Predicting Voluntourism in Indonesia Using Theory of Planned Behavior and Norm Activation Theory, Doctor of Research in Management Thesis Defense by Christian Haposan Pangaribuan

Volunteer activities and tourism seem like two different things that may never correlate with each other. One is all about helping people in need without the expectation of rewards while the other is all about self-indulgence. For many years, researchers have sought to find the motives behind humanity’s hunger for volunteering, though only a few focused on the motive’s impacts on volunteer behavior. Can people really enjoy themselves when they have willingly agreed to volunteer in a non-profit organization?

The answer to this question is a bold and definitive yes. This is proven by the rise of voluntourism (volunteer tourism), a new trend that allows tourists to travel to a destination while also working as a volunteer. While it is a relatively new tourism trend in Indonesia, voluntourism garnered over USD1.7 billion in 2018. Indonesia expects voluntourism to be one of the most favorable tourist destinations by 2025. Now, Indonesia has put voluntourism as one of the 23 subunits of manmade/special tourist activities.

The topic of voluntourism in Indonesia piqued the interest of Dr. Christian Haposan Panagribuan, a graduate from Doctor of Research in Management BINUS Business School, S3 BINUS University. Dr. Christian wrote a thesis titled “The Roles of Destination Attachment and Risk Perception Towards Intention to Experience Volunteer Tourism: Integrating the Theory of Planned Behavior and Norm Activation Theory” that he had presented in front of a team of promoters and examiners led by Prof. Tirta N. Mursitama, S.Sos., MM, Ph.D on Thursday, March 25, 2021.

Voluntourism phenomenon in Indonesia

Dr. Christian, in his thesis for S3 BINUS University, specifically Doctor of Research in Management program of BINUS Business School, presented that there were at least three organizations in Indonesia that provided the service of voluntourism, such as Happy Hearts Indonesia in East Nusa Tenggara, Travel Sparks in remote areas specifically in East Indonesia, and Yayasan Orang Utan in Kalimantan. The kinds of activities done in voluntourism are quite diverse, ranging from building community facilities, teaching, skills development, healthcare, animal welfare, volunteering in childcare, and conservation.

According to Dr. Christian, voluntourism in Indonesia is very attractive to the Indonesian younger generation and foreign tourists who seek adventure and who have high social awareness. In his thesis, Dr. Christian aimed to find voluntourism behavior as a mix of personal interests and pro-social concern. For that aim, Dr. Christian used Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) with three factors to analyze the personal interests’ aspects, and Norm Activation Theory (NAT) to analyze pro-social behaviors.

A model to predict the voluntourism behavior

TPB consists of attitude, subjective norm, and efficacy to explain the correlation between a volunteers’ intention and performance. Meanwhile, NAT consists of consequences, responsibility, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control, and personal norm to explain the behaviors of volunteers. Using these two theories as a new constructive model, Dr. Christian also added two predictors, risk perception and destination attachment.

The data of Dr. Christian’s study was analyzed using LISREL and based on a sample of 658 respondents. These respondents are tourists who happen to have done at least one volunteer work during their vacation. From Dr. Christian’s findings, it can be concluded that awareness of consequences, personal norm, the ascription of responsibility, and subjective norm have a positive impact on attitude towards voluntourism. This means that when tourists are aware of the outcome of their behavior during their stay, they will realize the power they have in humanitarian and environmental works.

This positive attitude towards voluntourism will drive the voluntourism experience intention, according to Dr. Christian’s data. The voluntourism experience intention is also influenced by subjective norm, efficacy (small risks, high mental rewards, and convenience), destination attachment, and risk perception. In the end, Dr. Christian managed to prove his hypothesis that the volunteers’ intention to do voluntourism is the key to predict their behaviors towards local society and environment.  ** (PID)