Tag Archives: tourism

Future Prosperity Depends on Managing Success Today

Almost for as long as tourism has existed, we’ve heard the expression ” don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg” yet over the same time has carried on growing regardless.

It looks like 2016 will be the year when it becomes obvious that the golden eggs are cracking under the weight of a very heavy goose. Mainstream media seems to be taking a serious interest in tourism and, because bad news sells newspapers, their focus is on congestion. A few examples already this year include  Iceland, where tourism grew 29% in one year, and Airbnb is the bearing the brunt of local negativity; several European cities where congestion, Airbnb, and the cruise industry are objects of resident ire, Thailand, where three islands have been closed to visitors due to the environmental damage they cause, the Balearics, where a booming tourism industry is welcomed after a decade of recession; and most recently New Zealand whose 100% Pure image is at risk thanks to an unexpected 10% jump in international arrivals (see: RNZ article: Who should pay for the costs of tourism?).

welcome note for tourists to veniceNow, if you thought that it was about time the evils of mainstream, mass tourism were highlighted, think again. Ironically, it is often the so called “eco-tourists” who venture off the beaten track in pursuit of wildness or solitude, that do the greatest harm. The author of the Balearics article, quotes a local conservationist decrying the damage caused to bird nesting sites by over zealous bird watchers:

I think it’s better to have those drinking ghettoes, Playa de Palma and Magaluf, where people go, rather than these intellectual types of tourists who tramp over everything in their search for the untouched bit, the original Mallorcan, and the residential tourists, who buy up property, buy a car, usually two, swimming pools, and want gardens with plants and grass like at home but that need water.


Jeremy Smith (founder of Travindy) has also written a stimulating post today, The endless quest for authentic tourism is sowing the seeds of its own destruction, astutely observing:

that which began as a backlash against the mainstream is fast becoming the mainstream. The increasingly ubiquitous coffee shops and quirky cafes become filled with international hipsters. The museums and galleries teem with foreign visitors seeking a selfie, with the Botticelli now serving as little more than a backdrop…. 

Almost every destination markets itself according to this model, using some form of generic, catch-all appeal to perfection. Everywhere is presented as pure, natural and waiting-to-be-discovered. Even when so-called responsible tourism seeks to present itself as distinct from the mainstream, it mostly does so by reinforcing the same dominant story theme – by accentuating the authentic, and lingering over the local.

If the tourism economy has any chance of becoming sustainable (for it certainly isn’t now), we have to enter into a more intelligent, nuanced debate that acknowledges reality and its complexities in terms of both cause and consequence.

There were many times when Captain Smith of the Titanic could have left entertaining the investors of his shiny new vessel, returned to the bridge and changed course. But, convinced his beautiful ship was unsinkable, he chose not to. Or perhaps having sold the investors of its unsinkability, he couldn’t admit he might be wrong? What do you think – was it an iceberg or hubris that sank the Titanic?

We saw a similar pattern in the months running up to the global financial crisis when, in 2007, the CEO of Citigroup – leveraged up to its eyeballs – declared “As long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance.” The financial collapse occurred not because people were ignorant of the possibility (everyone knew the music would stop one day) but because no one wanted to be the first to leave a good party before the canapés and champagne ran out.

No professional in tourism could ever stand up and say they had no idea tourism could be destructive.

The real problem challenging global tourism is that we’re running out of time to address the root causes underpinning the problems highlighted in the stories listed above and they are.

  • a fixation on volume growth combined with a failure to understand the effects of compounded exponential growth;
  • the global spread of an extractive model that sees people and places as resources to be exploited;
  • a failure to engage resident populations in understanding all the ramifications of opening one’s doors to tsunami-like demand and allowing them to make informed choices;
  • failure to develop the leadership capacity within destinations to deal with such a “wicked problem” as compound growth. (Our tourism and hospitality schools and the many consultant-driven training sessions all assume that the primary goal is volume growth + contribution to GDP not net benefit).
  • a reluctance to admit to and deal directly with the negative consequences associated with tourism – planning regulations, traffic management; zoning, carrying capacity, user fees etc etc
  • failure to see and understand the integrated relationship between tourism and all other factor of human society (culture and economy) as well as the natural world on which it depends.
  • its susceptibility and vulnerability to ravishing “boom and bust” cycles that elicit either greed+recklessness+willful blindness or panic-selling+price discounting depending on which side if the roller coast you are on.

As Jeremy Smith has suggested, it doesn’t matter how authentic or green the supply of an experience is shaped to be, too much of it, imposed on a population (even if it could be a force for good) will produce a huge backlash. The parallels with the immigration crisis in Europe cannot be ignored. Too much of anything delivered too quickly and without the consent of all stakeholders is doomed to produce resistance and, in many case, rightfully so.

Unlike the Titanic, tourism has neither a captain or a rudder

Unlike the Titanic, tourism has neither a captain or a rudder

But my use of the Titanic metaphor is unfortunately inappropriate. Yes, we have many shiny “new” even “awesome” new vessels in tourism, and no shortage of investors and participants wishing to grab a piece of the action, but the amorphous nature of the phenomenon means that, in tourism, there is no captain and no bridge. No one is in charge!

