Construction tourism, made famous through organizations like Habitat for Humanity, is part of the much larger category of volunteer tourism, which has become an increasingly popular travel trend in recent years. Volunteer vacations vary widely in scope, but construction tourism is one of the more popular ones. Construction tourism involves building houses, schools, and other buildings, typically in third world countries and low income areas. Volunteer tourism’s main goal is to lessen the toll that tourism and travels takes on local cultures and the environment, but it has long been a controversial travel trend.
Pros and Cons
According to Habitat for Humanity, around 1.6
billion people live in substandard housing, over 100 million are homeless, and nearly 1/3 of the global population live in urban slums.
Construction tourism seeks to help fix all of these issues by building houses in third world countries. Construction tourism also builds basic facilities, giving people access to water and proper sanitation. Volunteer tourism, and especially construction tourism, has received criticism in recent years, however. Some experts believe that certain tours cater more to the needs of the volunteer rather than the volunteer project, and do not use the provided funds appropriately. Sometimes buildings are deliberately kept in decrepit conditions in order to ensure funding is never reduced. Often volunteers are not qualified to build houses or other facilities, and thus the quality of work suffers.
Chile is one of the most popular destinations for volunteers who wish to help construct houses. United Planet volunteers help build homes for low-income families in rural villages, and work alongside Chilean volunteers while doing so. They replace the run down shelters many Chilean families currently live in, which are usually made of temporary materials like plastic and cardboard. Laos is another popular destination. UBELONG offers volunteer opportunities across many different fields, including construction, for as short as 3 weeks to as long as 6 months. India and Nepal are other trendy destinations.
The Road Less Travelled
Perhaps surprisingly to some people, Romania is one of the more popular destinations for construction tourism. United Planet works with an orphanage in a remote town in Romania to help construct essential buildings. The orphanage struggles to accommodate its constantly growing population, so United Planet works to build other facilities to safely house these children. South-eastern Asia is also a popular site, as both Vietnam and Cambodia attract volunteer tourists from all over the globe. While these locations tend to focus more on the teaching side of volunteer tourism, there are numerous construction opportunities available as well.
Costs and Savings
Volunteer trip costs vary greatly depending on the destination of the trip and how long you wish to go for. Habitat for Humanity guesses, on average, a typical one week trip to either Europe or Asia costs between $2,000 and $3000. This includes meals and accommodation, medical insurance, in-country transport, and orientation materials. It does not include airfare or leisure activities, however, so the price could increase significantly. Luckily, fundraising for these trips is a very popular and very successful method to help raise money.