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Walking the halls of hope and despair, WTM 2014

World Travel Market 2013, ExCel, London, ExCel, London


I confess I have never been wild about the World Travel Market – its central hall was the site of my personal “Road to Damascus” several years ago when I experienced the full extent to which tourism has become an industrial production and consumption machine.

I admit to being overwhelmed by the sheer scale, busyness and sterility of the event where products are pushed and deals done; brochures and media stuffed into plastic bags then discarded; and sustainable clichés fall like feathers from the upper galleries onto the hard selling activity in cubicles on the shop floor.

Walking the central hall this year I felt a visceral inner and outer tussle between despair and hope.

The number of “responsibility” seminars was, encouragingly, greater than ever before but still totally outnumbered and out attended by sessions devoted to trends, technology, social media, and market segments. Within the responsible tourism stream, the same pattern applied. Subjects like “Increasing the local economic impact” and ‘Using responsible travel to drive sales” attracted far more participants than subjects like reducing energy and water. (Note: I learned much from these sessions; applaud and thank organisers, speakers and Jeremy Smith for his excellent distillation: 10 things I learned from WTM 2014 with great links to speaker interviews)

There’s a simple explanation for the topic and attendance bias I suppose – the vast majority of people paid to attend WTM are engaged in marketing and sales. It is a market after all. But that explanation points to an issue that was hardly mentioned– and that’s the G-word: Growth. Tourism succeeds when it grows because we have defined success as more. Because growth is the goal, we allocate resources to the people, technology and processes that produce growth and measure our progress towards sustaining it.

And that leads me back to despair – because until we describe our predicament accurately and delve deeply into the root cause of the challenges we face, as an industry and as humanity, we’ll waste time and scarce resources tinkering at the edges. Our well intended “busyness” will keep thousands employed, produce endless conference fodder, and generate hundreds of checklists, certification bodies, “new” green initiatives, declarations and reports but won’t actually move us off the road to catastrophe.

The deeper problem is that more has become the end and not the means.

Somewhere in the last 60 years, while we’ve been so busy expanding, we’ve made it the responsibility of commerce to grow but not necessarily improve the lives of the community in which it takes place. GDP is used to measure growth in activity not welfare. We’ve become so used to growing and to the benefits that we believe it brings, that we’re literally hooked. We certainly behave like addicts. We seem to need more of it to feel its benefits. We complain and suffer when growth slows or stops. We associate a life without it as being uncomfortable at best and possibly life threatening at worse and we can also be blind to the hurt we cause ourselves and others.



As is also the case with addiction, the object of our craving is now causing more harm than good and producing a number of side effects that threaten our collective welfare. Many of these side effects – the pressure on biodiversity, the mistreatment of animals held captive; growth in human trafficking, and social inequity — were rightly included as responsible tourism topics at WTM. But climate change, universally recognized as one the biggest threats to human life and prosperity, was not officially assigned any airtime  this year despite the urgency now communicated by 97%+ of scientists (see Guardian summary). Climate change was not named as a topic in any of the seminar sessions. Yet climate change is surely a major and critically important symptom of an organ (in this case, our life supporting ecosphere), adjusting to the effects of an addiction afflicting its dominant species.

Addicts, we know, spend increasing amounts of time as their disease progresses, denying and concealing their dependence. The absence of sessions at WTM in which neither climate change nor the negative impacts of growth were officially discussed, and the complete absence of their mention in the brochure used to launch the “New” 10YFP Programme on Sustainable Tourism all signal avoidance behaviours classically used by addicts not yet ready for rehabilitation.

Finally, this statement from the Director of Sustainable Development of the UNWTO in the only article labeled “Responsible Tourism” in WTM Business,  shows what really matters:

“The tourism sector is embracing responsible tourism not as an option, but as a condition for its continuous growth

Forgive me if the thought of sterilized needles and methadone replacement comes to mind.

So What’s Wrong with Growth?

The problem is fundamentally a semantic one. The verb “to grow” has three meanings:

miriam webster

Over the course of time, we in tourism have assumed that more of an entity or state is better than equal or less over time. Look at any tourism strategy from the smallest of Convention and Visitor Bureaus, National Tourist Boards or even the UNWTO and you will see that the goal is to grow tourism by a percentage increase over its performance the previous year. Performance is measured in the trips, people, and their spending at the host destination. In short, size matters and the shared meaning of growth is MORE.

So what’s wrong with that?

Well, there wasn’t much wrong with that at all when we started out some 60 years ago deploying mass transport to enable working men and women and their families have a holiday, visit parts of their country or venture to foreign lands. The tourism “industry” sensibly applied what had proved to be a very proficient method of making and selling things – an industrial system of production and consumption and, as a consequence, during the span of one human lifetime, tourism became a global economic sector of enormous importance contributing 10% of GDP and keeping over 250 million people in a job.

Since World War 2, tourism has brought benefits to virtually every country; lifted people out of poverty through accessible employment; created an untold number of entrepreneurial opportunities; enabled millions to enjoy face-to-face encounters with people of very different cultures; help fill public treasuries with useful tax dollars that were applied to education, health care and other social services; supported the development of important infrastructure and provided billions of dollars in foreign exchange and investment capital.

Phew!  Surely that’s an accomplishment to be proud of?

Yes, it is. But it’s not the complete or honest story. It ignores the inefficiencies and inequities built into the industrial system that only become apparent over time. So duplicating that rate of growth going forward may not bring more “good” with it. There are reasons why continuing to grow bigger is neither desirable nor at all likely. Let’s tackle the issue of likelihood first.

It will be difficult to sustain such growth forever because the operating model on which it was based was designed in and for a different world. The conditions that ensured its success are fast disappearing.

The model flourished when energy was cheaply available from abundant, accessible sources of fossil fuel; when there were literally hundreds of new, virtually empty and exotic places to explore and cultures to get to know; when host communities needed cash and investment to play in a global cash economy; when there were vast quantities of resources, capital and know-how to deploy with limited debt to be paid; and when huge numbers of people were determined to put two decades of war behind them and improve their material well-being.

