The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 111–128 | Cite as

Save the World in a Week: Volunteer Tourism, Development and Difference

  • Barbara Vodopivec
  • Rivke Jaffe
Original Article


Alternative forms of tourism such as eco-tourism feature prominently in development policy and literature. This article focuses on international volunteer tourism, a specific form of tourism that is closely linked to a range of development projects in low-income countries. This form of ‘tourism with a development agenda’ has become increasingly popular among young people from developed countries. We argue that volunteer tourism both reflects and contributes to a new logic of development. This form of travel can be understood as a particular, neoliberal form of development practice, in which development is not only privatized but can be packaged as a marketable commodity. We focus critically on the process of volunteering and the interactions that take place within this form of tourism, with a focus on the concurrent commercialization of development and cultural difference.


volunteering tourism anthropology of development Guatemala neoliberalism mobilities 


Des formes de tourisme alternatif telles que l’éco-tourisme deviennent de plus en plus importantes, tant dans les débats que les pratiques de développement. Cet article s’intéresse au volontariat international, un type de tourisme particulier qui se déroule dans le cadre de projets de développement variés dans les pays en voie de développement. Cette forme de ‘tourisme pour le développement’ devient de plus en plus populaire parmi les jeunes des pays développés. Nous soutenons que cette forme de tourisme reflète et contribue à une nouvelle logique de développement. Ce type de voyage peut être vu comme une forme particulière, néolibérale de développement, dans laquelle celui-ci est non seulement privatisé, mais est aussi présenté comme un produit commercialisable. Nous examinons de manière critique ce processus de volontariat, ainsi que les interactions qui en découlent, en nous penchant particulièrement sur la question de la commercialisation du développement et des différences culturelles.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Vodopivec
    • 1
  • Rivke Jaffe
    • 2
  1. 1.Independent Researcher
  2. 2.Leiden UniversityLeiden

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