Tag Archives: Local Travel Movement

Place is back – how did we ever lose it?

A consistent theme of this blog, that will persist until The Shift/The Transition/The Great Turning/The Great Disruption is over, relates to the power of paradigms to shape behaviour.

A perceptive reader will notice that I haven’t used the word paradigm much because I was told a few years ago that it was too “high falutin” for my audience and it would cause their ears to close down, and eyes to roll or glaze over.

But I am encouraged. A couple of weeks ago,  there was a seminar at the World Travel Market of all places on just this subject:

“The Paradigm Shift in Travel and Tourism – New Rules for

Competitive Success”

South Gallery 19; 12:30-13:30.

And it was lead by a tourism professional with all the right credentials – Dr. Auliana Poon, CEO of Tourism Intelligence International, whose text turned a few heads some 20 years ago,  was subsequently largely ignored simply because she was too ahead of her time. Sadly, an unplanned for accident on the way to the seminar prevented my attendance and a long overdue catch up with Dr. Poon to find out her interpretation of the current paradigm shift.

Emboldened that there might be a growing audience for this topic, I’ll continue.

An industrial mindset (a.k.a.paradigm) causes many of us to view the world through a lens that separates subject from object; that pits buyers against sellers as adversaries; and consistently focuses on things and transactions rather than invisible stimuli and emotional states.

This same worldview fuels our obsession with definitions, with labels, with breaking down a topic into its component parts before trying how to make the pieces of the puzzle fit back together again.

Consider our tendency in tourism to:

1. Separate product development (engineering) from marketing (see an earlier post on Branding – If branding were left to engineers);

2. Separate markets by activity (adventure, cultural, heritage, agro, eco, culinary tourism)

3. Focus on artefacts and facilities,  “attractions” and venues rather than the experience, the emotions aroused and memories created; and

4. Divorce the “product” from the setting – the place – which is properly the biggest force shaping the visitor experience

5. Have the message shaped and controlled by centralised bodies often with the help of external agencies.

Well for someone who has felt like a displaced person for much of my career in tourism, I’m delighted to find I am in very good company and that THE SHIFT that I keep describing is real and not a figment of my imagination. The waves of change are even washing up on the long sandy beaches of Australia’s Gold Coast where the chief reporter for the Gold Coast Bulletin  declared in a recent article:

We need a sense of place. A lot of global tourism destinations are starting to look the same. Place tourism is growing.

While I am having real difficulty with the completely redundant term “place tourism” which is as about as useful as “experiential tourism” I do see cause for optimism.

And to celebrate the return of PLACE in our consciousness, I’d like to honour other “soldiers in the thought trenches” who have been trying to lure place back into the centre of all tourism conversations:

  1. Steven Thorne, From Waterloo Canada, who has been consistently writing about the power of place along with his colleague Greg Baeker, author of Rediscovering the Wealth of Places: A Municipal Cultural Planning Handbook for Canadian Communities published in 2010 by Municipal World.
  2. Joe Pine, author of the seminal work The Experience Economy
  3. Robin Barden, a Briton based in Barcelona who writes a very perceptive, intelligent blog called SenseOurway
  4. Simon Anholt,founder of the National Brand Index and author of “Places: Identity, Image and Reputation
  5. Ethan Gelber, editor of The TravelWord, co-founder of the Local Travel Movement and Chief Communicator for the WHL Group
  6. Marin Schobert of Tourismus Design
  7. Dr Dan Shilling, former Executive Director of the Arizona Humanities Council, and author of the wonderful 2007 book, “Civic Tourism, The Poetry and Politics of Place”. His website is http://www.civictourism.org/ – Clearly Dr Shilling is a skilled proponent of place. I hope we will be able to embed the video that is on his site here. I thoroughly recommend a view.
  8. Dr. Susan Guyette – a cultural anthropologist in Sanata Fe with considerable experience working with indigenous people in the US and author several books has recently conducted a webinar on Sustainable Cultural Tourism with/for Sustainable Tourism International that has lots of practical advice and examples concerning ways of maintaining cultural integrity and ensuring that the culture of a host community is respected.
  9. Ron Mader, creator of the magnificent resource Planeta Wiki moderated an important seminar on Media, Tourism and the Environment in which there was considerable focus on place. Ron’s summary posted by the South Africa’s Rhodes University titled The Coverage of Place. is here http://www.rjr.ru.ac.za/rjrpdf/RJR_no21/coverage_of_place.pdf

I am aware that this initial list will have only scratched the surface of specific tourism-place talent out there so I would welcome suggestions as to other “Place Proponents” – individuals, hosts, planners who are making a stand for PLACE to replace product.

