Graduate Research and Discovery Symposium (GRADS)

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The role of volunteer tourism as an agent to foster global citizenship has been widely addressed by the literature. However, the conceptualizations of ‘volunteer tourism’ and ‘volunteer tourists’ in the context of global citizenship are still lacking important nuances and require more attention from both the research and teaching communities. The rationale for conducting this study arises from the current literature defining volunteer tourists based on the perspective where the majority of volunteer sending organizations and volunteer tourists come from – the primarily Western, developed country perspective. This study argues that this imbalance must be addressed and in response examines the perceptions and conceptualizations of ‘volunteer tourists’ from the perspective of a host community in a developing country To gain a rich understanding of the characteristics, dynamics and challenges related to a community in a developing country and to capture a multitude of perspectives on volunteer tourists from within the host community a case study approach was adopted which focuses on a village in the Northern Tourist Circuit of Tanzania. 40 semi-structured interviews were conducted with different community stakeholders, including private sector and public sector employees, people working for the non-profit sector and local people without affiliation to any of the three sectors. In order to minimize limitations associated with trust and to overcome potential language barriers, the interviews were conducted by a Tanzanian researcher in either Swahili or English. This study found that host community stakeholders struggled with the term ‘volunteer tourist’ and different conceptualizations were exhibited by different groups of respondents. For instance, ‘sponsor’ is a term used by local people and the non-profit sector, which illustrates a framing of ‘volunteer tourists’ as people who provide ongoing financial support for children’s education or particular causes. The non-profit sector also referred to ‘volunteer tourists’ as ‘donors’ in viewing them as people who donate money to the organization. The private sector on the other hand framed ‘volunteer tourists’ as ‘niche tourists’; people who are tourists but with needs that differ slightly from the main-stream tourists in this part of Africa. The terms ‘international workers’ and ‘NGO employees’ were used by the public sector which places emphasis on the public sector’s governance perspective. This study then reveals that the meanings attached to ‘volunteer tourists’ by the host community stakeholders significantly differ from the meaning that is attached to the volunteer tourists when viewed from the developed country perspective.