The latest trend in travel is to tack on “tourism” to previously-unadorned terms. We’ve seen the growth of “un-tourism”, “ecotourism”, and now “voluntourism” has just begun to make it into everyday conversation and travel ads.
But voluntourism, however attractive, is not for everyone. It requires giving up your vacation for another job – working for a volunteer organization providing services abroad. While this can be fun and fulfilling, many people are too desperate for a true vacation to consider it – yet they would still like to go home with the feeling that they, too, have made a contribution instead of spending a week or two in utter self-indulgence.
Humanitourism is Born
Enter the newest catchphrase, “Humanitourism”. Humanitourism is a variant on the voluntourism experience. The groups eliciting humanitourism groups may be the exact same ones you might have gone to work with on a voluntourism opportunity. The difference is that you never completely give up your status as a guest or visitor, and while you might spend a night or two in local lodgings, in many cases you’ll end your humanitourism day in the comforts of a traditional hotel. Since most of the locations are truly remote, you usually get to experience some adventure travel along the way, accessing a village by horseback, river raft, or other very local transportation. Other options may just take you from your deluxe area of the capital city to a local neighborhood you would never enter on your own since it has no restaurants, nightclubs, or other tourist attractions.
Goals of Humanitourism Trips
Most humanitourism efforts have two goals – to raise awareness of the humanitarian issues in the area, and to bring in a source of income. The plus side for the humanitourism tourist is that participation costs tend to be low and a good portion of the trip costs should go directly to the group you’re visiting. Anything else you purchase or contribute on top of that during your visit also assists in the economic and social development of the region.
How Humanitourism Helps
Aside from the “big-picture” issues of providing funds for clean water, medical care, and other direct assistance, humanitourism often supports the survival of rare handcraft skills and can be particularly important in maintaining local traditions and providing independent income for women. That “old-fashioned” festival takes on new life as a tourist attraction; those “unfashionable” woven clothing designs are suddenly eagerly snatched up by tourists eager for something that can’t be bought at the airport souvenir stands. Great-Grandma starts to look a lot more like a smart financial asset than a potential burden.
Finding Humanitourism Opportunities
You can find Humanitourism opportunities on the web and by contacting charities. One early popularizer of the humanitourism concept is Inside/Out which specializes in humanitarian trips combined with professionally guided eco-adventure experiences beyond what is just necessary to get ot the location.