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Selling Conservation? The Role of Volunteer Tourism in Supporting Marine Conservation in Southern Belize

By Kathleen Georgia Brander

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Volunteer tourism is a rapidly expanding sector advertised as an alternative to conventional tourism and as a way for tourists to contribute to conservation science. This thesis examines a volunteer tourism organization in southern Belize called ReefCI and investigates how multiple stakeholders perceive the contributions of this organization to conservation in using a case study approach. In particular, the thesis focuses on perceptions of whether and how the data produced by ReefCI is being incorporated into the management of the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve in Belize. Using a survey, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation this thesis concludes that ReefCI can be understood as an example of the commodification of conservation science and the data collection experience. In light of this conclusion, this research provides insight to the problematic elements of volunteer tourism for conservation science and management. Commodifying conservation science within volunteer tourism may undermine data collection activities by volunteer tourists, calling into question the true purpose of volunteer tourism. The results show that through the case study of ReefCI volunteer tourism is not yet living up to its potential in terms of its impact on marine protected area (MPA) management. ReefCI has the opportunity to engage more fully in their involvement with marine conservation to provide a valuable source of knowledge production for conservation activities in Belize. More broadly, the case of ReefCI demonstrates that the commodification process may limit the contributions of volunteer tourism.


Katie Carroll

Date 2016
Pages 120
Publisher The University of Guelph
Department Department of Geography
Degree Master of Arts
Language English
University The University of Guelph
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Animals in culture
  3. Aquatic organisms
  4. Belize
  5. Conservation
  6. Fish
  7. Marine animals
  8. Nature
  9. oceans
  10. Physical environment
  11. Tourism and travel
  12. volunteers
  13. Wild animals