Authors: George Karlis, Aida Stratas, Wahid Hamidi, and Ioanna Maria Kantartzi
George Karlis, Ph.D.
25 University Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 6N5
613-562-5800 ext. 2452
George Karlis is a Full Professor in the School of Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. His area of research focuses primarily on leisure and society.
Aida Stratas is a Ph.D. candidate and part-time professor in the School of Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa. Her area of research focuses on leisure and aging.
Wahid Hamidi is a Ph.D. student in the School of Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. His area of research focuses on initiating and maintaining physical activity and exercise behavior, and injury prevention and concussion management in the academic and athletic settings for varsity student-athletes. He is a recipient of the University of Ottawa Admission Scholarship.
Ioanna Maria Kantartzi is a Ph.D. student in the School of Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. Her area of research focuses on leadership in recreation and sport settings. She is a recipient of the University of Ottawa Stavros Niarchos Scholarship.
Conceptualizing Sport Volunteer Tourism: Setting a Direction for Future Research
Research shows that increased interest and participation in sport within the leisure and recreation industry has fueled the desire of people to travel and volunteer in sporting events (22, 11). Since the 1980s, the reliance of mega sport and other sporting events on sport volunteer tourism has continued to grow, yet little research exists conceptualizing sport volunteer tourism. This paper provides an overview of the conceptualization of sport volunteer tourism as it appears in existing literature and identifies directions for future research that may be helpful for the evolution and refinement of the industry. The paper includes the following five recommendations for future research: (1) identify the attributes of conceptualizing sport volunteer tourism, (2) discern the attributes of sport volunteer tourists, (3) recognize the distinct types of sport volunteer tourism, (4) determine the distinct types of sport volunteer tourists, and (5) distinguish “sport volunteer tourism” from “sport tourism” and “volunteer tourism.”
Key Words: Sport Volunteer Tourism, sports, volunteers, tourism.
Sport volunteer tourism has grown substantially over the past four decades (29, 3, 2, 7, 22 12, 35). Research shows that increased interest and participation in sport within the leisure and recreation industry has fueled the desire of people to travel and volunteer in sporting events (22, 11). As a result, sport volunteer tourists, otherwise known as those travelling abroad, or within their country’s frontier, for the purpose of volunteering in specific sporting events, have become vital contributors to the economic success of major sport events and their host communities.
Mega events such as the Olympic and Paralympics Games, World Cup, and other similar sport events of global interest rely on a high number of volunteers for the delivery of services as such events are held periodically on a short-term basis and are time-bound (9, 37). Without the contribution of sport volunteer tourists, many large-scale sporting events would be unable to carry out their activities efficiently and cost-effectively since permanent or long-term employment is rare within the mega sporting event domain, given the periodic nature of such events and the limited numbers of days in which they take place (21). Given the importance of sport volunteers in the context of tourism and their significant impact on major sporting events, there is a need to explore the literature to gain better understanding of how volunteer sport tourism, or sport tourism in relation to volunteering, is conceptualized by researchers in the leisure, sport, voluntary, and tourism fields, and other interrelated fields and subfields.
The expansion of research on sport tourism can be dated as commencing back in the 1980s (13). Early research on sport tourism was devoted to conceptualizing sport tourism (31, 18, 19). Research on sport tourism has explored a plethora of topics such as the interrelationship between sport event, destination image, and sport tourists’ behaviors (23), the sports fan in sport tourism settings (34), understanding what sport tourists do (14), leisure constraint theory and sport tourism (20), heritage and sport tourism, serious leisure, social identity and sport tourism (16), estimating the economic impact of sport tourism events (5), case studies of sport tourism events (10), and the development of sport tourism destinations (26, 24).
Existing research tends to rely on one or more of the following three traditional conceptualizations of sport tourism: (1) passive sport tourism related activities, (2) active sport tourism related activities (19, 36, 18, 19), and (3) nostalgia sport tourism activities (14, 15, 31). With the exception of a few studies such as those conducted by Fairley and Kellett (12) and Karlis (25), sport volunteer tourism has been overlooked from sport tourism research both conceptually and methodologically. Both Fairley and Kellet (12) and Karlis (25) provide an initial conceptualization of the sport volunteer tourists as coming from an international location to offer a volunteer service at a mega sport event. Yet, a need for further research to develop and refine the concepts of sport volunteer tourists and sport volunteer tourism exists.
The conceptualization of sport volunteer tourism is a relatively new notion in research. Indeed, it is still in the infant stages of evolving. This paper is thus divided into two parts: (1) to provide an overview of the conceptualization of sport volunteer tourism as it appears in existing literature, and (2) to put forth directions for future research that may be helpful in the evolution and refinement of the conceptualization of sport volunteer tourism.