Continuing to grow in size is not desirable now simply because the world is full (1), and because the industrial model of production and consumption contains within it certain characteristics and flaws that worsen with time. For the purpose of this post, I’ll concentrate on just four of the biggest:

  1. Tourism generates wastes and uses resources at a rate that can be accommodated in its early stage of development but not sustained after it has reached a certain scale and pace of growth. Mitigating the negative effects of climate change (most of which will hurt tourism) now requires that all economies drastically reduce their production of COto zero by 2050. That is because the atmosphere can only absorb a finite amount of CO2 IF we wish to keep average temperatures at a level in which human society can flourish (see previous posts on subject here and here).
  2. Tourism is on a course that would increase its carbon contribution by 150% at precisely the time when it needs to focus on decreasing its absolute contribution to zero! Even if all ground operations became carbon-negative, the airline sector – vital to international tourism and responsible for 40% of tourism emissions now – will be a major contributor to the global total by 2050 if current forecast/ growth rates are achieved. Despite all the talk about being responsible, not a single nation has a carbon mitigation strategy for the tourism sector (2)
  3. With a human population expected to increase by a further 2.5 billion between now and 2050, tourism will also face increasing competition for land, water and food in areas where – thanks to the effects of climate change – public funds may be unable to cope with the basic needs of resident populations. According to UNEP (3), mass tourism leaves an average of 5 cents in the host country for every $1 spent by visitors.  As the costs of mitigation and adaptation to climate change and the demands of a burgeoning visitor population rise, where will these hosts find the resources to supply adequate waste management, security, health and transportation services in addition to meeting the needs of their own growing population?
  4. cheap travelMass tourism has a tendency to produce diminishing returns to investors and host communities over time. Tourism demand is highly volatile, seasonal and beyond the control of host destinations. When demand ebbs there is a tendency to discount and that response, combined with a lack of control over capacity, leads to a general fall in income per transaction. Price discounting necessitates either rigorous cost cutting or vertical and horizontal integration which can exacerbate a tendency for service levels and customer satisfaction to also decline.


What can we do?  There are two answers and the clue lies in the second and third definition of the verb “to grow.”

First, we re-define “growth” as better and second, we grow up!

Re-defining Growth As “Better and better for more”
Let’s shift our focus to a more inspiring end goal – enabling all stakeholders and especially the communities that welcome guests to flourish; in other words express and exude health and vitality; be resilient; open to change and qualitative development. In short thrive and prosper and become all they can be.

Let’s make sure the growth we get is:

  • honest (acknowledges and deals with costs and harm as enthusiastically as it promotes the benefits);
  • fair (ensures the benefits accrue to all stakeholders equitably); and
  • natural (is life enhancing and in harmony with the natural rhythms of life).

Let’s make sure that what host communities deliver and what guests experience constitute an antidote to the types of uneconomic growth that prevail today in many parts of the world:

  • jobless growth, where the economy grows but produces few jobs or ones that are poorly paid and erode the dignity and health of the worker;
  • ruthless growth, where the proceeds only benefit speculators,  and the rich or powerful:
  • voiceless growth, where economic growth is not accompanied by extensions of democracy or empowerment and where residents are deprived as say in who and how many guests they welcome; and
  • futureless growth, where the present generation squanders resources needed by future generations.

Note though: The challenge when discussing tourism from a global perspective is that it ignores the enormous variability in circumstances between destinations. Volume growth may be needed in many destinations where there is over capacity brought about by a “build it and they will come” approach. Conscious Travel is not only about generating higher yields but empowering hosts communities to make informed decisions about how much, what kind, where and when. In some instances, more visitors are needed to ensure vitality and resilience.

We Grow Up!
Growing from an adolescent to an adult requires understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around you personally; that you are a member of a community on which you depend and to which you are obliged. It’s a reciprocal relationship of respect and caring. It also recognizes that there are limits. You neither can nor wish to keep growing bigger. You expect to change as you pass into adulthood – both physically and emotionally. You look forward to exploring how you can express your uniqueness within the constraints set by your culture and environment. While sometimes you’ll kick against those constraints and may even succeed in redefining them; other times, you’ll see that they are useful and stimulate more creativity and innovation.

You stop growing bigger when you grow into adulthood – you mature; you start to want to express yourself; to become more, to stretch – but qualitatively not quantitatively. You want to contribute to a larger whole. You want to be the best you can be. You strive to go where no man has gone before. That yearning diminishes much more slowly than your body ages – take that from me!!

And this process is totally natural!

In nature, nothing grows forever except perhaps the universe itself,  (it’s been expanding outwards at a phenomenal rate for 13.7 billion years).

There are no straight lines in nature. What looks like a straight line in nature is simply a part of a fractal curve that appears throughout life itself. It has what sounds like a mysterious name – it’s called a Sigmoid curve. But Sigmoid is just Greek for the letter S and the curve describes the letter lying on its back and illustrates a natural cycle that pervades all life.

Butler TALC copy

Thanks to Dr. Butler, the tourism community is familiar with the Sigmoid Curve even though they aren’t recognized as such. Dr Butler introduced the most enduring model of tourism destination development but, while he correctly named it as the Tourism Area Life Cycle Model (TALC), he based it on a concept derived from the industrial model of production and consumption – the life cycle of products. It’s an indication of the author’s modesty, that Dr. Butler is surprised by its popularity, potency and durability (4).

The TALC model is applicable not just to individual resorts – each of which sits at its own unique point on the curve – but to mass industrial tourism as a whole. If you define success as volume – as opposed to net benefit – you’ll place mass tourism between stages 3 and 4 on the TALC curve. But if measured in terms of its net benefit then we’re most definitely at or approaching stage 4.


Evidence for Hope

We don’t need to tear down the old model. The alternative model is emerging all around unwto-report-cover-217x300us. Both need to co-exist while the alternative grows in strength and complexity. Several pioneers of a new, less harmful, more beneficial model were acknowledged and applauded by receiving Responsible Tourism Awards at WTM and many others attended and contributed to the sessions that accompanied the trading on the exhibit floor. At the WTM, the UNWTO and Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) launched their jointly produced Global Report on Adventure Tourism  in which ATTA revealed from its Industry Snapshot 2014 that an estimated  65.6% of the total trip cost of an adventure package remains in the destination(s) visited – a vast improvement on the 5% estimated by UNEP for mass tourism. Proof that there is huge potential to improve the net benefit to host destinations.

We don’t need any more divisions; no more “them” and “us”. Those of us who have been working in all aspects of the new, whether it be in sustainable, responsible, geo, fairtrade, or social tourism; whether our focus is on environment or social issues; or whether we’ve been involved for years or minutes, need now to join hands. Some can focus on building inspiring working prototypes of the new. Others can build bridges with the keepers of the old until it makes sense for them to move.

nature's timeless principleWhat we do need is coherent thinking as a “we” tied together by a common vision for humanity that can thrive and flourish on a living planet.

What we do need is to understand nature’s timeless principles to recognise when it’s time for transformation, maturation, evolution (5).

We also need courage to undertake a fearless inventory and speak the truth. It was Chris Doyle’s article for the WTM that persuaded me to attend and I was honoured to join him in the two lively and provocative sessions organized by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA).

