WWOOFing in Australia: ideas and lessons for a de-commodified sustainability tourism

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 2016, 24 (1), pp. 91 - 113
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© 2015 Taylor & Francis. This paper considers Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOFing) as a form of sustainable tourism with particular focus on its social and cultural dimensions and the means by which deep engagement in these appear to lead participants to a better awareness or understanding of ecological sustainability issues. It draws upon a grounded theory-based exploration of the perspectives and interactions of WWOOFers and WWOOF hosts in Australia, using 323 formal written surveys of hosts and 188 surveys of WWOOFers, together with 16 in-depth unstructured WWOOFer interviews, which collectively enhances understanding of WWOOFing as an emerging, unique and valuable form of sustainable tourism. By virtue of the highly engaged and symbiotic basis of the exchange involved, WWOOFing is commonly perceived to facilitate a transcendence of the role of tourist. The research indicates this is the product of a unique relationship forged in the WWOOFing context, which differs markedly to relationships forged in more typical fee-for-service tourism contexts in which there is a different relationship at play between power, authenticity and sustainability. This relationship is outlined in order to articulate the notion that WWOOFing represents a type of “sustainability tourism” that is unexplored in the sustainable tourism literature.
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