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Environmental volunteering

Stephen Wearing and John Neil (2001) link ecotourism, volunteering, and serious leisure. They observe that, historically, intellectual interests centered on the individual tourist and the part that holidays play in establishing an identity and sense of self. In such an analysis tourism becomes a mass phenomenon. The authors take a different tack, however, doing so by positing a conjunction of interrelated elements that often contribute to alternative tourism experiences - ecotourism, volunteering, and serious leisure. These elements provide a wider explanation of the tourist experience than the older models. This recognizes the interdependence of culture, ecology, and the tourist experience. The SLP places importance on accessing the information networks and groups of people forming around particular issues. Such circumstances facilitate interaction and exchange centered on common interests and experiences.

Andrew Lepp’s (2009) study of obligation and volunteering as experienced by participants at Kenya’s Taiga Discovery Centre illustrates well environmental volunteering. His sample of volunteer tourists from Canada, France, Denmark, Belgium, and Japan, who participated in either its wildlife conservation program or its community development program (popular volunteering), said they felt a strong obligation to serve others through their programs. Notwithstanding their strong altruistic feelings, however, they defined their experiences at the Centre as leisure. The leisure they were involved in was clearly of the serious variety.

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