Over the next few weeks, some of these place rescuers have agreed to contribute their insights on this blog. They’ll all be categorized under Place and further links given here as we compile their insights and point our readers to useful sources.

Tourism of the people, by the people, for the people – the story of StoryMap

Thanks to a sharing in Facebook’s Responsible Networking Group – thank you Jeremy Smith and Ethical Traveller, Catherine Mack – I was introduced to StoryMap.ie and heard myself (there was no one else to hear) let out an almighty YEEEEES!

I wasn’t planning to write a post today but felt compelled to share this development from Dublin with readers of Conscious.Travel who are proving to be such a loyal supportive group despite the  fact that most of you are invisible.

This initiative proves why the focus on place and people can be so powerful. Two unemployed Dubliners served themselves and their community by providing the means whereby Dubliners could tell their stories and invite others to share what what makes Dublin unique. It’s an innovation that simply emerged from the grassroots, required no top-down planning or feasibility studies and, once you start watching is guaranteed to distract you and make you want more – perhaps even to visit Dublin. Simple, Brilliant and in its execution, utterly Irish!

It ticks all seven of Conscious Travel’s working Principles – creative people, with a sense of purpose talking about their place, using social media and story telling to pull customers towards their community; offering opportunities to tell stories about the culture and nature that is or needs to be protected; and suggesting that if visitors simply slowed their pace, they too could create stories of their own. The end result: Plenty – plenty of delight for the viewer, fulfillment for creators, a reason to stay long and savour more for guests and a highly cost effective way of expressing the kind of quirky experience and warm welcome you might expect from Dubliners.

Here’s the Story Map story in the creators’ own words – they don’t need me to be a intermediary……

Storymap is the brainchild of two Dublin filmmakers, Andy Flaherty and Tom Rowley. Just back from working abroad, unemployed and in between film projects, the lads became annoyed with all the negative press the city was receiving. The bleak tales of recession, the gloomy accounts of unemployment and the notion that Ireland’s best and brightest had emigrated was completely at odds with what the lads were experiencing being back in their hometown.

“We wanted to do something to get people as excited about the city as we were. While loads of great people have left the country, you only have to walk into any gallery, gig or any of the fantastic spoken word or comedy nights to see that Dublin is a ridiculously fun and vibrant city with wonderful characters and a flourishing art scene. We wanted to bring the charm and character that had been pushed aside by the Celtic Tiger and bring it centre stage” – Andy

The lads came up with Storymap, a web based multimedia project that revives Ireland’s age-old tradition of storytelling and tries to capture the personality of Dublin city through its stories and storytellers. These stories are filmed being told where they happened and integrated into a live map to create a charming and layered collective vision of Dublin city made by the people of the city.

“Walking around the city – everyone has their own stories that they remember on certain streets, stories that flavour their personal experience of the city, that they tell on to friends. We thought it’d be exciting to pool those stories in one place, like one big pub where everyone shares their stories, creating a sense of what the city means to Dubliners. It’s a simple idea, but with complex possibilities, and we’re only just at the beginning of it.” – Tom

The site is expanded by a story a week to create a ‘Storymap’ of the entire city – a vision of the city as lived across nationalities, generations and centuries. The site is developed by Tercet, and was built through funding by DCEB.

OK, now for a bit of healthy interaction and dialogue so that I don’t have to talk to myself all morning. Which stories did you enjoy the most?  Why don’t you take a small step and fill in the comment box or, just as good,  share this post with friends.

Deja Vue or Clairvoyance – You Be the Judge

It was November 2001 at WTM and we were reeling from the impact of 9/11 and the aftermath of the dotcom crash. Thousands of IT specialists were out of work; CRM was the latest “new thing” as were XML, “web services” and “interoperability.” I’d just had to let go my involvement in a software company and formed DestiCorp Consulting and did this interview with a former colleague.

