Author : Nancy McGehee
School/Work Place : Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, USA
Contact :
Year : 2007

This is a study of the relationships between two volunteer tourism host communities and the volunteer tourists who visit them. One is a declining rural community located in the Appalachian mountains of the United States. The other is in a rapidly expanding urban setting in Baja California, Mexico. Both are suffering from a lack of affordable health care, with minimal access to quality public education and healthy food and drinking water. Both are experiencing the benefits and the challenges of receiving volunteer tourists. This is an attempt to illuminate the perspective of the residents of these communities and to recognize the complexity of the relationships between and among volunteer tourists and the voluntoured.

A steadily growing body of work exists in the area of volunteer tourism. McGehee and Santos (2005:760) define volunteer tourism as “utilizing discretionary time and income to travel out of the sphere of regular activity to assist others in need.”

Most of the research in this area has concentrated on the volunteer tourist (Brown and Morrison, 2003; McGehee and Santos, 2005; McGehee, 2002; McGehee and Norman, 2002; Mustonen, 2005; Stoddart and Rogerson, 2004; Wearing, 2000; 2001; 2002; 2004; Wearing and Deane, 2003), as opposed to people in the local community who host the volunteers. For the most part, the research to date has been primarily descriptive and uncritically posits volunteer tourism as a positive and often environmentally sustainable alternative to mass tourism. However, very little, if any, research exists that questions or explores the socio-cultural sustainability of volunteer tourism. The purpose of this study is to illuminate some of the complex issues that exist in the relationship between volunteer tourists and the voluntoured.

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