Host-Guest Relationships in Non-Commercial Tourism Settings: WWOOFing in New Zealand
This study investigates host-guest elationships in a non‐commercial tourism setting within the context of WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) in New Zealand. WWOOF is a worldwide membership network of organic farms, and is comprised of non‐monetary exchange relationships between WWOOF hosts and guests (WWOOFers). It involves tourists offering their help with activities on these farms in exchange for accommodation and food. The purpose of this research is to examine WWOOF hosts and guests’ meanings and understandings of the host‐guest relationship and the dynamics that influence the nature of the WWOOF encounter. An examination of hosts and guests’ expectations and their subsequent effect on the encounter, and of personal outcomes, assist in making sense of the multiple roles of both parties. The study contributes to the limited research that explores non‐commercial host‐guest relationships in tourism. Through consulting literature on the commercial home, it builds on previous work on WWOOFing by focusing on hosts and guests’ perceptions rather than only one perspective. It gives voice to an under‐acknowledged group of hosts and tourists, who are not counted as contributors to economic development of tourism in New Zealand. The research was developed within a social constructivist paradigm. Using phenomenological methodology, in‐depth interviews with hosts and guests in New Zealand allowed for a thorough analysis of their personal narratives of the WWOOF experience, and the host‐guest relationships. Twenty‐eight interviews were conducted during June and July 2011 (some with two interviewees): resulting in data from 24 hosts and 15 WWOOFers. The findings suggest that WWOOF hosts and guests interact within work and social dimensions. The work dimension dictates that the guest offer help with work on the organic property in return for accommodation and food provided by the host. The social dimension demands interpersonal exchange and social bonds are developed. A model is presented, which demonstrates that host‐guest relationships in WWOOFing evolve and are constantly being negotiated and evaluated. Hosts and guests have multiple roles within the two dimensions: employer‐employee, host‐guest, (family) host‐family member, and friends. These roles are dependent on the level of formalisation of the encounter and the level of interpersonal connectedness. The encounter involves the host’s obligation to meet the needs of the guest and the guest’s obligation to adhere to implicit and explicit rules and guidelines determined by the host. Space and time are mostly shared within the host’s home or hosting space. The study shows that the relationships that occur are complex and multi‐faceted. The various dimensions, which are essential in creating closer, interpersonal relationships, are negotiated within various levels of the relationship. The aspects that influence the roles adopted in work and social spheres and the evolution of the relationship require an understanding of the temporal roles of hosts and guests, trust, shared values and stories, as well as work and social exchange elements.