How might this image be a metaphor for international tourism?

Fast forward 11 years and I have just spent the past 8 days producing three webinar/videos on Conscious Travel which I will upload this week. To be honest I am not quite sure how to react to this DestiCorp interview – the content is remarkably consistent; the passion hasn’t waned but the wrinkles have certainly deepened! Eleven years have passed and I still feel compelled to be putting out the same message. It seems like yesterday.  Where did the past eleven years go? How much has changed or not changed? Will we get to the year 2023 just as quickly and how will we have handled the extra 600 million international trips that are forecast to take place?

They say that timing is everything. My timing wasn’t right in 2001. The tourism industry wasn’t ready then to hear anyone suggest that it should take time out to re-think. Many operators were holding on to the bucking bronco of demand after the attack on the World Trade Centre. What wasn’t clear either was just how quickly (relatively speaking) the economy would bounce back – especially in the US and UK where hedge funds were just beginning to scout for real estate in Mayfair; house prices were still to soar and ordinary Britons were to start taking advantage of Easyjet and Ryanair’s crazily low fares to Europe and speculate in real estate. The next six years (2001-2007) were about to see a few people get very rich and cause an even larger number of people to think were because of the extra zeros on their net worth statements. We lurched from one bust in 2001 (when the dot in dotcom punctured the bubble) to another one in 2007 when the financial house of cards came down – only this time its impact cut deeper and is lasting longer.

So is the timing right now?  Will the message be better received now than then? The simple answer is yes – I do sense a sea change. When a former senior executive of the UNWTO now describes himself as a Chief Disruption Architect, then something is shifting. When Michael Porter declares it’s time to “re-think capitalism” and companies like KPMG state that the current approach to business is non-sustainable and Deloitte support Elkington’s Zero Impact concept, then people like me can take heart.   It’s become disturbingly fashionable now to talk about sustainability, higher purpose, doing good, going green.  The good news is that  the number of initiatives (for want of a better word) in the sustainable, eco, ethical, fair trade, geo, local, responsible and good tourism arena is already significant and gaining momentum every day  – albeit in a very fragmented way. The challenge now is unifying the multiplicity of weak signals and diluting the semantic confusion as the sustainable Tower of Babel gets larger – but that’s another topic.

The more truthful answer is “I simply don’t care whether it’s right timing or not.” Conveying this message is simply my destiny. I can’t escape it. I feel as if I am an instrument being played. The words of Jean Paul Sartre keep echoing in my head.  Thanks to my role in tourism – that of quasi futurist and  sense maker I have to expose myself to information many others would prefer to ignore. I now simply know too much to mute or modify the message.

My circumstances over the past 18 months – when I have been travelling and staying with a host of friends and supporters – have provided an opportunity to test out my ideas. I am even more convinced that change is necessary and  encouraged to see it happening spontaneously. I’m also more convinced that the only effective  approach is to work not with the traditional sources of power and influence (the centralized associations and agencies) but with groups of hosts in small communities. They are the ones that must develop their creativity, ingenuity, self-confidence and resilience if they are to survive let alone thrive over the years ahead. This is how change occurs in the natural world and nature has had over 13.5 years of practice! We are trained to think that the itelligence of a cell is centred in its nucleus – the command centre but current biology has learned that the real smarts lie in the cell membrane where the edges of the cell interact with the environment. This applies to tourism – tt’s the hosts and their employees who know what’s really going on and have the most leverage to effect change.

As I have been saying for over 15 years, the role of Destination Marketing Organizations going forward should be to do less and enable more. They need to use the resources they have been allocated from the public purse to create the conditions whereby innovation and creativity can emerge and erupt naturally – just the way that it occurs in the natural world. Two of those conditions are trust and confidence – trusting in their capacity to adapt and providing the support and recognition. Conscious Travel is designed to provide a support structure for collaborative learning, experimentation and adaptation in the membrane.

Next week I’ll be launching three beta videos (beta is a fancy way to say they are home made and draft) that describe what we mean by conscious travel. The interesting thing is that this 11 year old interview is as good a sneak preview as any!

