Online portrayals of volunteer tourism in Nepal: Exploring the communicated disparities between promotional and user-generated content

Siân Easton, Nicholas Wise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Purpose – This study aims to contribute perspective into how user-generated content (UGC) can be found to reinforce, or challenge, the commercial promotion of volunteer tourism in Nepal. Volunteer tourism is an expanding alternative niche market spanning the globe. More understanding is needed to identify potential conflicts that may arise in relation to information communicated via official promotional materials from volunteer tourism organisation websites and from UGC on sites such as TripAdvisor. Design/methodology/approach – Aqualitative content analysis of websites and online UGC gathered from identified promotional websites and TripAdvisor used to inform and persuade tourists was analysed. Findings – Three themes emerged from the analysis of promotional websites: perspective outcomes of volunteerism on locals and VolunTourists, requirements of participating volunteers and the ability of volunteer organisations to effectively meet expectations. The TripAdvisor forum content is broken down into two main areas: requests/recommendations and critical reflections. UGC is playing a pivotal role to inform future VolunTourists, based on experiences by previous volunteers. Commercial websites emphasise achievable positive outcomes by unskilled/unqualified volunteers, with the support of credible volunteer organisations. Conversely, UGC focusses on negative outcomes associated with volunteer tourism. Research limitations/implications – This study provides insights into how online platforms are being used by consumers. This study suggests that significant disparities exist between content communicated via promotional websites and UGC, with a number of important implications discussed. Originality/value – This study aims to address this gap in the understanding of the authors through the analysis of emerged themes communicated via Nepal volunteer websites and TripAdvisor forums. Moreover, there is a need for volunteers to be more informed about the complexities of the industry and volunteer organisations, acknowledging more needs to be considered to meet the requirements/expectations of volunteers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-158
Number of pages18
JournalWorldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 13 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Commercial promotion
  • Nepal
  • Promotional websites
  • Quality of content
  • User-generated content
  • Volunteer tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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