Volunteer tourism

At a time when governments race to stimulate tourism as one of the most significant activities in supporting the economy, a new trend of ‘volunteer tourism’ has emerged, paving way for the youth to help enrich the sector.
In the Sultanate, volunteering groups have become aware of this concept which is no less important than other types of voluntary works.
It simply means ‘doing good in the society with the aim to promote domestic tourism, support the economy and attract investors’, according to Ahmed Salmeen al Qaithi, Deputy Coordinator for Admin and Relations Affairs at Taawon Network, a specialised team for training and qualifying volunteers.
“Tourism volunteering is implemented according to the society’s requirements in a series of human, social, cultural and health programmes,” says Al Qaithi.
To keep abreast with the accelerating changes in the field, the concerned parties in the Sultanate have supported voluntary tourism and have paved the way for the youth to help enrich the sector.
Ahmed says, “Taawon Network initiated ‘Athar’ project, which means ‘Impact’ in Arabic, is a national programme of social responsibility adopted by Oman Oil Marketing Company, one of the big supporters of youth volunteers interested in enriching the tourism scene. The project was promoted by the Ministry of Tourism with a large coverage by media representatives.
Playing a vital role in sustaining this kind of tourism, Omani youth showed a big turnout in giving a hand to the cultural universalisation.
“Although volunteer tourism is relatively an old concept in western countries, it is a new concept here. However, Omani young people have positive attitudes in promoting tourism in all possible ways using modern technologies and, at the same time, conserving their inherited heritage which is deep-rooted,” elaborates Ahmed.
There are over 100 tourism volunteers trained through the Taawon Network, divided into 12 teams. They are trained to be volunteer tour guides. Ahmed said that most of them achieved successes in ‘Shabik’ Team for marine tourism, ‘YaHala’ Team for traditional and interactive tourism, ‘Hwata’ Team was for cultural tourism and ‘Kashta’ Team specialised in historical tourism.
‘The Network’s vision relies on reaching as many beneficiaries as possible through its programmes, and training activities.
“We also provide free of cost workshops for volunteers in different interests. Many of them have actually started their own initiatives and got their work paid off,” the Deputy Coordinator, said, adding that volunteers go through a pack of training courses and they have to submit a tourism-specialised voluntary project which enable them to get ‘a voluntary passport’.

Zainab al Nassri