Conceptualizing Sport Volunteer Tourism – A Literature Review
An examination of the literature in the domain of sport volunteer tourism identifies two overarching concepts that relate directly to our topic of study including “sport volunteering” and “sport tourism.” These two concepts were found to be investigated separately, rather than jointly or integrally, by researchers who explored a wide range of topics and themes associated with either one of the concepts. For instance, research studies on “sport volunteering” has mostly focused on the motivations of volunteers, the types of sport events in which they participate, their experiences across different sport events, their socio-demographic backgrounds, the issues associated with the management of sport volunteers, and the recruitment and retention methods of sport volunteers (1, 4, 7, 8, 27, 28, 38).
Alternatively, literature on “sport tourism” proposes conceptual models and theoretical frameworks in an effort to clarify the meaning of sport tourism and to provide various explanations that would bridge the academic divide between the fields of “sport” and “tourism” (6, 15, 19, 31, 36). More specifically, many of the conceptual models and frameworks introduced have mainly focused on providing a comprehensive definition of sport tourism and have attempted to classify sport tourists into different categories based on their differing interests and needs to predict the socio-economic impact of sport tourism on a destination. For instance, Roche, Spake, and Mathew’s study (32) introduced a model that distinguishes between three different types of sports tourists: spectator tourists (those travelling to observe sport events), sport attraction visitors (those travelling to visit famous sport places and meeting sport figures), and active sports participants (those travelling to take part in sport activities for recreational or competitive purposes). The three types of sport tourist groups were studied in relation to the resulting economic effect on the visited destination. Studies by Shonk and Chelladurai (33) and Pan and Esposito (30), on the other hand, provided conceptual models that consider factors influencing tourists’ decisions to return to a destination in the context of sporting events.
Earlier researchers such as Hinch and Higham (19) offered a three-dimensional framework to clarify the definition of “sport tourism.” Their comprehensive framework consists of a sport dimension, a spatial dimension, and a temporal dimension. The sport dimension relates to a sport activity or event that attracts travelers to a destination to observe or participate in a sport activity or event. The spatial dimension focuses on the geography in which a sport activity or event is held, and includes the location, region, and landscape, whereas the temporal dimension is primarily associated with trip duration, seasonal patterns of sport activities/events, and the evolution of a sport activity or event over time.
Hinch and Higham’s (19) framework expands on the two-dimensional paradigm of Standeven and De Knop (36) who introduced an intense analysis of the nature of sport and tourism, and the symbiotic relationship between the two concepts. Earlier, Hall (18, 19) had identified three categories of sport tourists based on their travel motivations and experiences: 1) those attending or participating in hallmark events, 2) those travelling to take part in outdoor recreation, and 3) those whose travel is motivated by health and fitness goals. The proposed conceptual models and frameworks presented in this review illustrates t the fragmentation that exists in the literature on sport volunteering and sport tourism, which have been largely viewed as separate domains rather than interrelated ones. What is lacking in the existing literature is clearly a broad conceptual framework illustrating the direct relationship between sport, tourism, and volunteering.
Volunteering has been part of the Olympic Games since it was first introduced during the 1948 London Games (40). The growing reliance of volunteers at the Olympic Games was not until the 1980s (17). The 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games saw a substantial growth of volunteers and changed the face of sport tourism (40). Although most volunteers at these Games were local residents, a percentage traveled from international destinations to provide volunteer services at this sporting event. Thus, the era of the sport volunteer tourism, at least in practice, was introduced. Since the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games, the reliance on sport volunteer tourists to assist in maintaining and sustaining the day-to-day operation of mega sport events has increased. Three factors have enticed this increase: (1) the rapid growth of the mega sport event leading to an increased need on the services of volunteers, (2) the honor and prestige of serving as a volunteer at the Olympic Games, and (3) the hosting of the Games by smaller cities and nations such as Greece. The Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece utilized the services of 60,000 volunteers of which roughly 10% (6,000) were sport volunteer tourists.
Despite the growing number and reliance of sport volunteer tourists for the success of mega sport events, minimal research focuses on sport volunteer tourism. An extensive review of literature depicts only two research studies introducing sport volunteer tourism. In 2005, Fairley and Kellett introduced the area of sport volunteer tourism by presenting the sport volunteer tourist as a unique type of volunteer that merits specific focus. In light of Fairley and Kellett’s (11) research, Karlis in 2006 (25) presented the need to establish and conceptualize the notions sport volunteer tourism and sport volunteer tourists beyond the early and recent definitions of sport tourism. In a keynote address to the European Association of Sport Management Congress, Karlis (25) posited that the operationalization of the terms sport volunteer tourism and sport volunteer tourists will assist mega sport event administrators recognize the uniqueness of this group while also acknowledging the important role played by sport volunteer tourists in implementing the services of the games.
