“GT” Insight Bites: Diverse perspectives on travel & tourism and a fairer world

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How can travel & tour­ism con­trib­ute to a fairer world?

For this “GT” Insight Bites, your cor­res­pond­ent put the ques­tion above to a range of travel & tour­ism stake­hold­ers, and invited writ­ten responses of up to 300 words. 

My thanks to all 15 respondents. 

Their answers appear in the order in which I received them … because it’s fair. 🙂

Pre­vi­ous “GT” Insight Bites:

At its best, tourism offers opportunities for all

Greg Bakunzi, Founder, Red Rocks Initiative for Sustainable Development & Red Rocks Rwanda

The hos­pit­al­ity, travel, leis­ure, and recre­ation sec­tors are togeth­er very large, inter­con­nec­ted, and reli­ant on each oth­er. Their most import­ant eco­nom­ic fea­ture is that they con­trib­ute to three high-pri­or­ity goals, such as gen­er­a­tion of income, employ­ment, and for­eign exchange earnings.

The tour­ism industry leads to the cre­ation of attrac­tions, res­taur­ants, enter­tain­ment, and bet­ter ser­vices in a com­munity. It has a pos­it­ive impact on oth­er indus­tries too, such as agri­cul­ture, trans­port, and man­u­fac­tur­ing, not for­get­ting the poten­tial pos­it­ive effects on the loc­al community.

Red Rocks Rwanda
Red Rocks Rwanda
A “GT” Partner

This industry yields sig­ni­fic­ant eco­nom­ic and social bene­fits around the world, and pos­sesses the power to change people’s lives for the bet­ter by driv­ing eco­nom­ic growth and devel­op­ment, redu­cing poverty through the pro­vi­sion of live­li­hoods, and fos­ter­ing tol­er­ance and peace through inter­cul­tur­al exchange and understanding.

Tour­ism clearly con­trib­utes to the eco­nom­ic and social devel­op­ment of a nation, by driv­ing eco­nom­ic growth, cre­at­ing jobs and wealth, and fos­ter­ing trade and encour­aging invest­ment. And as it is built on a found­a­tion of per­son-to-per­son engage­ment and cooper­a­tion, that fosters high­er-level dip­lo­mat­ic rela­tions, and can con­trib­ute to a more tol­er­ant geo­pol­it­ic­al cli­mate and region­al integration. 

Red Rocks Initiative for Sustainable Development
Red Rocks Initiative for Sustainable Development
A “GT” Partner

For indi­vidu­als who travel, the hori­zon-expand­ing exper­i­ence of an exot­ic des­tin­a­tion exposes them to cul­tures, cus­toms, and exper­i­ences that increase their tol­er­ance and under­stand­ing. That can be bene­fi­cial for hosts too.

At its best, tour­ism offers every indi­vidu­al the oppor­tun­ity to take up jobs, acquire busi­ness and lan­guage skills, and real­ise entre­pren­eur­i­al and oth­er pro­fes­sion­al oppor­tun­it­ies, res­ult­ing in human cap­it­al devel­op­ment, and upward social mobility. 

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Travel, tourism, hospitality can be fair

Saverio Francesco Bertolucci, Administrative Assistant, Alcambarcelona, Spain

Even though the travel & tourism/hospitality sec­tors are included in the same industry, their con­tri­bu­tion to a fairer world is dif­fer­ent and must be divided.

My pre­vi­ous research — in Island Stud­ies Journ­al and Journ­al of Respons­ible Tour­ism Man­age­ment — clearly shows that tour­ism can be an asset for com­munity devel­op­ment, eco­nom­ic prosper­ity, and social well-being if backed by respons­ible rules that focus on inclus­ive­ness, trans­par­ency, and efficiency. 

Due to nev­erend­ing tour­ism devel­op­ment, many des­tin­a­tions suf­fer from mass tour­ism, which is caus­ing loc­al ant­ag­on­ism and back­lash. In this situ­ation, allow­ing most stake­hold­ers’ voices to be heard will yield a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the situation. 