This is the most exciting time to be alive. It’s the very first time in human history when individual humans have the capacity to be aware that their personal choices do matter in the evolutionary trajectory of a species, no less!

No wonder we’re being called to stop growing in size but in wisdom, insight, maturity and compassion. Because tourism plays such a direct role in connecting people to each other in places where they can experience the power and beauty of nature  and discover their true identity, we must step up into a much grander sense of purpose.

More of us must engage in the task of building a better model – shifting from one S curve to another.

It all makes that brightly lit central hallway in a box called Excel seem rather unappealing, don’t you think? There’s a mysterious and amazingly beautiful world of living beings out there in the sunshine by the river – let’s join them there and flourish.

References and Reading
(1) Economics in a Full World, Herman Daly, Scintific American September 2005. Download here 

(2) Climate Change Implications for Tourism University of Cambridge Download pdf here

(3) UNEP, Negative Economic Impacts of Tourism – available online here

(4) Tourism Area Life Cycle R.W. Butler,  in Contemporary Tourism Reviews, Goodfellow Publishers, Oxford, 2011

(5) See Giles Hutchins: Transformational Times Call For Transformational Minds.

Personal Note: This post is the first in a series of reflections about how tourism can flourish in a post carbon, post growth society. The “book,” which so many of my dear supporters have said I must write, is finally in the making. It will be so much better if you add your comments to these blogs, share and encourage others. No individual, no enterprise, no community can go it alone. The stakes are too high.


When will tourism industry start talking sensibly about tourism growth? Author Jeremy Smith, founder Travindy. Another call for this discussion to take place.

WTM 2015 Responsible Tourism Day – Shock and Awe
One year later in 2015, resistance to contemplating another model i.e. one that does not deed on volume growth acme very evident.

DO UNWTO Figues mislead?

Tourism What’s the Point ? (just in case we have forgotten)


An invitation to explore the beneficence of limits

Blond Boy CryingTell a two year old not to touch something (especially a yummy looking cake); to share their favourite toy; or it’s time for bed, and you’ll likely get an uncensored reaction, possibly a stamping of the feet, a defiant, screaming NO. It’s at this young age we have become self aware and must start to learn about limits. From the perspective of a two year old, however, limits are bad news!

Perhaps that is why the original reaction to the prescient work Limits to Growth* lead by Donella and Dennis Meadows in 1972 created such a furor of opposition. Was it “the child within” resisting what it perceived as an unpleasant and undesirable future and indicating that humanity as a whole hadn’t yet grown up?

The process of maturation is learning to live with limits and that they are not necessarily “bad”. In fact we know from experience that some form of constraint (an obstacle, a problem) are essential pre-requisites for creative-innovative responses. How many of you are of the type that needs a deadline to do your best work and delivers best when under pressure? Historians are showing that most great evolutionary-scale leaps occurred in response to an external force such as climate change that marked the end of one known and the beginning of an unknown.

Nine planetary boundaries

Planetary boundaries and safe operating space

As far as the ruling establishment on this planet is concerned, the term “limits” is still off limits. The term sustainability was adopted with varying levels of enthusiasm because its ambiguity creates a space for us to retain our cherished illusion – that we can grow materially for ever (i.e. produce, sell and buy more stuff or take more trips on a finite planet) without having first proven our ability to decouple use of material resources with such growth.

Another richer word for limit is boundary. It too indicates a confinement or restriction to operating within a fixed space or within a concept but “boundary” also marks a line between two entities or states and suggest that there is a point at which one can pass from one state to another.  It suggest that beyond the boundary lies another, different set of possibilities that may or may not be safe or desirable.

That’s why I think the work of Johan Rockstrom at the Stockhom Resilience Centre and UK-based Kate Raworth are so helpful. They have each in their field (Rockstrom -environment and Raworth -economics and social well being) have re-introduced the the notion of limits as creating a “safe operating space” in which to explore a better way to be.

Rockstrom and his colleagues identified 9 measurable planetary boundaries within which humanity and other life forms can potential survive and thrive. The attractive notion of this approach is that the earth’s natural abundance, combined with humanity’s collective intelligence and ingenuity, create huge possibilities for flourishing.

It turns out that the only real limit we must overcome is the self-imposed limit to our imagination.

Fortunately we don’t behave like two year olds forever – well most of us don’t. We grow up.

An Invitation from Johan Rockstrom and Me!
The core challenge facing the tourism community is to accept that we can’t grow the volume of travel (trips, literal and conceptual footprints) at 3-4% per year for ever unless we can prove we have decoupled that growth from resource use. Unfortunately, our track record for the latter is abysmal as identified by many scholars including Stefan Gosling and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. Yet, show me a destination strategy that doesn’t have as its mission and focus to grow tourism by some percentage compounded year on year?

I do acknowledge that there remain places where growth is needed  but by adopting a very different understanding of growth (net yield and quality – NOT quantity at any cost), they can avoid the problems experienced as “success” in many mature but also declining destinations – see Guardian article here.

Because I believe we have to dig deep below the superficial notions of sustainability (which is at best making a situation “less unsustainable”), I am taking advantage of an amazing opportunity – to learn from the great JR himself! The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (a Global Initiative for the United Nations) SDSN.EDU,  is offering several high level  courses for FREE, including one with Johan Rockstrom – Planetary Boundaries and Human Opportunities that starts on November 17th. I invite any readers of this blog or your colleagues to sign up and join me.

Perhaps together we can break through the limits of our imagination and explore ways of co-creating a better form of tourism that is better for all!

* there’s an animated slide deck describing the work and its relevance 42 years on here – you can turn the volume off and still get the message!

Goodness and Wisdom Come in Threes

View south from Bali's Mother Temple Besakih (c) Popanesh, Wikipedia

View south from Bali’s Mother Temple Besakih
(c) Popanesh, Wikipedia

For three hundred years or so, so-called western society has operated in the world shaped by an Old Story – the story of separation, scarcity, and fear that together generate a need by many to hoard and control. Over the past 60 or more years, that story has been spread to virtually very corner of the planet. In a material sense, that story has been wildly successful

  • Creating almost miraculous technological advances
  • Lifting millions out of poverty
  • Eliminating many diseases
  • Increasing life span
  • Making homo sapiens the dominant species on the planet.