Furthermore, those that do see a problem ahead identify it by its form not its cause – the responsible tourism movement is currently a cacophony of voices protesting about any one of multiple issues; abuse of wildlife, habitat destruction, money laundering, tax evasion, child trafficking, sex tourism, orphanages, carbon emissions, water overuse, eviction and exploitation of indigenous peoples, cruising etc. while, at the same time, extolling the growth of responsible alternatives whose infinite growth could become just as threatening IF not managed properly.

Jeremy is also right to associate the current situation with a Greek tragedy – it’s futile to blame anyone or group. We’re each and all caught up in a flawed social system that needs to be addressed and the first step is to name it for what it really is. Jeremy calls it a new narrative; I call it a new operating model. The name doesn’t matter but our willingness to take off our rose tinted sunglasses and get to work will.

If you care either way, comment!

WTM 2015 Responsible Tourism Day: Shock & Awe


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

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

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

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

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

unger quote

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

ultimately shackles

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

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


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

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

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

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

Previous Posts on this Blog Relevant to the subject:

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

Walking the halls of hope and despair, WTM 2014

World Travel Market 2013, ExCel, London, ExCel, London


I confess I have never been wild about the World Travel Market – its central hall was the site of my personal “Road to Damascus” several years ago when I experienced the full extent to which tourism has become an industrial production and consumption machine.

I admit to being overwhelmed by the sheer scale, busyness and sterility of the event where products are pushed and deals done; brochures and media stuffed into plastic bags then discarded; and sustainable clichés fall like feathers from the upper galleries onto the hard selling activity in cubicles on the shop floor.

Walking the central hall this year I felt a visceral inner and outer tussle between despair and hope.

The number of “responsibility” seminars was, encouragingly, greater than ever before but still totally outnumbered and out attended by sessions devoted to trends, technology, social media, and market segments. Within the responsible tourism stream, the same pattern applied. Subjects like “Increasing the local economic impact” and ‘Using responsible travel to drive sales” attracted far more participants than subjects like reducing energy and water. (Note: I learned much from these sessions; applaud and thank organisers, speakers and Jeremy Smith for his excellent distillation: 10 things I learned from WTM 2014 with great links to speaker interviews)

There’s a simple explanation for the topic and attendance bias I suppose – the vast majority of people paid to attend WTM are engaged in marketing and sales. It is a market after all. But that explanation points to an issue that was hardly mentioned– and that’s the G-word: Growth. Tourism succeeds when it grows because we have defined success as more. Because growth is the goal, we allocate resources to the people, technology and processes that produce growth and measure our progress towards sustaining it.

And that leads me back to despair – because until we describe our predicament accurately and delve deeply into the root cause of the challenges we face, as an industry and as humanity, we’ll waste time and scarce resources tinkering at the edges. Our well intended “busyness” will keep thousands employed, produce endless conference fodder, and generate hundreds of checklists, certification bodies, “new” green initiatives, declarations and reports but won’t actually move us off the road to catastrophe.

The deeper problem is that more has become the end and not the means.

Somewhere in the last 60 years, while we’ve been so busy expanding, we’ve made it the responsibility of commerce to grow but not necessarily improve the lives of the community in which it takes place. GDP is used to measure growth in activity not welfare. We’ve become so used to growing and to the benefits that we believe it brings, that we’re literally hooked. We certainly behave like addicts. We seem to need more of it to feel its benefits. We complain and suffer when growth slows or stops. We associate a life without it as being uncomfortable at best and possibly life threatening at worse and we can also be blind to the hurt we cause ourselves and others.


(c) polyp@polyp.org.uk

As is also the case with addiction, the object of our craving is now causing more harm than good and producing a number of side effects that threaten our collective welfare. Many of these side effects – the pressure on biodiversity, the mistreatment of animals held captive; growth in human trafficking, and social inequity — were rightly included as responsible tourism topics at WTM. But climate change, universally recognized as one the biggest threats to human life and prosperity, was not officially assigned any airtime  this year despite the urgency now communicated by 97%+ of scientists (see Guardian summary). Climate change was not named as a topic in any of the seminar sessions. Yet climate change is surely a major and critically important symptom of an organ (in this case, our life supporting ecosphere), adjusting to the effects of an addiction afflicting its dominant species.

Addicts, we know, spend increasing amounts of time as their disease progresses, denying and concealing their dependence. The absence of sessions at WTM in which neither climate change nor the negative impacts of growth were officially discussed, and the complete absence of their mention in the brochure used to launch the “New” 10YFP Programme on Sustainable Tourism all signal avoidance behaviours classically used by addicts not yet ready for rehabilitation.

Finally, this statement from the Director of Sustainable Development of the UNWTO in the only article labeled “Responsible Tourism” in WTM Business,  shows what really matters:

“The tourism sector is embracing responsible tourism not as an option, but as a condition for its continuous growth

Forgive me if the thought of sterilized needles and methadone replacement comes to mind.

So What’s Wrong with Growth?

