Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Volunteer tourism motivation

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Volunteer tourism motivation:
What motivates volunteer tourism?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Global travel has been on a long and changing pattern of consumption, from the early trade market and discovery of new land, to the 19th century where missionaries were setting out to immerse themselves in different cultures, motivated to enlighten others with their religious views. Travel became a more normal part of life in western society post the second world war, prior to this, tourism had typically been reserved for the wealthy (Chen & Chen, 2011). The mass tourism industry really began to flourish in the 1960s and over the next two decades so did small niche tourism markets (Lo & Lee, 2011),[grammar?] by the 1990s the rush of volunteer tourism had arrived (Callanan & Thomas, 2005). Consumption behaviour changed again as the global awareness of environmental issues altered the way that people wanted to devote time to travel, combined with the need for unpaid volunteers to offer support internationally (Chen & Chen, 2011).

This[what?] popular alternative market of travel began predominantly in Britain and Europe, going on to become a global travel trend that rapidly reached places like Australia (Wearing & McGehee, 2013). Nestora, Yeung & Calderon (2009) suggest heavily publicised global events like the September 11 terrorist attack and the Indonesian Tsunami fuelled a sense of greater awareness of the world around us, prompting further interest in the alternative travel options.

Volunteer Tourism (VT) is the integration of travelling, generally overseas and typically in developing countries and performing humanitarian acts,[grammar?] some examples are, conservation experiences, sustainable community projects and education support. People participate for varying amounts of time from weeks to month or years. Over the decades this alternative travel experience has been growing in popularity and has become a focus of research which attempts to explain the patterns of behaviour associated with it, including what motivates people to participate (Mustonen, 2007; Benson & Seibert, 2009;Polus and Bidder, 2016), how they perceive their experience (Polus and Bidder, 2016) and how these factors may influence each other (Han, Meng, Chua, Ryu & Kim, 2019). The phenomenon goes by different names like the popular title of Voluntourism,[grammar?] to conceptualise voluntourism for the purposes of this chapter, we will explore the topic based on the widely accepted definition "tourist, who for various reasons, volunteer in an organized way to undertake holidays that might involve aiding or alleviating the material poverty of some groups in society, the restoration of certain environments or research into aspects of society or environment" (Wearing, 2001). Research into the benefit of participating in VT has dominated earlier studies describing it as an opportunity for the traveller to experience transformation of the self and identity (Coghlan & Weiler, 2015), a chance for cultural immersion and understanding (Barbieri, Santos & Katsube, 2011), as well as an opportune time to build relationships with like minded people, and host communities (Brown 2005).

Focus questions
  1. What are the reasons people want to participate in volunteering overseas?
  2. What are the common themes?
  3. How can these be explained by motivational theory and research?

What do we know from volunteer tourists about why they participate?[edit | edit source]

Callan & Thomas (2005) theorised that there are 3 levels of tourists participation, the “shallow” being the first level characterised by more preoccupation with a shorter stay (few weeks), motivated more by self interest, less skilled and take the back seat in participating, the other end of the spectrum is the “deep” tourist who demonstrates more altruistic motives, may actually have some technical / professional skills to offer and more hands on in helping the community. Important differentiation to make in understanding what creates such diversity in motivations and outcomes[Rewrite to improve clarity]. The vast majority of research in this area has consistently found the below results[grammar?].

Motives found frequently in research on volunteer tourism[edit | edit source]

  • Altruism (Wearing, 2001; Lo & Lee, 2011; Otoo & Amuquandoh, 2014)
  • Cultural exchange and immersion (Wearing, 2001)
  • Participation in program (Wearing, 2001)
  • Self development/ esteem development (Charlebois & Foller-Carroll, 2016; Weaver, 2015; Wearing & McGee, 2013)
  • Challenge of a new experience (Polus & Bidder, 2016; Pegg, Patterson & Matsumoto, 2012) Wearing (2001) proposes that the adversity and challenges people seek in VT is likey something that makes them more resilient to the challenges of everyday life when they return.
  • Escape from daily life (Han, Meng, Chua, Ryu & Kim, 2019)
  • Education ( Otoo & Amuquandoh, 2014)
  • Forming social connections (Brown, 2005; Weaver, 2015)
  • Personal Growth (Wearing, 2001)
  • Scenery and experience of a new place (Pegg, Patterson, & Matsumoto, 2012)
  • Authenticity

Authenticity is a common umbrella term that continues to appear in studies trying to capture pre trip motivations (Benson & Seibert, 2009; Brown 2005), often in the form of aspects like cultural immersion,[grammar?] Kontogeorgopoulos' (2017) study of volunteers involved in a program in Thailand, all participants reported the desire for object authenticity, "real" Thai people behaving in natural ways as they go about their day to day life in the absence of the tourist microscope. [grammar?]though this is achieved more so in VT then In mass tourism experience, it is acknowledged that the host would still likely be selective about the parts of what real everyday life in Thailand would be like, the participants of the study unanimously decided that object authenticity was the most important reason for wanting to participate in VT.