It is this story that underpins such statements as “it’s the economy stupid” or the purpose of business is exclusively to make sound financial returns to shareholders. It is this story that insists the economy can and should grow forever and that recognises success as material acquisition; access to power or celebrity. This story did work – for a while. But it is now unraveling. It has, to use a modern phrase, outlived its “sell-by-date”. It has within it a fatal flaw that will cause a replacement to emerge. We’re living at that time in human history when we can consciously help shape a New Story that respects the awareness and knowledge created by the Old; that dips into the perennial indigenous wisdom that preceded it; and fuses to create a New Story fit for our times. This is not time for finding fault, blaming or finger pointing. The past was likely an important part of our development and many of our past achievements have created the jumping off point from which we can leap forward. It is a time though for us each in our own way to contribute towards a new story that, to repeat Buckminster Fuller, renders the old obsolete. The emerging New Story, like all stories based on ancient wisdom, acknowledges the necessity for attaining a balance between three variously-named elements: body, mind and spirit; the physical, mental and spiritual while also respecting the underlying three stages that all Life experiences; birth (the journey from whence it came); life (the experience of being here now); and death (our passage back home to our source). Such thoughts arise naturally when sitting in an exquisite Balinese compound adjacent to a family temple where my host’s family is enjoying timeless conviviality and companionship preparing offerings to the spirits that sustain such a balance. The Role of Bali in Conscious Travel It is fitting that I should find myself in Bali again as this is the place where my first awareness of the reality of this holy trinity was first awakened. Balinese society is a full expression of Tri Hita Kerana – living in a balanced relationship with God (Parahiyangan), Nature (Palemahan) and Community (Pawangan) – another three some! Here all life is animated and sacred; nature is art; and life is ceremony.Bali_panorama I am here at the invitation of the Bali Institute, established to foster a deeper appreciation of other cultures among young students and to develop ways of assisting Balinese youth take pride in their culture and find ways of developing livelihoods that that sustain and enrich rather than demean and undermine. If the task of modern man is to return to a right relationship with nature; to recognize that our role is not to have dominion over or exploit nature’s abundance; and to act as mindful stewards maintaining balance and preventing a descent into disorder and decay, then Bali has so very much to teach us and is the ideal place to learn.

Spot the amateur!

Spot the amateur!

It is perfectly true to say that the seeds of Conscious Travel were first sown here some 41 years ago on my first visit. In 1973, I experienced Ubud and Bali the way it had existed for centuries and without any of the trappings associated with modernity (no electricity, a handful of motorbikes, certainly no mobile phones) but with all the signs of an incredibly rich, creative, civilization that lived its values in every act of daily living. Without exaggeration, it is true to say that it was a transformative experience that started me on a spiritual journey. So it is fitting that, as I try to express the vision of a Conscious Travel, I have been brought back here to experience the seven principles still at work despite all the attempts to impose modernity. Three Conscious Hosts Thanks, in part, to my hosts at the Institute, I have been introduced to three Balinese individuals who are real exemplars of what it means to be a Conscious Host. I expect to find many more, but for now, allow me to introduce you briefly to:

Murni and Anna at Murni's House

Murni and Anna at Murni’s House

Murni Wayan who opened the first warung for visitors in Ubud, Murni’s Warung, just a year after I had left Ubud. It’s quite likely we met then as now we feel like sisters. I have spent most of my current visit at Murni’s Houses, the tranquil compound that is now Murni’s home near her warung on the Camphuan river and tasted many specialties at the Warung. The best part has been able to sit quietly in her home and enjoy gentle conversation that encompassed reminiscances of the past and our aspirations for the future.

Agung Rai and Anna at ARMA

Agung Rai and Anna at ARMA

Agung Rai, who has created an award winning ARMA museum and resort on the edge of his village Peliaten on the southern edge of Ubud that sustains the livelihoods of over 120 people. Gung Rai began by selling paintings to visitors on the beach in Kuta in 1973 – the place and time of my first visit. It too is highly likely that our paths crossed then. His achievements since are nothing short of staggering – having built an award winning resort, art gallery with a notable collection of Balinese art, two coffee shops and a Foundation that support local children learning to express their culture through all kinds of artistic media. He is deserving of close attention by any interested in the ways tourism can yield tangible net benefits to all engaged.

I Gusti Agung Prana, successful tourism entrepreneur and internationally recognized conservationist who lives and breathes “community-based tourism – CBT’. Agung Prana doesn’t just talk about CBT but is developing innovative ways whereby the visitor economy can become a vital force for sustaining a living culture and enriching the lives of those in their communities. As a member of Mengwi’s royal family, Agung Prana has worked with colleagues to achieve Unesco World Heritage status for the temple Taman Ayun Temple and surrounding subak (unique’s irrigation system that sustains rice production)

agung prana linda and marcia

Linda Dunkel, CEO; Marcia Jaffe Chair & Founder, with I Gusti Agung Prana at Puri Taman Sari

Agung Prana has also been responsible for proving that local communities, located on the sea’s edge, can regenerate and restore coral reefs and indigenous fish for the future benefit of future generations. The innovative “bio rock” technology was applied in Pemuteran, and after only a few years since the first structure was installed, results are amazing. Corals grow fast and healthily, fish life is abundant, invertebrates like crabs, sea slugs and shrimps are abundant and occupying every shelter inside the Biorock. This video of the work undertaken in partnership between German firm, the Permuteran Foundation created by Agung Prana and the village community inspires me with hope for the future of Bali and all communities that live near the sea. I’ll be staying at the Puri Taman Sari resort tomorrow, attending a Facilitative Leadership workshop thanks to Linda Dunkel, CEO, Marcia Jaffe, Chairman of The Bali Institute of Global Renewal. Plans for a Learning Community, involving the village and guests form elsewhere,  that fosters transformative learning and deep cultural exchange are underway for the village surrounding the Puri Taman Sari resort. I will share the stories of each host in subsequent posts as I get to know these inspiring individuals better. The Balinese are naturally modest and reluctant to “sound their own trumpet” but that’s no reason for those of us, who have been privileged to experience their commitment to achieving balance, to refrain from telling their story and supporting their efforts.

Climate Change: Implications for Business as Usual Tourism

icarus climate change report coverSeven years ago, several experts in sustainable tourism in Canada and I founded The Icarus Foundation and  published a report called the Climate Change Challenge; Implications for the Tourism Industry  urging destinations to develop a climate change strategy. It’s available from slideshare here.

Earlier this year,  another report, with virtually the same title  was prepared by a far more august institution – The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership report, Climate Change: Implications for Tourismsynthesizes the most pertinent findings of the Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (referred to as AR5) and is the most succinct, to-the-point summary of the subject available today.

On page 14, the Cambridge authors observed

“No country has yet developed a low-carbon tourism strategy, leaving the sector to find its own way to address climate change in the face of considerable uncertainties” and “The transition to low-carbon strategies by tourism will need to be initiated by the sector itself.

climate change implications for tourism coverIn the seven years that separated the two reports a significant event occurred – the global financial system almost collapsed and the tourism industry felt the pangs of contraction that absorbed its attention to the exclusion of all other factors. Even though the global economy is characterised by boom and bust cycles and even though that same economy was clearly experiencing a boom throughout the 90s, no one dared forecast a bust and many seemed surprised when it happened-  some actually believing that a new economic era had begun that defied normal economic gravity.

