‘Voluntourism’ on rise, survey shows


While the number of Americans interested in volunteer vacations continues to climb, there are dramatic differences among the generations, according to a new UCSD Extension survey.

Two-thirds of high school students and about half of the college students surveyed say they have participated in discussions in the past year related to traveling to other regions to provide volunteer service, whereas less than half of the adult population, and only one-quarter of retirees, say they have done so.

Overall, the survey found that more than two-thirds (69 percent) of Americans have participated in donating money or time to a global cause, up from 48 percent in a spring 2008 UCSD poll.

“More and more people in all stages of life are thinking of becoming global ‘voluntourists’,” says Bob Benson, director of the Center for Global Volunteer Service at UCSD Extension. “People are looking to volunteer their time in meaningful ways that make contributions to people in regions other than their own, and younger people are especially eager to make voluntourism part of their lifestyle.”

The 2009 poll was conducted by Caravan Opinion Research Corp. during March by telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults, and supplemented by an in-depth online survey of more than 300 adults conducted in May by UCSD Extension.

The top five types of volunteer assignments the survey respondents want are education or artistic and cultural development; provide spiritual or emotional assistance; improve health and nutrition; construct roads, homes and technology infrastructure; and environmental cleanup or agriculture assistance.