Tag Archives: sustainable tourism

In Defense of Small and Local (Social Entrepreneurs)

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Ang Chomba Sherpa

There is an excitement about the power of social entrepreneurship. Unleashing the power of entrepreneurial thinking on social problems provides “out of the box” solutions  after years of “standard” responses these challenges. However, some of the most vocal advocates for social entrepreneurship only extoll the virtues of scalable solutions and game-changing approaches.

There is more to social enterprise than a few large organizations and I want to take a moment to celebrate social entrepreneurs that are working in their own small corners of the world, making real and positive change in communities around the world. Academics have called these social entrepreneurs “Bricoleurs”, from the French word bricolage – because they use what “is at hand”. These social entrepreneurs have deep understanding of the issues they are working on and strong relationships with the people they are working with.

P1030124Ang Chhomba Sherpa, chairman of Moving Mountains Nepal, is a social entrepreneur working to improve the lives of people living in the villages of the Solukhumbu region of Nepal. Chhomba and his colleagues at Moving Mountains provide electricity (via a micro-hydro system), healthcare and education (supporting some teachers’ salaries) in small villages. Moving Mountains uses funds generated by its for-profit sister company, Adventure Alternative, to help fund these projects. Chhomba, who is originally from the region, works closely with community leaders to achieve the goal of improving the lives of the villagers. While the scale of this work is focused on a specific region, Moving Mountains and Adventure Alternative have been recognized internationally for their very real impact.

While we definitely need scalable, game changers – like Grameen Bank – that change the “big picture”, many social entrepreneurs in the tourism sector are addressing local issues and creating local solutions. For the people of those regions, social entrepreneurship is delivering on its promise.

DMO Managers are working on sustainability every day..

“Sustainability” has been described as one of the most “jargony-ist” words of recent times. Because I talk about sustainability a lot, I get this feedback from everyone – students, hoteliers, tour operators and DMOs.  I agree ! The word “sustainability”  is used way too frequently and too carelessly – and it’s too bad – because lost in the “I’m so over this word – sustainability” attitude is the important fact that DMOs are important agents of sustainability.

Imagine working to make the destination the best place it could be – a beautiful environment, people treated well and locals celebrating their unique culture, a healthy economy. Imagine you are doing it to get the best from/for the destination today – and that you are working to ensure the destination community remains a great place to be in the years to come. This scenario doesn’t take make imagination for many DMO managers – it is what they do every day.

So – sustainability and improving the “triple bottom line” – people, planet, profits – is core to the role of a DMO manager. Might be time to update the job description ….

What DMO managers need to know: Food Trends and Tourism

Sustainability and Social Responsibility are are the driving force behind the Top 5 trends in restaurants in the U.S. according to the National Restaurant Association. The top food trends, according to the  National Restaurant Association Culinary Forecast 2015 are locally sourced meat, seafood and produce and environmental sustainability.

Why do DMO managers need to know this ? Because this trend is helping them meet their goals of improving the economic and social well being of their destination communities. WhatsHot2015-Top5_Food_1200x1200

We are all becoming familiar with infographics touting the economic benefits of tourism.  An important way to improve the economic impact is to reduce what economists call “leakage” – the money that leaves the community. Locally sourced restaurants and “farm to table” restaurants keep money in the community ! The money tourists spend at “farm to table” restaurants does “leak away” – it stays close to home. These trends is helping raise the economic impact of tourism in many communities.

DMO managers spend a lot of time attracting new visitors to their destination – but strategies to improve the economic impact of visitors as less common. Leveraging these important trends is a way that progressive DMO management can get the most for their communities from visitor dollars.

Laying a Solid Foundation for the Future of Tourism

As an educator committed to building a better world, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can equip the new generation to tackle the challenges they will face ( or should I say – the challenges we leave them….)

While it is hard to anticipate the specific skills needed in the world of tomorrow, I believe there are some core values that will be critical to developing a better tourism system in the years to come. My friends at TEFI  – Tourism Education Futures Initiative – have identified 5  important sets of values that make a great foundation on which to build curriculum – and a career. Those value dimensions and their specific values/skills include:

  • Stewardship: sustainability, responsibility, and service to the community
  • Mutuality: diversity, inclusion, equity, humility and collaboration
  • Ethics: Honesty, transparency, authenticity
  • Professionalism: leadership, practicality, relevance, timeliness, teamwork and pro-activity
  • Knowledge: critical thinking, innovation, creativity and networking.

Now – I’ll be the first to admit there may be a few things missing in this list – but it sure looks like a great place to start to me.

Being everything to everyone

Companies wishing to be socially responsible face a world of good and important causes. Over the last few months I have been looking at Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the tourism industry and I have been amazed at the wide number of issues that fall under the topic of CSR.  Clearly, no company can address every issue – we simply can’t be everything to everyone. Choosing “the fights’ that are important to the company and its stakeholders is critical in managing this process.

A recent article on adding discipline to sustainability from McKinsey and Company is worth a read. I have been a fan of McKinsey and Co since I first read “In Search of Excellence” by McKinsey Alum,  Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, and find McKinsey’s research and insights useful. Enjoy !

Acquiesce or consent ?

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).

 

Imagine a new way…

So often, tourism is a “bit player” in the health of a community. In the traditional models of tourism,  tour operators come and – at best – the visitors they bring spend money that contributes to the local economy. While the tourism income helps, there is a lot of  what economists call “leakage”.

Imagine a new type of tourism company – a company founded for the purpose of enhancing the cultural and economic benefit of the host community. Imagine a social enterprise – like Tom’s Shoes or Ethos Water – that plows back profits from tourism operations into the community itself . This is the model that responsible tour operator Adventure Alternative and its sister charity, Moving Mountains  have brought to the villages of Bumburi and Bupsa, high in the Himalaya. Congratulations to Gavin Bate, Ang Chhongba Sherpa and Pasange Tendi Sherpa and their team, for finding a new path for tourism in this special part of theP1020391 world.