There is much negative press about volunteer tourism; questions are raised about the damage which can be done to local communities, and about who actually benefits from such trips. These are extremely valid concerns, and the commitment to ensuring volunteer trips are sustainable and have a positive impact needs to be strong. Such negative press puts pressure on companies and charities offering volunteering opportunities (either as part of a holiday or as a separate placement) to act responsibly.

So are there no benefits of volunteer tourism?

Yesterday was World Tourism Day so how about instead of focusing on the negativity surrounding tourism, and more specifically volunteer tourism, we focus on some of the positive impacts the industry can have. The theme for this year’s World Tourism Day is ‘1 billion tourists, 1 billion opportunities’.

When managed responsibly tourism:

  • Creates jobs for local people as guides, cooks, drivers, managers
  • Boosts the economy when food and materials are purchased locally
  • Creates training pathways for people wanting to work in different aspects of the industry, allowing people to make careers as opposed to just short term employment
  • Offers both tourists and hosts a cultural exchange experience and can enhance understandings of global citizenship 
  • Is a way of learning about the world that you can’t match in a classroom
  • Puts value on natural resources or conservation areas by increasing the incentive to protect vulnerable areas and wildlife 

The above benefits also apply to responsibly managed volunteer projects abroad.

Our examples of the benefits of volunteer tourism

The partnership between Moving Mountains and Adventure Alternative has created many long-term employment opportunities in East Africa, Nepal, and Borneo.

From left to right: Mrs. Serah Kinuthia, Everlyne Odia, Esther Wambui, Jen Gathirimu and Eva Muronji. All current or former employees of Moving Mountains and Adventure Alternative Kenya with expertise ranging from tour guiding to cooking to education.

Joseph Mungai who works for AA and MM Kenya and leads groups of clients on expeditions across East Africa as well as spending a large proportion of his time managing Moving Mountains development projects.

Ibra Ali, who works on our Moving Mountains Community Action Workteam in Kenya and Tanzania and who helps to coordinate construction projects around the region. Ibra has been trained in various construction techniques and now uses these skills help carry out Moving Mountains development projects.

Pasang Tendi Sherpa, director of Adventure Alternative Nepal and highly experienced mountain guide. Pasang manages all of our operations in Nepal and deals with hundreds of tourists a year as well as committing time to Moving Mountains Nepal as a trustee.