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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

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!!

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.

If branding were left to engineers

As someone who has flown on Fiji Airways a few times and knows how important this airline is for the region,  I am delighted to learn that the company is moving into profit  – from a $2.6 million loss in 2010-2011 to an operating profit of $11.5 million in 2012. I am also delighted that the company has chosen to re-invest its good fortune in a new fleet of planes to express and celebrate its re-branding as Fiji Airways in 2013.

But I urge you to read this post from Skift from whom I have shared some pictures….


While I was initially dazzled by the sleek, super clean (almost antiseptic interiors); excited by the prospect of a modern HD entertainment system;  and slightly charmed by the use of Fijian design motives on the wings, tail and underbody; my emotional reaction wasn’t the one the carrier intended.

My feeling resembled those experienced staying at the faceless, equally sterile enclave  of four and five  star resorts that appeal to so many visitors: sadness; a sense of disappointment,  sort of like being cheated.

  • Where’s the soul, the spirit of the Pacific?
  • Where is the crew, the “hosts and hostesses” with their spontaneous, infectious smiles as warm and inviting as the blue waters over which they fly?
  • Why did they select utterly drab and impersonal soulless music to accompany their hymn to modern engineering when the melodies of the Pacific simultaneously relax you will filling you with joy?
  • Why didn’t any of these pictures show passengers – real human beings who will generate next years’s profits. Perhaps because real people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes; some pretty; others not so and their inclusion would have interrupted the stream of cool efficiency
  • Why no indication of the food that might be served that could provide  visitors with some pre-taste of a Pacific culinary experience?
  • Why was there no reference to Fiji (other than the clever paint job on the underbelly) – absolutely no reference to place or people?

I originally wrote a post critical of Air Pacific because I experienced this video as the creation of proud engineers and a reflection of an industrial mindset. I am quite happy to see such a worldview applied to the plane – efficiency, safety, cool design all work for me given that they ensure the plane stays airborne when it’s supposed to. But I or my fellow passengers are not freight. If we were, then a more efficient way to transport us would be to anaesthetise us, wrap us in cellophane and pack in crates. We’re living, breathing, organic, sometimes smelly, sweaty human beings expressing a huge range of emotions and reasons for making our trip – excitement, anticipation, dread, fear, indifference, boredom…and we’re either going home or visiting. Either way, we’re going to amazingly beautiful place located among a staggeringly diverse set of islands populated by people whose identity expresses their specific place in the most colourful and exotic of ways.

But fortunately, this is only part of the story. The company does “get it” as shown on an earlier video released when they announced the name change. View this second  video launched earlier in August to announce and promote the new name. Compare  your  emotional reaction with how you felt when watching the video launching the new fleet. Which one would make you wish to travel to Fiji?

Aircraft, airports, hotels don’t make a tourism economy thrive. It’s the people who express the essence of a place that do.

Airlines exist to make a profit – that’s true – but they can only do that by serving the community on which they depend and exchanging value with other members of the tourism system of which they are a part. Michael Porter calls this piece of common sense “creating shared value.”

There are two huge connecting forces in our world that have changed the physical, social and psychological landscape of the entire planet: travel and information technology. Information Technology isn’t really about the platforms, software and networks but the people who use this infrastructure to create messages, applications and information. Tourism isn’t about products but the people who host other people when visiting places.

So it will be interesting to see which of these two videos is used in the New Year to launch the new brand  – hopefully a creative blend of the two.

Shiny new aircraft can help the firm lift off and take its profits sky high but only if the airline remembers it will always need to come down to ground, to sea level in this case, and to the shores of the Pacific Ocean where its passengers live and thrive and create the living cultures and vibrant landscapes that visitors wish to experience.

Fiji Airways – you’ve come a long way and have a right to be proud of your history. Now let’s see where you are going to go!

Conscious Travel has an eye-catching new look

Thanks to the generosity of Lynne Gray of ThatsPR and Jenni Jackson of JayMac Graphics, we are pleased to unveil our new custom built logo.

Not only is it eye catching (pun intended) but it communicates the essence of our focus.

Conscious Travel is about a fundamental shift in perception – seeing our world differently.

But, by seeing, we don’t just refer to our physical and visual senses. Modern science informs us that 94% of the world is effectively invisible so we have to develop other ways of knowing.

Each person’s mindset or worldview is formed from personal experience and strongly influenced by the culture and physical setting  in which we grow up and live. So in that sense it’s shaped by “place” – a key principle of the Conscious Travel model. By travelling to other places we have a chance to experience another perspective (way of seeing) that can cause us to become more aware of the values, beliefs and assumptions that colour our own lenses (mindsets/worldviews).