The emerging constructs of volunteer tourist motivations[edit | edit source]

In more recent research Han et al (2019) discuss the constructs that have emerged as the foundation for understanding key pillars in motivational research:

  • Altruism, motivated by the desire to genuinely help and support others
  • Personal growth and development
  • Opportunities to learn, open to new experiences seeking a new adventure
  • The self "ego enhancement" as described by Han et al (2019) is the endeavour towards deeper meaning
  • Escaping from the routine of everyday life

These broad constructs typically cover all of the smaller factors identified as being key to motivation in previous studies. Research into volunteer tourism motivations has in large part been exploratory rather then an attempt at explaining the psychological mechanisms that function below the surface level motives (Francis & Yasué, 2019).

Voluntourism partly has its routes in volunteerism research but a much larger foundation in travel research, where similarly motivates[grammar?] are diverse and complex,[grammar?] travel theories have been developed over the past couple of decades to systematically make sense of the research.

Push/pull theory of motivation[edit | edit source]

As a systematic way of explaining and organising the large range of motives for travel, Dann (1977) theorised that intrinsic needs motivate someone to seek out travel opportunities,[grammar?] these "push" factors move someone towards travelling, and "pull" factors are what lures them to their destination, Crompton (1979) went on to suggests a list of factors for travel, in the volunteer tourism literature [grammar?] Benson & Seibert (2011) identified key push/pull factors as per Crompton notion there were 5 categories of push factors and 2 categories of pull to survey from, they identified the 5 most important motives for travel, four of those were push factors:

Push factors were

  • Experiencing something different
  • Cultural immersion and learning
  • To live in another country
  • To broaden one's mind

Pull factor:

  • "Meet African people"

Based on this study there is evidence to suggest that perhaps internal push factors are more motivating than the pull factors, but there is continued support for the interplay between both.

This [what?] theory has strong foundations in tourism research and as theoretical application continues to grow in Voluntourism there would likely be some similarities to push pull factors in travel but with unique distinctions to volunteering such as altruism and career development (Callan & Thomas, 2005)

True or false? push and pull factors both function together as mechanisms that motivate the individual to pursue travel


Motivation to volunteer abroad: A needs satisfaction approach[edit | edit source]

Needs are motivating drives that cause us to behave in ways that satisfy a deficiency or a need for growth, our development and wellbeing as human beings depends on their satisfaction. Physiological needs, believed to be the most important (Maslow 1943) are innate needs relating to maintaining homeostasis in the body, they alert us to thirst, hunger etc, considerably important in staying alive. Psychological needs are what pushes us towards actively participating in the environment and engaging in activities that allow us to experience, learn and grow from our surroundings motivating us towards human connection and relationships.

The research on volunteer touirsts motivations has been primarily descriptive and although the industry has been established for a while it's foundational research is marginal as compared to mass tourism, theoretical framework used to explain tourism has been frequently applied to volunteer tourism, such as Maslow's hierarchy of needs (Maslow, 1943).

It is understood in the travel literature that a robust explanation for desire to travel is in large part due to the fulfilment of human needs (Brown 2005).

Maslow's Hierarchy of needs is, an explanation of intrinsic motivation[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

within the literature on tourism Maslow's hierarchy has been applied to a wide pool of research and has gathered great empirical support in this area (Jang & Cai, 2002).

This is a universal model for the categorisation of human needs, as per figure 1 this pyramid describes the order that the individuals' needs will emerge, beginning with basic physiological needs through to the highest order needs inclusive of self actualisation and fulfillment of potential.

Originally Maslow believed that after the lower needs in the hierarchy must be satisfied before the higher needs become salient (Maslow, 1943), later revision implies the lower needs may not always become entirely satisfied and there is room for flexibility within this model (1970). There is a likelihood of experiencing more then one level of needs being salient at a time,[grammar?] Maslow also factored in interpersonal difference, external circumstances and the possibilities of an individual desire for fulfillment and creativity superseding everything else (Maslow 1970, 1987).

