CMI Green Traveler Study: Voluntourism All Fueled Up, Yet to Take Off

The global recession hasn’t dampened enthusiam for volunteer travel. But while the idea of volunteer related travel (“Voluntourism”) is trendy these days, not much is known about who these volunteers are, how big a chunk of the travel business they represent, or what impact they are making in local communities.

While U.S.-based travelers represent a large part of the market of volunteer abroad experiences, much less is known about the interest in domestic travel-related volunteering. Here at VolunteerMatch, we’ve been advocating for years about the benefits of adding volunteering to your next trip here in the U.S., but we don’t yet have tools for tracking or reporting on the popularity of this option.

With the release of a new study this week on green travel habits, at least the volunteer abroad picture is becoming clearer.

Last year, VolunteerMatch collaborated with the market research experts at Community Marketing, Inc. (CMI) to add some critical questions about volunteering to their landmark study on “green” trends for consumers.  The “Green Traveler Study,” based on responses from 1,800 self-described “extremely” or “very” eco-conscious travlers, sought to create a profile of today’s green travelers.

Some of the broader goals of the questions were to find out:

  • How do they travel, how much and where?
  • What does “sustainable” or “green” travel mean to them?
  • What drives their interest in green travel options and destinations?
  • Will they pay a premium for sustainable choices?
  • Is there a gap between their intentions and their behavior?
  • How deep is their commitment to green travel, and how far will they take it?

Here are some of the key findings from the Green Traveler Study related to volunteering:

  • 25.6% of respondents reported that they have volunteered while traveling.
  • 59.1% said they are interested in volunteering during a future trip.
  • 37.6% of respondents indicated that the availability of volunteer opportunities would be a factor in selecting a vacation destination.
  • One in eight said they include volunteering as a part of what it means to be a green traveler.
  • 5.1% of respondents reporting “volunteer trip” as one of the purposes for travel over the last year.
  • 3.1% said they hoped to “leave the destination better” off than they’d found it.
  • For cruise passengers, 12.2% said shore-based volunteer excursions were among the top five most important environmental initiatives they sought.
  • Of those who have volunteered, 58% said they have continued to stay involved with the volunteer project since they returned.

According to CMI, the report is a mixed bag for advocates of volunteer travel. Right now, “there is more interest and expectation than participation.” And yet travelers who know about it are intrigued by the idea, and those who take part are engaged.

Looking ahead, volunteerism has a lot of potential to align the interest of local communities, NGOs, the travel industry, and travelers who want to make a difference.

Click here to download the entire report.

SearchLite Widget Helps Travel Groups Add Volunteering to Their Sites

Travel companies and organizations that are trying to encourage volunteer travel can use our SearchLite widget to add VolunteerMatch search results on your Web sites.

It’s a free and powerful way to connect your visitors to listings from VolunteerMatch member organizations like Cross-Cultural Solutions, Peace Corps, A Broader View Volunteers, Volunteer Expeditions, Greenheart Travel, and Adoption Advocates International, among many others. is one example of  a travel service using SearchLite well. Visitors can choose discount travel, green travel, or volunteer travel options.

Learn more about SearchLite here.

(Photo: Flickr)

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