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Tourism, volunteers and environmental researchers: an analysis of participatory environmental research tourism

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Ellis, C (2005) Tourism, volunteers and environmental researchers: an analysis of participatory environmental research tourism. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Exploring positive partnerships between tourism and conservation was the initial goal of this research and a specific area within volunteer tourism became the focus of this study. Because of funding difficulties facing natural resource managers, there was an identified need to examine mechanisms that financially supported environmental field research. Consequently, the focus of this research was on one type of volunteer vacation or conservation holiday, where participants pay to work as volunteers and assist In environmental field research. The term Participatory Environmental Research Tourism (PERT) was coined during this research to describe this type of volunteer tourism. The literature review examined relevant research from the fields of tourism, particularly ecotourism and wildlife tourism, volunteering and natural resource management. For the PERT sub-segrnent to grow, successful long-term linkages are necessary and benefits must accrue to key stakeholders (organisations, members of field crews and participants). This assumption directed the focus of the research. The research was exploratory and was conducted iteratively in two stages. The first stage examined the PERT sub-segrnent within the wider volunteer tourism market at a global scale, the characteristics that identified it, and its size. The design of the second stage was informed by the results of the first stage and aimed to determine four areas. These were the characteristics of volunteers who participated in these trips; the reasons volunteers joined, and the benefits the volunteers perceived they gained from participating in the trips; the reasons the organisations were involved with the trips, and the extent organisational goals were achieved; the reasons members of field crew were involved with trips, and the extent they considered they achieved their goals; and the inter-relationships between the goals and benefits of the organisation, the members of the field crew and the participants. The second stage used a collective case study approach with qualitative and quantitative components. The multi-method approach allowed the use of different information sources and the varying perspectives added depth to this research. Three Australian case studies were selected: Landscope Expeditions, Earthwatch Australia and Naturewise (a part of Conservation Volunteers Australia). Learning is considered an integral part of PERT-style trips and the extent participants are influenced in the post-trip phase of travel is of interest within natural resource management, tourism and volunteering. Consequently, this research focussed on determining the perceived benefits surrounding the area of education and learning. To examine the potential accrual of benefits over time, and determine whether, and how, skills and learning may have been re-utilised in the post-trip period, volunteers were surveyed twice, once soon after the trip and approximately nine months later. Compared with previous research on volunteer tourism, this research found volunteers were older, often domestic travellers and had a high level of repeat trip behaviour. The range of benefits was significantly wider than usually suggested and 85% of the members of the field crew stated personal learning was a significant outcome and over 80% of the volunteers indicated the trip had influenced a post-trip activity. This research extended earlier work on volunteer tourism by examining the inter-relationships between the accrual of benefits by each of the identified key stakeholders. The breadth of this research precluded additional stakeholders being included. The results also have wider applications for tourism operators, volunteer managers (particularly of episodic volunteers) and natural resource managers

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2011 05:09
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2011 05:09
URI: http://eprints.utas.edu.au/id/eprint/10610
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