The problem is fundamentally a semantic one. The verb “to grow” has three meanings:

miriam webster

Over the course of time, we in tourism have assumed that more of an entity or state is better than equal or less over time. Look at any tourism strategy from the smallest of Convention and Visitor Bureaus, National Tourist Boards or even the UNWTO and you will see that the goal is to grow tourism by a percentage increase over its performance the previous year. Performance is measured in the trips, people, and their spending at the host destination. In short, size matters and the shared meaning of growth is MORE.

So what’s wrong with that?

Well, there wasn’t much wrong with that at all when we started out some 60 years ago deploying mass transport to enable working men and women and their families have a holiday, visit parts of their country or venture to foreign lands. The tourism “industry” sensibly applied what had proved to be a very proficient method of making and selling things – an industrial system of production and consumption and, as a consequence, during the span of one human lifetime, tourism became a global economic sector of enormous importance contributing 10% of GDP and keeping over 250 million people in a job.

Since World War 2, tourism has brought benefits to virtually every country; lifted people out of poverty through accessible employment; created an untold number of entrepreneurial opportunities; enabled millions to enjoy face-to-face encounters with people of very different cultures; help fill public treasuries with useful tax dollars that were applied to education, health care and other social services; supported the development of important infrastructure and provided billions of dollars in foreign exchange and investment capital.

Phew!  Surely that’s an accomplishment to be proud of?

Yes, it is. But it’s not the complete or honest story. It ignores the inefficiencies and inequities built into the industrial system that only become apparent over time. So duplicating that rate of growth going forward may not bring more “good” with it. There are reasons why continuing to grow bigger is neither desirable nor at all likely. Let’s tackle the issue of likelihood first.

It will be difficult to sustain such growth forever because the operating model on which it was based was designed in and for a different world. The conditions that ensured its success are fast disappearing.

The model flourished when energy was cheaply available from abundant, accessible sources of fossil fuel; when there were literally hundreds of new, virtually empty and exotic places to explore and cultures to get to know; when host communities needed cash and investment to play in a global cash economy; when there were vast quantities of resources, capital and know-how to deploy with limited debt to be paid; and when huge numbers of people were determined to put two decades of war behind them and improve their material well-being.

Continuing to grow in size is not desirable now simply because the world is full (1), and because the industrial model of production and consumption contains within it certain characteristics and flaws that worsen with time. For the purpose of this post, I’ll concentrate on just four of the biggest:

  1. Tourism generates wastes and uses resources at a rate that can be accommodated in its early stage of development but not sustained after it has reached a certain scale and pace of growth. Mitigating the negative effects of climate change (most of which will hurt tourism) now requires that all economies drastically reduce their production of COto zero by 2050. That is because the atmosphere can only absorb a finite amount of CO2 IF we wish to keep average temperatures at a level in which human society can flourish (see previous posts on subject here and here).
  2. Tourism is on a course that would increase its carbon contribution by 150% at precisely the time when it needs to focus on decreasing its absolute contribution to zero! Even if all ground operations became carbon-negative, the airline sector – vital to international tourism and responsible for 40% of tourism emissions now – will be a major contributor to the global total by 2050 if current forecast/ growth rates are achieved. Despite all the talk about being responsible, not a single nation has a carbon mitigation strategy for the tourism sector (2)
  3. With a human population expected to increase by a further 2.5 billion between now and 2050, tourism will also face increasing competition for land, water and food in areas where – thanks to the effects of climate change – public funds may be unable to cope with the basic needs of resident populations. According to UNEP (3), mass tourism leaves an average of 5 cents in the host country for every $1 spent by visitors.  As the costs of mitigation and adaptation to climate change and the demands of a burgeoning visitor population rise, where will these hosts find the resources to supply adequate waste management, security, health and transportation services in addition to meeting the needs of their own growing population?
  4. cheap travelMass tourism has a tendency to produce diminishing returns to investors and host communities over time. Tourism demand is highly volatile, seasonal and beyond the control of host destinations. When demand ebbs there is a tendency to discount and that response, combined with a lack of control over capacity, leads to a general fall in income per transaction. Price discounting necessitates either rigorous cost cutting or vertical and horizontal integration which can exacerbate a tendency for service levels and customer satisfaction to also decline.


What can we do?  There are two answers and the clue lies in the second and third definition of the verb “to grow.”

First, we re-define “growth” as better and second, we grow up!

Re-defining Growth As “Better and better for more”
Let’s shift our focus to a more inspiring end goal – enabling all stakeholders and especially the communities that welcome guests to flourish; in other words express and exude health and vitality; be resilient; open to change and qualitative development. In short thrive and prosper and become all they can be.

Let’s make sure the growth we get is:

  • honest (acknowledges and deals with costs and harm as enthusiastically as it promotes the benefits);
  • fair (ensures the benefits accrue to all stakeholders equitably); and
  • natural (is life enhancing and in harmony with the natural rhythms of life).

Let’s make sure that what host communities deliver and what guests experience constitute an antidote to the types of uneconomic growth that prevail today in many parts of the world:

  • jobless growth, where the economy grows but produces few jobs or ones that are poorly paid and erode the dignity and health of the worker;
  • ruthless growth, where the proceeds only benefit speculators,  and the rich or powerful:
  • voiceless growth, where economic growth is not accompanied by extensions of democracy or empowerment and where residents are deprived as say in who and how many guests they welcome; and
  • futureless growth, where the present generation squanders resources needed by future generations.

