Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects



Document Type



The practice of volunteer tourism has recently experienced a rise in both popularity and participation, along with research into the effectiveness of the approaches to service taken in foreign countries. This type of tourism is commonly described as an eco-friendly and economically sustainable alternative to traditional methods of international travel. Participants typically express altruistic motivations behind their desire to travel, as conventional touristic activities are paired with various forms of volunteer work. Though this paper describes significant benefits associated with this growing industry, many critiques have also explored the limitations of a voluntourism approach to community development. In contrast to beliefs that volunteer tourism is mutually beneficial to all those involved, recent studies have suggested that it also exhibits trends of egocentrism, ineffectiveness, and damaging behavior to host communities. My research provides a critical analysis of voluntourism through an extensive literature review, personal interviews with past participants of such programs, and an evaluation of organizations offering international volunteer opportunities. Through this research, I have established the argument that instead of approaching international community development from a touristic and paternalistic standpoint, reflecting tones of neocolonialism, this sector must begin to shift focus from customer satisfaction toward education and the creation of sustainable solutions. Therefore, I propose more effective methods of engaging youth in community development and international education, through processes such as transformative learning, that provide equitable and socially responsible experiences.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Dr. Donielle Lovell


Civic and Community Engagement | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Sociology