Archive | January, 2012


Via Scoop.itConscious Travel

The industrial model demands volume and scale. Consolidation leads to bigness. We’ve seen the folly of letting our banks assume they are too big to fail. Isn’t it time we questioned the wisdom of allowing cruise ships to be built at this scale?

Here are some of the first dramatic images depicting the last moments of the Costa Concordia have been caught on film, showing the stricken liner and lifeboats scattered in the black water.

Tourism Vancouver Asks The Right Questions

I am confident that all of my readers will agree that asking the right question before starting any strategic exercise is vital at any time but particularly so when the context in which you operate is undergoing profound and radical change.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. Albert Einstein

Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers. Anthony Robbins

Given this belief, you can imagine how pleased I was when the Chair of Tourism Vancouver – Howard Jang, CEO of the highly successful Arts Club Theatre – posed two particularly important questions at their recent Business Plan Launch on Tuesday (Jan 17, 2012). I couldn’t attend because I knew I would be in Auckland, so was able to contribute via video.

The depth of thinking being expressed by Tourism Vancouver is most encouraging so I have re-printed, with permission of course, Howard Jang’s side of the conversation below.

Howard Jang, Chair, Tourism Vancouver

This musing by Jan Myrdal started me thinking about what the “cause” of tourism is really about:

Travelling is not just seeing the new; it is also leaving behind.  Not just opening doors; also closing them behind you never to return.

My own thinking on these topics has been evolving since the AGM and much of it was enabled by a new friend of mine, though an old friend of many in this room.   Anna Pollock is a highly respected Futurist, perhaps though you’ll let me also add the designation of Visionary, as you’ll see.

Following our conversations and my reading of some of her writing, I asked if she’d speak with you today, during this presentation of mine, via video. Stay tuned.   First, let me take up the “cause”.

I’ve long felt that there is more to tourism than making the cash register ring – important and fundamental though that is to our industry’s well-being and to this very organization. Yet there seemed to be values inherent in tourism that are broader, more meaningful, and possibly at the very foundation of a sustainable industry – one that is in the longer term profitable on many fronts. In discussions, I asked Anna, “what she feels is the ‘cause’ of tourism? and here is how she responded:

Anna’s words both echoed and informed some of my own thoughts, posing fresh views that I wanted to share with you. It’s crucial that our tourism industry engage wide support with the citizens of Metro Vancouver, indeed within British Columbia.   The Team at Tourism Vancouver, are at the forefront of generating demand, attracting visitors, ensuring a business model that works for you, our members.   However, we are also about ensuring that the visitors’ experiences while here are unparalleled, and that when they leave us, they have an ambition to return and a willingness to speak highly to others about our destination.

I once heard this quote:

Once a place becomes special, it’s no longer special  Peter Storey

And then there is the other concept from our AGM.

When I first used the term – a presumptuous declaration of sorts, now that I look back – that the coming years would be Vancouver’s Decade of Culture, I was wearing more than one hat.

Understandably, I was speaking as your new board chair, and also I obviously come from ‘the arts’, from the cultural industries.

True though both those hats are, there was another – it is that of a Vancouver resident.   We call this place home – and that gives us notable privileges, huge opportunities, and a host of responsibilities.    For me, Culture has never been about just the Arts but, rather reflections of our soul.  I wanted to take the “decade of culture” beyond a comforting phrase and give it depth and context.

And, I asked Anna’s thoughts.

Those two clips and my own words are but a part of how we hope to inform, guide and learn with you during today’s presentations.


Thanks Howard! – looks like you are already letting your guests define what Culture means to them. I see you have a great Youtube Channel and a number of vignettes on Culture in Vancouver.

Let me end with another quote from my favorite poet, Rainer Rilke,  that applies to all of us

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.


