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There’s More Than One “P” That Matters in Business

I admit I have recycled, with glee, the title of this blog from a section heading on page 19 of the B Team’s new report, New Ways of Working. As I am almost half way through writing my own book on Conscious Travel, reading B Team’s report supplied that extra boost of encouragement I needed. Thank you B Team!

Those of you have followed and supported me in developing Conscious Travel over the past few months know that I have a penchant for alliteration and have also been using “P” words to organize and express the elements of the Conscious Travel model for a while now.

So I am in complete agreement with the statement that there’s more than one “P” that matters in business. In fact, in the domain called tourism and hospitality there are nine, all in support of the crucial 10th, which stands for Profit.

Conscious Travel is a way of thinking about the travel, tourism and hospitality that reflects a new paradigm, perspective or worldview that is rapidly emerging throughout humanity across the globe. It is a conceptual model designed to empower communities who want to welcome and serve guests in a manner that enables all parties to flourish.

INDUSTRIAL MODEL GRAPHIC REV JAN 31Our global $6+ trillion industry, which caters to the needs of over 1 billion international visitors and 6-8 times that number of domestic travellers, grew up on an industrial model of production and consumption that is showing serious signs of wear and tear. The operating model, which underpinned the activities and efforts of literally millions of hosts, was distilled by marketer Philip Kotler into the five famous “Ps” of product, price, placement, promotion and profit – as illustrated to the left.

The elements were deliberately placed against the background of a six-sided box or door-less room to remind us that the industrial model references neat mechanical metaphors in which the linear connections and edges can be precisely delineated and measured.

In the proposed alternative model, I applied the P initials partly as an aide memoire and to help compare old and new. Note: the new set is not designed to replace but enhance the old.

compass model revised 26th JanSo in the new model, I deployed a different metaphor, envisioning its “Ps” as pointers on a compass with each of the points acting as signposts towards a topic. The centre of the compass acts like an axle on a wheel or hub in a community pulling the eight points into a coherent whole and can be named either Perspective or Paradigm. It contains the assumptions or perceptual filters on which the model is based. The compass was depicted against the organic background of a rain forest ecosystem to remind us that Nature is a system and has much to teach us.

Every conceptual model is based on a set of assumptions, values and beliefs but few creators bother to articulate them. The assumptions underpinning Conscious Travel are listed as follows. (Readers who seek a deeper account, may go here: Perspectives Underpinning Conscious Travel)

  1. The old industrial model of production and consumption deployed by mass industrial tourism is past its sell-by-date and in danger of inflicting more harm than good on host communities.
  2. root cause 4The multiple problems being experienced today are symptoms of a deeper root cause; an erroneous and obsolete way of seeing the world and humans’ place in it.
  3. A global shift in human awareness has begun, is accelerating and will affect the evolutionary trajectory of all life on the planet.
  4. We have the capacity to shift from an extractive to a regenerative economy geared towards the flourishing of all its stakeholders.
  5. The  shift is from a focus on growth, as in more, to a more qualitative development, as in better, and from generating benefits to a few to  more equitable distribution to the many.
  6. The work starts within each individual as they self-reflect and chose to change the values, beliefs and assumptions that have consciously and unconsciously shaped their behaviour. It is then sustained in collaborative learning communities that shape hosts into agents of change.

Based on those assumptions, the model simply organises emergent thinking into eight inter-related, inter-dependent compass points relevant to travel and hospitality as an aid for deeper reflection and inquiry.

The goal is to co-create, community by community, “an environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling tourism economy” that enables all its stakeholders to thrive and flourish.

Bearing those assumptions in mind, let’s look briefly at what each of the compass points to:

Purpose – Of the eight key Principles and Practices in the Conscious Travel Compass, the Antique CompassPurpose Principle provides the primary point of orientation, pulling the other seven principles together into a coherent whole. Purpose is the glue that holds an organization or community together, the amniotic fluid that nourishes its life force, and is the juice that helps everyone flow and animates activity (1). Evidence is accumulating that companies committed to serving a higher purpose actually generate more profit than those who focus exclusively on maximizing profits to shareholders.

Humans are meaning seeking beings whose full potential is expressed when we apply ourselves to an aspiration that stretches and expands our sense of self. When a company can tap into and align its community around a shared sense of purpose, it unleashes unparalleled levels of effort and creativity. This observation, made by the founder of Tom’s Shoes, summarizes the value to be had by having a clear purpose:

“the greatest competitive advantage is to allow your employees to be part of something. Something bigger than what you are doing.”

The visitor economy has so many ways in which it can change lives and circumstances for the better. It is for each enterprise and destination community to identify, resonate and express why it stands for.