Note though: The challenge when discussing tourism from a global perspective is that it ignores the enormous variability in circumstances between destinations. Volume growth may be needed in many destinations where there is over capacity brought about by a “build it and they will come” approach. Conscious Travel is not only about generating higher yields but empowering hosts communities to make informed decisions about how much, what kind, where and when. In some instances, more visitors are needed to ensure vitality and resilience.

We Grow Up!
Growing from an adolescent to an adult requires understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around you personally; that you are a member of a community on which you depend and to which you are obliged. It’s a reciprocal relationship of respect and caring. It also recognizes that there are limits. You neither can nor wish to keep growing bigger. You expect to change as you pass into adulthood – both physically and emotionally. You look forward to exploring how you can express your uniqueness within the constraints set by your culture and environment. While sometimes you’ll kick against those constraints and may even succeed in redefining them; other times, you’ll see that they are useful and stimulate more creativity and innovation.

You stop growing bigger when you grow into adulthood – you mature; you start to want to express yourself; to become more, to stretch – but qualitatively not quantitatively. You want to contribute to a larger whole. You want to be the best you can be. You strive to go where no man has gone before. That yearning diminishes much more slowly than your body ages – take that from me!!

And this process is totally natural!

In nature, nothing grows forever except perhaps the universe itself,  (it’s been expanding outwards at a phenomenal rate for 13.7 billion years).

There are no straight lines in nature. What looks like a straight line in nature is simply a part of a fractal curve that appears throughout life itself. It has what sounds like a mysterious name – it’s called a Sigmoid curve. But Sigmoid is just Greek for the letter S and the curve describes the letter lying on its back and illustrates a natural cycle that pervades all life.

Butler TALC copy

Thanks to Dr. Butler, the tourism community is familiar with the Sigmoid Curve even though they aren’t recognized as such. Dr Butler introduced the most enduring model of tourism destination development but, while he correctly named it as the Tourism Area Life Cycle Model (TALC), he based it on a concept derived from the industrial model of production and consumption – the life cycle of products. It’s an indication of the author’s modesty, that Dr. Butler is surprised by its popularity, potency and durability (4).

The TALC model is applicable not just to individual resorts – each of which sits at its own unique point on the curve – but to mass industrial tourism as a whole. If you define success as volume – as opposed to net benefit – you’ll place mass tourism between stages 3 and 4 on the TALC curve. But if measured in terms of its net benefit then we’re most definitely at or approaching stage 4.


Evidence for Hope

We don’t need to tear down the old model. The alternative model is emerging all around unwto-report-cover-217x300us. Both need to co-exist while the alternative grows in strength and complexity. Several pioneers of a new, less harmful, more beneficial model were acknowledged and applauded by receiving Responsible Tourism Awards at WTM and many others attended and contributed to the sessions that accompanied the trading on the exhibit floor. At the WTM, the UNWTO and Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) launched their jointly produced Global Report on Adventure Tourism  in which ATTA revealed from its Industry Snapshot 2014 that an estimated  65.6% of the total trip cost of an adventure package remains in the destination(s) visited – a vast improvement on the 5% estimated by UNEP for mass tourism. Proof that there is huge potential to improve the net benefit to host destinations.

We don’t need any more divisions; no more “them” and “us”. Those of us who have been working in all aspects of the new, whether it be in sustainable, responsible, geo, fairtrade, or social tourism; whether our focus is on environment or social issues; or whether we’ve been involved for years or minutes, need now to join hands. Some can focus on building inspiring working prototypes of the new. Others can build bridges with the keepers of the old until it makes sense for them to move.

nature's timeless principleWhat we do need is coherent thinking as a “we” tied together by a common vision for humanity that can thrive and flourish on a living planet.

What we do need is to understand nature’s timeless principles to recognise when it’s time for transformation, maturation, evolution (5).

We also need courage to undertake a fearless inventory and speak the truth. It was Chris Doyle’s article for the WTM that persuaded me to attend and I was honoured to join him in the two lively and provocative sessions organized by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA).

This is the most exciting time to be alive. It’s the very first time in human history when individual humans have the capacity to be aware that their personal choices do matter in the evolutionary trajectory of a species, no less!

No wonder we’re being called to stop growing in size but in wisdom, insight, maturity and compassion. Because tourism plays such a direct role in connecting people to each other in places where they can experience the power and beauty of nature  and discover their true identity, we must step up into a much grander sense of purpose.

More of us must engage in the task of building a better model – shifting from one S curve to another.

It all makes that brightly lit central hallway in a box called Excel seem rather unappealing, don’t you think? There’s a mysterious and amazingly beautiful world of living beings out there in the sunshine by the river – let’s join them there and flourish.

