Can Volunteer Tourism be a sub-segment of Wellness Tourism?


  • Maria Lopes Instituto Polit├ęcnico de Portalegre



Wellness tourism is a segment of tourism that has been widely studied, including the motivations that undertake the trip. Throughout the literature review it was possible to observe that the motivations that are the origin of this type of tourism are diverse, highlighting, the achievement of physical and mental well-being, self-development and personal reward, relaxation and escape, exploration and reflection, and enjoyment of a new experience.

Smith and Kelly, 2006 approach the concept from a broader perspective, encompassing several segments: new age tourism, nature tourism, adventure tourism, yoga tourism, spiritual and religious tourism, and voluntary tourism. Also, Ali-Knight (2009) and GWI (2018) consider voluntary tourism an integral segment of wellness tourism as well as thermal tourism, spa tourism, nature tourism, retreat tourism, and social tourism. In addition to the fact that the authors mentioned above consider voluntary tourism a sub-segment of wellness tourism, a study by Coghlan (2015) found, through a project of travel experience in the context of volunteering, in which various social activities were carried out, which can achieve a beneficial health outcome, in addition to an improvement in the well-being and mental health of participants.

However, throughout the literature review, it was found that studies addressing the motivations of volunteer tourists are scarce, and none are known to address the relationship between the motivations of wellness tourists and volunteer tourists.

In order to fill this gap, a qualitative approach was developed based on semi-structured interviews with individuals who have travelled in the field of voluntary tourism. Thus, we were able to compare the motivations recognized in these interviews with those verified in the literature review in the field of wellness tourism, and to realize that, from an altruistic perspective, the motivations of tourists from both segments are coincident. This finding allows us to consider that, from the perspective of motivations, voluntary tourism can comprise one of the sub-segments of wellness tourism.

This study will contribute to increase knowledge about the motivations of wellness and voluntary tourism and understand the similarities between these types of tourism.