Industry News & Trends
What is Voluntourism?
Voluntourism, a combination of volunteering and tourism, is used to describe tourist trips taken with the intention to volunteer for an organisation in a foreign (usually less developed) country. The most popular types of voluntourism include opportunities to work with children, such as teaching jobs, day-care centres, or orphanages.
While volunteering is a valuable way to contribute to positive change in society, the popularisation of voluntourism – specifically working with children – has been shown to increase the risks for Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and Child Sexual Exploitation (ECPAT International, 2022)
What makes voluntourism harmful?
A general lack of regulations and background checks of volunteers performed by the hosting organisations as well as the volunteer-receiving countries facilitates easy access for sexual offenders to vulnerable children. Volunteer placements within orphanages or schools usually do not require any experience or proven qualifications.
There remains a high economic incentive for host countries to abstain from establishing regulations and background checks, as volunteering tourists provide free labour and contribute to the local economy.
The presence of foreign volunteers in poor communities creates a power imbalance that facilitates a high-risk environment for Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation.
What needs to be done?
Legislative changes that will require criminal record checks for any person applying to work with children.
Implementation of global Child Protection standards, especially for countries that are popular voluntourism destinations.
Spreading awareness about the harmful consequences of Voluntourism with children to minimise and eliminate the number of organisations offering such trips.
If you or somebody in your circle is considering voluntourism, please inform them about the potentially harmful consequences for the affected children and encourage them to reconsider.
Learn more about Child Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism here.
Photo by INHOPE
While volunteering is a valuable way to contribute to positive change in society, the popularisation of voluntourism has been shown to increase the risks for Child Sexual Abuse and Child Sexual Exploitation'