Host community perceptions of volunteer tourists in the Northern tourist circuit, Tanzania
Victoria University of Wellington
The existing and growing body of volunteer tourism literature has broadly addressed a myriad of topics but with a major focus on volunteer tourists. Limited knowledge is available on how these volunteer tourists are perceived by the host communities. The current literature defines volunteer tourists based on the perspective from where the majority of volunteer sending organizations and volunteer tourists come from - the primarily Western, developed country perspective. This study argues that this Western-dominated and developed country conceptualization of volunteer tourism and volunteer tourists must be addressed. In response the study examines the perceptions and conceptualisations of ‘volunteer tourists’ from the perspective of a host community in a developing country, Tanzania. To capture a multitude of host community perspectives on volunteer tourists, a qualitative case study approach was adopted which focused on a village near Arusha on the Northern Tourist Circuit (NTC) of Tanzania. Forty five semi-structured interviews were conducted with different community stakeholders, including private sector and public sector employees, people working for the not-for-profit sector and local people without affiliation to any of these three sectors. Importantly, these interviews were conducted by a Tanzanian researcher in Swahili and/or English. This research reveals that various stakeholders within the host community have different meanings and understandings of volunteer tourists based on their expectations and experiences. For example, the local people and those working for the not-for-profit sector perceived volunteer tourists as donors and sponsors, while those working in the public sector perceive volunteer tourists as international workers and/or NGO employees; and the private sector respondents perceived volunteer tourists as niche tourists. The study also reveals that the host community attributes that influence their perceptions arc based on economic, socio-cultural, environmental and legal and/or regulatory framework factors; this includes, for example, racial ethnicity and poverty. Moreover, this research found that the host community’s perceptions of volunteer tourists are shaped by the issues of trust and mistrust that transpire in the course of their interaction. The study highlights the need to consider the financial element of volunteer tourism as a positive aspect and stresses the involvement of host community in the operation and management of volunteer tourist organizations.
Host community, Volunteer tourists, Perceptions, Tanzania