Volunteering v.s. Tourism

The vast majority of people say that they like to travel and share where they went or what they did. We can say with confidence that those people are tourists, simply looking for adventures and to try new things. One can also argue that volunteering abroad, giving time for a cause in another country, can be considered tourism but this can’t be further from the truth. There are many fundamental differences between the two. 1) The purpose that the person undertaking the activity has and 2) the commitments required to other organizations are two of the key areas to look at when comparing the two. That said, the world needs more volunteers; individuals not afraid to give their time to help a cause they believe in.

The Purpose

The purpose of both volunteering and tourism are very different. Volunteering is aimed at making a social impact abroad while tourism is more for personal pleasure and fun. The underlying reason for volunteering is external, meaning that it comes from wanting to help others and helping to solve a social issue. Tourism is more for exploring areas and sharing it with others through social media or other platforms. The idea of tourism and travelling is pretty much looking for personal enjoyment, and giving your time to purely yourself, compared to volunteering which is for the benefit of another person or cause. The two can intertwine in terms of activities, but the purpose behind both are vastly different.


Volunteering is a time commitment usually to another entity, which can range from another person or a legal organization. When you pledge to volunteer, you make a commitment to give your time and energy to a cause. There are very little maneuvers around this so people are usually very committed and energetic when volunteering because they made a conscious effort to give time to the cause. On the other hand, tourism is more flexible. On a vacation, you usually have a lot of free time that you can use however you want. If you feel like staying in a day to relax in between busy days exploring, there’s nothing stopping you. After all, there is no commitment to anyone other than yourself while being a tourist in another country (except for a tour group, but that’s another story!)

Overall, the fundamental differences between volunteering and tourism are briefly outlined here. There may be some overlap between the two but the purpose and commitments required should be enough to say they aren’t the same. Looking at the state of the world today, we need volunteers to help solve these social issues in certain parts of the world. Youth are the future and if you have a social issue you want to work towards, we challenge you to volunteer abroad with AIESEC. We have a variety of different exchanges and causes you can work towards with your time and effort. What are you waiting for? Make a difference this summer and volunteer abroad today! If you’d like more information, check out this link here!

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