Qantas has posted a short (44 seconds in length) video on voluntourism on Vimeo. The video tells us much about the more reserved approach that I think corporations, particularly from the tourism sector, will be taking with voluntourism in the time ahead. Qantas makes use of a cartoon interface, emphasizes “perspective” not “difference-making,” and puts the responsibility on the voluntourist.
Let’s look at these briefly and discuss the importance of each.
The Cartoon Interface
The Qantas team behind this video is either incredibly brilliant, intuitive, or a combination of both. The cartoon interface makes voluntourism feel as though it is approachable, no matter who you are. However, if you are a young person considering this as a travel option, then the video makes it seem accessible and fun.
Emphasizing “Perspective” Not “Difference-Making”
The use of the word “perspective,” as in “seeing the world from a different perspective,” takes away the language of “making a difference” or some of the other immortalizing heroics of one’s altruistic self shared in the aftermath of a volunteering adventure to another part of the world. Emphasizing “perspective” softens the potential backlash from the development assistance community and reduces the pressure which anyone who is considering volunteering in a different part of the world might experience. You don’t have to “make a difference” – you can simply enjoy a new “perspective” on places that others may have visited before you. This “perspective” is something you will take with you regardless of the “outcome” of your experience.
Voluntourism Is “Your” Responsibility
Again, Qantas does a brilliant job of placing the responsibility on the voluntourist. The video references three different types of experiences and features a frame with five possible options, yet it manages to leave the decision-making and the responsibility of choosing to the individual voluntourist. It is “your” choice, after all, and Qantas is not about to take that away from folks.
Although the link to the Qantas website (http://www.qantas.com/voluntourism) is not yet active, I imagine that this will be remedied in the days to come. Qantas is tapping into something that mainstream corporate social responsibility has not been able to broach – consumer social responsibility. As a vehicle for supporting consumers to engage in assisting the world around them, Qantas changes its role from the traditionally advanced responsible corporate citizen to facilitator of consumer responsibility.
If companies like Qantas begin to measure the assistance delivered by their consumers, we may actually have a more robust picture of what is happening in the world around us. It only takes a “checkbox” on the reservation form when people are filling out their reservations. If Qantas begins such a practice, other airlines will follow. And, if all of the airlines give us an indication of how many folks are checking that little box for “volunteering” or “voluntourism” or whatever Qantas decides to use to set the bar, we will have some very valuable information to share.
It only takes one company to start measuring consumer social responsibility through voluntourism. Think of the line item appearing in the end of the year CSR Report – a company can mention how it has facilitated the engagement of consumers in volunteering abroad – “how many consumers used your company’s service to volunteer?” is a great starting point. Thus, there is but one question left to be asked: “Will Qantas be the first?”