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The term combines volunteering with tourism, far from a new concept, but one its proponents claim is rapidly becoming the next big thing in travel. It began to appear in the press early in 2005, joining responsible tourism, ecotourism and similar terms that also imply giving something back to the communities one visits. It might be something as easy-going as giving time to local libraries and schools, as straightforward as taking a day out to clear paths in a national park, or as hard work as constructing new homes or digging latrines. It differs from much organised volunteer activity by taking place within a conventional one- or two-week holiday, usually combined with more conventional vacation activity. It is also increasingly being tailored to suit the abilities of participants over a wide age range, including those in their 50s and 60s. US commentators have noted the rise in popularity of the idea since Hurricane Katrina, which has persuaded large numbers of people to spend vacation time helping to rebuild New Orleans.

Voluntourism is catching on in college campuses, where many students would rather spend spring break doing something altruistic than carousing.

Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, 29 Mar. 2007

He describes voluntourism as the practice of devoting some vacation time to building housing and schools or other community service.

Chicago Tribune, 7 Mar. 2007

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 21 Apr. 2007

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 21 April 2007.