and productive within the domain of native’s wants.

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