WYSTC 2016: Changes and challenges in marketing volunteer travel


BELGRADE, Serbia – Today at WYSTC 2016 a panel of industry experts debated as to the future of volunteering overseas. Following a lively debate from the floor, the consensus was that volunteering overseas is well and truly alive. However, consumers now have better access to consumer reviews via social media and online review sites. This has led to a cleaning up of the sector, something that can only be seen as a positive as the sector is also now thriving.

Local press in sending countries will often focus on the huge benefits of intercultural exchange for the participants. However, much of the national coverage in these traditional markets has focussed heavily on the negative and often sensationalist coverage that can be gained from a few bad examples.

While host country media often focuses on incredible examples of the positive impact that the volunteers gain, time and again this is based around a westernised view of “how the journalist thinks it ought to be”, without reference to the local realities of daily life in host countries.

The discussion consensus is that within any sector that there will be good and bad players and it is part of our duty as the WYSE Travel Confederation to ensure that best practice is disseminated and the good stories are also told.

In the discussion there was also agreement that volunteering is an intercultural learning experience that is both selfish and selfless, but that there is nothing wrong with this. Volunteers are developing a huge range of personal skills and if attending a well-run project can also contribute to a sustainable on-going impact.

Upon their return home they re-integrate as better-informed global citizens who will continue to benefit from the positive impact of the volunteer experience throughout their lives.