References and Reading
(1) Economics in a Full World, Herman Daly, Scintific American September 2005. Download here 

(2) Climate Change Implications for Tourism University of Cambridge Download pdf here

(3) UNEP, Negative Economic Impacts of Tourism – available online here

(4) Tourism Area Life Cycle R.W. Butler,  in Contemporary Tourism Reviews, Goodfellow Publishers, Oxford, 2011

(5) See Giles Hutchins: Transformational Times Call For Transformational Minds.

Personal Note: This post is the first in a series of reflections about how tourism can flourish in a post carbon, post growth society. The “book,” which so many of my dear supporters have said I must write, is finally in the making. It will be so much better if you add your comments to these blogs, share and encourage others. No individual, no enterprise, no community can go it alone. The stakes are too high.


When will tourism industry start talking sensibly about tourism growth? Author Jeremy Smith, founder Travindy. Another call for this discussion to take place.

WTM 2015 Responsible Tourism Day – Shock and Awe
One year later in 2015, resistance to contemplating another model i.e. one that does not deed on volume growth acme very evident.

DO UNWTO Figues mislead?

Tourism What’s the Point ? (just in case we have forgotten)


What is a Conscious Traveller?

PostScript from Anna Pollock (Nov 22nd)
Serendipity and Synchronicity are powerful concepts and words. You’ll start to use them the more you let go the need to plan and control; trust the process and live in the present. Both are happening in my life now. I wasn’t aware of this blog post from Bali Soul Journals until two weeks ago when I received an email from the authors thanking me for being a source of inspiration for their latest book creation. They sent me an e-version of the book before it went to the printers and even though I had to squint to read it online, I couldn’t stop. The essence of Conscious Travel is all here. What an affirmation that a new Story can emerge just at that moment when despair darkens the sky. The book is being launched at the end of November. It’s a feast for the eyes and nourishment for your soul as it offers hope. Get your order in quickly, in time for Christmas.Bali Soul Journals

Bali Soul Journals

When Bali Soul Journals was born, it was as sibling to another book, Things you need to know about Bali. As author, I had felt there was ‘something missing’, the ‘je ne sais pas’. It wasn’t until I chatted with Jack Canfield, author of the famous Chicken Soup for the Soul series, that the penny drop. While it is fine to give practical advice, capturing people’s stories about a location was not only more interesting, it was necessary.

I returned home and began researching a term that Jack had used, ‘conscious travel’.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

is tourism destructive headline

tourism trample disrupt destroy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Tourism’s Impact is Hardly Noticed

Why Mindsets Really Matter

Conscious Travel in Three Words

Why Tourism Will and Must Change its Operating Model

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

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

Source: UNWTO

Source: UNWTO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Where Do You Stand?

Botany Bay 2012

I write this before dawn in Sydney in a modern, sterile hotel room overlooking Botany Bay – the sheltered harbour that James Cook entered some 242 years ago when our current scientific, materialisitic worldview was just entering adolescence. I am sure that, if brought back by a Dr Who type figure, Cook wouldn’t recognize this place at all: paved with concrete, the horizon marred by giant oil storage containers, the incessant roar of jet engines, the continuous ebb and flow of taxis, cars, people, and luggage for whom this is now nothing but an anonymous, sanitized, securitized springboard to and from somewhere else.

I too am about to embark on an adventure – leaving for South America (my first visit) in six hours time and becoming the guest of my gracious hosts in Ecuador where I am sharing my thoughts on Conscious Travel at the UNWTO’s second conference on Ethics and Tourism.

I’ve just left Tasmania – a place where the transition from one economy to another is still proving painful and divisive. Blessed by nature, the state is rich in mineral and natural resources.  Many Tasmanian families have built their livelihoods and far fewer have garnered great wealth from their extraction and exploitation. Despite diminishing net benefit to the community as a whole, they are reluctant to let go of a way of life that has sustained families with seemingly no ill effect for generations. It’s proving to be a clash of worldview. Those who can see how quickly human society is shifting its values; those who can see that dependency on a limited non-renewable resource is folly; and those who wish to ensure their grand children will have a life, let alone a livelihood, are demonized as anti development.

Ecuador is at a very different stage – with a rapidly expanding population and rising expectations, it also needs to build a sustainable economy. But as each of us knows personally, to participate in the global economy (now its only option) it needs to generate cash quickly. The Ecuadorians are fully aware that the Amazon is worth far more to humanity as a life support system, but until we humans recognize that without air to breathe, water to drink and biodiversity we are doomed to become another Mars, there apparently is no immediately accessible market for those life support services can satisfy the demand for jobs and cash. Ecuador was the first nation to recognize the Rights of Nature and it looks like New Zealand is moving in that direction with respect to the Whanaganui River at least,  thanks to the opportunities afforded by the Waitangi Treaty and the influence of a Maori perspective. Ecauador also did a while back what the Tasmanians have just commissioned and that is calculate the value of their forest as a sink for carbon and not as a source of oil and lumber.

This is why both places are looking to tourism as a plank of a new sustainable economy. But what kind of tourism will best fit, and produce the greatest net benefit over the longer term? How can it be developed from the start and not applied like a bandaid after the damage has already been done? These are the questions that need serious attention in both communities. A new model for tourism development, that is environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling for all its participants, has to be envisioned from the outset and the people of Ecuador and Tasmania need to ensure a modern version of prospecting and speculation doesn’t pre-empt their options. If we don’t, then the children of the leaders in both places will be facing the ire and dismay of their people as is now happening in Venice and Bali – two priceless jewels that have now been trashed by greed, selfishness and myopia.

