Eye tracking research offers new perspective

Young adult sitting with a group of children on a doorstep.
Combining travel with volunteering is increasingly popular.

By Amy Brticevich

Students and staff with an interest in either volunteering or travel or both are encouraged to participate in a Griffith University study on volunteer tourism.

Devised by Dr Alexandra Coghlan from the Department of Tourism, Sport and Hotel Management, the study aims to discover how viewing online promotional material influences a person’s decision to sign up for a trip.

“It’s not really clear to us why people choose to volunteer during their holidays,” Dr Coghlan says.

“Many volunteer tourists have not volunteered previously, nor do they continue to volunteer when they return from their holiday.

“There seems to be something particularly appealing about combining travel with volunteering.”

Innovative eye-tracking software is used in the study while participants look at samples of volunteer tourism websites. They are also asked to answer three questions about their level of interest in each page. The process takes about 40 minutes.

“As the research participant is looking at the pages, an eye-tracking device will be recording their gaze and collecting data on which parts of the website caught his or her attention,” Dr Coghlan said.

Volunteer tourism is a growth area involving a wide range of activities from helping out in an orphanage to wildlife conservation projects.

“It ties in neatly with a gap year, so people can try out different areas of career interest, or whilst studying to get some hands-on experience,” Dr Coghlan said.

By focusing on online material, the study aims to define the benefits and other psychological factors that can influence a person’s decision to sign up.

“You can find more information about the types of volunteer projects available, the destinations you could visit, the benefits of serving as a volunteer and, of course, the cost of the trip,” Dr Coghlan said.

“People usually make their decisions to go on a volunteer tourism holiday after searching for this information online, so it is the perfect place to look.”

The research findings will provide a better picture of what exactly influences a person’s decision-making process around volunteer tourism, and how these factors can be used to improve the experience.

“The research results will also give us a better understanding of what psychological benefits people might be seeking from volunteer tourism experiences, and help explain the growth in this travel sector.

“This can help us match sought benefits with actual travel experience,” Dr Coghlan said.

Dr Coghlan is involving volunteers to take part during November and December. If you would like to participate in the study, email [email protected] or telephone 5552 8580.

All participants are entered into a draw with the chance to win an STA travel voucher.