This presentation is well worth watching in full as it presents some of the key perspectives and issues about volunteer tourism. In particular, Sallie Grayson of the volunteering organisation people and places and Paul Miedema of Calabash Tours in South Africa are powerful and passionate advocates for ensuring that volunteers are well-prepared and placements are well-developed with full collaboration and support for hosting a volunteer from local communities. The key point that comes across is that any volunteering placement has to be beneficial to local communities and not just about the volunteer’s own benefits gained.
It was great to see that there was some debate at the end of the presentations and that questions were asked about what can be done to ensure that organisations and companies who are selling volunteer tourism are working responsibly. Are they really meeting the standards they claim in their marketing materials, or the living up to the criteria for being a member of the Year Out Group? How is this monitored and proven? Can this be regulated? These questions still remain unanswered but they are very much on the table.
The fact that this was included in the World Responsible Tourism Day events at World Travel Market this month shows how much of a spotlight there now is on the volunteering industry and as Sallie mentioned, we could be reaching a tipping point. It certainly left me feeling inspired to do more to help people hoping to volunteer overseas find the right projects for them that really are responsible.