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WTM 2015 Responsible Tourism Day: Shock & Awe

While 99% of the participants at the World Travel Market were blithely conducting “business as usual” in their brightly lit booths, the intellectual equivalent of shock and awe was being unleashed by the climate change equivalent to Greek rebel and former Deputy Prime Minister, Yanis Varoufakis.

November 4th 2015 may, with hindsight (and, probably, some wishful thinking), turn out to be an historic and symbolic moment in the history of mass tourism. That morning we witnessed a clash of two mindsets and two styles of power.  Kevin Anderson was the gladiator brought into the ring by a very brave Harold Goodwin to stimulate debate and discussion on what apparently has become a rather boring topic in tourism industry circles.

Undeterred, Anderson, one of Britain’s top climate change scientists, delivered a brilliantly succinct speech that seemed to impress even the “I’ve seen it all” Stephen Sackur. The professor come mountain climber provided just the right mix of data and acerbic insight in 17 minutes to prove to even the sleepiest in the audience that apathy, resistance and denial of the need to change course might be suicidal. His key points summarized:

  • Based on science, the international community agrees that 2 degrees warming is the limit of acceptable warming – if the planet’s average temperature rises beyond that then humanity is in serious trouble.
  • But we’re not to deceive ourselves by averages as staying within that boundary will still produce incredible hardship and pain to the planet’s poorest, most vulnerable and innocent of inhabitants. Anderson pressed home the point thus: “At a two degrees rise many millions of poor people, mostly in the southern hemisphere, will die. it means we are prepared to sacrifice the lives of many poor, low emitting people.
  • The only way we can have a 66% chance of staying within that boundary is if we act now by reducing our generation of CO2 emission by 10% per annum and stop pumping any carbon into the atmosphere at all by 2050!
  • Unfortunately, our track record for changing our life and business-styles thus far has not been encouraging. Since we first became globally aware of the problem in the 1990s, humanity has pumped 60% more carbon into a stressed atmosphere.
  • This graph below shows the gap between carrying on as normal (the purple line) and meeting the reduction’s target that society at large has identified as tolerable (the trajectory depicted in orange). It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase most delegate heard on their tube journey; “Mind the Gap!”
    the gap
  • If we don’t alter course, we’re headed towards a rise of between 4 and 6 degrees in average global temperature which even the most conservative of organizations, such as the International Energy Authority and the IMF, now believe to be disastrous for humanity. Again, Anderson made sure we understood the implications: “Four degrees centigrade warming is incompatible with an organised global community. We will reach for a kalashnikov and start killing each other.”
  • To make the reductions necessary and deliver some equity (i.e., take care of those who have not caused the problem in the first place), the wealthy nations, who produce the lion’s share of emissions, need to take drastic action now and start reducing carbon missions annually by 10% and produce 90% less carbon in 2030 than we did in 1990.
  • To do that we need to consume less and produce less. In the tourism sector, and particularly within wealthy western economies, that means flying less often to far away places and making sure all the infrastructure that supports tourism around the world produces virtually no greenhouse gases at all. That will radically affect lifestyles and incur costs. The pain is unavoidable.
  • Unfortunately because the tourism sector is growing at such a rate (doubling in traffic in less than 20 years and moving towards more carbon intensive forms of tourism), it will, despite all efforts to become more efficient, generate 1.3 times more CO2 by 2030 and 2.64 times more CO2 by 2050 than it does now. That’s our contribution to the gap.

In order to send his dumbstruck audience away with a positive message, Anderson ended with this quote, clearly having delivered on its first pre-requisite:

unger quote

So it was with bated breath, we all awaited for signs of the second requisite, imagination, from the panel of industry leaders representing Boeing, Hyatt, UNWTO and a Tourism Minister from South Africa.This is when the real essence of the problem became apparent. What we witnessed in the next half hour was the clash of mindsets that Anderson identified as the crux of the problem and a subject I have been banging on about for the past 20 years. Anderson framed the challenge at its core as:

ultimately shackles

There’s absolutely no point in getting angry and blaming – we’re all slaves to our dominant paradigms and I can see why the industry leaders took the position they did – their immediate personal survival and prosperity depend on taking the prevailing corporate view – business as usual with some greening where necessary. Mr. Boeing talked about the fuel efficiencies they had achieved, stated that governments should invest more and then suggested, somewhat incredibly, that he didn’t know what profit his company made; Miss Hyatt took the same route – the hotel company is  investing heavily in becoming more sustainable but its spokesperson claimed to have no knowledge of Hyatt’s expansion plans; and Mr. UNWTO asserted that to not grow tourism was to be defeatist; that no one should be afraid of growth and, in fact should embrace growth – even though growth was never defined and, if it meant more people taking trips more often,   would certainly be at odds with the carbon reduction requirements Anderson had so eloquently and passionately just described. Interestingly, the only panelist who agreed that painful changes to our lifestyles might be necessary was a politician who also confessed he wouldn’t be running for office again!

