Travel to fantastic places and trade some skills for room and board. This is basically a summary of volunteer tourism, a practice that defines tourism – internally or externally – including volunteer activities.
So speaking, it seems complicated to those unfamiliar with the subject, but the concept goes far beyond exchanging hosting for services, and has become an even more common practice in the world after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Also known as collaborative tourism, this type of travel values the tourist’s immersion in experiences that have a positive and transformative impact for all involved.
Be it a local riverside community, an organic farm or an accommodation such as a hostel. Despite being an old practice, it has had a breather in recent years with the increase in the purchasing power of the so-called Millennials and especially the maturation of Generation Z.
Most connecting platforms between travelers and hosts have been created in the last 10 years, given the latent demand for experience-driven travel.
Generation Z and traveling with purpose
Known as true digital natives, those born between the mid-1990s and 2010 have already grown up immersed in technology and perhaps that’s why most want to make an impact on the world.
No wonder it’s common to see the quest for purposeful travel in influencers’ blogs and instagrams. Generation Z is currently considered the most representative in the consumer market – and it would be no different in the tourism sector.
The latest traveler profile surveys, conducted before Covid-19, have already identified them as the generation dictating consumption rules and the impact on the sector.
Expedia Group has published a study on how this generation is shaping the future of travel and some points are critical to understanding how volunteer tourism came to this audience’s attention.
What most represents these young people, however, is the tendency to consume only what matters and move in that direction when making choices and purchases. This ‘essentialism’ has also been referred to as a post-pandemic trend as financial crises around the world are experienced as a result of the coronavirus.
This is where purposeful travel makes perfect sense. The home office accepted as a natural way of working, the fall of formal employment and the YOLO (You Only Live Once) concept, enhanced with the sad world scenario, are bringing volunteer tourism into the spotlight.
Whether you are looking for a more frugal sabbatical, a change of life or to help the other. It is up to the market to understand this demand and take advantage of the wave to meet the needs of the new audience.
Discover the different types of volunteer tourism
Basically there are two categories of voluntary tourism: social exchange or exchange at work.
The first is a traditional form of volunteering and focuses on projects related to social issues, where the traveler wants to help an initiative they believe in.
They are usually mediated by NGOs and try to create social impact, reduce inequalities or promote a sustainable world.
The work exchange focuses on exchanging work for accommodation and has grown with the demand from travelers who want to spend less, stay longer at the destination and learn new skills.
Multiple platforms make this connection between travelers and hosts. Worldpackers, Workaways, Vivalá, WWOOF are some of them.
Worldpackers was founded by two Brazilian travelers in 2013 who noticed the trend that is now successful among backpackers.
Providing opportunities for social volunteer tourism or work exchange, the platform has created a community of people around the world dedicated to transforming travel through collaboration into experiences.
Eric Faria, one of the founders of the platform along with Riq Lima, commented on the months of uncertainty in the world travel world.
“During the pandemic, several projects were completely paralyzed and many were closed, but new hosts were added and we already have a 75% recovery in registrations,” Eric says.
Currently, Worldpackers has 8,000 registered hosts and more than 2.8 million travelers participating in the network. In the past year, the site had a 72% increase in hits, compared to 2019.
For Eric, this is already a response to the changing world scenario.
“The pandemic has made people appreciate contact with other people and the environment more. I think we will see more and more people using Worldpackers to travel, develop new skills and gain experience.”
Bill proposes regularization of volunteer tourism in Brazil
With the growing demand for this type of tourism in Brazil, there is already a bill in the Chamber of Deputies that aims to regulate the practice and provide legal certainty to hosts and travelers.
Bill 2994/20, introduced by deputies Paulo Ganime (Novo-RJ) and Adriana Ventura (Novo-SP), aims to amend the general tourism law and establish minimum rules for situations where the traveler with training in a particular area use this knowledge in exchange for housing in Brazil. In addition, the PL entails the obligation of contractors to partner with local charities or associations, to allocate 20% of the total time of the experience to these entities.
According to information from the bureau Câmara de Notícias, the text also exempts the employment relationship in the practice of collaborative tourism.
“The collaboration between travelers and business people is not just about saving money. There are benefits for the entrepreneur, but also for the tourist destination, which can get a category of tourists who normally would not be able to travel. For the traveler, there is the chance to experience other cultures, practice new languages and get to know places and people,” explains the motivation accompanying the project.
Hostels & Collaborative Tourism
The Brazilian hostel has already recognized the many possibilities and has followed this form of travel for a long time. Entrepreneurs guarantee that the participation of this type of traveler in the daily business is very enriching, both for the experience of the ordinary guest and for the host himself. Vinícius Fiore, of Green Haven Hostel, in Ubatuba, underlines the importance of this type of experience for both parties.
“Collaborative tourism is the fuel for a hostel to live. Without the volunteers, everything looks very neat and square. Not that it’s not good to have staff, but that feeling of a traveler serving another traveler at the front desk is something that’s part of the essence of a hostel.”
Green Haven has already hosted nearly 200 volunteers in six years of using the Worldpackers platform, many of whom have even become permanent staff in their home.
With so much experience, the hostel is a great thermometer to visualize the increase in traveler demand. “We used to have three to four packers per month and today we have an average of 15 travelers per month as part of the team,” explains Vinícius.
Travelers who choose this type of tourism extol the benefits of a collaborative tourist, both in cost savings and the experiences the modality provides.
“In the conventional way, with hotel, tickets and food, it is impossible to travel long. Only through Collaborative Tourism can you extend your trip and enjoy each place more”, defends Vanessa Livi, who has already used this type of tourism to visit 5 countries and 14 Brazilian states!
Daniella Guimarães started her tourist life together 6 months ago, is on her fifth experience and has no plans to stop anytime soon. “It goes way beyond saving money. As I spend more time in each city, I live there! I experience the culture and experience of each place. A unique experience that has only been for weeks or months.”
Backpacker Rassany Dias found this form of travel life-changing. “Since I was 12 years old I came up with a way to save money while traveling and also get to know as many places and experiences as possible. Today I am traveling for almost a year, I just had to start! I save money, emit less pollution and on the other hand I know sensational stories,” says he, who will soon increase his experience by cycling between destinations.
With travelers increasingly seeking immersive experiences, volunteer tourism offers the opportunity to experience and learn alternative ways of living. On your next trip, experience cultural immersion or learn a new skill, you may be surprised.
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