To see how Vancouver’s community (its residents) rescued its brand – click here 

Why Tourism Will and Must Change Its Operating Model

Marketers and managers of destinations have long absorbed the concept that places go through a cycle of development from the initial discovery of a place, through its early development, growth, consolidation and then stagnation phases.  Yet, this same cycle has not been applied to the macro pattern of mass tourism. This is strange because virtually every other aspect of human society is in the midst of a radical re-think and is starting to examine, question and evaluate the deep assumptions and beliefs that have sustained human progress and economic growth over the past 100-150 years.

Illustration by Antonello Silverini

We’ve outlined why we think Tourism will and must change its operating model on the home page of this site. What is Conscious Travel? and explore it more in a Whitepaper Can Tourism Change Its Operating Model: The Necessity and Inevitability, obtainable from slideshare here. In short, survival and prosperity depend not just on becoming green but waking up to a whole new way of doing business that addresses the need to be environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling.

We’re not bucking a trend here – as outlined in an earlier post, Screw Tourism As Usual, there is a fundamental shift going on in the world of business. Capitalism is not being jettisoned – business remains the most efficient wealth generation agency on the planet – but is being re-tweaked to address some of its flaws. Not all tourism operators will agree with these changes but many will.  The evidence from outside tourism suggests that, those who do re-think the way they operate, will fare better in a world in which the only constant is uncertainty and change.

It’s premature to specify what the emerging model will look like and how it will work but we can speculate and, more importantly we can come together to create it.

In my paper titled,  I have started to explore its features in more detail. All we can do here is outline some key characteristics:

  1. In the old model, the starting point is the Product, an object that is assembled, packaged, produced and priced according to the rules of manufacturing. In the new model, the starting point is a Place that is recognized as qualitatively unique and therefore scarce. While products become commodities and lose value as they become more alike, “Places” that are celebrated for their unique geography, history and culture, gain value and are acknowledged as the primary motivator of travel.
  2. In the old model, guest and hosts act in an adversarial role, playing an “I win-you lose” game in which each party tries to win at the cost of the other. In the new model, that puts relationship building ahead of transactions, guest and host co-create experiences of meaning, benefit and value to both parties.
  3. In the old model, Hosts are producers who focus on the attributes of their product in order to persuade a target market to purchase. In the new model, hosts orchestrate unique experiences of places that are perceived of value and as transformative by guests Guest are attracted to a host for his or her personal, subjective qualities  – what they value; their sense of purpose; contribution to community; their integrity and authenticity over and above the physical artefacts and amenities
  4. In the old model, Producers PUSHED their products in front of potential buyers through various promotional techniques and, when that failed, they dropped their prices. The cost cutting methods deployed to maintain profit margins (standardisation, homogenisation and automation) further devalued the experience and guest satisfaction while suggesting that cheap travel was a right.
    In the new model, producers focus on protecting, rejuvenating and expressing the elements of a place that make it unique, attractive and worth paying for.
    Hosts who can communicate a strong signal about their values and their appreciation of the uniqueness of their place and corporate culture, PULL towards them customers whose values are aligned with theirs.
  5. In the old model, producers assumed that their first priority was to maximise profit for their shareholders. In the new model, producers understand that profit is an outcome that occurs when the enterprise has a higher purpose and when it works to generate net benefit for all its stakeholders (guests, employees, suppliers, and the host community). In the old model, tourism entrepreneurs were followers – applying models and values developed in manufacturing. In the new model. They will be active change agents in their communities and on the forefront of innovation.

It was John Lennon who said:

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality” 

Now is the time for all of us working towards a better tourism – be it green, sustainable, responsible, eco, local, slow, philanthropic – to come together and co-create a new vision and a new operating model that unifies and inspires rather than fragments and dilutes. We do have to change our dream (the mindset or paradigm through which we view the world) and ironically, to do that we have to wake up and become aware of the assumptions that underpin our current model and determine whether they still work for us.

Whose “Place” Is it Anyway?