Stake­hold­ers sit­ting togeth­er and talk­ing about their issues can be the basis for set­ting fair and prac­tic­al com­mon ground rules and effect­ive legis­lat­ive compromises.

Con­cern­ing travel, mov­ing from one place to anoth­er is a daily action in the life of every human. In the cur­rent exper­i­en­tial tour­ism eco­nomy, indi­vidu­als love to travel to get out of their com­fort zones and vis­it new des­tin­a­tions inhab­ited by people with dif­fer­ent cul­tures and traditions. 

Travel and fair­ness can be syn­onym­ous if travel is under­stood to be a means towards recip­roc­al respect between host and guest. Mutu­al respect and suc­cess­ful cohab­it­a­tion — how­ever tem­por­ary — between parties can only hap­pen if des­tin­a­tions tar­get, attract, and wel­come the right customers.

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Tourism is all about dealing with human beings

Susan Eardly, Founder, Serene Vacations, Sri Lanka

Pas­sion­ate trav­el­lers will con­tin­ue travelling. 

Are ser­vice pro­viders ready to offer great ser­vice based on a fairer, more human approach to all their stakeholders?

While des­tin­a­tions and tour­ism stake­hold­ers strive to regain lost eco­nom­ic pos­i­tions in the after­math of the COV­ID-induced reces­sion, it’s import­ant for them to focus on a sus­tain­ab­il­ity that is based on the basic val­ues of travel & tour­ism: Respect­ing people, nature, and dif­fer­ent cultures. 

Tour­ism is all about deal­ing with human beings. 

I believe that travel & tour­ism is more about the interests and cre­ativ­ity of trav­el­lers than it is about the invest­ments and rev­en­ues of ser­vice pro­viders. Thus trav­el­lers can con­trib­ute to fair­ness by respect­ing every cul­ture they encounter, and help­ing to ensure that envir­on­ments are protected. 

A col­lab­or­at­ive approach towards a fairer world is vital.

To sum­mar­ise, I would say that:

  • Travel & tour­ism should respect people and pro­tect cul­ture and nature. 
  • Travel & tour­ism will con­tin­ue to face strong chal­lenges such as cli­mate change, new tech­no­lo­gies, eco­nom­ic down­turns, and polit­ic­al and social issues, which will require a col­lab­or­at­ive approach to overcome. 
  • Des­tin­a­tions needs inclus­ive, sus­tain­able, and resi­li­ent gov­ernance models. 
  • A more human­ised approach to travel & tour­ism is essential. 

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Centralise different values over economic growth

Stasja Koot, Assistant Professor, Wageningen University, the Netherlands; Senior Research Fellow, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

The ques­tion is based on the premise that tour­ism can make such a con­tri­bu­tion, and although that some­times hap­pens, this premise needs scru­tiny first.

Without deny­ing some jobs cre­ated for a small num­ber of ‘loc­al’ people, it is import­ant to acknow­ledge that this does not auto­mat­ic­ally make travel & tour­ism ‘fairer’. 

Jobs cre­ate salar­ies that people work for, filling in labour demands that the industry needs.

Moreover, most people work­ing in glob­al tour­ism are low-wage labour­ers, often under bad circumstances. 

Non­ethe­less, such jobs are often presen­ted as ‘bene­fits’ by the industry. But, just like many phil­an­throp­ic ini­ti­at­ives that the industry sup­ports, these jobs do not con­vin­cingly address struc­tur­al inequalities.

Moreover, based on my own work in Nam­i­bia, South Africa, and Indone­sia I find it import­ant to stress that (eco)tourism needs much land, which is then unavail­able for oth­er types of live­li­hoods, while the jobs cre­ated only employ a few. 

His­tor­ic­ally, many such tracts of land that are now used for tour­ism were used for oth­er live­li­hoods, and con­tem­por­ary jobs in tour­ism are embed­ded in neo-colonialism.