2013 marked the year when the tourism industry breathed a sigh of relief – tourism forecasts were almost back to normal with the UNWTO forecasting a 4.0-4.5% growth globally for 2014 and PATA forecasting visitor arrivals to the overall Asia Pacific region growing at an average rate of just over 6% per annum over the period 2013-2018.

Now please look at the destination strategies available in your region, and, if possible, name me one that does not start with or focus on a growth target – that’s a genuine request, by the way.

But how likely or desirable are such growth rates especially when you consider the base not to mention the converging change drivers buffeting the global economy from every angle and from within as well as without?  In 2012, international traffic passed the 1 billion mark in terms of trips across borders and domestic overnight travel was considered to outstrip that by a factor of 6-8.

My work on Conscious Travel was partially stimulated by the lack of consideration paid by the tourism industry to this critical issue – I felt we had to paint a picture of a better alternative to industrial tourism to encourage both reflection and action. Even though I disagreed with Milton Friedman on so many issues, I did subconsciously agree on this observation he made:

“Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available, until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable[i]

[i] Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, Chicago, Chicago University Press,1982)

The single biggest challenge tourism will face over the next decade could well be the withdrawal of a licence to operate as normal. We can expect attention to switch from % increase or decreases in carbon emissions to a focus on absolute carbon budgets. Despite its best efforts at “greening,” tourism’s growth will result in a tripling of emissions from transport and accommodation – a growth that cannot be ignored or talked away. Here are the key points made in the Cambridge summary – all of which suggest that “business as usual” a.k.a. “growth as usual” is highly unlikely – suggesting that a strategy of better, not more,  might be worth looking at more closely. I fully understand that there are many parts of the planet where tourism does need to grow demand if its host operators and communities are to enjoy a decent living but that in many others the question – when is enough enough? might apply. In this post I am, as are the Cambridge authors, looking at tourism as a whole.

These bullet points, extract from the Cambridge report,  will take you a few minutes to read but hopefully will engage you in hours of reflection and months of action if they are to have any meaning or purpose at all.

  • Calculations of the contribution of tourism to global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions range from 3.9% to 6% of human emissions with 4.9% the best estimate. As the world becomes more affluent, the sector is expected to grow by an average of 4% annually and reach 10% of global GDP within 10 years. The sector’s emissions are on a course to grow 130% between 2005 and 2035.
  • Tourism will be affected by policy changes and efforts to reduce GHG emissions causing global warning, especially in the context of the steep growth in its emissions. Emission from transport and the built environment account for 95% of tourism’s emissions, meaning that reductions from those two sectors will dictate much of its mitigation potential.
  • Coastal tourism is the largest component of the tourism industry with more than 60% of Europeans opting for beach holidays, and the segment accounting for more than 80% of US tourism revenues. Rising sea levels will have a profound and multiple impacts on coast tourism. For example, nearly a third of Caribbean resorts are less than 1 meter above the high water mark. Sea level rise of 1 meter would damage 49-60% of the region’s resort properties, lead to the loss or damage of 21 airports and inundate land around 35 ports. The cost of rebuilding tourist resorts in the region by 2050 is estimated at between US$10-23.3 billion. Beach erosion could reduce prices that operators can charge for accommodation.
  • Given the significance of its climate impact, tourism will come under significant pressure to reduce GHG emissions if governments enact policies to curb climate change in line with its target of keeping the rise in global average temperatures below a 2 degree increase over pre-industrial levels. These pressure will become all the more acute given the sector’s projected growth.
  • Under a business-as-usual scenario, the sector’s emissions are forecast to grow by 130% between 2005 and 2035; and emissions from air travel and accommodation are expected to triple. Studies show that for some countries, such as the UK, unrestricted growth of tourism would, by 2050, see the sector consuming the entire carbon budget available under a 20C scenario
  • Emissions reductions from improvements to fuel efficiency and technological fixes are expected to be offset by growth in tourism. Strong policy measures are likely to be necessary, especially to change passenger transport behavior, where “a large price signal” is needed.
  • Changes in lifestyle are therefore likely to be an important component of any effort to drive emissions reductions from tourism. Such changes might include, for example, a reduction in the demand for long-haul tourism in favour of holidaying more locally.
  • The tourism sector’s emissions are somewhat concentrated: for example air transport accounted for 43% of the sector’s emissions but only 17% of trips taken. Cruises tend also to have high associated emissions. This means that reducing demand in a few small subsectors of tourism could have a significant affect on emissions.
  • No country has yet developed a low-carbon tourism strategy, leaving the sector to find its own way to address climate change in the face of considerable uncertainties.
  • The sector will not be uniformly affected. Urban tourism will be less vulnerable than coastal tourism. Pilgrimage, family visits or gambling will be less affected than beach tourism, angling or nature watching. The relative attraction of destinations to tourists will change as temperatures rise, while climate change is already encouraging “last chance” tourism to threatened environments.
  • The sector will face significant climate impacts and is likely to be required to make a significant contribution to measures addressing global GHG emissions.

Other related posts from Conscious Travel

The Burning Issue of Carbon June 2013

Lessons Learned from Fair Tales, Extreme Weather and Bubbles

A licence to grow or get bigger – which do you choose? 

Breaking News

Skift report just published: Cheaper Airfares Are Great For Flyers, Terrible for the Environment
“A recent study found that when US budget carriers such as JetBlue, Spirit, Fronteir, Alaska and Southwest launch new routes, they drive down prices, charged by all carriers as much as as 67%”

It’s finally happened: Meet the First Town Forced to Re-locate thanks to Climate Change

The Art of Non-Doing

This post is an addendum to the previous post On Being, Seeing, Doing 

People often travel to “get away”,  “pause”, “chill”, “escape”, reflect.

Trips away often  act as punctuation marks in the narrative of our lives – creating spaces between one stage or another (after getting married; the end of a job; the completion of a major task etc.)

So it’s an irony that the tourism community appears so unwilling to spend time in reflection itself. We have few “think tanks” made up of industry leaders, advisors, and mentors compared to other sectors.

How often have you heard of a DMO or a major travel corporation taking its people away simply to BE together, with no bullet-pointed agenda (just listen to the language!); willing to see what emerged when defences were lowered, bread and wine were shared, and walks in wild places caused hair to frizzle or muscles to ache?

Being very operationally minded, and pressured by the perishability of the products sold, conference participants clamour for “best practices” , practical solutions; How To Manuals and checklists so they can get on and DO something.