Why all travel is local

and why Conscious Hosts Will be Indigenous

While I also subscribe to the importance of the journey and, where possible, would prefer to travel slowly and savour the transition from the familiar to the unknown, most times I have to fly.

the shoeless airport shuffle

Then I stop being a traveler and, instead, become a producer of air passenger miles and carbon; a unit of yield as far as the airline is concerned; and a human piece of baggage that doesn’t have the benefit of being placed on a conveyor belt!

Instead, I must negotiate kiosks, print boarding cards and baggage tags, have papers scrutinized, be required to undress and dress at various points and to varying degrees, avoid the bright lights and temptations of that garish place called “Duty Free” to traverse  more sterile corridors before reaching an anonymous staging area devoid of food or water. Next comes the delight of sitting in an aluminum tube, fretting over whether the movies will be sufficiently distracting, the food palatable and my neighbour of average weight and girth!

Room with a View – first night in Wellington

Most people survive this transition in their own version of coma. One is transported but sadly not in the rapturous and ecstatic sense our forbears imagined when they applied the term. The ordeal is not yet complete – shortly after the tube engages with the terminal’s tentacles, the weary shuffle commences down more anonymous corridors to be welcomed by personnel trained in the art of suspicion not hospitality.  Hopefully a re-union with one’s own baggage will soon occur.  Finally, the opaque doors slide open and we weary but expectant tourists are   “there” – the place that has been capturing our imaginations for weeks.

And now you can and must wake up – for now you are a stranger in a foreign land, a visitor, and ideally a welcomed guest.

The ground on which you now stand is unique – it took 13.5 billion years for this piece of geography to form and it expresses a unique relationship with our sun, the moon, the planets and our galaxy.

But does it feel different on being ejected from that sterile place called in transit? Might it have the capacity to affect a transformation of some kind? Are you aware of the essence or spirit of this place? Do you sense that you have arrived somewhere truly else?  For if you don’t, then was the toll on your body and the cost to the earth, really worth it?

The biggest tragedy of modern, mass industrial tourism is that it has completely missed the point – the essence of travel is about being changed by our experience of unique places – yet, in our earnest attempts to standardize, homogenize, and render efficient or convenient, we have sucked the life blood, the juice, and, worse still, the mystery out of places.

An indigenous person will tell you that the land on which you stand is sacred. Their individual identity is shaped by their relationship with all aspects of the place they call home; the relationship they treasure with their ancestors and, in turn, the relationship those ancestors had with the place. Their presence also changed the place because all beings – whether perceived as sentient or not – are in a dialogue, a dance of vibration. So your presence will also affect this place and, if you are awake, aware and alert, you will let it change you.

Hence my assertion: all travel is local. Despite the act of getting there, all travelers do eventually arrive at a locality and experience its uniqueness.

And if all travel is local, then ideally all hosts should be indigenous in the deepest sense of the word….

Welcome to the Marae in Te Papa, Wellington

So local travel is not a peripheral aspect of travel; a nice “add on” but central –  the core of travel.  Local travel isn’t just about meeting the locals – people who live in the locality – or even about buying handmade things from local people but about ensuring as, as guest, your every sense is buffetted by the rich mix of sounds, smells, sights, textures and tastes that convince you that you have arrived are somewhere different, unique, and, as a result, sacred. For inspiration just see the Flickr Group: Local is Beautiful. Ron Mader, thanks, I can taste those Flores de Frijolin con Guacamole from here.

Indigenous people know how to do this naturally – they don’t need a course in hospitality. It’s in their DNA, regardless of which tribe they associate with. They have been doing it for tens of thousands of years. They don’t need to be brought into the mainstream. We must sit at their feet by the campfires that have been burning for millennia and learn from the shadows on the cave wall or the stars that rise and fall on the velvety purple sky outside.

The only way we’ll rescue the future of tourism from the insanity and tyranny of its current model is to become indigenous in mind, heart and soul, given that indigenous means to “originate or occur naturally in a particular place.” To my mind, being indigenous doesn’t necessarily mean to have got there first but  to have developed and respected a profoundly moving and dynamic relationship with the spatial and temporal dimensions of a place.  To be indigenous or native is to have been shaped by the geography and history of a locality and to be able to express that shaping in language, cuisine, ritual, architecture, mythology, dance, agriculture, costume, poetry and, most of all, in stories.  It means to honour its manu, its essence, its spirit. But most importantly, to be indigenous is to know that as a human being you have a duty of custodianship for the sake of all sentient beings, for your tribe, your guests and the generations yet to be born let alone conceived.