Consciousness is universal. Perspective is personal. Deepak Chopra

Source: Thatspr

We find ourselves truly appreciating the inter-connectedness and inter-dependence of all forms of life – our “oneness” – when we recognise that we only have “one earth” while simultaneously recognising and respecting the uniqueness of each “place” and the unique gifts of each individual.

Tourism’s future depends on our ability to stop the force that converts diverse cultures and ecosystems into sterile and highly vulnerable monocultures. When all places seem the same and become mere objects for consumption,  they quickly degenerate into substitutable commodities and the value potential – built up over 13.5 billion years of evolution – is lost. Only when we see with fresh lenses,  will we have a chance of generating the highest and best return from the diverse places and people upon which we depend.

We have deliberately chosen the domain http://www.conscious.travel (not live just yet) because the dot separating these two words expresses a punctuation point – a moment when our perception experiences a quantum leap or phase change after which reality is never quite the same. After an “AHA moment,” an old way of seeing and being is discarded so that new possibilities can be embraced. Once that shift has occurred we are then able to turn endless possibilities into tangible probabilities.

That’s where we’re at as humanity and that’s where we’re at as the community engaged in welcoming and serving guests.

And that’s why our last post summarizes conscious travel in 3 words: value, mindset and place.

Conscious Travel in Three Words, 17 Characters & 3 spaces

If I had to summarize what Conscious Travel is all about in just three words I’d use: Value, Mindset, Place

Value

The biggest tragedy associated with mass, industrial tourism is that it is selling itself, the rest of humanity and the planet short. Ironically, this is a “no no” in the commercial world of which it is so proud and keen to be a part. Thousands of speeches have been made and words written about the contribution of tourism to economies (developed and developing).  The other most frequently used buzzword is “value added” when the reality is often so very different.

Cheap Travel is Viewed as Right By Many

Yet, other than technology (especially information-related technology), I can’t think of another industrial sector that has seen the real cost of its products  (as expressed as a percentage of disposable income) plummet as much as tourism.

A billion people are travelling internationally and many are doing so frequently because they can afford to.

Travel is no longer a privilege that one saves up for, anticipates and savours, it’s considered a universal right, expected to be cheap and has become an itch that can be instantly gratified – not because it’s highly valued but because it is not.

If the reduction in the real cost of travel was due to brilliant innovation that supported huge productivity gains and vast increases in consumer satisfaction, we’d have reason to be proud. But that isn’t the case either. Obviously we can’t overlook the infusion and diffusion of technology – our boarding passes come out of kiosks instead of being accompanied by the warm smile of a contented airline “hostess”; our planes have become bigger, slightly more energy efficient and cramped; travel information is universal, ubiquitous, and sometimes instant  – but, generally speaking, we move and house people the same way we have done for 60 years using the same, fragmented organizational structures by using fewer people but more machines and efficient processes.

As tourism has grown as both a domestic and international phenomenon, the net returns to tourism provider and host community have diminished and are on a downward trajectory. That means we are failing to generate the highest and best return from the “resources” (land, water, landscape, culture, people) on which we depend – despite the fact that the occurrence of such resources, in terms of sought after places (often called hot spots) is incredibly rare. There is only one Venice, Machu Pichu, Galapagos, Angkor Wat, Bali. Uluru…Yet you can “consume” the travel products built around such unique places almost as cheaply today as my grand parents would have consumed a weekend away on the beach in Blackpool.

Value isn’t an ingredient that can be added by a supplier. Value is a belief, a perception or attitude expressed by the buyer that can be realized. When we value a person, place, or object we behave differently – we rearrange our own personal resources of time, attention or money to sustain and enjoy that value. In a world dominated by money, we show our sense of value by being willing to pay more for what we consider more valuable. Somehow, 50 years of continuous tourism growth has resulted in a situation whereby tourism is more accessible to more people than ever before but less valued and generates less net value per trip.

 Conscious Travel is about realizing a higher value for and from all participants in the tourism system – hosts, guests, host communities and the other members of the biosphere on which we depend.

For the host, Conscious Travel  about achieving a higher, more stable and consistent profit margin that enables the business to endure, to adapt, weather crises and provide a decent living for employees and suppliers.

For the guest, it’s about returning home feeling better, more optimistic & hopeful, physically refreshed, mentally stimulated, emotionally alive and spiritually fulfilled.

For the host community, it’s about realizing a net income that not only covers the cost of supporting the visitor but generates tangible improvements to local culture and ecology.

For the planet, conscious travel has the potential to become a major force for change and renewal – for helping humanity make the “Big Leap” required of it, if it is to cope with the converging challenges of its own making.

Mindset

Change your Lens, Change Your World

Because value is a perception and, like beauty, is held in the eye of the beholder, real, radical and systemic change will not occur until a critical mass of hosts and guests change their perception; their mindsets and way of thinking. If you change the lenses through which you see your world, then your world does indeed change.