I don’t want to leave the impression that I am some airy fairy thinker with her head in the clouds – because there is no shortage of things that we CAN DO TODAY to reduce the stress we place on natural systems.  BUT the truth is, we’re NOT reducing our impact despite all the busy-sounding, action oriented words, the reports, the manuals, the keynote speeches, the declarations, and codes etc.

As any of my kind readers will have observed, I am impressed with the work of Charles Eisenstein who, while clearly being both clever and deep, is also very practical AND positive. Do read his latest book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible for a collection of insightful, inspiring essays that will, in the spirit of the season, illuminate your Christmas break.

Sustainable Man have just made a short film combining interview snippets with Charles and illustrative imagery on the theme of non-doing that Charles explores in his book. Food for thought……

So whether your intent is to improve your performance, or chill, become more insightful, listen to your gut, then give yourself permission to do nothing but BE with your friends and family in the sense of being truly present with them and better still BE  outdoors in Nature and let Her talk to you. You’ll be amazed at what you might “see”

It takes TRUST to stop – especially when there’s a rising panic signalling that we should DO SOMETHING but as Jini Reddy has beautifully written here, it’s always worth applying when we are stuck. Trust as a Powerful Tool for Positive Change


Conscious Brands

A consistent theme of my blog that I hope has not gone unnoticed is that the scope and pace of change is engulfing us all now is unlike anything previously experienced. It’s not just the speed with which a new idea can now catch light and spread – look at the success of Airbnb and its many competitors – but the potential for its radical disruption of the norm. That’s because you are not looking at minor adjustments to business as usual but a fundamental shift in “Story” – the narrative, values, beliefs that we use to guide our choices and actions as individuals and as society. Once you understand the dimensions and characteristics of that shift, you will see all manner of  opportunity and implications.

Having said that, I am amazed at the relative lack of interest in such high/deep level analysis – most people in tourism seem content to be fed a diet of trends that often appear in international events almost at the point of being past their sell-by-date. Recently one tourism conference declared in 2013, that “experiential travel is now hot.”

Expect to see the word “conscious” appear with increasing and alarming frequency. Alarming because we all know how the force of a new idea can be significantly weakened with either repetition or mis-use. (the word “paradigm” comes to mind). By way of example, I am sharing the work of a relatively young New York agency “spark& honey” who describe themselves as “trend watchers and tacticians, strategists and savants, creatives and quants who  live to help brands hijack, accelerate and ignite culture”.

Here are two provocative slide decks – the first on Conscious Brands and the second on the Collaborative Economy. These are simply two manifestations of a deep shift in  values.

A year ago, we highlighted the emergence of Airbnb “10 Reasons Why Airbnb is an awesome Travel Enterprise . In this deck from spark & honey, you can see how the collaborative economy is creating new competitors from unlikely sources that are affecting hospitality and transportation more widely.


To be honest, I am tired of being told I am “ahead of my time” because as time speeds up, those who are considered to be “out front” might have something highly relevant to say. But if noses are permanently to the grindstone, their owners may not have noticed the acceleration!

On Being, Seeing, Then Doing – time to join up!

leading the way titleI recently spoke at the Adventure Travel World Summit 2013 in Namibia urging the members to respond to the acknowledgment made by the Secretary General of the UNWTO, Taleb Rifai, a year prior, that adventure travel was the future of tourism. I suggested that the adventure travel community faced the opportunity to lead all of tourism into a better future. I had 30 minutes to explain why mainstream, mass tourism, as currently practiced, was failing and how the adventure travel community could, through closer links with the indigenous tourism community, bring their clients closer to Nature and regenerate rather then harm local cultures and ecosystems. The last third of the talk was heart-felt and emotional and the audience responded enthusiastically. (The complete, annotated transcript for Leading the Way: The Adventure of Travel is here and slides here).

In response to the comment – “inspiring talk but short on practical solutions, ” I shall now try to explain how Conscious Travel differs from the multiplicity of complementary & supportive initiatives that already exist, that I applaud, that I don’t wish to duplicate or compete with and that are generating practical suggestions (carbon reduction, fair trade, sustainable building, culinary, tour practices etc.) based on expert knowledge.

(Ironically, after I had written this post but not yet published it, Jo Confino, editor of the Guardian Sustainable Business Section suggested that the sustainability movement was failing not for a lack for things to do but for the lack of a  compelling Story or vision: I recommend you check out the article and readers’  comments. )

The Motivation to ACT
Whether we’re motivated to change from fear of the negative consequences of inaction or by a positive desire to create something better, humans are conditioned to believe that we must “do something” and do it either quicker or faster than a perceived competitor. It’s the flight or fight response and since we can’t jump off the planet, the only action of choice is to “fight” the perceived problem and declare war on it. Panic is one state of being that seems to produce the greatest activity with often the least effect. Many of us are feeling a rising sense of panic.

In such a context, being given action plans, goals, and checklists is always attractive and reassuring. Posts and articles titled 10 top ways to ….get rich, get a date, find a great job, or get promoted etc. attract the most traffic.  They give us a sense of being in control and dull the pain associated with anxiety, confusion and a rising sense of inadequacy during a period of radical change.  That’s why we want our experts to sound confident. It’s scary when they say the present & future is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) and are honest enough to say they don’t know exactly what is going to happen next.

Nevertheless,  dishing out prescriptions was neither my intent nor focus at this time and here’s why:

  1. Humanity has all the resources (money, technology and innovative capacity) to address the environmental and social issues of our time but is failing to deploy. We’ve known what needs to be done for a quarter century.  The more important question is – why aren’t we getting on with doing? The tourism sector as a whole (with many great local exceptions of course) has been more resistant to structural and systemic change than most.
  2. Often what we’ve done in the past has often aggravated if not caused our present problems – especially when we’ve declared war on a problem. Or put another way “if you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  Even if we were to throw all the resources at our disposal to the problem, it’s very possible we’ll just create more complications from unanticipated consequences simply because we haven’t understood the root cause of our predicament. Until we do, history will continue to repeat itself. That’s why we need to “wake up.”
  3. In short there’s no point wasting precious time and resources developing the right answers to the wrong questions. The challenge we face as a species is framing the questions that matter – questions that “busyness,” political correctness, laziness and, sometimes, willful blindness, enable and encourage us to avoid.

bf quoteConscious Travel is not about blaming and shaming in an attempt to accelerate the demise of an operating model that no longer serves life on this planet. It doesn’t need to waste time pointing the finger as the old model is obsolete and in decay.

