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Title: An emerging niche in sustainable tourism : the dynamics between organisations and volunteers in the Research Tourism Sector
Author: Benson, Angela Maria
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Southampton Solent University
Date of Award: 2007
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Concern for the degradation of the environment has seen the emergence of a small but steadily increasing number of UK organisations. These organisations bring together paying volunteers and research projects to support sustainable development, which has given rise to an emerging niche within the sustainable tourism framework - Research Tourism. The study evaluates the dynamics between the organisations (Research Tourism Sector) and its customers (Research Volunteers). Independent studies were conducted of both the organisations and the volunteers. Seventy six interviews with research volunteers were undertaken and a survey was used for the organisations in the research tourism sector. The survey of organisations used a SPACE Analysis distributed to fifteen companies, of which nine were returned. The findings of the study on research volunteer's captures the socio-demographic profile that indicates sixty percent of the research volunteers are British, mainly single and are either currently studying or had previously studies at university. It continues by identifying a volunteer typology indicating three different types of volunteers and finally, a conceptual framework (research tourism systems model) which displays the components of travel in the sector. At the same time the analysis of the business environment suggests that the SPACE factors are not strong enough to depress profits and, therefore, the balance sheets should be healthy. The financial analysis suggests that this is not always the case. Organisations recognise that relying on volunteers' contributions could make them vulnerable and a growing number of alternatives are identified. It is argued that the sector has the potential to delivery the sustainable development agenda in terms of capacity building, policy advice and knowledge management the extent to which individual organisations deliver these concepts varies. Consequently, the 'sustainable difference' that the organisations in the research volunteer sector requires more consistent implication and therefore greater levels of monitoring. Evaluation of the dynamics between the organisations and colunteers identifies eight interrelated items. The framework of a spider's web demonstrates that when one dynamic is exposed, reverberations across all eight are inevitable. A connection between the eight dynamics and the volunteer typology indicate an even greater complexity. Further, when the strategic implications of the volunteer typologies were examined, it was found that the two discrete segments, Sepcific Research Volunteers and Corporate Research Volunteers, are not any more lucrative than the General Research Volunteer. The specialisation of these segments has largely come about through monopolisation of a particular funding source rather than the derivation of unique product offering. The thesis argues that a symbiotic relationship exists between the organisations and volunteers, in that volunteers contribute money that normally might not be spent on sustainability. However, this funding source is contingent on meeting a variety of non profit based criteria. This study is a contribution to the literature on volunteer tourism and further research directions are identified.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Tourism and Leisure