A Compareritive Analysis of Volunteer Tourism in Vietnam and Thailand

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Patcharin Sirasoonthorn and Nathalie Coren

A Comparative Analysis of Volunteer Tourism in Two Conservation Areas in Thailand and Vietnam1 Patcharin Sirasoonthorn2 and Nathalie Coren3

Abstract
Due to a variety of cultural backgrounds such as nationality, sex, ages and religious belief, motivation and expectations of volunteer tourism differ. This article highlights the significance of both external and internal factors which influence volunteer tourists in two conservation areas, Koh Tao in Mae Haad, Thailand and Xuan Thuy national Park in Vietnam. Data were collected for 12 weeks in each target area. A model of comparative study was applied to compare and contrast the behavior, motivation and expectation of volunteer tourists. Key words: volunteer tourism, motivation, expectation, conservation

Introduction
Tourism is a global activity. It is one of the most popular interests of sociologists (Cohen and Taylor 1976, Goffman 1974). In social aspects, holidays not only free individuals from their everyday life, but also provide mental and physical development. Holidays can offer cultivation of human identity, self consciousness, and enhancement of well-being. Yet historically, tourism has served only tourists’ pleasure. After decades of mainstreaming tourism, a variety of organizations have started to realize that this form of tourism caters more to an individual’s benefit rather than to the society. This has led to a new form of tourism called alternative tourism. Volunteer tourism is known as alternative tourism. It is getting popular in developing countries such as Thailand and Vietnam. The term refers to those tourists who, for various reasons, volunteer in an organized way to undertake holidays that might involve aiding or alleviating the material poverty of some group in society. International organizations well-known for volunteer tourism include Youth Challenge International, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Earth Watch. These organizations operate their projects in various locations, with varying size and 1

This article is a part of Master thesis called “The Motivation, Expectation and Experiences of Volunteer Tourists: A Comparative Analysis of Two Conservation Projects in Vietnam and Thailand. Assoc. Prof. Ph.D. Faculty of Social Sciences Naresuan University Thailand. Master Student, MSC Biodiversity Conservation & Ecotourism, University of Naresuan Thailand and University of Newcastle England.

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September 2010  Legazpi City, Philippines

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A Comparative Analysis of Volunteer Tourism in Two Conservation Areasin Thailand and Vietnam

participant characteristics. The most common element of their operations, however, is holiday programs that incorporate participation in social development issues such as education, health delivery, or natural resources. This volunteer tourism aims to provide mutual benefits to both volunteer tourists (VTs) and local people. This benefit will contribute not only to the VTs’ personal development, but also have a direct positive development impact to the society. Volunteer tourism can take place in various locations, such as rainforests, biological reserves, refugee camps, remote schools, and conservation areas. Popular locations include Africa, Central and South America, and Asia. Activities are varied and include research (wildlife, land, plants and water), conservation projects, medical assistance, rainforest reserve, and socio-cultural development and restoration. VTs take part in various forms of local activities. While they strengthen community power, these VTs also empower themselves. They feel confident and develop a greater awareness of themselves (Hill 2001). In terms of the sociology of tourism, volunteer tourism has developed into three major themes of development. First, it is a means to escape from boring or routinary activities of individuals or groups of people. Second, it provides enjoyable and memorable time for VTs. Lastly, it...
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