“This narrative of normal is crumbling on a systemic level too. We live today at a moment of transition between worlds. The institutions that have borne us through the centuries have lost their vitality; only with increasing self-delusion can we pretend they are sustainable. Our systems of money, politics, energy, medicine, education, and more are no longer delivering the benefits they once did (or seemed to). Their Utopian promise, so inspiring a century ago, recedes further every year. Millions of us know this; more and more, we hardly bother to pretend otherwise. Yet we seem helpless to change, helpless even to stop participating in industrial civilization’s rush over the cliff.” Charles Eisenstein (see

Nor is Conscious Travel  about more band aids, techno fixes, euphemistic yet deceitful phrases like “sustainable growth ” that are deployed to maintain business as usual.

active role quoteConscious Travel IS about encouraging and enabling participants in the visitor economy (the biggest economy on the planet to connect people face to face), to wake up and play an active role in the greatest drama of our time – namely the transition from an Old to new Story.

By “Story” we mean the amalgam of deeply embedded assumptions and beliefs that any culture uses to make sense of its world, frame its identity and shape its behavour.  Our Stories – sometimes called our worldview, paradigm, consciousness, and mindset – shape our relationships; how we spend our resources of time and money; and what we pay attention to.

For many years in a stable society, these stories were invisible, rarely analysed, dissected, described or questioned as a whole simply because they worked for most people and therefore, enjoyed majority participation and assent. Considered to be obvious and widely held, they needed no discussion. The Story and its subplots constituted the threads that held society together, the glue that bound individual to family to community; and both the lingua franca and protocols that enabled communication and transaction.

The old Story is now unraveling. We’re living in the space between two Stories. A new Story is emerging from within the cocoon called chaos.  That’s why it’s such an exciting and terrifying time to be alive. That’s why I refuse to discuss weight loss plans for an engorged caterpillar when it’s about to morph into a beautiful life form that’s able to defy gravity.

The Signposts of Yearning
In my ATWS presentation, I also quoted the French philospher-writer, Antoine St. Expury.

St Expury quote

The implication being that somehow yearning had to be aroused. But based on the enthusiastic response to my presentation and observations of what’s happening all around me, I now think the task is less one of arousal (ie evoking the desire to move on) and more to help people better envision where to move to.When our understanding of root cause is accurate and when our vision is clear and compelling we’ll take the right actions and bounce back faster should failures occur.

Signs of yearning are oozing from the cracks and crevices of the crumbling walls that hold up “business as usual”. We yearn for what’s missing in our lives – whether that is a state of being we once knew or a state of being we intuit could and should be known.  But our traditional ways of placating, fixing or avoiding those uncomfortable feelings of loss – such as drugs, drink, depression, exercise, eating, working, protesting and even adrenaline-infused adventures – no longer work.

Charles Eisenstein, a contemporary philosopher, raconteur, and author, articulates the many ways in which contemporary society fails us all, rich and poor.  Future opportunities lie in seeing those yearning as signposts towards a more beautiful world – and a more meaningful, healthy valuable visitor economy  – “that our hearts tell us is possible”.

Conscious Travel IS about doing – don’t get me wrong. We plan to create a form of travel and hospitality that provides sustainable livelihoods as well as deep levels of meaning and fulfillment for host and guest alike without chewing up and spitting out places and cultures. We also know you cannot create a new tourism from the same mindset that created the old. Task # 1 is to wake up and become aware of the filters of perception in order to complete Task # 2 the act of replacing them so that we can get on with Task # 3 building something better.

Being-Seeing-Doing4BEING (getting ready), precedes SEEING (aim) which must precede DOING (fire)

Conscious Travel is about working with hosts and places from the inside out.

It’s about turning off the auto-pilot – which enables us to wander in a trance – so we can make  mindful, aware, informed choices about who we are, what we yearn for, what matters to us, what’s worth preserving and what future is worth creating.

It’s about seeing – envisioning a better way of being hosts and guests. It’s about making visible what has been hidden (the assumptions that underpin our actions), making sure they still work for us and changing them if they don’t.

Then, and only then is Conscious Travel  about doing and  building new capacities – not to win an obsolete game (more of the same) but to create a new and different game altogether and then to excel at that. Our 12-Step Transformation Program is designed to take convert small groups of hosts in communities from passive participants in an obsolete economy into pro-active change agents capable of leading the way to a truly sustainable, flourishing local economy in which welcoming guests plays a key part.

Conscious Travel is designed to create a lifetime commitment to action learning and change leadership at the community level and develop the appetite for all the “how to” programs being developed by subject experts.

weight loss quoteWhat I am proposing isn’t for everybody – in fact it is likely to appeal to a minority – dreamers, thinkers, agitators who are the unreasonable and crazy ones among us.

Conscious Travel is for leaders, architects and builder – but builders of whole communities not those who specialise in bathroom renovations!

And these leaders will come from all parts of tourism. They are unlikely to carry a business card that says leader though. Individuals of modest or low status initiated all previous revolutions and major social shifts in our “his-story”.   That pattern prevails today. What’s different is that each of us is being asked to step into the role of revolutionary by contributing our unique talents, insights and gifts. What’s different is that our technology now supports the connection of individuals, the sharing of new ideas and their cross-fertilisation regardless of geography in seconds not years. We may feel alone – but we are not. Conscious Travel is a collaborative community of individuals holding hands while we step courageously into a better future of our own making.

Final Metaphor For Today
In my presentation to ATTA I agreed with Buckminster Fuller about not fighting existing reality but to focus on creating something new.The same wise man also said, There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.”

caterpillar to butterflyBut in this case, I’m not sure  Mr. Fuller had access to the same information as our generation. Science has, in fact, since discovered that within the caterpillar are cells that behave as if they know they are going to become the butterfly. They are called “imaginal cells” which exist in small number within the caterpillar for much its life and, while the caterpillar is healthy and active, are isolated from each other. Once the caterpillar enters its slumber in the cocoon, these cells start to multiply, and as their numbers grow, join up and merge and start to feed on the body mass of the caterpillar that turns into some form of nutritive soup. When the last of the soup has been absorbed by the new life form emerging from joined-up imaginal cells, it’s time for them to press open the confines of the cocoon and appear as a butterfly. It’s no coincidence that they are called imaginal cells because half the task is imagining the better world and dreaming it into existence.

Throughout this planet right now human imaginal cells are waking up and realizing that their time has come; they are not alone and it’s time to join up and get ready for a new life. Those of us involved in the travel and tourism community play a very important role in helping these human imaginal cells find and meet each other no matter where they might be on the planet. That’s a pretty meaningful role and a damm good reason to get up in the morning, don’t you think? And from where I sit, enough doing to last a lifetime if done consciously and to the best of one’s ability.

