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Special issue editors:

Elisa Burrai, Leeds Beckett University,  e.burrai@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

Davide Sterchele, Leeds Beckett University,  d.sterchele@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

Kirsten Holmes, Curtin University,  K.Holmes@curtin.edu.au

Aim and scope of the special issue

The post-pandemic world makes us reflect more deeply on how tourism intersects with the ecological, political, ethical and racial crises of our century. The Covid-19 pandemic has profoundly affected and, in some cases, transformed the tourism landscape, including specific forms of travelling such as volunteer tourism.

The pandemic has been a catalyst to initiate further innovative ways of doing and experiencing volunteer tourism (Murdy and Tomazos, 2020), enabling a reframing of relationships among various stakeholders and environments. Travel restrictions and reduced mobilities have stimulated new forms of activism in grassroots, bottom-up initiatives, leading to more local and regional forms of volunteer tourism (Smith et al, 2021). These more localised forms can see the inequalities between volunteer and beneficiary reduced or even reversed (Wengell et al, 2021). Moreover, the emerging forms of virtual/online volunteering (or e-volunteer tourism) could potentially empower the beneficiaries by reducing their dependency, offer inclusive volunteering opportunities to people who cannot travel, and reduce the environmental footprint of international aid programmes (Dolezal and Trifan, 2021). In this scenario, volunteer tourism providers could offer new tailored opportunities for volunteer participation, thus aligning with broader trends that have impacted volunteering across all sectors over the past two decades, but still need to be unpacked in relation to volunteer tourism. These include prospective volunteers increasingly seeking shorter, intense experiences of episodic volunteering (Holmes, 2014), ‘bounceback’ volunteer tourism (Chua et al., 2021) and more individualised forms of reflexive volunteering (Hustinx and Lammertyn, 2010).

These trends, however, could lead volunteer tourism organisations and projects to prioritise the volunteers’ expectations over the host communities’ needs (Eckardt, Font and Kimbu, 2020; Lee and Zhang, 2020; Thompson, 2021). In fact, post-pandemic ways of doing and experiencing volunteer tourism also entail the possibility of exposing and exacerbating some of the unethical and controversial issues that have been highlighted in the literature on volunteer tourism in the past few decades (Burrai and Hannam, 2018; Burrai, Mostafanehzad and Hannam, 2017). These include colonialism, exploitation and exclusion /marginalisation of certain groups of society (Bandyopadhyay, 2019; Butcher and Smith, 2015). The pandemic has therefore magnified the significance of volunteer tourism as a vantage point for the study of broader societal dynamics, global inequalities and ethical issues. Additionally, this evolving scenario raises new conceptual challenges, such as the paradox of discussing virtual/online volunteering within volunteer tourism despite the lack of physical travel. This requires a reconceptualisation of volunteer tourism to better capture the growth of informal/unstructured forms of volunteering outside the mainstream volunteer tourism industry provision.

Recent theoretical and empirical approaches to volunteer tourism have showcased how the field, including the challenges and potentials associated to it, can be understood using complex and fruitful lenses applied from a variety of fields such as geography, psychology, anthropology and, most recently, development studies (Mowforth and Munt, 2009; Hollas et al, 2021). This is illustrated by the use of conceptual frameworks such as, among others, assemblage theory (Burrai et al, 2017); equity theory (Burrai et al, 2015); pedagogy of social justice (Henry, 2019); role identities and self-other relationships (Hollas et al., 2021) and collaborative consumption (Dredge and Gymothy, 2015; Everingham et al, 2021).   

Aiming at complementing and extending this current body of knowledge on volunteer tourism, this special issue calls for submissions which enable for a meaningful, critical and innovative reconsideration of existing theoretical and pragmatic perspectives on volunteer tourism and the role it plays in our post-pandemic societies. Hence, in this special issue we aim to advance our understanding on how post-pandemic volunteer tourism relates and responds to the crises of our century. To this end, we question whether the resilience of volunteer tourism in a post-pandemic world can forge alternative and inclusive pathways for communities, environments and societies but also generate additional challenges and ethical dilemmas. At the same time, we aim to explore the theoretical and methodological innovations that facilitate a deeper understanding of the pandemic’s impacts on volunteer tourism practices and experiences.

We welcome innovative, critical, inter- and multi-disciplinary submissions on but not limited to the following themes/areas:

  • Re-thinking/re-organising and re-theorising volunteer tourism provision;
  • Changing volunteer tourism experiences;
  • Bottom-up / localised forms of volunteer (non)tourism;
  • Volunteer tourism, activism and informal volunteering;
  • Politics and ethics of volunteer tourism;
  • E- volunteer tourism and inclusion/exclusion, intersectionality, and empowerment;
  • E-volunteer tourism, SDGs and climate change;
  • Multi- and inter-disciplinary theoretical approaches to volunteer tourism which reflect ‘the new present’;
  • Application, integration and extension of critical theories such as critical pedagogy; neo/colonialism, orientalism and decolonial theory; emotion and affect; critical race theory; feminist theories; postmodernism/poststructuralism; social movement theory;
  • Insightful application of new theoretical frameworks, particularly from disciplines outside of tourism studies;      
  • Innovative methodological approaches which capture new ways of researching volunteer tourism.

Guidance for Contributors

We request that authors submit an expression of interest comprising of 300 words abstract and a list of highlights with the main contribution of the paper in the form of 3 to 5 bullet points (max 200 words) along with a short biography (including recent publications) to the guest editors at: e.burrai@leedsbeckett.ac.uk, d.sterchele@leedsbeckett.ac.uk, and K.Holmes@curtin.edu.au by 1st April 2022.

We will communicate decisions by 1st May 2022 and expect to receive full paper submissions by 30th September 2022.

Authors of accepted abstracts will be invited to submit a full manuscript via JHTM submission system for a double blind peer-review process in accordance with the journal’s submission procedures. Please note that early submissions are welcome and if accepted will be available online before the full special issue is printed. Accepted papers are published online without delay, in advance of inclusion in the special issue when it is published online and in print.

Key dates

1st April 2022: Deadline submission of abstracts;

1st May 2022: Decision on abstracts;

30th September 2022: Submission of full manuscript.

Second half of 2023: Publication of special issue

Photo by Manh Phung on Unsplash

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