People – tourism is essentially about human beings having an encounter with other human beings who live in other places. Despite the fact that tourism is really all about relationships and feelings, the industrial emphasis on product, productivity, price and turnover has, in many cases, automated, standardized and thereby de-humanized those encounters. Corporations spend millions measuring and trying to improve “engagement” – a sterile, mechanical word for passion and enthusiasm. Gallup tells us that only 13% of employees world-wide are engaged at work – does that mean then that we are being served by zombies most of the time? No wonder margins are thin and thinning!See my previous post on this topic.

 

passionate peopleThe biggest challenge and opportunity for revitalizing tourism is to “breath some life back in to it” i.e. “inspire” the people, the human beings  who serve and inspire their guests. But that will take more than words. You have to create the conditions whereby employees feel valued, respected and cared for and have a deep sense of meaning and purpose. Hardly the track record that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) associates with tourism!But now just read this observation from Raj Sisodia and John Mackey, co-authors of Conscious Capitalism and observe the shift in your energy.

“Imagine a business that is born out of a dream about how the world could be and should be. The founders are on fire to create something of relevance, resonance and permanence – a business that will far outlive them, that delivers real value of multiple kinds to everyone it touches.”

Passion and caring are both attractive and infectious. A real sense of purpose combined with an aligned, passionate workforce is an unstoppable force.

Place – this is one of three key Ps in the whole Conscious Travel model. The essence of tourism is to have an encounter in another PLACE, one different to the place called home, and one full of magic and surprise simply because your experience of it is unique to you in time and in space. The experience can never be repeated only remembered. Its mystery exists to be unveiled and known through all your senses.Your deepest knowing tells you that each place is sacred if approached the right way.

But so often the tourism industry treats it as just another product, a piece of background for the all-important transaction and you the guest are simply a PAX or ADR on legs.  A critically important part of the Conscious Travel model involves awakening hosts’ sensibilities to the uniqueness of the place they depend on, to fully experience wonder and awe and, in particular, to heal and enliven our connection with Nature.Unless hosts are still in love with the place they call home, on fire with genuine enthusiasm, how can they spark the imagination of their guests? That’s also why we work very closely with and are learning much from our indigenous colleagues at the World Indigenous Tourism Alliance. These brief words of Luther Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief explain why:

Lakota people know that a man’s heart away from nature becomes hard; we know that lack of respect for living, growing things soon lead to a lack of respect for humans too. So we keep our children close to nature’s softening influence.

Power – to effect change, and to accelerate the shift to a better way of living on this planet requires agency – the ability to influence, inspire and engage others. In the Conscious Travel context, we’re not talking about power over or the power to exploit but power as in the energy, drive, and infectious enthusiasm that wells up when you know you are living on purpose; when you are serving something bigger than you; when you are in the flow.

empowerment wave with link to postThe Internet has been a transformative force shifting power – first, from companies to customers in the marketplace, second, from employers to employees in the workplace and now empowering individuals to affect their community.

Today, people can combine their power at a speed and scale unimaginable just a few years ago. Bottom-up Movements and business models are giving agency to people and challenging existing institutions http://www.purpose.com

Another key objective of Conscious Travel is to attract, nurture and empower hosts to become community change agents who protect and regenerate culture and nature at home. In many cases that involves taking a stand on issues and attracting support. It also means tapping into a wealth of creativity and ingenuity that all communities possess but which they have traditionally been persuaded to devalue. The opening page of the B-team’s report summarizes this call perfectly:

Create thriving communities
Listen to the needs of your employees
And create an environment
That helps them
Thrive

The remaining four principles are:

Protection encompasses the activities necessary to protect and, where necessary, heal and rejuvenate the nature and culture of a place and ensure that the operations of the business generate minimum waste, zero carbon, and use earth’s resources sparingly. Many of the activities associated with this principle (energy, water and waste management) are described as sustainable activities and left to specific departments and specialists. They are put in a conceptual box called CSR.But now is the time to move way beyond compliance and obligation to a positive, joyful partnership with Nature that enlivens and nourishes.

I have avoided the use of the dreaded “S” word partly because perception and attitude are as important as techniques. The model encourages host communities to frame the challenges in terms that are relevant to their situation and to trust in their ability as stewards of Nature to take guidance from Her and tap into the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the community.