Conscious Travel is seeking associations, communities and small groups of hosts willing to explore road testing our transformation program. A one-day workshop is being prepared to initiate the “wake up” process that is specifically designed for hosts. For more information, please email reference WakeUp Call.

Charles Eisenstein is an author of three books: The Ascent of Humanity; Sacred Economics and The Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. He has admirably articulated how our Story emerged to shape the values & behaviour that underpin the western world; its current dissolution and the opportunity to support the emergence of a new Story. The video above has been clipped from a longer video 4:20 minutes created by Ian McKenzie called Occupy Wall Street: The Revolution is Love. 

Bali Soul Journals – for the conscious traveller

front & back flap BSJ

I am very pleased to provide a sneak preview of what I consider to be the best contemporary insight into the essence of Bali – as seen through the stories of 14 Balinese residents – beautifully compiled by writer Clare McAlaney and photographer Trish McNeill. Unknown to me at their time of writing, the authors included a chapter on Conscious Travel which I have re-posted here. Please view their original post here and Facebook page and wonder through their site to stimulate your appetite for the book.

I was honoured to be asked to write the Forward which I am posting below in the hopes it will make you beat a speedy path to the RESERVE NOW Section as it’s a sensory delight and full of wisdom, hope and humour.


Bali Soul Journals is no ordinary travelogue. It’s a tapestry that weaves storyteller, story, image and reader into one rich fabric – a precious insight into the essence of a unique place.

Wrap this fabric around you  (and it will drape around your shoulders like a silken shawl) to experience a contradictory array of emotions as all your senses are mysteriously activated. Awe, admiration, sadness, curiosity, wonder, pride, hope, despair, compassion and determination will likely be just some of the feelings evoked by the stories of an island and its people struggling to maintain its integrity and avoid a cultural unraveling.

Bali Soul Journals joyfully and gently educates – as in “draws out” – the conscious traveler who yearns to be a participant not voyeur, welcomed guest not tolerated consumer, contributor not exploiter. Bali’s sensuous landscape and profoundly rich culture come alive through the journals of fourteen Balinese who daily must balance economic imperatives with a compelling need to keep their cultural fabric intact. 

Balines Kites - image sourced from and © held by Bali Soul Journals

Balinese Kites – image sourced from and © held by Bali Soul Journals

Author, Clare McAlaney, and co-photographer, Trish McNeill,  successfully immerse readers in a virtual experience of Bali from the inside out, enabling them to hear stories that cannot penetrate the plate glass of a tour bus or compete with the din of musak, megaphone or motorcycle engine. There’s a gentleness to the writing, suffused with hope and belonging, that is quintessentially Balinese slowing your breathing, relaxing your shoulders and drawing you into the mystery beyond the temple walls,

Bali Soul Journals is the perfect inspiration for conscious travelers. The guide models a way of seeing, being and behaving in a place that could deliver a sustainable livelihood and enhanced dignity to the host while enriching and transforming the guest.

This publication arrives at a critical tipping point in the history of tourism. By turning what are sacred places in substitutable products (i.e. commodities), mass tourism has undermined its ability to create sustained wealth and well being. Only by celebrating the uniqueness of each place and re-weaving the many and various threads that comprise the complex yet delicate tapestry that is Bali, can both guest and host alike benefit from future encounters.

There’s no denying that Bali stands on a knife edge – mass tourism’s juggernaut is pulling apart so many of the threads that hold its fragile culture together. This book is both a rallying cry for visitors to wake up to the challenges their presence creates and an invitation to help co-create a more harmonious, respectful way of being together.

Post on Bali’s Impact I wrote in March 2010 –

Leading the Way: The Adventure of Travel

The theme of ATTA’S Adventure Travel World Summit  2013 conference (#ATWS2013) was imagine, inspire and invest:

atws 4

and both the organisers (ATTA) and the host country (Namibia) delivered in spades!  The conference was excellent and the week spent before with the WINTA family utterly unforgettable and transformative. Still trying to find the words to describe so many impressions and insights. So much joy, and sharing!


Shannon Stowell, CEO of ATTA accepts Talking Stick from Chief Ian Campbell

In the meantime, here’s my presentation – I’ve added various links to the paper in case people want to go into more depth (click on title to download)

Paper: Leading the Way: The Adventure of Travel

Slide Deck Only

and just in case you weren’t sure of its relevance, remember the words of Carl Sagan, and if you are too young to know who he was, look him up on Google!

Adventure in Namibia – proving the power of community based conservation and tourism

Excitement is mounting! In less than four hours I start my journey to Namibia to participate in the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s annual World Summit (2013).

It’s such a privilege for many reasons:

1. Namibia leads the world in wildlife conservancy because it made a courageous choice that at the time bucked the trend. Shortly after independence, Namibia was the first country to include the protection of the environment in its constitution. For the first time, rural residents on communal land could have the same rights over wildlife as private farmers, enabling them to operate tourism and trophy hunting businesses and to diversify incomes away from farming. There are now 79 communal conservancies covering 19.5% of Namibia’s land, with one in five rural Namibians living in a conservancy.

A whopping 42% of Namibia is under conservation management and the entire coastline (some 1000 miles) is protected.

elephants caprivi 1

Photo by Helge Denker (c) WWF Namibia

As a result of this visionary choice and the dedication of Namibia’s peoples, wildlife populations are flourishing.

I am looking forward to learning first hand how the Namibians have develop their Community-based Natural Resource Management Program

ATTA President, Shannon Stowell,  has written a mouth watering account of his first visit in the National Geographic here

2. Namibia is not just protecting its biosphere but the “ethnosphere” (Wade Davies’ term for cultural diversity) is getting a helping hand too as the conservancies provide the means for indigenous peoples to maintain their way of life and source income froum conservancy and tourism.

I am travelling as guest of Namibia and the WWF with a group of dear friends and colleagues from the World Indigenous Tourism Alliance (WINTA) to visit a number of community-based, indigenous tourism operations in the country. Included in our itinerary are visits to:

  • Mafwe Living Culture Museum, Zambezi Region (formerly Caprivi Region)This is a formal enterprise that provides visitors insights into the traditional culture of the Mafwe people.
  • Kwe San, who have established a guide training program to help ensure the world famous tracking skills of the San people are not lost among the young generation.
  • Ovambo Community, Sheya Shushona Conservancy. This conservancy has partnered with an investor to build a Joint Venture (JV) Lodge.

On October 25th, some 250 participants in Namibia’s tourism sector are attending an Indigenous Tourism conference at which my WINTA friends will speak.

I am so impressed by the achievements of our Namibian hosts and will do my best to share experiences of the next two weeks. It’s a trip of a lifetime and a story that must be told. Enjoy this video and please follow the adventure!

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