Even though tourism dollars can help boost a sagging economy, placing too much emphasis on tourism can cause problems. The 2004 tsunami damaged terribly the Indian village of Kerala, destroying people's homes and livelihoods. Villagers now accuse the government of diverting redevelopment money to beautify unaffected areas in order to boost tourism. They claim the construction of an artificial reef to attract tourists will negatively affect area fishermen [source: Haslam].
Choosing the Right Volunteer Vacation
So how do you know if your volunteer vacation is on the up-and-up? The organization Ethical Volunteering recommends you ask the following questions when evaluating a voluntourism opportunity:
- Exactly what will I be doing? Is there a job description?
- Do you work with a local partner organization in the community?
- Does your organization make financial contributions to the community?
- What are your policies on ethical and ecotourism?
- On what time frame do you run your program?
- Can you provide me with exact contact details about this program?
- What support and training will I receive?
[source: Ethical Volunteering]
Satisfactory answers to these questions will help you to determine whether a program is ethical and safe.
Critics also warn against going on a voluntourism trip with the wrong motivations. Some voluntourism organizations discourage contact between volunteers and the aid recipients. This is to avoid putting people in the community in an awkward situation where they feel exploited or indebted to the volunteers. However, other organizations encourage bonding with the locals. Doing your research and following local customs is the best approach.