Proximity – this is a P word for Local. I believe that all travel is local (once the guest has arrived) and needs to benefit the host community in ways that the community wishes and needs. Sadly this is not the norm. Ideally, as many of the resources consumed by tourists should have been grown and or made in the locality or as close to the point of consumption as possible.

a taste of slowPace is the P word for slow. Conscious Hosts will learn how to gently slow down their guests to be able to apply all their senses to the savouring of a place such they discover endless reasons why they should stay longer and not need to rush all over the place. The goal is not just deep satisfaction but highly subjective, personal transformation. Hosts master the art of design deep experiences that touch all the senses and intelligences of a guest.

Pull – having journeyed around the eight points of the compass a Conscious Host will know who she is; what she stands for; will be able to inspire meaning and purpose in her team and extend hospitality in a way that expresses a unique sense of the place; and develop the vision and confidence to step out as an agent of change to protect the culture and nature that supports her endeavour. By acting with authenticity and integrity,  conscious hosts will beam forth their uniqueness to the marketplace and, skilled in current methods, attract (pull) the right customer who will value what the host can offer, and the right employee or fellow host (employee, staff member or supplier) who can best represent and express the host culture when taking care of the guest.

This is just a taster of how my thinking is developing and to express my appreciation to the B-team and many of the authors they refer to in the report who are acting as my mentors and tutors.

As I have said many times before, Conscious Travel is not offered as a competitor to responsible, sustainable, geo, green approaches but simply as an integrating philosophy; a mode of seeing, being and doing that is more “fit for our times” than fragmented, discrete actions and policies that focus on one point of the compass and remain unaware of the impact of and on the others. We look forward to working with and in support of the many brilliant operational specialists working tirelessly to create a better tourism and hope you respond positively to this contribution and be interested in collaborating.

(1) The error is described beautifully here: http://eprints.brighton.ac.uk/7178/1/Epistemological_Error_-_May_2010.pdf

Hacking History (Part 2) The Internet’s Third Power Shift

In the previous post, we considered how mega change happens and pointed to the thought-leaders, technologies and demographics that worked in combination to shift power from companies to consumers. That’s not news, or shouldn’t be, for most of you. What might be news, however, is the fact that we are about to see an equivalent shift in the relationship between corporations and employees and the emergence of far more fluid organisational structures to get work done. I am not confident that the current industrial structure supporting mass tourism can reverse an opposing trend – i.e., declining wages, deteriorating working conditions, less security… Hence the need to focus on an alternative.

 

follow-your-blissThe workforce has divided into two camps – those holding onto a job (employees) and those who, by choice or necessity, broke free or were pushed into becoming self-employed, free lancers, sole traders and volunteers or who joined or started social enterprises, collectives, NGOs, not-for-profits and worker-directed companies. The Internet has been awash with sites encouraging and showing people how to “follow their bliss,” “make a difference”, find “meaning and purpose” and “financial freedom” by running their own business. It’s also become clear that anyone with a smartphone can potentially execute a bright idea by pulling together creative, talented but virtual teams, deploying software rented from the cloud and crowd fund it from micro investors.

The internet initially shifted power in the marketplace and is now enabling a major political shift. Social media is being used to mobilise people on an unprecedented scale with a degree of spontaneity and surprise unseen before. Occupy Wall Street was spawned by the Egyptian uprising and within two-three years we witnessed expressions of public dissatisfaction in Iceland, Ukraine, Brazil etc. Less visible but more impactful was the explosive growth in online petitioning and crowd funding. Now the shift is moving into the third arena: the workplace and the Millennials are the push force. The 2015 Deloitte Millennial survey, is a must read for all employers and it will be a subject of a later post. Right now, two paragraphs from the front page summarise the core message:

Millennials overwhelmingly believe that business needs a reset in terms of paying as much attention to people and purpose as it does products and profit. 75% believe businesses are too fixated on their own agendas and not focused enough on helping to improve society.

The message is clear: when looking at their career goals, today’s Millennials are just as interested in how a business develops its people and its contribution to society as they are in its profits. These findings should be viewed as a valuable alarm to the business community, particularly in developed markets, that they need to change the way they engage Millennial talent or risk being left behind.

key sources of economic valueIBM’s annual survey of CEOs around the world, Leading Through Connections, the corporate world appeared to have recognised that human capital had become its most important source of economic value but do they really understand the full nature of change going within their workforce? They spend hundreds of millions measuring “engagement” but from the company’s point of view.

Preoccupation with developing meaningful conversations with consumers has blinded many companies to the plain truth that customers and employees share one thing in common – they are human beings!

If companies are having to become customer centric, then why won’t they be required to become employer centric too?