There is nothing defeatist about facing the truth head on.  Continuing to do what we’ve always done will simply worsen our situation. Imagination and creativity are vital. We simply can’t afford stubborn resistance or intellectual laziness. Kevin Anderson is completely right to suggest that a complete systems change is needed along with leadership, courage, innovative thinking, engaged teams and difficult choices – little of which were evident from the panel but were evident in the subsequent Responsible Tourism Awards session that followed. The next 45 minutes provided a veritable cornucopia of imagination, creativity, joy and even playfulness all rising up from the messy but fertile soil of “grassroot communities” and small businesses experimenting and imagining a better future. If you don’t believe me, have a look: it’s all on video here…(Kevin Anderson’s presentations starts at 9:31 minutes in)

The whole motivation underpinning Conscious Travel is to create a space for both clarity and imagination to flourish. If the same amount of energy and money were to be spent exploring alternatives to the current model as are spent defending and justifying the old one, we would have found several ways to close the gap. As has been demonstrated year after year at the numerous award ceremonies held by all major tourism associations, there’s no shortage of imagination, leadership, courage, innovative thinking and a willingness to make difficult choices in the face of seeming intractable problems.

In two subsequent post to this, I’ll identify where we need clarity and some approaches to imagining a tourism that is better and better for more.

The ideas presented under the banner Conscious Travel are not original. What is perhaps new to tourism, is a fresh way of seeing, being and doing that enables us to shift into different patterns of behavior with less fear and more confidence. Once you get that this planet is not only our only home but a living organism of which we are a vital part; that we’re each and all connected participants in an amazing web of life; that each of our personal decisions matter; and that we can create conditions for our collective wisdom to guide us, much will become possible. It also helps to see that we’re playing our part in a vast, epic drama – an evolutionary shift from ego to eco consciousness and that such shifts are a natural part of life’s grand journey towards more complex and beautiful ways of being.

More Reading:
Jeremy Smith,  publisher of the amazingly content rich TravIndy wrote a concise and less critical summary of the debate here:

Previous Posts on this Blog Relevant to the subject:

  1. My response to the notion that growth is not to be questioned was summarised in this post: Walking the Halls of Hope and Despair, WTM 2014
  2. The notion of carbon budgets and the need to divest from fossil fuels was discussed here:
    The Burning Issue of Carbon
  3. A Licence to Grow or Get better – Which Do You Choose? 
  4. Climate Change: Implications for Business as Usual Tourism
  5. My first attempt to assess the impact of climate change on tourism was published by the Icarus Foundation in 2007  – The Climate Change Challenge: Implications for Tourism

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

Wishing You a 2015 Full of Wonder

It’s New Year’s Eve in England and the clock is counting down to midnight. I am have been invited to a curry dinner with neighbours – it feels so good to be part of a mini community that does welcoming things so spontaneously.

But before I go, I want to say a heartfelt thank you for all your support and comments over the past year. They have sustained me and inspired me in my current  endeavour – to write the book explaining why we need to change the way we do tourism and share some suggestions as to how we can contribute to a Regenerative versus extractive Economy – one that that is environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling for all participants – not just a few.

I am convinced that when you dig deeper, past all the individual challenges and crises – be they economic, environmental, social or political – you will find that the root cause is our application of a mindset or our addiction to a story that no longer help us make sense of our world. Regardless of name,  it is, to use current, common parlance, past its sell-by-date. It most certainly fails to reflect all the amazing discoveries that science has laid at our feet since the turn of the Century. “The book” will examine this is in detail because, by understanding how we got onto this particular stepping stone of history,  we might better launch off onto a new one.

I believe the travel, tourism and hospitality sector has the potential to play a vital role in shifting us from an old, out-dated view of a material, hostile world in which we,  separate beings, compete for scarce resources to a new view that sees only connections and interdependencies and that recognises greatest evolutionary progress has occurred when we collaborated and used our intelligence to co-create abundance.

Source: Jeff Willius  www.OneMansWonder.com

Source: Jeff Willius
http://www.OneMansWonder.com

One of the most important contributions that tourism can make is to transport people to places where they can experience a sense of wonder, awe, place and purpose and, thereby open their eyes to nature’s wonders all around them at home when they return. Nature is not a problem to be solved but the source of all life – we can learn so much from her if we have eyes to see and souls open enough to hear.Our task is not to waste and destroy its bounty but to sustain a balance so that Nature can evolve into higher levels of beauty and complexity. We are her partners not her master.