There are no simple answers and a conference on ethics and tourism isn’t going to scratch the surface for the simple reason that doing the right thing is being positioned as a choice and as an after thought. Until our most fundamental beliefs about the how the world works shift, until we wake up from the delusion that one species can grow indefinitely, applying a predatory, consumption-based economy that doesn’t give back, or “know its place” then the talk of ethics will evaporate like the morning mist over the Amazon.

The following video about the challenges in Ecuador is titled The Heart of Everywhere because its creators rightly recognize that the challenges in Ecuador encapsulate the issues affecting all of us. But imagine you are situated on a globe without either poles or national boundaries. In this case, every point is the centre of everywhere and that means that all problems are our problems and each of us, regardless of where we are located, shares equal responsibility for the whole.  In tourism, that means listening to our indigenous brethren and experiencing all places as alive – not dead;  and as  sacred – not profane. It means knowing that all manifestations of so called reality (inanimate and animate) are not just connected but in a constant but evolutionary dance with one another; and they are willing us to wake up and dance with them! Travel is one means whereby we can shift our perspective and develop lenses or eyes that see a version of reality that is “pregnant with possibilities”

I titled this blog post Where Do You Stand? because I want you to stop being a wallflower at the most amazing, colourful and creative party/happening on Planet Earth today. Join now and you can shape its future, set its rhythm and cadence or invent some steps of your own. At the very least subscribe to this blog and contribute to the discussion. In the next post I’ll share how my thinking is developing on the shape of an alternative model. I shared it with some very forward thinking people in Tasmania and they liked it. We’re hoping to co-develop it together in a totally open, inclusive process.

Why Tourism’s Impact is Hardly Noticed – a response

When it comes to social marketing and common sense as it applies to destinations, Martyn Collins iVisitor blog is one of the best in the UK. This is guy is committed and no one works harder or is more generous of his time and expertise.

The following post  titled Tourism’s Huge Impact Hardly Noticed caught my attention recently and stimulated me to pose a contrarian view. Martyn re-posted an article in support of Rob Gialloreto, CEO of Tourism Victoria (BC, Canada) about declining public funding and lack of action by presumably (it’s not clear) government agencies. Best to read Gailloreto’s article here first although I have paraphrased the key points.

Having spent over 25 years working towards building a vibrant tourism economy in western Canada, I might be expected to agree with the sentiments in the article but I don’t. I’m not saying tourism shouldn’t receive more support but the approach taken by Rob is one pursued for decades and it’s not working.

One of the reasons  – and there are many – why tourism is not perceived as popular with the Treasury Boards of the western world is that they also get tired of this form of whining and rarely does tourism have all its data act together to justify its position. Leaders are loquacious about benefits (employment, foreign exchange, peace etc) but pretty quiet about costs, net return and productivity. Another is that public spending on tourism is shared across all levels of government as well as to different sub sectors so the precise total investment is often not appreciated.

Tourism is not different from other sectors in its complexity and diversity. Healthcare, education, and food production affect everyone’s lives even more cogently than tourism and are also comprised of heterogenous agencies (SMEs. Independent professionals, small numbers of large enterprises large pharmaceutical or grocery retailers, large numbers of micro enterprises (doctors, dentists, physiotherpapists, home care helpers, farmers, vets etc).

Tourism is an export business but so are software, mining, animation graphics, fashion, manufacturing, education and some forms of healthcare.

Rob says we treat tourism like a test that we didn’t study for and we cross our fingers and  …..”we hope that the airport runway will be extended to bring in direct flights from the UK.”

It’s true that international destinations need planes and the airports to enable them to land but it’s also true that trees have to be cut down to export lumber or furniture; open pit mines are gouged out of the earth to sell off coal, pipelines are needed to oil shale and quotas placed on fishing boats. As populations and consumer demand for goods increase, the decisions about what infrastructure the public sector needs to build when and where will, I hope, come under increasing scrutiny as the consequences become more complex, intense and diverse. Tourism isn’t being singled out here – it’s just being asked to think and act responsibly and play by the new rules…

Rob observes “we hope that marketing will be enough to bring visitors here despite rising ferry fares, order issues and economic hardship in the US and Europe.” Well again, the truth is that most factors affecting the ebb and flow of tourism are, in reality, out of our control (in the short run) whether they be currency exchange rates, terrorism, ash from volcanoes or other natural hazards, epidemics and financial collapse. Some of these factors are place specific and others affect the majority. Again it’s the way things are based on our core model of production and consumption. Tourism isn’t being singled out or victimised.

If tourism is going to survive in this chaotic and uncertain world we have created for ourselves, its hosts will have to be relentlessly nimble, adaptable and irrepressibly creative and curious. More money spent in the UK on more direct flights will be of no help given that most of us in the UK can barely afford the train fare to Heathrow.