Failure to recognise this power shift constitutes a huge opportunity cost and will soon become the factor that separates success from failure. The Manpower Group’s talent survey shows that 36% of companies are having trouble filling staff shortages now – the highest proportion since the pre-recession boom year of 2007. Bill Jensen in Hack the Science of Engagement! cogently argues that companies need to ruthlessly examine just how self centred (as in employer centric) they really are and how out of synch with the motivations and aspirations of today’s workforce. Just look again at how engagement is defined:

“the extent to which employees are motivated to contribute to organizational success, and are willing to apply discretionary effort to accomplish tasks important to achieve organizational goals.” (Source: 2014 IBM Smarter Workforce Study.)

Jensen’s team asked several truly employee centric questions. First of all they assessed the degree to which employees were optimistic, happy , hopeful and harbouring dreams for personal growth and success. Despite all the challenges of making a living as a “worker” the results were remarkably upbeat. 79 per cent happy

The workforce is NOT disengaged from working on what matters to them… They are very engaged in their hopes and dreams!

 

9.8 dreamsBUT – and it’s a big but, they are extremely frustrated with businesses’s lack of caring, desire and willingness to be a vehicle for achieving their dreams and goals. Only 29% said they thought they could achieve their goals where they currently worked. But it’s worse than that. When you subtract from the total those workers in executive or entrepreneurial positions and environments, the 29% figure drops to 9.8%!

That means that 9 in 10 employees have dreams that they don’t expect to fulfil by staying with their current employer!!

So what does all this have to do with tourism and hospitality? It is no coincidence that when you look at the Conscious Travel compass of its eight principles and practices, the foundational four are Purpose, People, Place and Power. They work with the principles of Protection, Proximity, Pace, and Pull  to support the goal of building a visitor economy that enables all its stakeholder to flourish – to fulfil their potential as passionate, fully alive human beings.

PEOPLE is positioned as the second most important Principle and Practice in the Conscious Travel Model to remind us that for, a visitor economy to survive and flourish through the next decade, we must shift our focus from moving “product” to growing people. That’s because consumers are not mere consumption units (passenger nights, revenues per room) but people and people that talk to one another, and try to help each other. Consumers are also employees, shareholders, voters, investors, association members, family members, lovers, friends and, in short, human beings – all steadily, uniquely, consciously or unconsciously engaged in a lifelong journey of experience and self-discovery as described in the 1950’s by Maslow as a Hierarchy of Needs from survival to self-actualisation.

Companies that help individuals – be they customers or employees – move up that hierarchy, regardless of where their customer sits on it, will be the winners regardless of the sector in which they operate.

We have examples of both worst and best practices to learn from. The revenue battering trend of commoditisation  has caused many instances of poor labor practices, labour unrest, low wages, high turnover, zero hour contracts and pitiful levels of engagement. Some parts of the industry have grown by deploying an extractive approache more suited to mining. This comment was made by an industry analyst within the airline sector:

What we have is a race to the bottom in the mass market segment – ever restrictive ticketing conditions; customers forced to pay for anything extra; the slow and inexorable reduction in in-flight catering…This has been dubbed the “Gotcha” economy – that successful companies go out of their way to create conditions in the fine print that lead to consumers paying extra fees and penalties. (1) (2)

peak bookBut the good news is that there are many excellent examples of leaders who have put their employees welfare first and as a consequence enjoyed higher profits and greater resilience. Pioneering leaders like Kelleher at Southwest Airlines, Chip Conley founder of Joie de Vivre and PEAK, Mike Dapatie formerly CEO of Kimpton Hotels, Danny Meyer successful New York restauranteur and creator of Hospitality Quotient, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and Fairmont are all examples of live up to the definition of a Conscious Host – a host who cares.

Conscious hosts create places that care simply because the people at each place (be it a B& B, a boutique hotel, the site of an activity, tour or event) genuinely CARE about their guest, the environment on which they depend and each other. They also care about the vitality of the local economy; the culture of the host community, the viability and responsibility of suppliers, and the needs of shareholders to see a return on their investment. So yes, Bill Jensen, Chip Conley, Danny Meyer I am with you – let’s Hack the Science of Engagement and talk about Passion instead.

When all the stakeholders associated with a place share a common purpose and can express their passion for their place through their work, profits will follow.

PS. An economist I really admire is Robert Reich who offers a more jaundiced view on employee prospects here. Why Wages Won’t Rise. I think he hasn’t fully appreciated the change that is occurring in the creative economy. The jury is out as to whether or when progress there will spill into traditional manufacturing. Another analyst is Jeremy Rifkin whose Zero Marginal Cost Society is a must read and far more optimistic. The three of us are boomers so what do we really know – it’s those of you born after 1980 like the founders of Airbnb who will surprise and delight us all.

