Non-Profit or For-Profit Volunteer Tourism Organizations Contributing to the Cause of Increasing Global Health Inequities? A Review of Online Marketing Tools

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Graduate student (Masters)
Date created: 
Medical volunteer tourism
Responsible volunteering
Global inequity

Voluntourism is defined in this paper as organized short-term volunteer work completed in the Global South by a tourist from the Global North whose goal is to provide relief from or alleviate poverty in a society. Recently, this practice has been publicly critiqued for exacerbating global inequities, namely power and health. The marketing of voluntourism programs plays a significant role on the impacts of voluntourism (i.e., either reinforcing or stopping these critiques). Therefore, this paper seeks to examine volunteer tourism websites to better understand how medical voluntourism is marketed. It further seeks to compare for-profit and non-profit volunteer tourism organizations’ marketing practices. A qualitative analysis of online mission statements and related text of 21 volunteer tourism websites, offering a medical project, was completed. It was found that for-profit volunteer tourism organizations promoted responsible volunteer travel and sustainability more often than non-profit organizations. However, non-profit organizations were more empowering than for-profit organizations when describing host communities. Lastly, organizations often demonstrated a discrepancy between their mission statement and website text constituting their underlying values. 

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
Rights remain with the author.
Malcolm Steinberg
Health Sciences