And there are eco­lo­gic­al issues: 

Tour­ism, includ­ing avi­ation, is highly con­sumptive, thereby con­trib­ut­ing to cli­mate change, glob­al biod­iversity loss, and pollution. 

Tour­ism increases eco­nom­ic growth, but cap­it­al­ises on the lim­ited avail­ab­il­ity of nat­ur­al resources. So to vis­it an ‘eco­lodge’ in South Africa when com­ing from Europe, for instance, is not ‘fair’, as those already liv­ing in the mar­gins of soci­ety are hard­est hit by these eco­lo­gic­al problems.

Travel & tour­ism is part of — and pushes for­ward — a much lar­ger glob­al sys­tem and ideo­logy that cent­ral­ises con­tinu­ous eco­nom­ic growth. 

If we really want to make this industry fairer, oth­er val­ues need pri­or­ity, in par­tic­u­lar long-term socio-eco­nom­ic justice and envir­on­ment­al sus­tain­ab­il­ity at a glob­al scale.

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We need to enact fairness principles

K Michael Haywood, Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph, Canada

The Ber­lin Declar­a­tion revealed that a fairer world might emerge if, col­lect­ively, we set our sights on “trans­form­ing tourism”. 

In sup­port of the 2030 Agenda for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment many options to achieve this have emerged, includ­ing com­munity-based tour­ism and degrowth, both of which have gen­er­ated interest and critique. 

Every­one is con­flic­ted as to how best to bal­ance tourism’s wide range of bene­fits, costs, and con­sequences in dif­fer­ent con­texts, com­munit­ies, and countries. 

But, with what’s con­sidered fair and reas­on­able for one rep­res­ent­ing an ana­thema to the oth­er, what are we to do?

We’re well aware that the core eth­ic­al value of fair­ness comes with mor­al oblig­a­tions, usu­ally asso­ci­ated with the exer­cise of power, that bestow bene­fits or impose burdens.

In our vari­ous capa­cit­ies and roles, almost every­one has the power to give or with­hold bene­fits — jobs, money, praise, sup­port — and to impose bur­dens — exclu­sion, dis­ap­prov­al, cri­ti­cism, destruction.

Because we render judge­ments that affect lives, we should be com­pelled to take respons­ib­il­ity, not just place the bur­den for change and trans­form­a­tion on others. 

How might this play out? 

In addi­tion to my pre­vi­ous com­ment­ary and sug­ges­tions, con­sider the import­ance of ensur­ing com­munit­ies-as-des­tin­a­tions artic­u­late a mean­ing­ful pur­pose for tourism. 

We would do well if we encour­age ourselves and decision-makers to hone soft skills, pur­sue cul­tur­al flu­ency, and devel­op what psy­cho­lo­gists call ‘the­ory of mind’; the capa­city to infer how oth­ers are think­ing and feel­ing, not only through nar­rat­ive thought but through the devel­op­ment of con­tex­tu­al intel­li­gence.

In more forth­right terms, we need to enact fair­ness prin­ciples that util­ise the ‘veil of ignor­ance’ to test fair­ness; fair­ness that is con­cerned with all our beha­viours, decisions, and actions — pro­cesses and con­sequences — to ensure that they are mor­ally right, hon­our­able, and equitable.

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Even ‘mass tourism’ can contribute to a fairer world

Jim Butcher, Reader, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK

I don’t think any­one asso­ci­ated tour­ism with con­trib­ut­ing to a fairer world up until the 1980s, when eth­ic­al con­sump­tion became a part of the polit­ic­al scene. 

Pri­or to that, hol­i­days were hol­i­days, peri­od. 

In 1987 Krip­pen­dorf wrote The Hol­i­day Makers. This well-known book marked out the start of the growth of ‘eth­ic­al tourism’. 

Then, from the 1990s, new eth­ic­al tour­ism niches pur­por­ted to offer the chance to do good whilst hav­ing fun. 

Who could object to that? 