With the author’s very kind permission, I am sharing his words below as a way of expressing my gratitude to your support of Conscious Travel as an idea and of me as a colleague. The words below are a Pledge to Reclaim Wonder which I encourage you to take into 2015. It comes from Jeff Willius and his web site: www.onemanswonder.com that has filled me with joy since he started. He offers his readers a free, framed version of the pledge and I encourage you to subscribe. The absolutely gorgeous flower image is also his.

RECLAIMING WONDER PLEDGE

Source and (C) Jeff Willius –  www.onemanswonder. Pl

I believe I’m surrounded by wonders great and small, all the time, wherever I am.

I understand that many of those miracles lie hidden to first glances.

I will open my spirit to wonder. My eyes, my ears, my heart will follow.

I will make time for awareness, curiosity and wonder.

I will turn off the television, put down the book and start looking, learning and living first-hand.

I will decide for myself what entertains me and, more importantly, what nourishes my soul.

I will notice and celebrate the power of presence.   

I will carefully examine the myth of certainty, and value learning more than knowing.

I will be more aware of the miracle of grace that resides around and within every person.

I will shine the light of my own spirit, and will give other people the chance to shine too.

I will try to experience everything as if it were for the first time.

I will approach each day with faith in Nature’s instruction, and with gratitude for being Her lifelong pupil.

I will be patient, not just with Nature, but with myself, celebrating small steps in the right direction.

I will seize every opportunity to help a screen-bound child reconnect with Nature.

Hopefully you are with friends and or family this night and the coming days will be filled with joy and peace.
Anna

PS Apparently, this is my 100th post on this blog!!

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.

polyp_cartoon_economic_growth1

(c) polyp@polyp.org.uk

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.

RELATED POSTS 

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)


 

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: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainability-movement-fail-future. 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 http://www.realitysandwich.com/separation)

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 theconscioushost@gmail.com 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. 

On the tip of the tipping point – when ecology is understood to be spiritual, there’ll be no going back.

A core tenet of Conscious Travel is an understanding that each place is alive and sacred.

Host providers will develop truly sustainable livelihoods that benefit their communities when they come into right relationship with all life.

penan-quote-large_photo_story_large

Our indigenous brothers and sisters have always understood this and now find themsleves on the frontline of a global clash in world view:

  • one perspective considers all it views to be dead matter that exists for our manipulation and exploitation  (even divine intelligence is considered to be “out there” and separate);
  • the other knows  all is alive and interconnected and pulsating with the same energy that shapes all existence urging it forward in its evolution.

Two important events are occurring right in the middle of 2013 (i.e. July)  that I believe will help tip us towards a wider embrace of the second view of the world. They will help accelerate the shift in values  (towards greater meaning and purpose) that has been described throughout this blog such that when a critical mass wake up to the fact that ecology is not just physical, there’ll be no going back.

The first event is publication of a book of essays called Spiritual Ecology as introduced in the trailer below. Edited by Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee, it comprises diverse perspectives from such luminaries as Chief Oren Lyons, Thomas Berry, Satish Kumar, Thich Nhat Hanh, Vandanna Shive, Joanna Macy and Pir ZiaInyat-Khan.

The second is completion of the Sacred Land Film Project (SLFP) –  a four-part film series for public television titled Standing on Sacred Ground. Here’s its trailer:

Winona Duke describes Sacred Places as spiritual “re-charge” areas. Given that the root of travel is hospitality which, in turn,  is all about regeneration, re-creating (recreation), making whole, healing and re-charging, then we too are involved right on the frontline of this change in views. As hosts who welcome guests into their “their unique, special and sacred place” we have the chance to help them  come in touch with the magic and mystery of all places. But to do that we must have developed a sense of the sacred.

Author’s amendments August, 2014

Here is an excellent review of the Sacred Land Film Series by Leslie Sponsel.
Click here to access trailers of each film with ease.

Lessons Learned from Fairy Tales, Extreme Weather and Bubbles

 

Emperor who wore no clothiersSince I watched Rajan Datur’s video coverage of the WTTC Global Summit on Fastrack in Abu Dhabi last month (see last post), I’ve been unable to silence a song from my childhood that replays in my head – Danny Kaye’s musical rendition of the famous tale of Hans Christian Andersen: the Emperor Who Wore No Clothes. If you have children or grandchildren with any innocence left check out the old but enduring charming film. Click the image, start 1.10 mins in and let the message soak in!