Findings of the literature review conducted for this paper related to sport volunteer tourism identified 21 studies by 38 authors. As shown in Table 1, the articles are categorized by the year published. The 2010s was the most active for publishing (nine), followed by, 2000s and 1990s (six each). Qualitative was the preferred method in all three decades.
|De Knop, P.||1990||Sport for All and Active Tourism||World Leisure & Recreation||The importance of sport and active recreation during holidays for tourism.|
|Redmond, G.||1991||Changing styles of sport tourism: Industry/consumer interactions in Canada, the USA and Europe.||The Tourism Industry: An International Analysis||Analyzing the changing styles of international sports tourism between sport and tourism.|
|Hall, C.||1992a||Adventure, sport and health tourism||Special Interest Tourism||Examining adventure, sport and health tourism to improve an individual’s quality of life.|
|Hall, C.||1992b||Hallmark tourist events||Special Interest Tourism||Examining of research on hallmark events.|
|Gibson, H.||1998||Sport Tourism: A critical analysis of research||Sport Management Review||Reviewing and critiquing the sport tourism literature as it stands in 1998.|
|Standeven, J., and De Knop, P.||1999||Sport Tourism||Human Kinetics||Analysis of the nature of sport, the nature of tourism, and the symbolic relationship between the two.|
|Hinch, T., and Higham, J.||2001||Sport Tourism: A framework for research||International Journal of Tourism Research||Conceptualizing sport in the context of tourism’s activity, spatial and temporal dimensions.|
|Green, C., and Chalip, L.||2004||Paths to Volunteer Commitment: Lessons from the Sydney Olympic Games||Volunteering as leisure: an international assessment||The importance of volunteers to the delivery of sport and recreation services.|
|Fairley, S., & Gammon, S.||2005||Something Lived, Something Learned: Nostalgias Expanding Role in Sport Tourism.||Sport in Society||Two broad conceptualizing nostalgia in sport tourism: nostalgia for sport place or artefact, and nostalgia for social experience.|
|Cuskelly, G., Hoye, R., & Auld, C.||2006||Working with volunteers in sport theory and practice||Theory and Practice||Comprehensive guide to the issues surrounding the management of volunteers in sport organizations.|
|Karlis, G.||2006||Assessing the needs of sport volunteer tourists at the Olympic Games: Implications for administrators of mega sport events.||European Association for Sport Management Congress.||Discussing the importance of sport volunteers for mega sporting events.|
|Shonk, D., & Chelladurai, P.||2008||Service quality, satisfaction, and intent to return in event sport tourism||Journal of Sport Management||Conceptual model of quality in event tourism where sport tourism is said to influence tourist satisfaction which, In turn, influences the tourist’s intention to return to the place of the event.|
|Pan, C., & Esposito, E.||2012||An investigation of the relationships among sport tourism quality, satisfaction and tourists intentions to return for a triathlon in Taiwan||ProQuest Dissertations||Investigating the relationship among service quality, customer satisfaction and tourists’ intent to return at a triathlon event.|
|Dickson, T., Benson, A., Blackman, D., & Terwiel, A.||2013||It’s All About the Games! 2010 Vancouver Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games Volunteers.||Journal of Event Management||Discusses the motivation behind why volunteers decide to volunteer at mega sport events.|
|Roche, S., Spake, D., & Joseph, M.||2013||A model of sporting event tourism as economic development||Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal||Moderated model of sport tourism as an economic development generator from a destination marketing perspective.|
|Dickson, T., Benson, A., & Terwiel, A.||2014||Mega-event volunteers, similar or different? Vancouver 2010 vs. London 2012||International Journal of Event and Festival Management||Comparing motivations of volunteers at two mega multi-sport events.|
|Wollebaek, D., Skirstad, B., & Hanstad, D.||2014||Between two volunteer cultures: Social composition and motivation among volunteers at the 2010 test event for the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships.||International Review for the Sociology of Sport||Arguing that a reflexive, late modern volunteer culture coexists with a collectivist, traditional one at a major sporting event.|
|Koutrou, N.||2016||Towards an Olympic volunteering legacy: motivating volunteers to serve and remain – a case study of London 2012 Olympic Games volunteers.||Voluntary Sector Review||Examining the determinants of a volunteer legacy following volunteers’ involvement with the London 2012 Olympic Games.|
|Wilks, L.||2016||The lived experiences of London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic volunteers: a serious leisure perspective||Leisure Studies||Discussing the lived experience of London 2012 volunteers to test the relevance of the serious leisure framework to Olympic volunteering.|
|Ahn, Y.||2018||Recruitment of volunteers connected with sports mega-events: A case study of the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games||Journal of Destination Marketing & Management||Extending area of research on volunteer motivation to recognition and rewards in sports organizations, which is related to connectedness and behavioural intention of individuals.|
|Kim, E., Fredline, L., & Cuskelly, G.||2018||Heterogeneity of sport event volunteer motivations: A segmentation approach||Journal of Tourism Management||Identifying specific sport event volunteer motivations, and then segments sport event volunteers based on their motivations.|
Suggestions for Future Research on Conceptualizing Sport Volunteer Tourism
Despite the expansion of research of sport tourism and sport volunteerism, and considering the increased reliance of mega sport events on sport volunteer tourists, it is surprising that so little research exists on sport volunteer tourism. More so than ever, it makes sense to expand and contribute to existing conceptualizations of sport volunteer tourism, by doing so, researchers will have a better understanding and recognition of sport volunteer tourism and the need to conduct more research in his area. Below is a list of directions as to what future research is needed to expand and refine the existing conceptualization of sport volunteer tourism.
