Volunteer Tourism: A Postcolonial Approach

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Sasha Hanson Pastran


Volunteer tourism (“voluntourism,” for short) is an alternative form of tourism in which tourists volunteer as part of their vacation in a developing country.1 It is often marketed as a mutually beneficial form of tourism, yet debate has arisen in recent years over the validity of this assessment and over the efficacy and ethics of using voluntourism as a development tool.2 The objectives of the paper are to: 1) examine the arguments in favour of volunteer tourism and to provide the postcolonial critiques of the industry, and 2) demonstrate how voluntourists and agencies can use a postcolonial approach to challenge and transform the neocolonial relationships embedded within this form of tourism. These objectives are met by critically examining the history, scope, and debate of the voluntourism industry through a postcolonial lens and by a brief discourse analysis of two case studies.