PPS Breaking News: The B Team and Virgin Unite have weighed into the debate by publishing a synthesis of latest thinking on the topic New Ways of Working. It provided authoritative evidence that Conscious Travel is on the right track.

See also: Conscious Hosts Create Place That Care

(1) http://airlineanalysts.com/2012/09/19/a-race-to-the-bottom-low-cost-carriers-and-the- gotcha-economy/ (2) http://redtape.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/09/07/13710824-the-truth-comes-out-ceo-says- stupid-consumers-deserve-hefty-fees?lite

Tourism: a Time of Leadership or a Time For Leadership?

For as long as I have been working in tourism, I have heard its “leaders” (presumed by society to be the heads of global agencies or multinationals) complain of a lack of media attention and the failure of governments to take it seriously or to give its tourism ministers political clout.

Based on the spate of headlines since mid April, it looks as if that situation is changing – but whether that is for the better or for the worse depends very much on your point of view.

The first event to grab the headlines was WTTC’s 13th Annual Global Summit under an ironic theme “A Time For Leadership”. Ironic because that title implies leadership has been absent the past.  Ironic because WTTC’s claim to be “The Authority of World Travel and Tourism” suggests that it’s the group that must take responsibility for any previous leadership vacuums.

The BBC’s 6 minute, Fastrack program sensed as much and viewing it is worth the investment of your time. I can’t embed the video but click on this link and the image to view.

fastrack

The tone of Rajan Datar’s report cast doubt on the ambitious claims made by the leaders at the event that:

a.) “travel and tourism can be a catalyst for change – alleviating global poverty, inequality and even environmental damage” and

b.) that tourism’s continued “growth”  and sustainability are not mutually exclusive.

……..

overbooked

About five days later Tourism made headlines again with Simon and Schuster’s  release of Elisabeth Becker’s opus, Overbooked in which this eminent journalist and editor “discovers” that tourism isn’t quite the frivolous, fun preoccupation that only gets mention in the travel pages of most media but, instead,  a giant business sector, an industrial phenomenon and now the world’s largest employer.

While nowhere near as hard hitting as Leon Hickmans’s earlier analysis outlined in the The Last Call published in 2007, Ms. Becker’s account doesn’t shirk from identifying the environmental and socially destructive impacts of this industrial contributor to globalization. She makes the following conclusion which, as you can imagine, gave me some comfort and encouragement:

For the emerging middle class around the world, travel is a right of passage. Travel is the reward for hard work and proof that one has arrived. Yet with every right comes responsibility, and protecting the world’s beauties would seem obvious by demanding that the industry respect local culture, heritage and the environment.

Sadly, Ms. Becker’s  account of tourism’s dark side isn’t news to any of us – the members of the Facebook Group Irresponsible Tourism  and RTNetworking are doing a great job of highlighting our internal challenges that cannot be ignored. What I did find interesting was her perplexity around the fact that tourism as an industry is subject to so little scrutiny. She could see that governments like the revenue, the investment and support for infrastructure and its provision of jobs etc. but there seems either some collective shame associated with this source of benefit or some form of innate snobbery – as if the glitteratti see no need to know what goes on below decks or behind the swing doors to the kitchen.

Having read the book, I don’t feel Ms Becker ever gets to the bottom of that paradox. Is tourism the prodigal son that leaves home to make some remittance money for a family that would prefer not to delve into how that wealth was derived as they simply don’t want to stop the flow?

There’s no doubt now that tourism is associated with huge wealth creation – you don’t sneeze at $6.3 trillion – but,  as volume demand continues on a finite planet, and evidence mounts that this wealth doesn’t evenly benefit the 10% of the world’s labour force engaged in it, you’ll see more headlines like “Is Tourism the Most Destructive Enterprise?” or “Tourists Today: Trample Distrust and Destroy.”

is tourism destructive headline

tourism trample disrupt destroy

………………….

So – Is it a Time of Leadership or a Time For Leadership?

Answering this question addresses Becker’s initial query – why doesn’t tourism get the same attention as other sectors?

I believe tourism will get the attention it deserves when it wakes up, grows up and steps up. Right now its dominant form – the “mass industrial model” is operating like an adolescent resisting any need to take responsibility for the whole. There is a paucity of Leadership and vision from the top – a situation not peculiar to tourism. All you seem to hear is a request for more favours, more concessions while at the same time expounding how well tourism is bouncing back and – now – potentially capable of saving the global economy no less!

It is, on the other hand, a time FOR leadership – a time for hosts and host communities to ensure they attract the kind of tourism they want and that generates net benefit.  It will be a different kind of leadership – emerging from ordinary citizens, community by community as is being shown by all those individuals pushing the responsible, sustainable, fair agenda forward.