I had taken a pause from blogging for four months for two reasons – to complete a project and to turn off the chatter of an over informed brain. Pauses clarify.

While in my first post of 2013 I expressed disappointment with the position taken by the Summit’s leaders, allocation of blame wasn’t my intent.

At this incredibly portentous time in human history, we’re each and all caught up in a web of denial that has become the sticky stuff that binds our relationships with each other and the natural world.

At best we are entranced; at worst addicted. Our neurological development has not kept pace with our technical prowess and, like the King in Andersen’s story, our hubris has blinded  and our constant “busyness” has deafened us to the wisdom of our subconscious.

In Hans Christian Andersen’s tale it took an innocent child with an unbroken heart and senses fresh and intact to see and speak the truth.

There’s been considerable research as to why humanity is acting so slowly in response to the converging change forces pushing us towards the cliff’s edge. The reptilian parts of our brains are wired to sense and respond to the personal threat that our senses register. The newer, frontal lobe that is the source of our technical brilliance and feeds off endless analysis and discussion, has not yet evolved similar response mechanisms. Furthermore, our need to belong and be accepted is more associated with this growing part of our neurological development.

We’re like movie goers on a Friday night who’ve settled down into a comfy sofa with popcorn and coke to accompany our hard earned night of entertainment and distraction. Someone yells “fire” and our reptilian brain leaps into action. But if there’s another reassuring voice saying the alarm was false and, since we can’t smell fire and no one else is scrambling to their feet, we relax deeper into our chairs. We’ve paid good money for our seats and we deserve a night off. Yet all it would take is the whiff of burning plastic and distant signs of rapid movement across the theatre and our urge to shift would be irresistible. Getting to the exit before death/injury by trampling or burning would instantly become our first priority.

montana-thunderstorm-615So in that sense I am grateful for our lousy Spring weather – even though I am thoroughly fed up with grey skies and have felt colder here in the UK in May than I did in December. Extreme weather is nature’s kind way of arousing the reptile in us and perhaps it can do what armies of bickering scientists or retired politicians with slide decks and a huge budget have yet failed to do – wake us up to a reality no one wishes to contemplate. Research shows that the more we experience extreme weather events personally, the more likely we are to acknowledge that climate is changing faster than normal.

The Need to Focus
Over the past 2 years I’ve been invited to speak at over 20 tourism gatherings and presented my share of slides and facts joining up the dots of change, interpreting the clouds gathering on the horizon and suggesting responses.  (It’s all here on slideshare). But I now realize I have sold both my audience and myself short.  The message wasn’t clear and compelling enough.  The metaphorical “fire” in my story is actually frozen sunlight (carbon) – the fossilized remains of other species we’ve been burning to fuel the fastest most amazing economic and social expansion in human history. Carbon is not only the most dangerous, pervasive waste product of our “industrial civilisation” but, by focussing on the problems it generates,  we could also solve many equally challenging but derivative problems: biodiversity loss, economic disparity, food security etc.

We’ve got two worlds existing in tourism – the traditional mainstream that is preoccupied with business as usual (i.e., more of everything so long as that delivers more profit even if it delivers less value to the places it exploits). I don’t expect this group to like my message – yet.  There are plenty of agencies and consultants all too willing to provide the platitudes and spin to make the status quo feel comfortable and, as illustrated in Abu Dhabi,  even glittering and chic. They seem oblivious to the fact that the industrial model on which is it based inevitably passes its prime and starts to generate diminishing returns and less net benefit.

The other world comprises a huge but fractured, sometimes fractious fringe that is growing and spreading like multiple infections that haven’t yet coalesced.  By necessity, participants in alternative tourism are forced to focus on symptoms not causes of our malaise and because there are so many varied and increasing expressions of what is irresponsible, their efforts appear disjointed and only of local relevance. But the good news is that they are growing in number and their experience is highly practical, resourceful and their commitment to building a better tourism never to be underestimated or under valued. Their weakness, on the other hand, stems from the fact that they are too inward looking – applying labels, arguing over definitions and  decrying the expression of a problem but not joining up with their counterparts in society who are addressing deeper causes and systemic disfunctionality.

It’s as if we are arguing over the cut, make and style of the King’s clothes rather than admit he is, in fact, naked.

The REAL PROBLEM

The challenge facing us all transcends discussions about good versus bad tourism. Tourism – even in a better form – will not survive a failure to deal with the issue of carbon. Like junkies we are dependent and addicted.