I have just finished a terrifically positive, inspiring conversation with Ethan Gelber, co-founder of the Local Travel Movement in which we recognized that the essence of his movement and Conscious Travel is the same.

  • All travel purchases are made locally even if the benefits do not always stay there.
  • Travel is motivated by the differences that exist between origin and destination – we travel to see somewhere different than home. As the industrial model tends, over time, to standardize and homogenize, it contains within it the seeds of its own destruction. The Local Travel Movement is one path towards celebrating what makes a Place unique and scarce and, therefore, more valuable to guests and generate a higher return to hosts.
  • Conscious Travel focuses on supporting hosts in celebrating and differentiating their “PLACES” as this is the only way in which they will be truly valued and can return real net benefit to all.

Not long after putting down the phone, my attention was drawn to the plight of the Cinqueterra.

This beautiful part of Italy appears under threat from a minority of its own locals. A local population of some 5000 residents is responsible for protecting what has been recognized as a world heritage site from the greed of a few “locals” who wish to tap into short term income associated with 3 million visitors. Years of work associated with revitalizing local crafts, developing local food and crafts and the creation and maintenance of a National Park have been halted. The region’s economy has suffered from the recession (caused largely by greedy bankers located miles away) and flashflooding.

It seems that a little tourism can be a good thing – when I visited the area in 1969, the villages were poverty stricken and in a state of dilapidation. A tourism industry provide the economic rationale for their restoration. But too much tourism can be harmful. More is not always better. Two communities, Vernazza and Monterosso along with the mountain paths that connect the five communities, were severely damaged in the storms of October 11th. While tourism activity was negatively affected, some also cite tourism along with climate change as a cause of the damage. Regular mantenace of the terraced hillsides has lagged as residents turn to more lucrative and less onerous occupations than farming. In 1951, about 3,500 acres were cultivated in the Cinque Terre. Today, there are fewer than 275.

I write this post in the hopes that my readers will share the link to the source of the video below. Film makers, Kristie Lee Weller and Sharon Boeckle of Harvestfilms, who had already chronicled the revitalization of the local economy, are seeking to raise $2500 to film the current conflict and draw attention to the issue.  Click here  to see the film and here to read their blog.

The second reason for writing is to open up the conversation regarding the question: whose place is it anyway? Do non-residents like me and the American film-makers have the right or a responsibility to influence local opinion and show we care? If a place can be recognized as being of global significance, what safeguards and support can and should be given to local communities to protect that which is deemed as scarce?  The opinion broker, AVAAZ, has been effective in demonstrating that a global community can influence, even determine what happens in a locality.  How does that fit with an ethos of “self-determination” when local preference might be equated with “self-destruction” ??? Note: some of these questions parallel those raised in Andy Jerosz blog Challenges That Occur When You Meet the Locals discussed earlier here.

Regardless of your response to these questions, I urge you to help these film makers document the issue and its possible resolution. Given the doubling of tourism (as forecast by the UNWTO), you can safely expect that the Cinque Terra story will be commonplace and we’d better be ready to deal with this conundrum all over the world.

For up to date information about Cinque Terra, please visit

Screw Tourism As Usual – Will 2012 Be The Year To Make That Happen?

I’ve borrowed the title of this blog from Sir Richard Branson’s new book Screw Business as Usual partly to get your attention but also to flag the speed with which old concepts are being discarded in the business community at large.  2012 could well be that the year made infamous by the Mayans for being the year in which we tip from one Era to another.

Business gurus are climbing over each other to be the first or the loudest to refute Milton Friedman’s assertion that the purpose of business is exclusively to make a profit.

So let me add my prediction to the thousands that will litter the digitized airwaves over the next few months:

2012 will be the year the profit cart will be moved back behind the purpose horse and capitalism, as we knew it, will experience a profound makeover.