Eco­tour­ism turned from a vaca­tion for nature lov­ers into a mark­er of a vir­tu­ous life­style. Volun­teer tour­ism tried to per­suade us that hol­i­days and sav­ing the poor were of a piece.

Bring­ing fair­ness through eth­ic­al tour­ism niches is often the per­form­at­ive polit­ics of the wealthy, with the poor as extras. 

For me, a truly fairer world would be one in which the bene­fits of mod­ern soci­ety — includ­ing tour­ism of all types — were more widely available. 

The eth­ic­al tour­ism niches that trade on ‘fair­ness’ are often asso­ci­ated with a romantic con­cep­tion of the com­munity, the vil­lage, and loc­al cus­toms; to be pre­served in the face of a threat from mod­ern­ity. 

I am abso­lutely sym­path­et­ic to people who feel tour­ism impinges upon import­ant aspects of their life and cul­ture, and is in that sense ‘unfair’. We’ve seen instances of that recently, from the Maa­sai Mara to Machu Pichu and Mal­lorca

But the big­ger, neg­lected issue is that the choices of those com­munit­ies, and the indi­vidu­als with­in, them are con­strained by a lack of wealth. 

The biggest unfair­nesses in our soci­ety stem from a deni­al of wealth, not from a sur­feit of mod­ern devel­op­ment. In that sense mass tour­ism and its growth could be said to con­trib­ute to a fairer world.

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Kindness and respect matters

Karen Simmonds, Founder, Travel Matters & Make Travel Matter, UK

Travel & tour­ism enables us to meet new people and exper­i­ence their cul­ture and land.

When we travel, we are reminded that we are vis­it­ors cared for by hosts in the com­munit­ies we visit. 

If we all gave more thought and con­sid­er­a­tion when we travel, people and the plan­et would be in a bet­ter place. 

Demon­strat­ing kind­ness and treat­ing people with respect surely has a pos­it­ive impact on fairness.

We exist togeth­er

The Guid­ing Prin­ciples of the Future of Tour­ism Coali­tion provide a clear mor­al and busi­ness imper­at­ive for build­ing a fairer tour­ism industry while pro­tect­ing the places and people on which it depends. 

At Travel Mat­ters we believe that one’s travel exper­i­ence should be reflec­ted in self-growth as a human being, par­tic­u­larly in rela­tion to one­self and others. 

Through our Make Travel Mat­ter cam­paign we edu­cate trav­el­lers on how their beha­viour can con­trib­ute to a bet­ter way of trav­el­ling, enabling more con­scious decisions. 

We want trav­el­lers to be more pro­act­ive in rela­tion to pro­tect­ing the envir­on­ment and the com­munit­ies they encounter along the way. 

Our wish is to make people’s travels really mat­ter, and we want their travel exper­i­ences to be com­plete with learn­ing from the involve­ment of host communities. 

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Scotland hopes for a ‘happier and fairer place for everyone’

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive, VisitScotland, UK

The world has changed since the out­break of COVID-19. Seis­mic shifts have been ines­cap­able for the tour­ism industry.

In Scot­land, as in many coun­tries, the dam­aging impact of the pan­dem­ic has been keenly felt. But it gave us time to reflect.

Recent research by Vis­itScot­land has found a great deal of agree­ment amongst the res­id­ent pop­u­la­tion on the import­ance of tack­ling issues such as cli­mate change, and some will­ing­ness when it comes to chan­ging future travel behaviours.

For years suc­cess has been meas­ured in vis­it­or num­bers. Cri­ti­cism has come quickly if the num­bers go down, but now is the time to look at how we can encour­age people to slow down, stay longer, and ensure that tour­ism in Scot­land can be enjoyed by all. 

In 2021, Vis­itScot­land launched the Scot­Spir­it Hol­i­day Vouch­er Scheme to help low-income fam­il­ies and unpaid carers, who might not be able to take a short hol­i­day, take time out to enjoy the best of Scotland. 