Deficiency needs[edit | edit source]

This grouping stems from a deficit in the mind and body and as mentioned above needs to be satisfied before being ready for personal growth to be a priority:
1st physiological and biological needs/ innate drives like thirst, hunger, sleep and shelter

2nd safety needs: feeling safe emotionally, physically, possibly financially

3rd social needs: relationships of all kinds, interpersonal connection that is perceived to have value, community

4th esteem needs: importance, status, recognition, self respect and a favourable self concept are important here, depending on whether the indiduval[spelling?] has low or high self esteem they will tend to either have more of a need for recognition from others (low) or a focus on respecting themselves, personal achievement and mastery (high)

Growth needs[edit | edit source]

Once we move past being in a state of deficiency in the lower needs there is room for interest in personal growth:

5th self-actualisation: motivated to reach ones potential, fulfillment, motivated by the need for personal growth, focus towards humanity and the service of others

Revised Model inclusive of 3 additional growth needs:

Cognitive needs: meaning, knowledge and understating of the world around us

Aesthetic needs: beauty, balance, form

Transcendence needs: assistance in other people’s journey towards self actualisation

  • When applied to VT research, as the lower level needs approach a level of satisfaction the need for self development and self actualisation may emerge in the form of being motivated to volunteer abroad, this kind of travel may be appealing for motives like transcendence, we may also continue to participate through out the life span as travel often has an end goal of self actualisation (Mill and Morrison (2002), a need that is salient across the life span.
  • Theorised need for knowledge and understanding may offer explanation for the desire towards cultural immersion and an authentic experience
  • According to Brown (2005) there is also opportunity for satisfying lower level needs in travel,[grammar?] her results demonstrated that strengthened connection to family and an opportunity for camaraderie was emphasised by voluntourists as a key motive for travel.
  • Maslow (1970) discussed behaviour leading to self actualisation and characteristics of self actualisers that allude to caring about humanity and wanting to assist others in their accent up the pyramid, this may offer an explanation as to why altruistic behaviour has such a high presence in the voluntourism literature.
    volunteer statement: “So I decided to do it because I do well in life and I like to give back. I enjoy doing that kind of work and so I think my main reason was it’s time to start giving back again.” (Brown, 2005)

Choose from one of the following, Maslow's hierarchy of needs is:

Not very well known the literature on tourism.
A theory about extrinsic motivation.
A Hierarchical model that suggests once you have satisfied the need for self actualisation you work your way down the hierarchy of motivational needs.
A well known model that has been widely applied in motivational research where is suggested that the lower level needs will likely need to be satisfied before the higher order needs arise.

Pearce's travel career pattern theory (Pearce 2005)[edit | edit source]

key concepts

started as travel career "ladder"- the hierarchical model as people build their travel experience, also referred to as a "career" in this model, their pre-trip motivation will undergo a transformation over the course of their life. This is based on the notion that there is a certain predictability in people's travel motivations. travel career "pattern" (travel- needs theory) the revised version of the earlier model that removes the hierarchical element and focuses on the diverse motives towards a trip.

The category with the most corresponding travel motives, will be the travellers "dominant motivation"

  1. Physiological needs, escape excitement relaxation physical drives
  2. Safety and security needs
  3. Relationship needs
  4. Self esteem and development needs
  5. Self actualisation and fulfilment needs

Pearce explains that rather then this being a hierarchical model of people needing to satisfy needs in an accent up the ladder, It accounts for the fact that motivation to travel to a destination is diverse and multifaceted. The theory acknowledges that travellers may have a diverse list of motivations for travelling but one will be more prominent than the rest,[grammar?] it also proposes that if people's means to travel become limited and they cannot continue to build the career then their move through the stages will become stagnant. the key concept in this theory is the acknowledgement of individual motivation across categories that allows for a more robust framework widely applicable to tourism and involved in the beginning stages of the voluntourism research (Pearce 2005). Initial support was gained for this theory in Pearce's earlier work (1982) where he found that the older more experienced travellers results were dominated more by need for self actualisation and belonging needs, further along in the career then younger groups of the participants. This would imply some support in his notion of predictable travel patterns.

Which is not a motive, repeatedly found in studies for participating in volunteer tourism ?

