Would you buy this Groupon?

A recent Groupon offer for a voluntourism trip.

Perhaps you’d pass this up because you, like me, have never heard of Victoria Falls Excursions or Botswana Safari, and you’d rather take travel plans into your own hands.  Or because if you wanted to serve in Africa, you would prefer to travel with a people you knew or with a non-profit partner you already support.

Now, I have no idea why the cost is “from $5,” but I’m pretty sure that option doesn’t include a trip.  If the trip was $5, I may say yes.

And who are those children, do you think?

A special report from the United States Institute of Peace on tourism in the developing world notes several factors that create succes for the tourism as poverty alleviation strategy.  Two in particular struck me:

Although it has the capacity to help promote peace and prosperity, tourism can also cause a great deal of harm unless it is carefully developed. [Also,] to deliver optimal benefits, tourism must be respectful of the environment and mindful of cultural and social traditions.

I sincerely believe there is an appropriate role for travel that accompanies long-term partnerships across international and cultural borders.  There are times for us to get on planes and pile into buses and spend time face to face sharing our lives.

But traveling under the banner of a partnership is different than doing so through an excursion company.  And while tourism as an industry has positive potential, does every form of tourism do equal good?  Or does farming out the service work disempower the people to be the caretakers of their own communities?

In short, would it be better, in the absence of a partnership, to go on safari than to go serve?

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2 thoughts on “Would you buy this Groupon?

  1. Great thoughts and questions! Have you read “Toxic Charity” by Robert Lupton? What you talk about here reminded me of that book.

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