Tag Archives: local travel

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

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

10 Reasons Why Airbnb is an awesome Conscious Travel Enterprise

Some hoteliers hate them, many consumers and cash strapped property owners love them – and so do I. There’s no doubt that Airbnb is proving to be a highly creative and gutsy source of disruptive innovation and,  what’s really exciting,  is that it’s not the technology but the daring application of technology that’s the cause.

Back in 2008, three young men found themselves broke but living in a city temporarily full to overflowing with visitors – mostly delegates at the Democratic National Convention. They turned a problem into an opportunity by realising that their challenge was likely being faced by countless others and by asking the right question: “what if you could book space in anyone’s home the way you could book a hotel?” Four years later, they have over 250,000 homes on their site across 30,000 cities and 190 countries; have done over $4.5 million room nights in business and the company is valued in excess of US$1 billion and climbing.

At first only the technology community took notice even though Airbnb isn’t really a technology company at all. But it did make use of peer to peer technologies that underpinned the success of companies like E-bay, Craigslist, e-lance etc. According to Triple Pundit, its success is due to the fact that it overcame the two main obstacles associated with “peer to peer” marketplaces – fear and inventory.

Now here are 10 reasons why I consider Airbnb not just the poster child of the phenomenon known as “collaborative consumption” but for Conscious Travel as a whole.

1.CRAZINESS – they faced the fear and did it anyway; always finding practical and often contrarian solutions to the problems that many investors turned away from – to their cost.

Source: Steve Jobs, Apple

They didn’t think it crazy or stupid to do the unthinkable or seriously consider what others thought impossible or even stupid. They were NOT engineers looking for a market to showcase their clever algorithms but ordinary guys looking to pay their rent and solve a problem in a way that could benefit others.

They used both sides of their brain (early on potential investors couldn’t understand why designers out numbered engineers) and were often contrarian in their views taking a common sense approach to seemingly intractable problems.

They are obsessive about customer satisfaction, ease of use and creating something of beauty – just as well because the majority of travel is booked by women and if you make the tool nice to look at as well as easy to use you’ll get and keep our attention. (I still avoid Craigslist simply because it’s so geekily ugly). They constitute what Steve Jobs called “The Crazy Ones” and it’s these kinds of people who will be the first to become conscious hosts.

2. PEOPLE:  Airbnb acknowledges that hospitality is first and foremost about people meeting people and when people are staying in other people’s home trust and confidence are needed to overcome fear. Sure there’s a transaction and all three parties (host, guest & Airbnb) benefit financially from that but their motivation was enabling both parties to do something they hadn’t thought was possible before. For the guest it meant not only accessing an affordable bed and place to stay using searches of homeowner/renters’ room inventory in real time but the chance to experience a destination in a much more meaningful, personal, human way.

 ”When someone steps foot in your door, or you step foot in someone else’s door, something powerful is happening – we are breaking down cultural barriers and connecting people in a real way.” Christopher Lukesic, Airbnb employee

When you listen to any of the AirBnB principals speak, the word that you’ll hear over and over again is “community.” Here’s the presentation Disruptions in Brand Building that Christopher Lukesic made to Sustainable Brands last year that highlights the people  and place focus, core principals of Conscious Travel. And if you want further proof that transactions will only occur when trust between people has been established then look at their safety video.

3. PURPOSE: AirBnB’s primary purpose as stated on their web site:

The Golden rules listed on their website for travelers and hosts alike all encompass values identified as core to Conscious Travel – respect, reciprocity, reliability, commitment, and transparency.

4. PLENTY: a founding principal of Airbnb and Conscious Travel is that everyone wins – guests get personable hospitality at an affordable price; hosts get extra income; communities get more spending in less congested commercial areas and more of the money stays in the community.

Airbnb provides an income to hosts from an asset they would otherwise not be able to access. Note 90% of hosts rent out space in their own home and 50% depend on the income to pay rent, mortgages or other household expenses like medical bills etc. In challenging financial times, this additional income has been a lifesaver for many and, furthermore as over 60% of properties are located outside the downtown cores where hotels are generally located, the tourism benefits are dispersed more widely.

Airbnb provides a large and very diverse range of properties from sofa beds and single rooms at less than $30 a night through to shared mansions and castles and very quirky spaces (tree houses, airstream caravans). It thereby meets a social need for affordable accommodation that benefits host as well as guest.

Airbnb recently commissioned a study to measure its impact in the San Francisco area. A more complete description of its findings is presented in an article in Forbes magazine here and I recommend a read. Some headlines from the Forbes article are presented below:

5. PLACE: While Airbnb doesn’t promote destinations as such, its appreciation of community means that it does try to ensure guests can really get to experience the place like a local and not miss experiencing local attractions, amenities and food etc.

Research with their own guests showed the principals at Airbnb that these travellers were going to exceptional lengths to research locations and neighborhoods before booking, and by giving those potential customers more information the company would be solving a piece of the puzzle and potentially extending stays.

As recently as 10 days ago, the  company launched “Airbnb Neighborhoods,” a feature designed to  help users decide which neighborhoods within a city they would enjoy most. For example, you can filter by museums, restaurants, and transit options when exploring a city on Airbnb. This feature will initially be rolled out in 300 neighbourhoods in seven cities around the world.

