Would you take a holiday in a disaster zone?

Font Size:

Holidaying in a disaster zone might seem crazy, but ‘volunteer tourism’ can actually help communities recover from natural disasters, according to the findings from a new study. And it can offer a unique and rewarding experience for volunteers, if done carefully.

“When disaster hits a tourist destination – whether fire, flood, cyclone or earthquake – tourists naturally stay away, leaving communities to deal with loss of income on top of costs of repair and recovery,” explained study co-author Dr David Beirman from the University of Technology Sydney.

“On the other hand, people who feel a natural curiosity, as well as a natural desire to help, are keen for experiences where they can interact with locals and make a difference,” he said.

He noted that volunteer tourism should not be confused with ‘disaster tourism’ in which tourists immediately travel to a scene not to help but to look.

Dr Beirman and co-authors Associate Professor Stephen Wearing and Dr Simone Faulkner examined the impact of volunteer tourism programs in Nepal in the wake of the April 2015 earthquake in the study.

They found that when it was done in an ethical manner that considered local conditions and the community, it could aid recovery and resilience.

The Nepal earthquake, which measured 8.1 on the Richter scale, killed nearly 9000 people and injured 22,000, and caused severe damage to buildings and infrastructure.

In the four months that followed the Nepal earthquake, international tourism more than halved.

Initially, most relief organisations asked international volunteers not to come unless they had specific expertise such as medical skills, building skills, or emergency response experience.

Then the Pacific Asia Travel Association and Nepalese tourism industry leaders worked together to produce the report of the Nepal Rapid Recovery Task Force, running workshops with more than 200 tourism industry leaders and professionals.

The strategy they came up with prioritised potential tourism regrowth markets, including volunteer tourism.

Nepal relaxed conditions to allow international tourists to volunteer on a wide range of projects including rebuilding homes and schools, interning in hospitals, supporting non-government organisations and re-establishing sustainable agriculture.

“Nepal’s tourism recovery since the April 2015 earthquake has been remarkable and, as our research shows, volunteer tourism has been a significant driving force for that recovery,” explained Dr Beirman.

In 2015, the year of the earthquake, just under 600,000 international tourists visited. By 2018 the number had reached an all-time record of almost 1.2 million. In 2019 it grew further.

The Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents says almost one third of the tours booked to Nepal in the two years after the earthquake comprised groups who combined tourism experiences with volunteering or philanthropy.

“Nepal already had an extensive infrastructure of volunteer tourism organisations and programs, and this was a significant advantage in establishing post-disaster recovery programs,” said Dr Beirman.

Dr Faulkner noted that while volunteer tourism was an important way to help destinations recover, care needed to be taken to ensure programs benefited both the community and volunteers, using an ethical approach that allowed local communities to drive individual projects.

“The success of volunteer tourism also depends on the willingness of volunteer tourists to engage in a travel experience that involves engaging in work that more mainstream tourists may view as a hardship,” said Dr Faulkner.

“In times of national crisis, the priority of a government has to be restoring the welfare of its people. However, the process by which that happens is multifaceted. In destinations that rely on tourism as a primary source of investment, it can make sense to build volunteer tourism into the recovery process,” she said.

Would you consider volunteer tourism as a means to help struggling communities? Have you done this sort of travel before? Would you recommend it to others?

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

RELATED LINKS

13 airport mistakes most travellers make

Don't make these rookie mistakes the next time you fly.

Top 20 expedition destinations for 2020

We've asked Coral Expeditions to shortlist its top 20 expedition destinations for 2020.

Not having your hotel towels washed may be doing more harm than good

You may opt for daily towel washes after reading this review.

Written by Ben



SPONSORED LINKS

Sign-up to the YourLifeChoices Enewsletter

continue reading

Seniors Finance

Be a savvier saver with these nine tips

Many people have seen their savings pots wiped out by the impact of the pandemic. At the other end of...

Finance News

Big four banks dragged to court over credit 'rort'

Screaming, dressed in glistening armour and wielding an axe, Aaron Flores has defended the honour of Australia on the battlefield....

Health news

Public toilets are a disease risk

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced more people than ever to consider the potential for airborne particles to damage their health,...

Stylewatch

Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn's best style moments

They're one of Hollywood's most enduring - and beloved - celebrity couples. Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn started dating on...

Superannuation News

Super fund recovery steps up pace

Long-term trends such as the digitisation or economies and work automation, which have been sped up by the COVID-19 pandemic,...

Finance News

Financial advisers lobby for permanent reduction in regulation

The financial services sector wants consumer protection laws watered down, claiming they are pushing the cost of financial advice beyond...

Legal & General

Is there a safe way to block estranged child from will?

Can Angie block an estranged daughter from her will without consigning her other children to a drawn-out challenge after her...

Health

How to stop gas pain

Flatulence, commonly referred to as 'farting', is caused by gas in the bowel. Ordinarily, the intestines produce between 500 and...

LOADING MORE ARTICLE...