Good Morning Tourism: Time For Your Wake Up Call – Part Two

99% of Tourism are Small Independent Operators.

In the first part of this post “Good Morning Tourism: Time for Your Wake Up Call – Part One” I suggested that tourism needs to wake up and grow up.

Tourism is a relatively young industry – having grown from a few hundred million international passengers a year to just under a billion and is expected to experience another growth spurt over the next 8 years.

If tourism were a person and the general economy a family, then tourism could be likened to an adolescence. We want recognition for our emerging identity; we want freedom but we also still want to borrow the family car for a Saturday night out. Throughout its growth, tourism leaders – be they heads of multi-national private sector or government associations; Ministers or executives of trade associations – have been complaining that tourism is not recognized, taxed unfairly and embedded in too much red tape. At the same time, hundreds of millions are spent by governments from the municipal to national global levels on tourism marketing and, occasionally, on infrastructure improvements that make a tourism economy possible. Given the projected population increase and its ageing, the reduction in resource availability, the increase in climatic volatility, the debt and uncertainty associated with failing economic systems, and the pressure in public sector budgets, tourism cannot assume it will continue to be supported in the future. We’ll have to earn our own pocket money.

A sign of personal maturity occurs when the individual starts to recognize that he or she is part of a family and that with rights comes responsibility. There is an awareness that it’s not just about me or I but “we” and that instead of asking what the family can do for me, I should be asking what can I do for the family.

So for tourism to be considered mature, it needs to ask the same question.

“Ask not what the community needs to do for tourism, ask what tourism can do for your community”

Conscious Travel is about helping the 99% of the tourism community – all the operators of the small businesses that contribute to a visitor’s experience of a place — to wake up and assume responsibility for their own destiny and for contributing to the community in which they live and work.

The act of waking up and growing up go hand in hand.

It’s also time to recognize that growth cannot continue indefinitely. In nature, there comes a time when more is replaced with better. Once a point of maturity is reached, change is about qualitative development – we become more balanced; more efficient, more wise.

The industrial model which fuelled our growth for the past 60 years needs now to switch gears and focus from quantitative growth to qualitative development – from more to better. But that won’t happen unless we come together to realize the need for such a shift and to share ideas and dreams about how to make that shift.

That’s what’s happening in virtually every other sector of society right now. A few years ago, Paul Hawken could talk to the Bioneers and suggest that the great transition is taking place under the radar (see his inspiring and encouraging 9 minute video here)


That was then. TODAY, such revolutionary talk of change is being openly discussed in the hallowed halls of the World Economic Forum, no less!!  If you look at the Storify summary of tweets from the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday (October 10th) you’ll see that the 1% might,  in fact,  getting the message. Klaus Schwab opened the #WEF agenda by talking about the need for new taxation and lifestyle models that reduce ecological harm: a focus beyond growth to quality of growth; a more holistic approach and new models to cope with the speed of technological change.

It’s time for tourism to be showing such willingness to put on fresh lenses and think new brave thoughts based on a different way of seeing and believing. 

It’s based on a belief that to change our own personal behaviour we need to make small but consistent changes every day; so then in the tourism community, a critical mass of enterprises and individuals will need to change the way they operate by thinking and acting differently.

Individual hosts and guests are more likely to do this when they are presented with a very attractive, positive image of a better future.

Unfortunately, acting responsibly is still associated with suffering and loss – it comes across as having to give up pleasure and enjoyment or to go backwards rather than forwards. The argument is often reduced to simple concepts – the economy versus the environment  – and the perishable nature of the “product” encourages short-termism.  What we need is a dynamic, expanded vision of a better, more profitable, more durable, more appealing, alternative to mass industrialized tourism.

It’s not that we haven’t got hundreds of thousands of people dedicated to leading change. Ron Mader has helpfully inventoried here all the different ways that proponents of an alternative to mass industrialised tourism label themselves. While great work IS being done by many, the Tower of Babel that dominates the change landscape is in danger of fragmenting and diluting both our focus and resources.

Furthermore, what we haven’t yet done either as a sector or as a community, is address the root cause of the current problem – which is our mindset, our paradigm and our worldview.

And that’s why we’re developing a conversation around the notion of Conscious Travel.

So why Conscious? Simply because “conscious” is to be awake, aware and alert.

  • First we need to wake from the trance of an old paradigm that no longer works when there are about to be 7 billion people living on one finite planet.
  • Second, we need to become fully aware of the impact that our behaviour has on others and the impact of being embedded in multiple other systems that will determine our future prosperity and even our survival. As individuals, businesses, communities we’re all interdependent now.
  • Thirdly, we need to become infinitely more adaptable and creative if we are to thrive during what will be a period of intense upheaval and uncertainty.
  • Fourthly, we need to grow up and assume our responsibilities as adults. Tourism operators can be the agents of change and renewal in communities

In other words we have to address our “inner world” of values, beliefs and assumptions that underpin our choices and behaviour. Many of us have never examined those assumptions and understood why they might no longer be helpful or relevant.

So Conscious Travel isn’t another association, or agency. It’s a unifying approach that integrates the good work done in eco, responsible, geo, and sustainable tourism and which starts with the values and mindset of the tourism operator as an individual human being. You can read more about what we are and what we’re not here.

Our aim is to attract a critical mass of operators in communities everywhere who want create durable, healthy businesses that “don’t cost the earth, are “worthy of the human beings that serve in them, ” deliver a richer more meaningful experience for guests while revitalizing the culture and biophysical environment of the host community.

We’re inspired by people like Seth Godin who understands how to create movements and Steve Jobs who believed that Apple’s success was based on its core belief that “passion & people can change the world”.

“Heretics are the new leaders. The ones who challenge the status quo, who get out in front of their tribes, who create movements.” Seth Godin

We don’t expect to attract people happy with or benefitting from the status quo. We’re looking for the heretics, misfits, and innovators who exist in virtually every community – the kind of people that inspired Steve Jobs – to co-create a better alternative and ensure that tourism lives up to its potential to be a positive agent of renewal and regeneration.

If any of this is appealing or frightening, then please explore, engage and comment.
It’s a conversation that’s just beginning and will be richer for your participation.

2 Responses to “Good Morning Tourism: Time For Your Wake Up Call – Part Two”

  1. But wanna comment on few general things, The website layout is perfect, the content material is rattling fantastic : D.


  2. Thanks, Anna for citing my essay on definitions. I developed that essay a while back and it does get updated a few times a year. What impresses me is that for any term there are multiple readings. I use a sports metaphor to move us ahead. If we’re going to talk about ‘football’ then it could mean gridiron or soccer or rugby … yet the players and the viewers know full well which sport is which.

    In tourism, on the other hand, we have what you aptly describe as a Tower of Babel. We’re not agreeing to disagree because we’re not conscious of one another and discount the opinions of others.

    I agree that tourism operators can be the agents of change. I’d add that the process could be sped up if there were more support from authorities. Rarely do we see governments empowering the SMEs or linking niche operations with mainstream promotion. Meetings and conferences are held behind closed doors with a costly ticket to enter. There is no livestreaming and no questions accepted via Twitter. Did I mention no pubic access to stats or reports? Arghhhh! Do we need to #OccupyTourism to get the point across that diversity and dissensus are the new status quo and that transparency and empathy are the keys that open the doors?

    Please someone show us examples that inspire, of governments that collaborate instead of command, of tourism policies that integrate economic, cultural and political impacts, of operators who are fearlessly entering the world of responsible conduct AND digital literacy and of travelers who recognize that they are not only visiting a place (or destination) but people’s homes. This is the story of the future, becoming as friends in South Africa say, future fit.


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