I most certainly am not anti tourism – conducted properly it can create a far greater value than has been realized to date. In fact, as has been shown throughout this web site; the issue is one of value and “wellth” generation. But I am disappointed with the self serving complacency, denial, arrogance and self-satisfaction of those who, despite all the resources at their disposal, continue to repeat hollow sounding platitudes and ignore the truth.

Every other aspect of human endeavour – healthcare, education, retailing, food and energy production, capitalism, economics and politics is going through a radical re-think. It’s time tourism recognized the time for partying is over and it must come to the family table with constructive ideas as to how to face the issues affecting the community as a whole. I think that might have been what Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO was alluding to when he said in the BBC clip “ the more they (countries) become conscious of their responsibility, the more they can perfect their investment in what is right and good”.

The real task then is to shift consciousness as in awareness, purpose and priorities. Without such a shift in mindset that determines what we value, then “tourism as usual” will grow in size and impact with diminishing to negative returns. That value shift will only take place community by community. It requires re-learning and that learning can best be done in community.

Our aim with Conscious Travel is to accelerate that process of helping tourism hosts become the conscious change agents needed to envision and create a better, higher value form of tourism that enriches host communities, delights guests and provides a decent, sustainable yield to hosts. That’s what we need to grow but it will take a very different approach to that extolled in Abu Dhabi.  Work is proceeding now on seeking allies and partners to develop and test the collaborative learning platform.

Footnote:
There are now over 75 posts on this website – seemingly hidden from view! Here are some titles that relate to today’s discussion:

Why Tourism’s Impact is Hardly Noticed

Why Mindsets Really Matter

Conscious Travel in Three Words

Why Tourism Will and Must Change its Operating Model

Can 1 billion tourists create one billion opportunities or 1 billion headaches?

As I am an optimist by necessity and an altruist by choice, I’ve no desire to criticize the sentiment behind UNWTO’s campaign  http://1billiontourists.unwto.org/. Hopefully it will also get the millions of hosts – many of whom are struggling right now – thinking more deeply about their future.

Source: UNWTO

Source: UNWTO

The campaign serves two objectives: first to remind the world just how big international tourism has become – transporting a billion people across international borders every year, and second to suggest that this literal mass movement could be a huge force for good. Implicit in the UNWTO’s visionary statement is the notion that if one billion tourists do so much good then more is better.

 “Imagine if every one of these tourists made a conscious decision to protect the people and environments they visited. Imagine how much water and energy we could save if one billion tourists simply used their towels for more than a day. Imagine how many people would benefit if one billion tourists bought locally.”Source: UNWTO web site

The altruist in me shares the view that one billion people on the move connecting with hosts from other cultures, sensing the world through a different perspective and experiencing their interdependence has the potential to be a “good thing.” But – and it’s a very big BUT – realizing that lofty vision will take an awful lot more than a trendy campaign and marketing spin. Unless there is a robust and well thought out vision as to how to convert one billion wanderers from being what some perceive as a plague of greedy locusts into positive agents for change, this campaign will attract either ridicule or slip quickly into obscurity.

Given that we live in an age of transparency in which citizens are better educated and informed than ever before, it behooves global bodies as well as corporations to be very careful about what they say and how they say it.  In the corporate world, reputation for integrity, authenticity and responsibility now accounts for much of a company’s market value. And this celebration might just be premature as I am believe that when the tinsel and pine cones are finally swept up in January we’ll be reminded just how fragile we are environmentally, financially and socially.

In today’s Age of Transparency, a most important first step towards building trust with any constituency is to be truthful (as in honest); the second is to be inclusive /interactive (i.e, involve other parties in your ecosystem) the third is to be practical (by complimenting the aspiration with practical steps for its realization) and the fourth is to be logical (ensure that the aspiration makes sense and is internally consistent).

Proponents of international tourism such as UNWTO and WTTC have had years of practice promoting tourism’s ability to generate investment, create jobs, enable money to be exchanged between rich and poor nations, and support the preservation of some precious spaces, places and artefacts. But it has been left to NGOs such as Tourism Concern in the UK; journalists such as the Guardian’s Leo Hickman, author of The Last Call and a growing number of bloggers and writers in the responsible, sustainable, fair trade movement to draw our attention to the costs and transgressions associated with this global juggernaut.

There can be no denying the evidence that mass tourism also produces vast amounts of waste (garbage and carbon); uses disproportionate amounts of scarce resources of water and land; displaces local and established populations; creates congestion and often does not leave much wealth behind for local populations to enjoy.

