Will volunteers return?

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

In case your were unaware, it is National Volunteers Week.

Volunteers may not feature widely when ministers and economists talk about tourism but they are the backbone of the tourism industry.

The National Trust – one body heavily reliant on volunteers

Without the hundreds of thousands of people who willingly give up their time to man shops, restaurants, patrol galleries and guide tours many organisations couldn’t exist.

But volunteers tend to be made of retired people, those people who now have time on their hands and are happy to give something back to the community. People younger than retirement groups have jobs and children to raise and therefore have less time to contribute although many do find time for the odd hour or two. Quite how they manage to find this time escapes me but organisations are grateful that they do.

Nonetheless, many volunteers are in their sixties, seventies and eighties meaning that they are probably in groups that are most at risk from COVID -19. With they return in sufficient numbers.

Involved in a local community scheme, I already know that about a fifth of the volunteers will stay away. Whether that is permanent or just until a vaccine is efficient enough to defeat COVID -19 is something only time will tell. In the meantime it will be difficult to operate as efficiently as we did before unless new volunteers can be attracted.

Over 69,000 volunteers work with the National Trust and National Trust for Scotland, there are over 35,000 with the Wildlife Trusts and who knows how many work in tourist information centres. Some tourist organisations would be lucky to survive without volunteers as there is no way they would be economically viable otherwise.

Making those returning volunteers feel safe and looking after their welfare will be something that organisations will have to carefully consider. It can be challenging dealing with volunteers as they can leave on a whim, decide not to come in when rostered but the vast majority are enthused and enjoy the work they do.

Without them, tourism will be a sadder and smaller offering.

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