University of Surrey

Test tubes in the lab Research in the ATI Dance Research

Volunteer tourism, greenwashing and understanding responsible marketing using market signalling theory

Smith, V and Font, X (2014) Volunteer tourism, greenwashing and understanding responsible marketing using market signalling theory Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 22 (6). pp. 942-963.

Full text not available from this repository.


Volunteer tourism has been heavily criticised for its negative consequences on destinations and volunteers, often the direct result of unrealistic demand-led marketing and lack of consideration for the environmental and social costs of host communities. While some industry participants have responded through adherence to best practice, little information or support is available about how to responsibly market volunteer tourism. This research uses an online content analysis based on the International Voluntourism Guidelines for Commercial Operators to understand the use of responsibility as a market signalling tool. Five influential web pages of eight organisations are scored across 19 responsibility criteria and compared against the organisation’s legal status, product type and price. We find that responsibility is not used for market signalling; preference is given to communicating what is easy, and not what is important. The status of the organisation is no guarantee of responsible practice, and price and responsibility communications display an inverse relationship. We conclude volunteer tourism operators are overpositioning and communicating responsibility inconsistently, which highlights greenwashing, requiring at least industry-wide codes of practice, and at best, regulation. This paper reflects on its methodological limitations, and on its practical achievements in encouraging change within some of the organisations examined.

Item Type: Article
Subjects : Sustainability
Divisions : Surrey research (other units)
Authors :
Smith, V
Date : 14 January 2014
DOI : 10.1080/09669582.2013.871021
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2014 Taylor & Francis
Uncontrolled Keywords : Branding, Codes of conduct, Corporate social responsibility, Marketing, Responsible tourism, Volunteer tourism
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 16 May 2017 15:36
Last Modified : 24 Jan 2020 15:04

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

Information about this web site

© The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
+44 (0)1483 300800