Until the UNWTO and its member governments start publicly acknowledging tourism’s dark underbelly, and take steps to account for the costs in order to measure “net benefit,” then campaigns such as these may generate skepticism at best and, worse, disdain.

Having said that, One Billion Tourists; One Billion Opportunities is a great vision so don’t let’s dismiss it out of hand. It’s crazily ambitious and noble but an aspiration worthy of serious, creative attention. If tourism realizes the UNWTO’s own growth forecasts, then there’ll be an additional 400 million more international tourists every year by 2020 (a mere 7 years away) and, given that we cannot expand a finite earth by 40% at any point in time, then the negative aspects of tourism – as it is currently practiced in many places – will soon become impossible to ignore and much harder to manage.

So here’s my take on the action necessary to attain this aspiration:

The opportunities that UNWTO describe will only be realized if there is a mammoth waking up to the realities of growing tourism on a finite planet. We need tourism leaders, policy makers, hosts and travellers who are conscious in the sense of being awake – capable of mindful, informed decisions; aware of the impact of their actions and alert both to the options open to them and the business environment in which they operate. This requires the same degree of ruthless self-honesty asked of addicts prior to commencing a recovery program. It also requires more humility and curiosity and engagement than many central bodies have been famous for in the past.

In short, the billion opportunities will only materialize if those same tourists know how to make conscious, informed choices and can be persuaded and enabled to select places and hosts who can prove that they care and are responsible.

That will require a lot more than wishful thinking  – nothing less than a huge social transformation – so I earnestly hope that UNWTO won’t treat this as just another smooth campaign but as a huge invitation to all its member governments, private sector partners and NGOs to come together to plan just how 1.6 billion tourists in 2020 will have become 1.6 billion opportunities for good. The alternative is a headache too big to contemplate and the challenge is simply too good to waste!

Note: as far as I can see, the UNWTO revised its forecasts down from 1.6 billion in 2020 to 1.4 billion and their forecast for the number of international arrivals in 2030 still stands at 1.8 billion. 

Postscript
Ethan Gelber has written a quality post on this subject here: 

http://travelllll.com/2012/12/12/unwto-one-billion-tourists-campaign/      and 

http://travelllll.com/2012/04/11/bloggers-retained-by-un-gstc/

 

Tourism: What’s the Point? Why Should These Graduates Work for You?

I’ve recently been given a deliciously interesting assignment:  – answer, in one page, “what is the cause of tourism?”

Perhaps the questioner has read Simon Sinek’s great book Start with Why? which can be summarised in one ket phrase: People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Perhaps the questioner is a conscious capitalist in the making and understands the power of having a Higher Purpose.

Regardless of the motivation underpinning the assignment, I’m pleased and excited that someone has been thoughtful enough to ask.

Having just spent the past two days in the company of some of British Columbia’s brightest and best tourism students, I am fully aware of just how important it is that we have an meaningful answer. This bright, connected, plugged in generation deserves and expects to be fulfilled and inspired when it goes to work.

I could, of course, trot out all the normal but often empty sounding benefits of tourism put forth as a justification for its existence – the creation of jobs, the preservation of cultures, tourism as a force for peace, tourism as the most effective method of transferring wealth from rich to poor etc.. etc. but I won’t. I won’t because the tourism establishment has failed to identify and measure the costs associated with these outcomes and therefore might just be deluding itself.

I would, however, like to test out a three  concepts with my readers and hear your views.

1. Tourism as “wholesome”  healing agent. The deeper cause or purpose of travel and hospitality is to heal, or to make whole, or to enliven. It’s no coincidence that the words hospice, hospital and hospitality have the same etymological root – i.e., to make whole. The word recreation is virtually synonymous with the concept of rejuvenation meaning to recreate some sense of balance and order that had disappeared. The word holiday comes from “holy day” and the notion that, if balance was to be restored in the human psyche, there needed to be a day (the Sabbath or Sunday) or days (festivals) when the spiritual aspect of one’s being was honoured and nurtured. Even the word vacation, which comes from the Latin verb vacare – to empty – suggests the need to empty oneself to make room for fresh ideas. And isn’t this what most operators know is their role in life – especially those operating a resort or boutique hotel or B & B within driving distance of a bustling metropolis? Their guests arrive late on a Friday, stressed from the demands of their working week in the “rat race,” exhausted by the struggle to fight through the traffic to reach their “get away escape”. The hosts’ task is to restore mood and body and ready the guest for another round of relentless production and consumption after they have left!

