Voluntours and Voluntourism: What on earth is that?

What’s a voluntour?

Travel industry neologisms like this drive me batty. Whether or not you find the word itself an annoying addition to the travel industry’s vocabulary, the item itself is generally pretty cool. Its basically any trip that entails working in local communities whilst you travel. Voluntours are growing in popularity with socially conscious gap-year students, particularly of the European variety.

I guess what I like about the voluntourism concept is that its a two-way cultural exchange, as opposed to your typical voyeuristic tourist experience. A voluntour can take place in the context of teaching self-reliance or linguistic skills to remote villages, or as a contribution to disaster management where necessary – there’s a diverse array of scenarios.

Where I’ve become aware of voluntours is when I’ve seen them crop up as packages on the travel sites I’ve dealt with. Being a stickler for calling a spade a spade, I’ve been tending towards rewriting this as a “volunteer tour” or “volunteer tourism”. I guess that we’ll have to wait and see whether the contracted form of the word gains any traction with the tourists themselves before voluntour can be despatched to the trash heap of rejected neologisms.

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