*Dan Moore, founder of Starfish Group Asia*
1) Why Thailand in the first place?
I had been to Thailand in 1999 for the millennium New Year Party, had an amazing holiday with friends so it made sense for my first volunteer experience abroad to travel to a destination I knew, somewhere I felt comfortable; and I wanted somewhere warm where I could enjoy downtime/beach time. For me Thailand ticked all the boxes.
I traveled to Thailand with a volunteer organisation, and fell in love with work. However, I was disappointed with the genuine commitment to the communities and the lack of investment. I wanted to do more, I saw the need for a more hands on organisation who was truly committed to facilitating positive change.
3) What does the future hold for voluntourism in SE Asia?
The volunteer industry peaked in the 90s, in the 00s it stagnated and now it is on the decline. It’s not that people don’t care, it is that their travel habits have changed. Now travelers wish for volunteer or community experience components as part of a larger tour, rather than volunteering being their only focus. The future for voluntourism is bright of those businesses that can deliver mixed program encompassing cultural, historical, adventure and volunteer experiences. It is important to note despite the less time spent volunteering customers’ expectations are still.