I’ve been speaking with a lot of people in the voluntour industry lately and they all agree: voluntourism is an expanding industry. It’s an exponential equation: after people participate, they share their experiences with friends and family. Volunteering is infectious. We are inspired by the good deeds of others. I believe, deep inside, we all want to improve the world around us, even if we don’t know it or understand how. Seeing the effects of volunteering on the people we care about is transformative. It demonstrates the power and importance of something that might at first glance seem onerous or unappealing (like Paul Rudd in My Idiot Brother). I’ve been watching the industry grow. Every week it seems like there are more organizations popping up, and more volunteers are asking how to get involved. It’s very exciting to see the numbers reflecting my hunch… that more and more traditional tourism companies are incorporating volunteering into their programs.
Sometimes the market is a beautiful thing. When there is interest, the market responds. ATTA reports that 55% of their members currently run volunteer trips. Of the remaining 45%, 41% of them are considering running volunteer trips in the future. I can only imagine that it’s a matter of time for that remaining 4%. Granted, this is a self-selecting group—all of these organizations are members of the Adventure Travel Trade Association—still, I think it’s a reasonably good sampling of the industry as a whole. It illustrates public opinion: the reasons cited for the growing interest included “growing awareness and demand for ‘giving back’.” I find this so deeply encouraging. We are moving in the right direction! More and more of us want to dedicate our time to making the world a better place!
I was also interested in the demographic numbers. The gender percentages were about equal. Of the volunteers represented by ATTA member companies, 53.21% were female while 46.79% were male. Considering that the population of the world is 51% women, these numbers are remarkably close to representing the population as a whole. This is a fantastic fact: there is no significant disparity between the numbers of men and women who want to volunteer. Take that, gender essentialists!
There were several different types of volunteer projects represented, and these were roughly in line with what I’ve been reporting here for the past few months. The most popular projects are working with children and education (tied at 15.27%), environmental protection or recovery (13.99%), wildlife recovery or habitats and local job creation or economic projects (tied at 10.18%), and clean water projects (7.89%).
I’m so thrilled about these statistics. I hope interest continues to grow and that the industry becomes ever more accommodating for the enthusiastic volunteer. If you’re interested in seeing some additional voluntourism research, visit Voluntourism Gal and Voluntourism.org.