ATLAS Special Interest Group (Volunteer Tourism Research Group)

Colleague spotlight | Dr Elisa Burrai


Dr Elisa Burrai

The Association for Tourism and Leisure Education and Research (ATLAS) facilitates transnational research and education initiatives among its membership across some 60 countries. Dr Elisa Burrai and Dr Davide Sterchele, both from our School, lead this international special interest group. Dr Elisa Burrai talks about the work of the group.

What is an ATLAS special interest group (SIG)?

A special interest group or SIG brings together ATLAS members who share an interest in a particular topic or theme. It is a way of creating a network, managing communications and advancing critical thinking and impactful research on a specific area within tourism and hospitality. The Association hosts are 11 SIGs at the moment. Each one is fluid so anyone associated with ATLAS can participate if they wish.

Could you tell us something about the SIG you lead with Davide?

Yes, ‘our’ SIG provides a forum for critical discussion on volunteering in the tourism and event sectors. It has been operating for more than a decade. Over the years, it has co-ordinated conferences, seminars, special issues of journals and online exchanges of ideas. In February 2021, Davide and I hosted a very successful webinar entitled ‘Volunteer Tourism & Covid-19: Challenges & Opportunities’ where academics and practitioners could discuss the challenges and opportunities that volunteer tourism faces during / after the Covid-19 crisis. The webinar attracted more than 100 delegates from 36 countries and stimulated really interesting debates. We see some of the insights permeating into debates in the literature.

What is your personal research interest?

I have a long-standing critical interest in volunteering in tourism. My PhD examined resident perceptions of volunteer tourism in Cusco, Peru. Since then, I have questioned notions of responsibility in relation to ‘responsible tourism volunteering’ as well as challenging aspects of what I see as the ideology of responsible tourism.

What next for the SIG?

avide and I are currently in the process of organising an SIG track for the ATLAS annual conference which will take place online in September 2021. The session is entitled ‘New Frontiers in Volunteer Tourism Research’ to discuss recent works which embrace innovative, critical multi- and interdisciplinary theoretical contributions to the field. With members of the network we are also exploring ideas for a journal special issue on volunteer tourism, aiming to circulate a call in autumn / winter 2021.

Our ongoing, long-term plans include exchange of ideas for collaborations to advance thinking and knowledge on volunteer tourism. 

Links to further information:

Volunteer tourism

Atlas Euro

Dr Elisa Burrai

Senior Lecturer / School Of Events, Tourism And Hospitality Management

Dr Elisa Burrai is a Senior Lecturer in the UG course International Tourism Management and in the PG course Responsible Tourism Management. I joined the School of Events, Tourism and Hospitality Management in 2014. 

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