Drug cartels and drug pushers benefit from their trafficking when they are not caught. It’s a very profitable business that absorbs participation from all levels of society. Carbon pushers – the fossil fuel companies  – are now are pulling our strings but are as addicted and at risk as the rest of us.

The real crisis of carbon is only just being recognized: $27 trillion in asset value can only be realized if that resource is burned. And, if it is – to quote the courageous head of the IMF, Yvonne Lagarde –  we all fry. If it is not exploited, it becomes a “stranded asset” infinitely less attractive to investors than a dubious Credit Default Swap.

unburnable carbonThe light is going on in the boardrooms of institutional investors, rating companies, and even in investment banks that fossil-based energy sources could pose a real and growing credit risk and if these fears are acted upon, it will cause the biggest market shift in human history.

I feel confident predicting that the next really big topic of conversation will be the carbon bubble that has the potential to dwarf all previous bubbles that burst in recent history. Furthermore, it’s in tourism’s best interest to prick that bubble sooner rather than later to avoid financial meltdown that will seize up markets.

Do you smell smoke? I can. It’s seeping out from the high rise offices of the financial community.

Time to move. The exit is over here (see next post). It was a crap movie anyway!

 

Here’s to a Disruptive, Transformative 2013!

Well dear friends I hope you had a restful, merry holiday break with those you love.

The good news is that we survived the end of the world that some had predicted!

The great wheel of time turned

We’re moving on – we’re sensing a big shift

We’re moving on – but there’s no worn path ahead.

We’re moving on  – but there’s no-one to show us the way

We are the wayfinders  we’ve been waiting for

Wise men say that unless we change our perspective, we won’t know what course to set.

So my wish for 2013 is for us to see the world the way our space pioneers saw it. They were headed for the moon but when they gazed back at planet earth, they fell in love with her.

If travel is transformative, then surely space travel will deliver the peak of transformative experiences.

But we cannot afford the time or cost of having us all make such a journey. We must travel using our “mind’s eye” and, as
I write this, the crew of the International Space Station is sharing what they see – the Commander’s tweet account is https://twitter.com/Cmdr_Hadfield.

Another group of talented film makers at The Planetary Collective.com has made it possible not just to see the earth as astronauts do, but to appreciate the transformative effect of such “earth gazing.”   These film makers are making a feature film called Continuum that explores what happens when we see the Earth as “a single dynamic system that’s alive and humanity as forming its nervous system’. The brief 15 minute film below is just one section that I hope will inspire you – as it did me –  for 2013.

Thank you for all your support and encouragement in 2012 and for the subscriptions, page views and, especially for the comments. My goal for 2013 is to have the learning program developed and book published and a sustainable entity formed to create a network of Conscious Hosts.

I wish you health and happiness for the year ahead but also hope that you’ll join me in being creatively disruptive and transformative in 2013!!  Enjoy the Overview!

Wishing You All a Conscious and Happy Christmas!

Who says people can’t and don’t change?  The proportion of people smoking has more or less halved since the 1950s; most of us have learned to respect the limits associated with alcohol and driving; and in no more than five years our attitudes towards consumption have altered significantly. Mindless is out, conscious and careful is in.

The way we celebrate this special time of the year is changing too – either forced on us by economic necessity or because we’ve begun to stop and think what will make for a truly happiness-inducing event on “the Day” and in the weeks following. I’ve heard more and more people say that they’re not sending Christmas cards but donating to a charity and, instead of buying “stuff” as presents, they are wrapping up offers to spend time with a cherished recipient doing something together or sharing a skill.

wishing you a conscious christmasIt’s no coincidence that we share Christmas with a more ancient practice of celebrating the Winter Solstice – that time of the year when light and life seem to have retreated for good and when, just at that moment of despair there are fragile signs that the cycle of life will continue to turn; Spring will follow winter. I think that’s what the Mayans understood but they had a much grander view of time, possessing an ability to look at cycles measured in thousands of years. Their calendar wasn’t about endings; but all about new beginnings.

So I simply want to say thank you to all of you who have supported me over the past couple of years – especially those who hosted me on my travels; but also my readers of this blog who have justified my effort, and especially those of you who have commented or subscribed.

I hope you are warm and safe this week and about to spend time with those you love. I hope too that , in the months ahead,  we can explore ways of making tourism better for all of its participants.

I am not able to send cards this year but am taking the liberty of recycling an image created by an organisation in New Zealand I very much admire –  Consciousconsumers.org.nz. I am sure they will not mind my sharing their Christmas tree image , especially if you take a peak at their web site and see what good work they are doing!

Merry Christmas!

wishing you a conscious christmas