Examining transformative processes in volunteer tourism

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Publication details

Coghlan, A & Weiler, B 2015, 'Examining transformative processes in volunteer tourism', Current Issues in Tourism, 30 October.

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This study adopts a multidisciplinary perspective on the process of transformational change in volunteer tourism. Transformational change is understood as an individualized process which can lead to a critical awareness of the self, leading to a new self-definition. It involves four specific elements, a reflection upon the content of their knowledge, theprocess of knowing, the premise of what they know and the relational elements of their knowledge. Adopting a qualitative semi-structured interview approach, volunteer tourists provide an account of their volunteer tourism experiences in relation to these four transformational process elements. The results indicate that transformational change does occur through tourism, but that this is an individualized process, not an end outcome. Transformation may be strong at an internal level but it may or may not manifest in behaviour that the individual tourist him or herself is even aware of, let alone observable behaviour that researchers can quantify. It is therefore best understood as a process with distinct steps, of which a change in behaviour is just one element. Facilitators of change can be identified but only partially explain why transformation does and does not occur.