Host perceptions of sharing-based volunteer tourism : experiences from Australia and New Zealand
1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Geography
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Volunteer tourism is an increasingly popular way of travelling, which combines getting a deeper contact with local people and contributing to the development of poor communities or the state of the environment. Volunteering tourists pay to an intermediary company to participate in organised projects mostly in global South. This kind of volunteer tourism is referred in this thesis as traditional volunteer tourism. Another form of volunteer tourism is based on non-monetary exchange and is mutually negotiated between hosts and volunteers. Features of sharing economy are present in this form of volunteer tourism. Organisations representing this sharing-based volunteer tourism include WWOOF, Workaway and HelpX, which is in the focus of this thesis. This thesis focuses on the perceptions of HelpX hosts in Australia and New Zealand. The aim is to examine how volunteer tourism based on sharing differs from the traditional volunteer tourism, especially from the viewpoint of the host. I interviewed people who participate HelpX as hosts and invite volunteers to their (non-organic) farms. Seven interviews with a total of nine people were made, three in New Zealand and four in Australia. Hosts were asked about their motivations to participate HelpX, their experiences with the volunteers and their thoughts about the HelpX system. The data were analysed with qualitative methods using content analysis. The results were compared with existing research done on WWOOFing and combined under a definition of sharing-based volunteer tourism. This was then compared with traditional volunteer tourism. Experiences of HelpX hosts were similar to those of WWOOF hosts. Hosts appreciate the help, company and life enrichment the volunteers bring. Relations that were found vary from employer-employee, host-guest, teacher-student, family member to friends. Power relations are more equal and the position of the host stronger than in traditional volunteer tourism. The set-up enables the hosts to be more active and decide on the terms of the exchange. In sharing-based volunteer tourism, there is a direct contact between the host and the volunteer without any intermediaries and both parties are in relatively equal positions. There can be seen a distinction between organised, development-oriented, official volunteer tourism and informal, sharing-based volunteer tourism meeting the egocentric needs of both hosts and volunteers. The findings of this thesis frame sharing-based volunteer tourism as a form of travelling that combines features of volunteer tourism and sharing economy and is fulfilling the motives of both the volunteering tourists and the hosts.
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