Alexandra Coghlan, Department of Toursim, James Cook University
Towards an Understanding of the Volunteer Tourism Experience 2005
Supervisors: Primary Supervisor: Professor Philip Pearce, Secondary Supervisor: Dr. Laurie Murphy
A researcher with a strong interest in wildlife conservation, Ali completed a B.Sc. in environmental and marine biology at St-Andrews University, with an honours degree in ecotourism. Two years working as a guide for a whale-watching operation, followed by a third year working as a research assistant in the whale-watching industry prompted her to undertake a PhD degree in tourism, in an effort to link the two areas. By combining tourism and wildlife conservation, she hoped to gain public support for conservation and increase the personal relevance of wildlife protection for the general public.
The aim of her research was be to understand the expectations of volunteers, and the benefits they receive for their efforts. This understanding may help organisations build higher levels of volunteer involvement, satisfaction and commitment by matching the volunteer’s expected benefits and benefits that they provide. This would hopefully lead to a more sustained on-site conservation effort from volunteer tourists.
Research on volunteer tourism wass a relatively new area in 2004 and included few studies on the profile of volunteer tourists and the typology of volunteer tourism conservation organisations. Little was known about how volunteer tourists perceive their experience and how satisfaction with their experience affects their involvement with, and commitment to, conservation efforts. Understanding these elements is important as volunteers form the backbone of such organisations. By giving their time, energy and funds, volunteer tourists enable vital conservation projects to be carried out. In return, the tourists participate in a unique experience, develop new skills, discover a new way of life, and learn about themselves.
Ali used our volunteers for her pilot study, and came back a few months later to use us again for part of the main research. A number of other well-known volunteering conservation organisations around the world were included in the research project.
The aim of this study was to apply previous research of tourist and volunteer behaviour to the field of volunteer tourism in order to understand the expectations of volunteer tourists as well as the benefits they seek, and receive, for their efforts. The results of this research will help generate an even more sustained conservation effort from each conservation volunteer and a higher level of overall productivity, benefiting your organisation and conservation efforts in general.
• Help to promote the efforts of conservation organisations, such as Tolga Bat Hospital.
Epidemiology of tick paralysis in spectacled flying-foxes (Pteropus conspicillatus) on the Atherton Tableland,Further information is available at the website, search Alexandra Coghlan http://www.jcu.edu.au