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Marketing and communication of responsibility in volunteer tourism

Xavier Font (School of Events Tourism and Hospitality, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK)

Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes

ISSN: 1755-4217

Article publication date: 13 April 2015




The purpose of this paper is to test whether volunteer tourism organisations are prepared to learn from feedback on the quality of their responsibility communications, and consider whether analysis and communication of results can influence market improvement.


A purposive sample of five influential website pages of eight volunteer tourism organisations are scored across 19 responsible voluntourism criteria, and compared against the results of two years previously.


The authors report mixed results on how communicating results has encouraged change and industry improvement in responsibility, based on previous research that showed responsibility to be communicated inconsistently at best, potentially greenwashing at worst, across organisations, product types and responsible values.

Research limitations/implications

The paper applies sustainability marketing literature to explain the changes in responsibility communication performance using an innovative tool to benchmark and audit responsibility in online marketing content and providing insight into how best practice marketing necessitates responsible operations. This paper considers whether and how, when presented with evidence, organisations choose to improve for a more responsible voluntourism offer.


The paper is original in providing a practical, industry-informed analysis of the reasons why volunteer operators communicate in the way they do, and the ability to influence their communications to be more reliable, in the context of increased criticism for shallow volunteering. This experiment allows industry associations and lobby groups to influence industry practice based on the evidence that improved communications are possible when specific, tailored advice is provided.



Smith, V.L. and Font, X. (2015), "Marketing and communication of responsibility in volunteer tourism", Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 159-180.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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