A new publication out by GEO researcher Karin Peters, Inge Hermann and former MLE student Emy van Trijp! 'Enrich yourself by helping others: A web content analysis of providers of gap year packages and activities in the Netherlands' can be found in the newest volume of the journal Tourist Studies.
With this article, we aim to contribute to a growing academic and public debate on claims about ‘taking a gap year’ as (an act of) moral tourism, a means of self-development and ultimately resulting in global citizenship. More specifically, we examined how the gap year discourse is exhibited, influenced and shaped through the representation, promotion and construction of gap year packages and activities on websites operated by providers in the Netherlands. Informed by Bourdieu’s model of capital accumulation, we conducted a content analysis of websites operated by providers of gap year packages and activities in the Netherlands. Findings show that narratives about gap years primarily focus on positive and personal (future) benefits of accumulating skills and self-development to potential gappers, and in some cases to their parents. The gap year is represented as a commercial product that allows one to explore the world and the Self. The findings also showed that although Dutch providers promote the gap year product as ethical, emphasis is placed primarily on the ‘ethical’ benefits for the gapper himself or herself. The article concludes with a critical reflection on how representations of reciprocal altruism by providers of gap year packages and activities in practice primarily underwrite the accumulation of (cultural) capital and notions of selfhood.