ABTA today launches the industry’s first comprehensive Volunteer Tourism Guidelines, designed to help travel businesses understand the issues and challenges involved, and work towards best practice in the programmes they offer. The guidelines have been developed in consultation with a wide range of organisations*, including international travel industry and membership organisations, NGOs, charities, leading academics, inter-governmental organisations and tour operators working in the volunteer tourism sector. The guidelines aim to tackle bad practice and improve volunteer tourism standards throughout the travel industry.
Volunteer tourism is a relatively new concept and has grown rapidly in recent years with over 800 organisations worldwide now offering volunteer tourism experiences, and 1.6 million trips made per year. While often seen as a gap year activity between school and university, this only accounts for a third of all volunteering trips.
ABTA’s Volunteer Tourism Guidelines build on the wide range of existing guidance. Their aim is to encourage businesses to achieve high standards in the volunteering experiences they offer, resulting in positive impacts for target beneficiaries and ensuring that customers have a safe and enriching life experience. ABTA encourages its Members to use the guidelines to assess whether the experiences they currently offer pose any risk and what they can do to work towards best practice.
The guidelines cover a wide range of issues, including putting adequate safeguards in place to protect the rights of children and vulnerable people, and checking there are adequate safeguards in place to protect animals and wildlife.
Nikki White, ABTA’s Director of Destinations and Sustainability, said: “Volunteer tourism can deliver fantastic benefits to local communities, and provide valuable life experiences to volunteers. We’ve seen hundreds of examples of this from around the world – including conserving the environment, exchanging skills with communities and providing access to education.
“These guidelines have been developed to support travel businesses in delivering programmes that make tourism a positive means for change, and I’d like to thank all the organisations who facilitated their development. We recognise that change will not happen overnight so we’re committed to supporting our Members and other travel businesses involved in volunteer tourism to help raise standards across the industry.”
The Guidelines are available to Members for free and available for non-Members to purchase.
*Organisations that have supported the development of these guidelines: