Final year Doctoral Student Phoebe Everingham was one of four international scholars to win a Bursary award for her PhD paper entitled ‘I’m not looking for a manufactured experience: diversity of motivations in Volunteer tourism’ to attend the Otago University New Zealand for the 2017 Council for Australasian Tourism and Hospitality Education (CAUTHE) Conference.
On winning the award, Phoebe noted about her experience…
“This was my first CAUTHE conference and it was a great. To engage with current research from such a diverse range of topics around tourism was exciting, as was the opportunity to network with other academics in my field of research. The Phd workshop enabled me to meet other PhD students and was definitely a highlight. The workshop also gave me insights into what I can expect by pursuing an academic career, advice on how to present my research and teaching experience when applying for jobs, and also valuable information regarding building an online identity – something which is really important in the era we are living in. PhD students can benefit so much from the conference and the opportunities it presents. I came away feeling I had extended my network of academic contacts, and broadened my mind around how important tourism research is in a contemporary global context. I also really enjoyed the Special Interest Group session where I have made invaluable connections with others in my field, and most importantly I have made friends along the way. I definitely feel part of the CAUTHE community and am looking forward to the next one.”
Phoebe’s research focuses on two organisations in South America which offer volunteering for tourists. She believes that volunteer tourism can be a transformative experience for volunteers and beneficial for local communities – if it’s conducted in a way that avoids frameworks that position majority world locals as ‘needy’ and minority volunteers as having ‘expertise’ to fulfil these needs. Her findings consider the emotional, embodied encounters between volunteers and locals with attention to possibilities for cultural connections and situations of mutual intercultural learning.
The paper calls for a decommodifed approach to volunteer tourism. She argues that the neocolonial development aid model too often frames how the volunteer industry operates. The language of ‘helping’ is used to draw in volunteers and has been commodified by volunteer tourism organisations that care more about profit than conducting ethical tourism.
Through immersing herself in the field, Phoebe found there are travelers who are aware of the commodification of volunteering and are actively avoiding these for profit organizations. Phoebe found that volunteers are often looking for meaningful intercultural connections. This demonstrates there is scope for the industry to move away from the language of ‘helping’.
Her paper was peer reviewed and will be published as part of the 2017 conference proceedings.