Thus first task of every conscious host is to become an “indigene” …

We’ll explore what that means in Part 2 to follow.

Indigenous Tourism Festival in Brazil today: http://gobrazil.about.com/od/brazilindiantribes/ss/National-Indigenous-Culture-Festival.htm 

Bookmark Link to Planeta’s Indigenous Tourism Conference in August

Whose “Place” Is it Anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

For up to date information about Cinque Terra, please visit

Challenges that Occur When You Meet the Locals

This post is in direct response to the latest thought provoking guest post by Andy Jarosz, owner of the 501 Places, on the Local Travel Movement Blog. The original article,  When Local Cultures Aren’t So Great, can be found here.   I thank you Andy for raising this topic and hope it will stimulate sustained discussion as, to me, it’s core to the topic of Conscious Travel. Parts of Andy’s post are repeated here in blue; my comments are in black.

Source: Andy Jerosz & Local Travel Movement

Travel exposes us to many strange sights and experiences. By setting foot beyond our own borders we might explore palaces and temples that we’ve seen before in movies; we might meet people of races we’ve never encountered and see their colourful national dress; we’ll probably hear many languages that we don’t understand.

Most of our experiences are overwhelmingly positive and reinforce for us the value of expanding our horizons through travelling. But what of those moments when we see things that make us very uncomfortable, or even angry? How do we react when we come face to face with those practices and local traditions that we view as morally wrong, yet have persisted for many centuries? ……. (In the original post, Andy cites two examples of culture shock at the place in his article)

How does one challenge such deep-rooted beliefs and hope to create a change? Or is it in fact our place to challenge these practices at all? Do we accept that we are witnesses to practices and behaviours that are derived from many generations, and that as witnesses we have no power other than that of observation?

Some will argue that observation without action makes us complicit in the wrong that is done. Others will say that by informing ourselves at first hand of some of the physical and mental abuse that takes place in the name of culture, we can become advocates for change and perhaps influence enough people to make a lasting difference.

Whatever the answer, there is no doubting the power of our travel experiences in exposing us to the many beliefs and value systems that exist throughout the world. What we do with those experiences is another matter altogether.

For me to frame a response to these deep questions, I had to define for myself what a society is and I came up with the following

Societies are groups of people who have shared a common geography (place) and history (time) and developed a culture i.e., a way of “making sense of their world” that works. This culture is based on a set of shared assumptions often called a worldview or paradigm.

A few decades ago there were many opportunities for travelers to experience “culture shock.”  (I refer to my first time in a Desticorp post here).  But with every year that passes there are fewer opportunities for such transformative encounters. Wade Davies, the Canadian ethno-botanist, has suggested that we are losing at least one unique culture approximately every two weeks.

Is it irony or a simply inevitable result of the “law of scarcity”  that we’re witnessing a rise in interest in local travel and a growth in the demand for “immersive cultural experiences” just at the point when most exotic cultures are being rendered  extinct?

Ideally the purpose of travel is to become aware that one’s own worldview is not the only one or necessarily the “right” one. If a traveler recognizes that then the term conscious travel will be well and truly justified for it will have caused the traveller to wake up and perhaps start to examine the unexamined assumptions that shape his or her perceptual filters.

Supposing your culture had lived in harmony with the natural world for thousands of years but was transported to a North American city out of the Amazon jungle, and perhaps Annie Leonard’s A Story of Stuff was translated into your native tongue so you could understand the local culture. Chances are that you would quickly form a judgment that our culture was highly destructive as it caused its citizens to fall into some form or trance or madness. Supposing too that your Amazonian culture had the power to turn off the electrical grid and you took action out of a desire to help right a wrong. You may have had the best of intents but were likely oblivious to the impact of such a seemingly curative act. Not surprisingly resistance by the local “natives” would have been fierce.

