How Are Volunteer Travelers Making a Difference for Local Communities?

How Are Volunteer Travelers Making a Difference for Local Communities?

Our current issue article series this week focuses on volunteer travel. What are your experiences with voluntourism? How do you think volunteers can best contribute to destinations and communities and bring tangible benefits and opportunities? What are some of the ways that your organization uses volunteers to make a difference? Head over to TIES-EXCHANGE to share your comments and ideas related to this topic! (Member log-in required)


Voluntourism African Impact Voluntourism GVI Voluntourism SeetheWild


A month after the International Volunteer Day on 5 December 2012, we take a closer look at voluntourism, and more particularly international voluntourism programs in community development-related fields, and how they can be developed responsibly so that voluntourism can truly be an effective tool for sustainable community development. Volunteer travel, when implemented responsibly, can effectively harness the power of travel and make a positive impact on local communities and the environment. On the other hand, the tourism industry also faces possible threats due to rapid growth of the sector, and in some cases unsustainable and irresponsible practices.


Guidelines and Helpful Tips from the Tourism Industry

Sustainable and responsible voluntourism means that it can contribute to communities' and destinations' long-term well-being, while helping enrich the volunteer's experience. TIES, along with the Planterra Foundation and an international committee of voluntourism experts and practitioners, has developed the International Voluntourism Guidelines for Commercial Tour Operators that include questions and guidelines on various issues related to the voluntourism field, such how to choose and work with volunteers, and measuring/tracking the impact and success of voluntourism programs. took this TIES report and compiled some industry feedback and practical examples within the tourism industry.


Tips and guidelines for voluntourism providers are available from sites such as Voluntourism101 and, and Tourism Concerns' GIV Volunteering Standard Group gives great tips and examples for volunteers and organizations.


Practical Examples from TIES Network

The following are some exemplary cases of TIES members who are working with volunteers to make a lasting impact:

  • Global Vision International, a non-political, non-religious organization which runs volunteer projects in environmental research, conservation, education and community development to support international charities, non-profits and governmental agencies. It aims to have long-term, sustainable projects that are both beneficial for the volunteers as well as the local communities they serve.
  • SEEtheWild supports conservation efforts of endangered wildlife by offering projects for travelers to participate in conservation, by partnering with tourism operates to get travelers there and by collaborating with conservation organizations to make no wildlife gets harmed. SEEtheWild gives volunteers the opportunity to travel and make a difference at the same time.
  • African Impact, a volunteer travel organization, offers conservation and community programs for volunteers to make a difference and empower volunteers as well as the communities they work in.

Photo credits: (from left) African Impact, Global Vision International, SEEtheWILD



>> Ideas, comments, questions? Join our discussions on TIES-EXCHANGE!


>> Join the Voluntourism group on TIES-EXCHANGE to exchange ideas and discuss opportunities.



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About TIES

As the world's oldest and largest international ecotourism association, TIES seeks to be the global source of knowledge and advocacy uniting communities, conservation, sustainable travel..




> The International Ecotourism Society 



The Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference will highlight global challenges and local opportunities, supporting sustainable development of tourism and promoting solutions that balance conservation, communities and sustainable travel.

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