No one doubts that folks in tourism don’t work any less hard than people in other sectors but sometimes it seems as if they are emulating the reputation that farmers used to have for being chronic complainers.

Of course tourism is vital to the economies of developed and developing countries. In fact in many ways it is now a victim of its own success. Having boasted for years about its resilience and its ability to bounce back, many government personnel took notice and realised what a potential cash cow tourism could become.  In the UK, for example, the Treasury now appears to consider the Airport Passenger Duty on the same level as the so called “sin taxes” applied to liquor, wine and cigarettes because they know their imposition won’t stop people either drinking, smoking or travelling in sufficient numbers despite the moans of industry.

So what I am suggesting is that it’s time to stop behaving like the adolescent boy pouting because he’s spent his pocket money; his Dad won’t lend him the family car which is out of fuel to go on a hot date and his Mum is imposing a curfew.

Perhaps I am being as harsh as I belive Rob was being indulgent but I honestly believe that tourism – as a sector – would be taken more seriously by policy makers and might get the kind of political attention it craves, if it (i.e. the people making a loving from tourism):

1. Wakes up to the changes occurring in the world at large;

2. Grows Up and stops repeating the same old complaints or expecting special treatment;

3. Lives up to its true potential and generates a higher net return from its environmental and cultural resources;

4. Opens up to be more inclusive in its approach – by attracting people to places not selling destinations;

5. Steps up and takes responsibility for addressing the problems of our time – ecological destruction, social injustice and a growing sense of spiritual/psychological despair among affluent and poor alike; and

6.Meets up – forms small but powerful groups of committed conscious hosts in destination who decide to stop complaining and think differently.

If any of the above prescriptions for success are of interest, read on. If not – find a bar and tell your woes to the bartender. he’ll likely be an attentive listener but he won’t be able to do much about it either.

  1. Wakes Up  as in became conscious of the fact that the world is changingand the next 60 years will be both different and a lot harder than the past 60. Public treasuries pretty well everywhere are running on empty and incurring huge debts; all kinds of pubic costs are rising; populations are aging, incomes in real terms are declining in most households. Public funding for tourism – especially in established western economies – will continue plummet and we’ll have to make do and depend on each other and not the state for a change.The tourism community has to wake up to the fact that a drop in funding is not the end of the world considering that we are living through one of the most environmentally, financially, politically and socially hazardous yet potentially the most creative, exciting period of history. When some of the world’s most reputable scientists suggest we only have a 50-50 chance of surviving the century, then tourism should stop sweating the small stuff.
  2. Grows Up – if tourism wants to be taken seriously, it needs to show what it’s doing to address the  solutions to the key challenges of our time. The question proposed by J.F. Kennedy is pertinent

              “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”

A sign of personal maturity occurs when an individual starts to recognize that being part of a family brings with it responsibilities as well as rights and there is awareness that it’s not all about me or I but “we. ” That’s something that Millennials or Gen Y seem to understand intuitively but they are not running tourism just yet. This generation wants to be working for companies that have a real sense of purpose higher than just making money – the latter is taken as a given.

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 that differ from their own that help us wake up to the fact that our worldview is one of many and likely needs to change, There is no reason for tourism hosts to be nothing more than the writers of invitations and the silent pourers of coffee. Travels hosts (i.e., tourism providers) can become agents of change and find greater meaning and purpose in their work by actively protecting, preserving and rejuvenating the preciously unique ecosystems and cultures that make up their home – their unique place.

3. Lives Up – to its  potential. The real definition of the word sin is to miss the mark – not to be all we can be. Travel isn’t a sin in the traditional sense as the Bishop of London once implied from his pulpit – although denying our responsibility for reducing our share of waste and and over use of scarce resources such as water, land and energy might be. No, the sin comes from not delivering the highest and best return on the gift of a unique place and culture we call the destination. That’s the sin and it’s committed every time when we panic and sell ourselves short through sales, discounting and excessive couponing and suggest to our customers that cheap travel is their right and no one has to pay for the hidden costs of our fun & pleasure.

4. Opens Up – tourism has kept a tight rein on its domain for too long. It’s no longer just about marketing destinations but ensuring that “places” can attract visitors, students, residents, investors, talent and capital to thrive. It’s time to break down the invisible walls that deny our own interdependence with all sector of society and the economy and acknowledge our utter dependence on a healthy biosphere. We need to break down the walls that separate tourism from economic development , inward investment and cut our costs and pool our resources .

5. Steps up. Tourism’s ubiquity, pervasiveness  and size,  combined with its embeddedness in all aspects of what is now a global economy (“tourism is everybody’s business”), could enable its hosts to become effective agents of change, in the communities.  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 take better care of their planetary home but only if we shed our tendency to see sacred places as products (objects) and our customers as walking wallets (more objects)

6. Meets up.  99% of enterprises in tourism are small and most operate in relative isolation – that’s our source of weakness. But across the globe, there’s growing recognition that we cannot depend on “top down” solutions from old-style command and control organizations to fix global problems by policy or diktat. 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.