The company is also launching a “Local Lounges” product, which will include local partnerships with coffee shops in city neighborhoods as places for travelers to find free wifi, travel guidebooks, and a friendly face. San Franciscois the test case for this service.

The following 14 minute video presents the launch of these two features.

So with this foray into the travel guide business, expect further disruption – especially if the hosts are solicited to curate and adjudicate local content and more deals are done with local providers of “local” services.

6. PULL: Airbnb makes really effective use of social media to harness the power of the social graph as a way of  mitigating the risks that both guests and hosts associate with renting a part of their homes to strangers.  When the potential guest does a search, the system identifies properties where there is a connection to the person doing the search ( a Facebook friend might “know”  – as in be connected to the owner)

Another attractive feature is the Wishlist which enables browsers to create a short list while browsing to create a themed list for sharing.

Airbnb understand that unless they are active n the mobile space they’ll lose a lot of business. Some 26% of all bookings are now made on mobile devices and they are completed more quickly as illustrated in the following info graphic. The large, high definition professional images also present very well on the newer high resolution smart phones and tablets making the app an attractive to browse through and send time on,

7. PROTECTION: While Airbnb does not overtly claim to be particularly “green” or sustainable in practice – it can be argued that, by making better more efficient use of existing housing assets, it places less demand on resources. The potential exists through the neighbourhood program to inform guests of ways in which they can support local businesses,  assist local sustainable and rejuvenation efforts, make better use of alternative forms of transport and support other tourism providers that have committed to environmental protection and cultural rejuvenation.

8. PACE: Airbnb guests do tend to stay longer than hotel guests and, because of the dispersed location of many Airbnb properties, they are likely exposed to less well known parts of a city that could cause them to slow down and explore. Admittedly, there is more potential for the realisation of this Conscious Travel principal, than practice right now.

9. EXPERIENCE: the entire Airbnb experience for both guests and hosts is designed to be aesthetically attractive (nothing could look less like Craigslist), simple but functional and reassuring. A striking feature of the service is the use of high quality, professional images that have been know to help significantly with booking rates. Airbnb understand that travel is an emotional purchase based on dreams and fantasies and “eye candy” sells.

10. MINDSET: I’ve saved one the best reasons for claiming that AirBnb is a Conscious Travel Enterprise till last and that’s their mindset and approach to business which are so refreshing. The founders claim that travel is the social network in motion; they subscribe to the values underpinning what as been described as the sharing, collaborative economy; they refuse to be drawn into zero-sum games and do not see themselves as stealing from the hotel sector but as meeting a need of people that no one else has addressed.  CEO, Rob Chesky spoke eloquently and passionately at the end of his presentation to Phocuswright (see here) that travel is still undervalued and implied that there were enormous opportunities in overcoming the problem called “youth unemployment.” If this mindset does hold firm then I hope we’ll lots of creative and collaborative partnerships going forward.

In fact when it comes to disruption and the democratisation of travel, I think this company has barely scratched the surface. Imagine links to other P2P providers such as Tripbod and Hostme (local tourist guides); or helping to find an activity companion via a servce such as Uniiverse: fancy a sail this afternoon with a local sailing enthusiast; need to rent some snorkeling equipment that’s sitting in someone’s closet unused;  or a want a lesson in preparing a local delicacy while staying at your Airbnb?

Admittedly, my somewhat rosey and self serving post doesn’t address all challenges (eg the health and safety issue, taxation issues etc.) Nor does it mean to imply that the majority of hosts can be described as “conscious hosts” or that the majority of guests live up to the desireable practices of a conscious traveller, but here’s a company seeing & doing tourism differently (as a network not a fragemented industry) while meeting a market opportunity without the need to pour more concrete or erect more buildings that will never be fully used.


Amsterdam takes a positive approach to the Sharinf Economy & AirBnB



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


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.


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.


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


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

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

The Beauty, Sensuality and Transformative Power of Bread

Bread: the stuff of life.

Millions of people daily ask their God to “give them this day their daily bread.”

Millions also consume something akin to cardboard sold erroneously in the name of bread. It is stuffed hurriedly and unconsciously into millions of mouths as people rush to start their day.

Supposing we could change the way people think about, savour and consume this most staple of foodstuffs in the temperate regions of western world?

Perhaps the act of making and eating hand crafted bread – which has to be locally sourced – could help us slow down and in so doing reflect on the important stuff of life? Bread as a tool for consciousness raising.

Far fetched?  Not at all.  Here’s the inspiring story of Dan Lewis, a bread maker in New York, who is doing just that – changing the way we approach the making and eating of what would otherwise be a commodity.By teaching us to savour a staple like bread we might learn to savour our travel experiences, and rekindle a sense of place and wonder?

Let Dan tell you his story in this video and then read David Sampler’s inspiring account here.

Handmade Portraits: Wild Hive Farm from Etsy on Vimeo.

(P.S. the source of this tale was actor Edward Norton who just happened to be at the S.L.O.W. Life Symposium on an alternative form of travel held in the Maldives a week or so ago and that is another inspiring source of change stories. Catch his conversation with Mark Lynas on why tourism has to recognize that it is an extractive industry that must pay the full cost of the services it uses here.We’ll be adding some of the videos to The Conscious Travel Channel soon.)

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