I support the Local Travel Movement because, by respectfully meeting and engaging with “locals,” (people whose perception of reality is different than ours), we can be woken up from the trance of our own culture – we can become conscious.  And this surely, is the deeper purpose behind travel. For all cultures are just that – a form of trance; a set of agreements that hold our collective worldview together. In short, local travel provides opportunities for us to become conscious and that has to be its biggest gift.

So as travelers to exotic communities, it would be wise to spend more time observing and understanding than judging and tampering – before taking well meaning action that righteously but unwittingly can unravel a complex cultural web we can poorly understand.

Be Inspired: Join a Movement – try Conscious Travel

There are some words such as those in Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech that will inspire listeners whatever the time or era. Paul Hawken’s commencement address to the Class of 2009 at the University of Portland is another.I’ve reproduced it below but it was found on the excellent Global Mindshift blog here.

While it was delivered to graduates before entering the world of work, it can also inspire work-weary managers and business owners. It’s especially relevant to people working in the travel community as we can play such a key role in making the transition so needed by Planet Earth.  Because, dear fellow members of the global travel community, our task is no less than this:

1. To wake up to the fact that the biggest shift in human perception is taking place right now given there is no guarantee it will take place fast enough to avoid our extinction as a species. It’s up to each of us to become awake, aware and alert, to tell ourselves the truth of our situation & accelerate that shift. Every other sector of society is having a deep and open discussion about the need to profoundly “re-think” the way it operates – travel and tourism must do the same (see the WorldShift Council and their insightful alternative to the G-20 Declaration) .

Note: this is NOT to say that fantastically inspiring change is not taking place throughout the tourism community by individuals and many groups – just look at the latest round of Responsible Travel Awards or GreenTravelGuidesTV with their stories of operators and destinations doing things differently. All I am saying is that the rationale and thinking behind these efforts needs to be front and centre in all tourism planning and decision making and, sadly, many DMOs still consider these thoughts as fringe and continue to set volume growth targets that make no mention of the costs associated with their ambitious targets.

2. To grow up – crises help all people mature and we need to move from adolescence to full adulthood by asking not what our communities should do to help tourism but what travel & tourism can do to help our communities (for more, see here). Former entrepreneur and now respected futurist John Renesch has applied his thinking about the need to mature in his new book: For more, read John Renesch’s New book: The Great Growing Up or listen to his recent podcast on Conscious Leadership.

Shaping and implementing a vision for a spiritually fulfilling, socially just and environmentally sustainable version of travel should be on everyone’s agenda. The venues run by people in travel and hospitality are the hubs in any community and their operators can be the true connectors. It’s through connections that places and people become smart and create the conditions for innovation and creativity. It’s through being exposed to worldviews or ways of perceiving, which differ from our own,  that help us wake up to the fact that our paradigm is one of many and can change. There is no reason or appeal to be just the writers of invitations or silent pourers of coffee. Tourism operators can become active change agents and find real purpose and meaning in their daily work as well by actively protecting, preserving and rejuvenating precious cultures and ecosystems.

3. To live up to our potential. It’s taken 13.5 miliion years to produce the species “homo sapiens” that is now aware of and can control its own evolution. What we do with that power is now up to each of us. It’s also taken 13.7 billion years to produce the amazingly diverse landscapes and cultures on which tourism depends so we have no right to sell them off at discounted prices while failing to steward, protect and care for them.

The act of waking up means recognizing that those of us who are alive today are participating in the greatest evolutionary shift that has ever occurred on the planet. For the first time in history of this planet a species is now participating consciously in its own evolution as a species and our decisions will determine the fate of many other life forms as well. But we are not helpless – we do have access to infinite wisdom and intelligence; but it will take a shift in mindset and perception and daily practice to access the bounty within each of us. That’s why the Conscious Travel movement is different (not better) because we start with the inner world and potential of the person running a tourism business and work from the inside out.

(c) Delicioustoys.de

4. To open up. The travel community must now seek to engage with and support all other members of the planet. It’s time to break down the invisible walls that deny our own embededness with all sectors of society and economy and our utter dependence on a healthy biosphere. It’s time to stop maintaining our differences or pleading that we are a special case with rights but instead focus on the  key role we can  play in creating a better world. And that will mean shifting our perception from a competitive “I,” who wins while another loses, to a collaborative “we” who co-create the innovative responses to the challenges we now face.

