Room Service and a Shovel: The Rise of Voluntourism

Luxury hotels offer day trips to help vacationers connect with communities

Illustration by Tamara Shopsin for TIME

Picking up trash and pulling weeds may not sound terribly posh, but at a growing number of high-end resorts, where rooms often cost $400 or $500 a night, these activities are becoming yet another hotel amenity. One morning you can sleep in and order room service, and the next you can serve breakfast at a soup kitchen.

The trend is part of a larger movement toward voluntourism, i.e., trips with a heavy focus on volunteering. But unlike programs like Habitat for Humanity that pair weeklong projects with unglamorous accommodations, hotel-organized excursions generally take up no more than a day, and participants...

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