Wearing and McGehee (2013:121), describes voluntourism as “short term worldwide trips in which volunteers from high-income nations, or, the Global North journey to low and middle-income nations, the Global South, to assist in service-related development activities, engaging in vacationer activities at some stage in free time. Although considered a more sustainable approach to Tourism, with its roots established in sustainable development, recent criticism however, points to the commodification of development and poverty through voluntourism and multiple negative effects of such travel, especially the failure to deliver positive community impact
As opposed to the traditional notion of voluntourism, community engagement is a school of thought adopted when viewing voluntourism through a more critical lens. This concept analyses voluntourism and forces role players ie Volunteers, Volunteer Sending organisations, Volunteer Receiving organisations etc to consider the implications of their volunteering services prior to participation. It has to do with internal work and reflection of volunteering that considers the self-sustainability of communities. Community engagement reflects on unethical practices and how to avoid these pitfalls whilst providing volunteering services. For instance, if painting a wall absolutely necessarily? Does this painting positively impact the community? Or is does the organisation simply just need something for these volunteers to do. Community engagement manifests itself through the notion that successful voluntourism must be, first and foremost, relevant to its host communities, and account for both positive and negative impacts.
In order for voluntourism to be successfull and beneficial to all, a shifting in mentality from voluntourism to community engagement is much needed!