The fastest most effective change occurs at the grassroot community level when individuals come together and decide to take back responsibility. Within any tourism community it does not take ALL hosts – simply a minority of brave, highly committed, open minded, collaborative, curious sometime heretical individuals willing to experiment, innovate, try, fail, learn and try again as we implement  a vision for tourism that does more harm than good.

That’s what Conscious Travel is all about – working with small groups of committed hosts in places where tourism providers want to make change happen.

Tourism – What’s the Point? Part 3 AFAR readers answer the question

The business literature is full of articles on the importance of differentiating your business by – showing you care; making a difference and having a deeper or higher purpose than simply maximising profit to a few shareholders each quarter.

In fact the three most popular posts on this blog have been those that addressed this topic.

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

Tourism: What’s the Point? Part 2 – Join the Conversation

Why Conscious Hosts Will Help Their Guests Fall in Love

So we were delighted to see that AFAR, the great magazine and web site that focuses more or less exclusively on what we would describe as the Conscious Traveller,  is asking their readers why they travel and using Pinterest to spread the word.

As I haven’t yet received permission to reprint their entire blog post yet, please check it out now

I Travel Therefore I…?

but here’s  the other responses that stood out for me. Why not pop over to AFAR’s blog  and add some of yours.

As I wrote nearly a decade ago: Profit = Passion  + Purpose. Focus on all three but just make sure you get the order right and it’s not as it appears…

Why Tourism Will and Must Change Its Operating Model

Marketers and managers of destinations have long absorbed the concept that places go through a cycle of development from the initial discovery of a place, through its early development, growth, consolidation and then stagnation phases.  Yet, this same cycle has not been applied to the macro pattern of mass tourism. This is strange because virtually every other aspect of human society is in the midst of a radical re-think and is starting to examine, question and evaluate the deep assumptions and beliefs that have sustained human progress and economic growth over the past 100-150 years.

Illustration by Antonello Silverini

We’ve outlined why we think Tourism will and must change its operating model on the home page of this site. What is Conscious Travel? and explore it more in a Whitepaper Can Tourism Change Its Operating Model: The Necessity and Inevitability, obtainable from slideshare here. In short, survival and prosperity depend not just on becoming green but waking up to a whole new way of doing business that addresses the need to be environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling.

We’re not bucking a trend here – as outlined in an earlier post, Screw Tourism As Usual, there is a fundamental shift going on in the world of business. Capitalism is not being jettisoned – business remains the most efficient wealth generation agency on the planet – but is being re-tweaked to address some of its flaws. Not all tourism operators will agree with these changes but many will.  The evidence from outside tourism suggests that, those who do re-think the way they operate, will fare better in a world in which the only constant is uncertainty and change.

It’s premature to specify what the emerging model will look like and how it will work but we can speculate and, more importantly we can come together to create it.

In my paper titled,  I have started to explore its features in more detail. All we can do here is outline some key characteristics:

  1. In the old model, the starting point is the Product, an object that is assembled, packaged, produced and priced according to the rules of manufacturing. In the new model, the starting point is a Place that is recognized as qualitatively unique and therefore scarce. While products become commodities and lose value as they become more alike, “Places” that are celebrated for their unique geography, history and culture, gain value and are acknowledged as the primary motivator of travel.
  2. In the old model, guest and hosts act in an adversarial role, playing an “I win-you lose” game in which each party tries to win at the cost of the other. In the new model, that puts relationship building ahead of transactions, guest and host co-create experiences of meaning, benefit and value to both parties.
  3. In the old model, Hosts are producers who focus on the attributes of their product in order to persuade a target market to purchase. In the new model, hosts orchestrate unique experiences of places that are perceived of value and as transformative by guests Guest are attracted to a host for his or her personal, subjective qualities  – what they value; their sense of purpose; contribution to community; their integrity and authenticity over and above the physical artefacts and amenities
  4. In the old model, Producers PUSHED their products in front of potential buyers through various promotional techniques and, when that failed, they dropped their prices. The cost cutting methods deployed to maintain profit margins (standardisation, homogenisation and automation) further devalued the experience and guest satisfaction while suggesting that cheap travel was a right.
    In the new model, producers focus on protecting, rejuvenating and expressing the elements of a place that make it unique, attractive and worth paying for.
    Hosts who can communicate a strong signal about their values and their appreciation of the uniqueness of their place and corporate culture, PULL towards them customers whose values are aligned with theirs.
  5. In the old model, producers assumed that their first priority was to maximise profit for their shareholders. In the new model, producers understand that profit is an outcome that occurs when the enterprise has a higher purpose and when it works to generate net benefit for all its stakeholders (guests, employees, suppliers, and the host community). In the old model, tourism entrepreneurs were followers – applying models and values developed in manufacturing. In the new model. They will be active change agents in their communities and on the forefront of innovation.

It was John Lennon who said:

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality” 

Now is the time for all of us working towards a better tourism – be it green, sustainable, responsible, eco, local, slow, philanthropic – to come together and co-create a new vision and a new operating model that unifies and inspires rather than fragments and dilutes. We do have to change our dream (the mindset or paradigm through which we view the world) and ironically, to do that we have to wake up and become aware of the assumptions that underpin our current model and determine whether they still work for us.

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