Fake Reviews and Voluntourism: TravellersQuest.com was set up to misslead volunteers


When volunteering overseas, fake reviews are a big problem. Many volunteer travel companies try to influence online reviews wherever possible. This concerning trend, that harms ethical operators, has made it difficult to identify sustainable programs based on reviews and travel websites.

We published in the past an article about possible connections of International Volunteer HQ to the review and advertising platform www.abroadreview.com. This time we had a look at www.TravellersQuest.com.

We have  recently supported a documentary of the German TV channel WDR with information about the volunteer travel industry. This article is revealing some research.

The 45 min long documentary will be screened on the 22nd of August 2018 at 10.10pm on WDR.

 

What is TravellersQuest.com?

TravellersQuest has been registered in 2010 as an US company and is based in Texas. It is a review and directory platform for volunteer, language and study abroad programs. More than 2,000 companies are listed with almost 30,000 programs. 20,000 unique visitors generate about 80,000 total page views per month.

TravellersQuest is also supporting volunteers in finding volunteer travel programs through free email support. Volunteers receive quotes and information about different providers that fit best to the applicant’s expectations and experiences. Whereas this service is also provided by other review and advertising platforms, TravellersQuest is the only one providing free travel eBooks and guides for various volunteer destinations. It is a standalone feature.

Fake reviews

Fake reviews are a problem on many voluntourism review websites and review websites in general. Some companies try to harm their competitors and others promote themselves to receive more volunteers.

Several volunteer companies (Ubelong, Geovisions and others) as well as TravellersQuest itsself have written about the issue. The companies Global Crossroad, IFRE and RCDP Nepal posted almost the same article about the harm fake reviews can causeUnfortunately, TravellersQuest as well as most of the network behind Adhikari are part of the problem. People connected to the network posted in the past fake comments, reviews and insults about other companies and their own institutions in forums and on review websites.

On TravellersQuest itsself, reviews were commented by staff that also disguised as former volunteers. The website is full of positive fake reviews. No surprise, most of the reviews are about the companies that are connected to TravellersQuest. 

Who is behind TravellersQuest?

On the website information about owners or managers are nowhere to be found. The only contact information is the email address ‘manager@travellersquest.com’. We decided to contact the website through this mail but received no answer.

But we found an advertisement posted by someone connected to the website. Someone named Adhikari searched for professional writers to create content for the website and to write travel guide books. The applications had to be sent to the email address ‘manager@travellersquest.com’ or ‘muraliadhikari@yahoo.com’. This person also published a Travellerquest Slideshow on Linkedin and is liking TravellersQuest content. The last time, Travellersquest searched for writers was in Nepal. In 2018 RCDP Nepal posted an advertisment to find full time content writers for their own organization and their “partner” Travellersquest. Salary: Starting at only 178 US Dollar! As small salary, even for Nepalesis and especially for an american based company. Another company, IFRE, is promoting TravellersQuest on their website.

The name Adhikari is well known in the international voluntourism industry. The person and family has been involved in voluntourism since the 90s and funded RCDP Nepal and The Global Future Institute DBA Institute for Field Research Expeditions (in short IFRE). In addition he was, or is, involved in other volunteer travel companies such as Global Crossroad, Rustic Volunteer Travel, New Hope Volunteers and Helping Abroad.

 

Why is this questionable?

It is neither a crime nor forbidden for international volunteer agencies to own, run, sponsor or influence review websites, but it raises questions about ethics within the industry and to what extent the consumers are being misled on purpose.

Through TravellersQuest consumers are being directed to programs, that are connected to the website owner. It becomes obvious that TravellersQuest has not been set up to help volunteers to find the most meaningful and rewarding program but to promote the programs that are connected to him.

 

What can you do?

This case outlines once again how careful potential volunteers have to be when choosing a volunteer travel program.  Information on many travel websites should be questioned.

  1. Follow common sense and ask the right questions. A couple of questions that might be helpful can be found –>here<– and help to spot fake reviews.
  2. Make sure, that you look for reviews & advice in Facebook groups + social media channels, that are not connected to any volunteer travel company. A good starting point is our own Facebook group –>here<–
  3. Keep in mind, that review and websites such as www.goabroad.com and www.gooverseas.com make their living through advertisments, paid by volunteer travel providers. 
  4. Make sure, that you post your own reviews on various channels and not only on review websites.

There is more to come about other review websites within the next months. So stay tuned.

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About Sebastian Drobner

Sebastian has eight years of experience in international development cooperation, lived in five countries and on three continents. He started to get into the world of development in 2008 when he volunteered for one year in Cambodia for a local Voluntourism project. He then received a contract as an advisor through Bread for the World in Germany and supported the development of the program Volunteer Action for Cambodia by Star Kampuchea until 2012. At the same time he was responsible for the development of the government founded volunteer program Weltwärts of Bread for the World in Cambodia and it`s mentoring. From 2012 to 2013 he changed into the head office of Bread for the world where he was responsible for the administration of their volunteer program as a program assistant. Now he is studying International Social Work and Development and works part time in development projects. Part of this course was an internship in the Solomon Islands where he worked in a tourism course and developed a volunteer program for Don Bosco Technical Institute Solomon Islands. The knowledge he gained when he finished a three-year training in Hotel and tourism helped during this experience.

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