5. To step up. Our ubiquity and our size,  combined with our embeddedness in all aspects of what is now a global economy (“tourism is everybody’s business”), enable us to become effective agents of change, the midwifes of this transition. Our purpose (the higher purpose of tourism)  is to heal, to connect and to revitalize that deep sense of wonder and awe of Nature that re-connects human beings with their source.  People – yes the human beings working in the travel community – are in the best position to inspire our guests to make the shift but only if we  shed our tendency to see sacred places as products (objects) and our customers as walking wallets (more objects).

6. To meet up. The biggest paradigm shift that’s taking place right now is the recognition of our inter-connectedness and our interdependence. That shift combined with the connectivity made possible by current technology are enabling us to increase the pace of learning and innovation but the potential of that will only be realised if we also shift from actions based on collaboration to actions based on cooperation. 99% of enterprises in tourism are small.We have to work together in our communities to co-create a vision for tourism that does more harm than good. Change will not occur because self or institution-made leaders with titles write declarations but because ordinary men and women, in community, decide to do things differently. Change will start and emerge from the bottom up; from the grassroots – see: Grassroots Tourism Article, and follow the Local Travel Movement started by visionaries WHL.

Back in 1995, when I wrote the paper Shifting Gears1995, I expressed these beliefs in a slightly less radical and strident way. Like other “cultural creatives” I felt alone. But I was far from alone – a few years ago, they estimated that the global population of cultural creatives numbered some 20 million and now its 200 million. Paul Hawken’s book Blessed Unrest written some five years ago demonstrates the nature of grassroots change that is taking place if you have eyes to see it.   And thanks to the Occupy MOvement is hard to ignore!

So even if you do not yet agree with the rationale for change, please take five minutes to read Paul Hawken’s more eloquent words below and then re-visit the list above. If you share this perspective, please “like” this post; better still comment or share with colleagues. Most importantly join a “change movement” – whichever works for you. And, of course, it would be great if you’d keep us company here!

Paul Hawken’s Commencement Address
Class of 2009, Portland University

Paul Hawken

When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” No pressure there.

Let’s begin with the startling part. Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation… but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

“…the earth needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.”

This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food—but all that is changing.

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world. The poet Adrienne Rich wrote,

“So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” Adrienne Rich

There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages, campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums.


You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way.

There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true. Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider.

“One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,”

is poet Mary Oliver’s description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world.

Millions of people are working on behalf of strangers, even if the evening news is usually about the death of strangers. This kindness of strangers has religious, even mythic origins, and very specific eighteenth-century roots. Abolitionists were the first people to create a national and global movement to defend the rights of those they did not know. Until that time, no group had filed a grievance except on behalf of itself. The founders of this movement were largely unknown — Granville Clark, Thomas Clarkson, Josiah Wedgwood — and their goal was ridiculous on the face of it: at that time three out of four people in the world were enslaved. Enslaving each other was what human beings had done for ages. And the abolitionist movement was greeted with incredulity. Conservative spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives, do-gooders, meddlers, and activists. They were told they would ruin the economy and drive England into poverty. But for the first time in history a group of people organized themselves to help people they would never know, from whom they would never receive direct or indirect benefit. And today tens of millions of people do this every day. It is called the world of non-profits, civil society, schools, social entrepreneurship, non-governmental organizations, and companies who place social and environmental justice at the top of their strategic goals. The scope and scale of this effort is unparalleled in history.

“Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.”

The living world is not “out there” somewhere, but in your heart. What do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. We are the only species on the planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable. We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells. And dreams come true. In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe, which is exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would discover that each living creature was a “little universe, formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous as the stars of heaven.”

“We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells.”

So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it, and wonder instead when this speech will end. You can feel it. It is called life. This is who you are. Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules? Hopefully not a political party. Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. Our innate nature is to create the conditions that are conducive to life. What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.

This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn’t stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.


Paul Hawken is a renowned entrepreneur, visionary environmental activist, and author of many books, most recently Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming. He was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters by University president Father Bill Beauchamp, C.S.C., in May, when he delivered this superb speech

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