Self development
Have an authentic experience
To help others
Taking photos for Instagram

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

so why is it significant to understand what motivates us towards volunteer tourism experiences? there is continuous acknowledgment of the benefit the experience has on both the traveller and the host community, to continue to grow this kind of tourism it is imperative to understand why future generations will engage, knowing what motivates them allows the industry to develop a targeted approach to getting people to participate. According to motivational theory, motives to participate in volunteer tourism are a complex blend of altruistic behaviour and also many self interest components,[grammar?] as humans we are drawn and pushed to these experiences by the psychological need for new experiences, challenges, more understanding and so on,[grammar?] it is suggested that travel opportunities particularly in this niche market may be very advantageous to need satisfaction and may have a great deal to offer in supporting people to feel fulfilled and move towards self actualisation.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Barbieri, C., Santos, C., & Katsube, Y. (2011). Volunteer tourism: On-the-ground observations from Rwanda. Tourism Management, 33

Benson, A. and Seibert, N. (2009). Volunteer tourism: Motivations of German participants in South Africa. Annals of Leisure Research, 12, 295-314.

Brown, S. (2005). Travelling with a purpose: understanding the motives and benefits of volunteer vacationers. Current Issues In Tourism, 8, 479-496.

Callanan, M., & Thomas, S. (2005). Volunteer tourism. Niche tourism, 183-200.

Chen, L. J., & Chen, J. S. (2011). The motivations and expectations of international volunteer tourists: A case study of “Chinese Village Traditions”. Tourism Management, 32, 435-442.

Coghlan, A., & Weiler, B. (2015). Examining transformative processes in volunteer tourism. Current Issues In Tourism, 21, 567-582.

Crompton, J. L. (1979). Motivations for pleasure vacation. Annals of tourism research, 6, 408-424.

Dann, G. M. S. (1977) Anomie, Ego-Enhancement and Tourism. Annals of Tourism Research,4, 184–194.

Francis, D. and Yasué, M. (2019). A mixed-methods study on the values and motivations of voluntourists. Tourism Recreation Research, 44, pp.232-246.

Han, H., Meng, B., Chua, B., Ryu, H. and Kim, W. (2019). International volunteer tourism and youth travelers – an emerging tourism trend. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 36, 549-562.

Jang, S., & Cai, L. (2002). Travel motivations and destination choice: A study of British outbound market. Journal Of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 13, 111-133. doi: 10.1080/10548400209511570

Kontogeorgopoulos, N. (2017) Forays into the backstage: volunteer tourism and the pursuit of object authenticity. Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, 15, 455-475.

Lo, A. S., & Lee, C. Y. (2011). Motivations and perceived value of volunteer tourists from Hong Kong. Tourism management, 32, 326-334.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370- 96.

Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper and Row.

Maslow, A.H. (1970) Motivation and Personality (3rd edn). New York: Harper and Row

Maslow, A., & Lewis, K. J. (1987). Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Salenger Incorporated, 14, 987.

McLeod, S. (2007). Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Simply psychology

Mill, R. C., & Morrison, A. M. (2002) the tourism system (4th ed.) Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/ Hunt Publishing Company

Mustonen, P. (2007). Volunteer tourism—Altruism or mere tourism?. Anatolia, 18, pp.97-115.

Nestora, A., Yeung, P., Calderon., H., (2009) Volunteer travel insights 2009. Bradt travel guides, Lasso communications GeckoGo (2009) Report can be found online at:

Pegg, S., Patterson, I., & Matsumoto, Y., (2012). Understanding the motivations of volunteers engaged in an alternative tourism experience in Northern Australia. Journal of Hospitality Marketing & Management, 21, 800-820,

Polus, R., C., & Bidder, C., (2016) Volunteer tourists’ motivation and satisfaction: A case of Batu Puteh Village Kinabatangan Borneo. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 224, 308-316.

Otoo, F., & Amuquandoh, F. (2014). An exploration of the motivations for volunteering: A study of international volunteer tourists to Ghana. Tourism Management Perspectives, 11, 51-57.

Wearing, S., 2001. Volunteer Tourism: Experiences That Make A Difference

Wearing, S., & McGehee, N. (2013). Volunteer tourism: A review. Tourism Management, 38, 120-130. doi: 10.1016/j.tourman.2013.03.002

Weaver, D. (2015). Volunteer tourism and beyond: motivations and barriers to participation in protected area enhancement. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 23, 683-705. doi:10.1080/09669582.2014.992901

External links[edit | edit source]