I have written extensively on this topic so won’t repeat myself too much here and encourage interested readers to check out:

Why Mindsets Really Really Matter

Why Tourism Will and Must Change Its Operating Model

Screw Tourism As Usual  

We’ve used the word “conscious” because it means to “become awake, aware and alert;”  and acknowledge that there is no objective reality that isn’t filtered by our mindsets – a set of values, beliefs, assumptions that form a basis for the agreements we make with each other.

Conscious travel as a movement is about participating in and accelerating a huge value shift that is taking place as growing numbers of people from all walks of life and all countries consciously question and re-frame their values with enormous implications for every aspect of society and economy. The emergence of conscious consumers and conscious capitalists, even, is described elsewhere on this web site.

Conscious travel as a learning program is about helping hosts and guests see their world through another set of lenses – ones that are more suited to ensuring their survival and prosperity than the ones they have been consciously or unconsciously wearing in the past.

Conscious travel as an economic phenomenon and Conscious Destinations are about businesses and places able to attract conscious travelers who truly value the act of travel as a privilege, the opportunity to become a better human being, and who value and honour the unique attributes of the places they visit and the hosts who extend hospitality in their own unique way.

Conscious Hosts are business owners and managers who will have consciously examined and defined their own mindsets; who base their business on their own set of values and purpose; reflect the uniqueness of their place; and work collaboratively in a community of hosts. They will generate a higher net return to their communities; enjoy more stability, prosperity and personal meaning; and be recognized as positive change agents and custodians of local ecologies and cultures.  Some might use the term “eco”, other responsible, sustainable, fair trade, good or green.

Place

Absolutely core to the concept and practice of Conscious Travel is acknowledging  “the sanctity of place.” We take for granted that travel and tourism are about moving from one place to another yet, in our enthusiastic adoption of the lenses called “rational, scientific materialism,” we have turned unique and sacred places into sterile, often uniform, sometimes mechanized, products that, in turn, have been cheapened (discounted), replicated and become commodities – with anyplace being substituted for another providing it’s “a good deal.”

One of the reasons for the rise of the “local travel movement” stems from a disdain for the homogenized, standardized approach to product development. Conscious travelers want variety, authenticity, engagement etc. They want to go home changed. Truly embracing the uniqueness of each place – however small – and expressing that uniqueness is the antidote to “commodification” and the key to realizing true value for host, guest and host community. But such an embrace cannot take place without a change of heart; a shift of mindset.

The best way to understand just how different mindsets can be is to spend time with indigenous people who, by definition, have never lost their sense of place and who define their personal identity with the place they and their people occupy and care for.

Ben Sherman, co-founder of WINTA speaking on indigenous values

That’s why I believe that so called mainstream tourism has more to learn from indigenous communities than the latter have to learn from mainstream tourism. That’s why Conscious Travel is profoundly and deeply influenced by an indigenous way of thinking and being and will support all efforts that ensure their worldview gains voice and attention in the tourism community.

At one point I became enamoured with the term “place makers” until I realized that it showed how much grip the old western mindset still has on my thinking. It implies that places can be made as in manufactured or constructed in the same way that a brand can be created and applied.

Authentic and real destinations or experiences cannot be created. They can be allowed (possibly encouraged) to emerge as an expression of the essence, personality or spirit of a place that is always alive. Once you have stopped thinking of separate subjects and objects, of people, places and things that can be observed objectively but as one constantly interacting whole, this will be understood. You will experience a place as real – for what it is – and know that in your heart. When the knowing takes place there, you will be changed in some way and the act of travel will have realized its true purpose.

When a sufficient number of hosts know their place as sacred, they will enable their guests to experience its unique vitality – an experience whose value is truly priceless. Because as Wendell Berry understood:

You can’t know who you are until you know where you are. 

When we know that, we will have found our way back to what it means to be human

OTHER READING

Postscript  – external article on indigenous objections to carbon trading mechanisms 

Why all Travel is Local

The Role of Indigenous Tourism in Developing Conscious Hosts

Link to new Wold Indigenous Tourism Alliance

Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) recognise the importance of indigenous participation  bit.ly/QD79Bb

Presentation Slide deck WINTA Forum

Linked in Group on Indigenous Tourism

Definition of Indigenous Peoples – WINTA

Changing the Dream – Why Mindsets Really, Really Matter

The failure of Rio + 20 provides the strongest evidence to suggest that despite hundred of conferences, inquiries, studies, policy tweaks,  and investigations, the global and national agencies have not yet grasped the deep nature of change required if humanity is to avert a catastrophic interruption to “business as usual”.

Over the coming months I guarantee that the words “paradigm”, worldview,  mindset will be used with increasing frequency as we realise that “tinkering around the edges” of the challenges will do little good, will likely delay any progress and make matters worse. Let me share four examples.