Direction 1: Identify the attributes of conceptualizing sport volunteer tourism.
Assembling a conceptualization of sport volunteer tourism commences with identifying key attributes. As the concept of “sport volunteer tourism” has been scantly studied, more research is needed that explores the defining attributes of this sector. Focus here should be placed on “tourism,” and not the “tourist,” as sport volunteer tourism refers to the nature and act of tourism as opposed to the singular nature of the experience of a tourist. Researchers of tourism, volunteerism, and sport studies can all make significant contributions in constructing the attributes of sport volunteer tourism.
Direction 2: Discern the attributes of sport volunteer tourists.
As the conceptualization of sport volunteer tourism refers to tourism per se, the conceptualization of the sport volunteer tourist will refer to the actual attributes that portray this type of tourist. The attributes of a “sport volunteer tourist” center on travelling as a personal choice to experience a sport activity or event. However, the attributes of the conceptualization of sport volunteer tourists expand beyond this description. Researchers need to identify attributes such as motivations, interests, preferences, etc., that drive behavior of sport volunteer tourists. The result should assist in creating a comprehensive list of defining attributes of the sport volunteer tourist.
Direction 3: Recognize the distinct types of sport volunteer tourism.
Researchers need to recognize that not all sport volunteer tourism experiences are the same and that different types exist. Sport volunteer tourism can consist of many types of experiences – mega sport events, medium sized sports events, small-scale sport events, cultural specific sport events, etc. To create a comprehensive conceptualization of sport volunteer tourism, researchers need to explore all possible avenues for sport volunteer tourism and work towards classifying these avenues according to dimensions or types.
Direction 4: Determine the distinct types of sport volunteer tourists.
Sport volunteer tourists may serve in a number of different capacities during their sport volunteer touristic experience. Some volunteers may serve as information officers at mega sport event; others may serve as officials at sport tournaments, whereas others may serve as assistants to the Head of Delegations of specific teams at a mega or medium sized sport events. By understanding the types of roles for sport volunteer tourists, researchers can create a more thorough conceptualization of the sport volunteer tourist.
Direction 5: Distinguish “sport volunteer tourism” from “sport tourism” and “volunteer tourism.”
As research in this field grows towards comprehensively examining sport volunteer tourism and the sport volunteer tourist, the greater the understanding will be as to how these terms are distinct from sport tourism and volunteer tourism. As a start, researchers should be mindful that the common denominator of all these terms is tourism, yet all these notions provide differing perspectives. The term sport tourism can refer to spectators, paid officials, paid athletes and coaches, whereas sport volunteer tourism typically refers strictly to unpaid volunteers. Moreover, volunteer tourism is not limited to sports but expands to volunteering for spiritual, philanthropic, and community development reasons. Additional research will help to emphasize the distinctiveness of the concept of sport volunteer tourism as one that is refined and mutually exclusive from the concepts of sport tourism and volunteer tourism.
The operationalization of key terms is an important part of research – whether it be a masters or doctoral dissertation or a peer-reviewed or non-refereed paper. As knowledge evolves and grows, understanding of a phenomenon becomes more refined and distinct. This paper has provided the perspective as to why sport volunteer tourism is a distinct concept that merits further understanding, exploration, and refinement in order to create a comprehensive conceptualization.
When individuals address a particular special interest tourism experience – such as cultural tourism or environmental tourism, labels are often used to define someone as a cultural tourist or environmental tourist. Obviously, the tourism experience cannot take place without tourists. When striving towards the development of a more comprehensive conceptualization of sport volunteer tourism, a greater understanding of the sport volunteer tourist – and the attributes of the sport volunteer tourist – is paramount.
As little research has been conducted on the conceptualization of sport volunteer tourism, it now makes more sense than ever to expand research to reach a deeper meaning of this term. Since the 1980s, more and more individuals are becoming sport volunteer tourists. Expanded research would help not only recognize this type of tourism as a special interest form of tourism, but also create a more detailed conceptualization of sport volunteer tourism, and of course, the sport volunteer tourist.
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