At a recent conference one of the speakers reminded the audience that tourism takes place at the acquiescence of the community. I thought the statement was eloquent and expressed an important idea…. but it has been bouncing around in my head ever since.
According to my dictionary, the noun acquiescence is tacit assent or agreement by silence. In the legal sense it is ” such neglect to take legal proceedings for such a long time as to imply the abandonment of a right’. It is unfortunate that so often “acquiescence” is exactly what happens in tourism destination communities.
One of the principles of sustainable tourism is that destination community stakeholders have an active say in the development process. It is interesting that while this principle is applied in developing destinations around the world, it is rarely applied to communities here in the United States. Few CVBs track consumer sentiment toward tourism or reach out to diverse stakeholder groups in developing strategic tourism plans.
So – for the sustainability of tourism and the benefit of destination communities – I will say tourism takes place in destination communities, not with their acquiescence but with their consent ( and I will continue to work with destination leaders to ensure that is, in fact, the case).
While I am committed to promoting sustainability in tourism, I am sure that we can do better.
Sure – I know many destinations are struggling just to ensure that tourism is not a destructive force in their communities.But just not being bad isn’t good enough… I believe we should set the bar higher.
I am happy to say that some thought leaders in other fields are showing the way. I recently attended a presentation that highlighted the work of Bill Reed. Bill is one of the drivers behind the hugely influential LEED program. He has taken the next step – beyond sustainability- and committed himself to work that not only doesn’t harm the environment – but contributes to environmental regeneration. As it says on his website “Ultimately, his objective is to improve the overall quality of the physical, social and spiritual life of our living places”.
Tourism can be part of that future – a future that is not only sustainable – but restorative and regenerative.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council is currently seeking public input on a set of criteria for destinations aiming for sustainability. The criteria – designed to be the “minimum” set of activities – will challenge many destinations and hopefully spur them on to greater efforts.
The criteria presented by GSTC create a great – and comprehensive – list of things every destination should be thinking about to ensure that the long-term benefits of tourism are realised. With so many of us so busy on the challenges of the “small stuff” in the inbox this list is an excellent “reality check” that reminds of us of the “big stuff” that is truly important.
To many, tourism is an economic savior that can bring jobs and opportunity. Indeed there are tourism opportunities everywhere and markets for most any type of experience. But not all markets are the same and not all destinations have the ability to service the markets they want to attract.
I have been thinking a lot about the “human traffic jam” on Everest this week and the tourists who undertake this type of travel. The market for this type of experience is somewhat limited by all sorts of factors – money, health, access, time involved etc to name a few. This type of tourism is also limited by facilities – and it seems that we are fast approaching capacity on the world’s largest mountain.
Visitors need services and, although the opportunity to see the unique and special trumps many hardships, there is definitely a minimum threshold of services for most people. Tourism is built on a foundation of basic infrastructure . In general, as the infrastructure and services increase, the potential market increases.
Which brings me to a great article in USA Today about Afghanistan Tourism. I am sure that there is a market for Afghanistan tourism today. But it is surely limited to a brave few. So Afghan tourism has two tasks:
1. They need to identify the tourists who are prepared to visit the country today and build from this (small) foundation.
2. They need to build the infrastructure for their own communities. As that infrastructure increases so too will opportunities for tourism offers to larger markets.
It is a balancing act with great “upside” and I wish them every success !
How do profit from international tourism ?
This is a great story about how preparing for the needs of international visitors can create profits for even the smallest tourism organizations. It’s a flat world – be ready to compete !
India’s Rickshaw Driver on Marketplace
This week, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Marriott CEO to be, Arne Sorenson, declared this is the beginning of a Golden Age of Travel. He quoted from new research that shows that leaders from around the world see Tourism as not only a means of economic growth, but a way to increase cultural awareness and pathway to peace. It is great to see an industry leaders standing up and sharing a vision of the industry that transends the issues we all deal with day to day.
I really embrace the notion that this is a “Golden Age of Tourism”. In recent years we have become so much more aware of what constitutes truly strategic tourism… tourism that is smart, tourism that creates benefits for the communities in which it takes place and enriches the lives of the travelers that make the journey.
There is still a lot of work to be done …. but these are exciting times for Tourism.
Tourism is considered the world’s largest industry. It touches lives – for the better and for the worse – in many ways. With so many people, from New York to the Outback, London to the small islands of the Pacific (and everywhere in between) impacted by tourism, it is critical that we manage it carefully. Too many destinations – communities – have been sacrificed to poorly managed tourism – our industry needs to work smarter to achieve its long-term promise.
….And the desire to travel is hard-wired into the human experience. We travel to learn, to relax, to enrich ourselves. We travel to share time with friends and family, to experience new cultures and create new relationships. Celebrating our ability to travel and considering new ways to travel “smart” are also critical for the sustainability of tourism.
This blog will examine emerging trends in travel and the effective management of tourism. It will explore what the best and brightest members of the tourism industry are doing to bring great experiences to travelers. It will share newest research in he hospitality and tourism industry.
I hope you will join me on this journey of discovery.