The current prophets of this emerging vision vary from seasoned corporate veterans such as Bill Gates, Tex Gunning of Unilever, John Mackey of Whole Foods (founder of the Conscious Capital Institute) and Joe Stengel (former CEO of  Proctor & Gamble & author of Grow) to perennial entrepreneurs like Richard Branson (author of Screw Business as Usual); upstart academics like Umair Haque (author of Betterness and the New Capitalist Manifesto)  and consultants/thinkers such as Fred Kofman, (Conscious Capitalism); Richard Barrett (The New Leadership Paradigm) and Steve Denning (Radical Management)

The names they have independently applied to describe this emergent form of capitalism also vary from Capitalism 2.0; Conscious Capitalism; Good Capitalism; Creative Capitalism, New Capitalism, Caring Capitalism and, thanks to Sir Richard, Capitalism 24092.

Despite the diversity of the pundits’ pedigree and their use of nomenclature, the message is the same and has three elements:

  • doing good is good for business and business is the only global institution whose people can make things better for all of us; and
  • conducting business as usual will only produce more of the same problems that challenge humanity today.
  • The enterprises that differentiate themselves by “making a difference” will enjoy higher brand equity and profitability than those focused primarily on profit.

Like many good yet revolutionary concepts, those underpinning Conscious Capitalism are not as young as the current spate of authors might have you believe. It’s important to recognize that these authors stand on the shoulders of giants whose names are not as familiar to contemporary audiences but whose thinking created the compost for the current flowering. My source of inspiration in the 1980s were Willis Harman, founder of the World Business Academy and John Renesch who first coined the phrase “conscious capitalism” in 1990 as Editor-in-Chief of New Leaders Press.  Sadly Willis passed away in 1997 unable to witness the revolution taking place now but one of his last interviews shows the clarity and prescience of this thinking. John Renesh is fortunately still very creative and his latest book, The Great Growing Up,  should be included in this anthology.

This is the reason why we’ve brought this debate to tourism through an initiative called Conscious Travel and we think 2012 is the year to start some serious conversations. We’re inviting members of one of the world’s most pervasive industries to stop, re-think and re-make how and why they do tourism. We’re asking them to “wake up” to the unexamined assumptions that have guided their behaviour;  to “grow up” and take more responsibility for all the stakeholders affected by their activities and to “step up” and join the pioneers listed above listed above.

Conscious Travel is a movement, a community and an e-learning platform designed to stimulate and nourish the capacity of tourism entrepreneurs to flourish in new market circumstances. For more information, review or contact founder, Anna Pollock at

Thank YOU

Before we proceed further into 2012, I just want to express my appreciation to all the individuals who have supported me with this initiative by giving me accommodation plus great food and wine, helpful feedback, financial support and moral encouragement; subscribing to the site; telling others to subscribe during 2011.


As I have learned to my cost in the past, timing is everything! But I know I have it right this time. The pace of change is staggering. 2012 will be the year when one Era, one paradigm will shift in front of our eyes. I now understand the saying in the Bible that “change can come in the twinkling of an eye”. All it takes is a change in perception and a desire to make a difference. In fact in 2012, I guarantee that product differentiation will all be related to how enterprises show they are making a difference.

At the same time, things may appear to get worse in 2012 – evidence for the stresses placed on nature by human action and the spillover impact on human societies will increase and accelerate. Many institutions will continue to resist and pray that business will return as usual. They will be sorely disappointed.

This is the year when individuals can really make a difference because we are not alone; we are all connected and we are and can create a better future for our children and grand children. The key to success in 2012 is to find kindred spirits and hold hands – so please encourage like minded souls to subscribe to this blog, make comments or “like” our Facebook page and follow our progress in New Zealand.

I write this from Auckland, New Zealand – a tourism destination that has a reputation for being innovative and resilient.  We’re planning to undertake a “roadshow” over the next two months in order to raise awareness of Conscious Travel and get input from these ingenious Kiwis for the emerging e-learning platform. More news on that to follow shortly.

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