Mark Bridge has written in The Times Money Section today under the headline �Gap �year volunteers are charged thousands for �pointless� projects. It is surprising that there has been so little critical coverage of the sale of volunteering holidays in the travel pages, when the criticism comes, it is over more than a page in the main section of The Times. Travel journalists should do a great deal more to help prospective volunteers make informed choices.
The criticism, based on comments from Dr Kate Simpson of ethicalvolunteering.org; an insider at Real Gap Experience (owned by TUI), and from Peter Bishop at Tourism Concern asserts that
� There are significant mark ups on placement costs
� There is significant dissatisfaction among customers
� Volunteers displace local employees
� Volunteers feel that they have been placed for the sake of it � rather than for their contribution
� That the most profitable include those that enable volunteers to �cuddle animals and take photos�.
� There are issues about the transparency about where the money goes.
This litany of complaints will be familiar to anyone who takes the time to look at the adverse comments on blogs. Caveat emptor applies to the purchase of volunteering trips abroad as much as to any other travel experience � and the same remedies for misselling and non-delivery on the promises made in the brochure or on the website apply to voluntourism as to any other form of tourism.
The Times carried extensive coverage of the issues back in 2006 Read more
Disaffected volunteers should use the remedies available to them and seek compensation for breach of contract through ABTA. The same rules apply to volunteering abroad as do to sun, sand and sea holidays. Complain, make a difference.