But it could be bigger than this. Tourism could (and often does) become an agent for change in a community stimulating and encouraging the renewal and revitalisation of its landscapes, infrastructure, amenities, culture and environment. There are, of course, countless tales of places being transformed by the vision and efforts of one or two individuals. The European EDEN project is an excellent example replete with case studies of regeneration. The potential for Conscious Hosts and Conscious Travellers to become positive community change activists knows no limits.

2. Tourism as Human Connecting Agent. Tourism’s second purpose is to connect people with each other and with places – preferably people and places whose perspective is different from that of the visitor. Conscious travellers are those most keen to have authentic experiences that reveal the unique sense of place as interpreted by locals.

Digital technology is now enabling us to “meet” and make friends of hundreds of people in an instant and this only accentuates our desire for there to be a human interaction that involves all the senses. I once learned that, when two people are talking, their cells start to dance and become entrained such that 80% of what’s being communicated is going on at the cellular level and goes unnoticed by the participants – unless, of course, romance is involved! It’s hardly surprising in this context that e-mails can cause so many communications breakdowns. The purpose of real live connections and the joy of “breaking bread” with another (sharing a meal; visiting a home; participating in an activity) with someone from a completely different culture is that it reminds us that our perspective/paradigm/mindset is just one of many.

At a time when, according to ethno-botanist, Wade Davies we are losing one foreign language every fortnight, the maintenance of cultural diversity has never been so important. An earlier DestiCorp post called On Homecoming and Wayfinding – re-thinking sustainable tourism introduces the critical thinking of this British Columbian adventurer, explorer and ethno-botanist.

Simon Milne from NZTRI talked yesterday at the BC Tourism Industry Conference (#TIC2011) how all the residents of rural communities in Southeast New Zealand were being encouraged to interact with guests through podcasts, personal tours and story telling. In other words, the art of connection and engagement was being taken to a whole new level and, by slowing down the tourist, yield rose as a by-product.

3. Tourism that Inspires Wonder & Awe: I’ve left what I think is the real, most ennobling, most important, most inspiring cause of travel to last and that is to re-kindle a sense of wonder and awe at the mystery of the universe and the miracle of evolution. The biggest tragedy associated with the application of an industrial model and mindset to tourism has been the objectification of guests who have become wallets; of unique places that have become points on a checklist that need to be “done” and of residents who become objects of curiosity to be captured on film or digital memory card. Thanks to customers’ belief that they have a right to cheap travel and suppliers’ tendency to drop prices when demand ebbs, the tourist economy is on a “race to the bottom.” Standardisation and automation have lead to a “sea of sameness” and the sheer congestion and toil associated form getting from one place to another cause numbness to replace wonder.

It has taken 13.7 billion years to evolve the magic and mystery that exist in each destination and that are often missed as we rush to fill a room, cater to an impatient diner, or meet a departure schedule. Most tourists are so numbed out by the very act of getting there, that it can take days before they slow down enough to really appreciate the wonder that’s all about them.

The critical first step towards dealing with the challenges facing humanity is learning how to care and to live in harmonious relationship with the Nature of which we are a part. That comes when we realise that we are all one family travelling on what Buckminster Fuller called “spaceship earth.” It happens when we realise that we are not helpless specks in an unfeeling universe but central characters in an evolving drama. It happens when we look at the miraculous results of 13.7 billion years of evolution and stop dismissing it as “nothing but.” It happens when we slow down enough to observe the miracle of germination, sprout, growth, fruition and harvest that centers us back to the earth. It is mindfully feeling our steps on the grass and appreciating weeds that help us understand our place. There is something praiseworthy in the symphonic chorus of pre-dawn birds, the melody of barking dogs and the final notes of dusk’s insects. Until we remember that the dirt we plow is where we originate and where we will finally rest it will remain a meaningless obstruction to progress.(Source: Shekinah Glory)

So please I beg you to SLOW DOWN this weekend and reflect on why you really work so hard in tourism. Are you really supporting “the cause?” In the endless promotion of “products” to targets are you losing the point and does that loss account for the feeling of emptiness and a reluctance to jump out of bed on Monday mornings and say “Yippee!!”

Perhaps the real cause of Conscious Travel is to help people LIVE consciously and compassionately?  To follow in the footsteps of Thoreau who wrote of his year by Walden Pond:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Or to come to understand as Tomas Berry noted:

The universe is not a collection of objects but a communion of subjects

The following short photographic essay by Caroline Webb and the words of one of the greatest cosmologist/philosophers of our time, Thomas Berry might help and inspire:

For the sequel post: https://conscioustourism.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/tourism-whats-the-point-part-2-join-the-conversation/


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