Example 1: In a recent interview with Dr. David Suzuki, the eminent Canadian scientist, who has done so much to raise awareness of ecology, expressed his exasperation:

Dr. David Suzuki….

….If we don’t see that we are utterly embedded in the natural world and dependent on nature, not technology, not economics, not science—we’re dependent on Mother Nature for our very well-being and survival. If we don’t see that, then our priorities will continue to be driven by man-made constructs like national borders, economies, corporations, markets.

And the leaders in that should be the indigenous people, who still have that sense, that the earth is truly our mother, that it gives birth to us. You don’t treat your mother the way we treat the planet or the biosphere today. If we don’t make that fundamental shift, then we’ll just go on: “Oh, we got to be more efficient. We got to have a green economy,” and all that stuff. But we haven’t fundamentally changed our relationship with the biosphere.

A link to the video interview is included at the end of this post and  it’s well worth a watch for two reasons – Suzuki doesn’t mince his words and refers us to the recent article published by over 20 internationally recognised scientists in the journal,  Nature,  whose data suggest we’re very close to a major phase change or tipping point and, secondly, because he is joined by his daughter Severin who rendered the United nations speechless back in 1992.

Example 2: Another environmental expert who laments the lack of progress is the Swedish environmental scientist  Johan Rockstrom of the Swedish Resilience Institute.  Dr. Rockstrom points out that  modern humans have just experienced “10,000 years of grace,” an interglacial period capable of supporting human development. He tells us we’re currently putting the planet into a “quadruple squeeze” through pressures of human growth and inequality, climate change, biodiversity  loss, and the problem of surprise as natural systems can collapse with remarkable speed when a tipping point is reached.

Rockstrom and his colleagues have identified nine planetary boundaries that can be monitored to ensure that we don’t slip into collapse and of the nine, we’re already transgressing three. Again, I  leave you to watch the lecture – Rockstrom’s lively, extremely informative and, despite the content, so entertaining he’ll sustain your attention through a mind blowing 15 minutes. But note: towards the end he declares – surprise, surprise:

So there is — no doubt — opportunity here, and we can list many, many examples of transformative opportunities around the planet. The key though in all of these, the red thread, is the shift in mindset, moving away from a situation where we simply are pushing ourselves into a dark future, where we instead backcast our future, and we say, “What is the playing field on the planet? What are the planetary boundaries within which we can safely operate?” and then backtrack innovations within that. But of course, the drama clearly shows that incremental change is not an option.

Example 3: in a recent newsletter, Shaping Tomorrow,  from the British futurist, Michael Jackson comes the following observation:

Although the shift towards new purpose in business builds on the triple bottom line, it goes far beyond. First, it is about transformation i.e., deep systemic change rather than reformation, trying to make current outdated systems work better; and second, it will involve significant changes in our own personal beliefs, mindsets and behaviours. What is happening in the world today may turn out to be no less than a paradigm change.

Having staked my career and livelihood on a belief that Suzuki, Rostrom, Jackson and a growing number of others are right, I take comfort from his observation. Conscious Travel is the only program that addresses the need to change mindsets first. It’s also based on a belief that tourism providers are the ones who will make the shift – provided that they commit to learn together. These are the change agents – the yeast in the dough called the tourism ecosystem. They don’t need some distant agency telling them what to do; they need support to access the information, tools and each other.  And finally, let me respond to those so-called “hard-nosed” entrepreneurs who dismiss this talk of paradigms as academic. We’re clear about our reason for structuring the program in this way – our objectives are about as  practical as you can get – to increase hosts’ profit; increased net benefit to the host community, reduce erosive volatility and increase resilience. Why else would we bother?

Example 4: while it’s taken western analysts, thinkers and doers a few hundred years to

“get it,” most indigenous people understand instinctively the power of mind and mindset to affect our world. If I am committed to Conscious Travel it is partly because of a tribe of people living in the upper Amazon – the Achuar – whom I have never met. Having asked and received help from some Americans to fight the oil rigs encroaching their territory, they had no qualms about extending what we might think to be an impossible challenge – to return home and “change the dream of the north”. These so called primitive people, who had lived in harmony with their environment for thousands of years, knew that we, in the north had lost our way and our ability to see the reality the way it is. We need to change our dream – our way of seeing. The Americans – John Perkins, Bill and Lynne Twist co-founders of the Pachamama Alliance –  didn’t flinch and went on to develop The Symposium – a one day program that has now reached thousands of  people in 60 countries and which I am a facilitator. Conscious Travel is my contribution to changing the dream of the north by helping the tourism community respond to the Achuar challenge. 

Dr. Suzuki’s Interview with Democracy Now


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