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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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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 travelers 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
Authors/Creators:Ellis, C
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2005 the author

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