It’s import­ant that we work to sup­port those busi­nesses that hold up the industry, from air­lines to cafes, hotels to farm parks. A care­ful bal­ance must be estab­lished between the eco­nom­ics of restart­ing busi­nesses and cre­at­ing jobs and ensur­ing that com­munit­ies don’t feel that their vital resources are being threatened. 

The real­ity of respons­ible tour­ism is in encour­aging vis­it­ors to spread through­out the coun­try and year. This will mean an enhanced exper­i­ence for vis­it­ors, a bet­ter time for com­munit­ies, bet­ter sea­son­al and region­al out­comes, and an all-round hap­pi­er and fairer place for everyone. 

We know that tour­ism is a force for good. It cre­ates jobs, sus­tains com­munit­ies, con­trib­utes sig­ni­fic­antly to the eco­nomy, and improves our well-being. As the industry recov­ers, we hope it can do so in a more inclus­ive and mind­ful manner.

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Travel & tourism can contribute to fairness ‘on every level’. But …

John Roberts, Group Director of Sustainability & Conservation, Minor Hotels (Anantara & AVANI)

How can travel & tour­ism con­trib­ute to a fairer world?  Done right? On every level! 

The most obvi­ous is wealth redistribution. 

Wealth can flow from those who have enough to afford the lux­ury of mov­ing them­selves tem­por­ar­ily to anoth­er place to see some­thing new, or to relax in a pristine envir­on­ment, to those who per­haps don’t and whose abil­ity to afford the fun­da­ment­als of life can be improved.

A pro­por­tion of every dol­lar spent in and on a tour­ism des­tin­a­tion will fil­ter through to the loc­al com­munity; the trick is to find des­tin­a­tions, busi­nesses, and gov­ern­ment tax regimes that ensure that pro­por­tion is as large as possible.

Less dir­ectly, the act of travel, of see­ing new things and meet­ing new people, helps foster under­stand­ing between cul­tures, a will­ing­ness to know and see the ‘oth­er’, and to under­stand dif­fer­ent per­spect­ives on life. 

Once you under­stand people you are more likely to want to help them in whatever small way when you can. Stronger con­nec­tions — and motiv­a­tions to help — are formed with people you have met, places you have been. 

Of course, if done badly, travel & tour­ism can lead to great­er unfairness. 

Com­munit­ies can be driv­en unfairly from their land, people can be smuggled and forced to work for a non-liv­ing wage, food prices might increase, or rare resources may be giv­en to trav­el­lers for the profit of the few rather than those who need it. 

The poten­tial for unfair­ness is why it is import­ant not to travel in blinkers. 

Look around you. Don’t sup­port things that feel unfair. 

Import­antly, look for Glob­al Sus­tain­able Tour­ism Coun­cil cer­ti­fic­a­tion for accom­mod­a­tion, travel oper­at­ors, and destinations. 

And book dir­ect with com­munit­ies if you can.

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Life isn’t fair and neither is travel & tourism

Melanie Kay Smith, Associate Professor / Programme Leader, Budapest Metropolitan University, Hungary

As chil­dren, how many times did we hear the words “life isn’t fair”? 

The same is unfor­tu­nately true of tour­ism. It is still largely a priv­ilege of the well-off and, with rising fuel and liv­ing costs, it is likely to stay that way. 

Post-COV­ID, edu­cated middle classes every­where are tor­tur­ing them­selves with the decision of when, if, and how to travel. They are hes­it­at­ing before book­ing flights and (quite rightly) con­sid­er­ing issues of envir­on­ment­al sustainability. 

Are we being fair to the plan­et when we place undue bur­den on its resources? Des­pite rising aware­ness of con­ser­va­tion needs and wild­life pro­tec­tion in some des­tin­a­tions, no-one could argue that the pos­it­ive envir­on­ment­al impacts of tour­ism out­weigh the negatives! 

How­ever, it is import­ant to remem­ber that the fair­ness of travel & tour­ism also relates to sup­port­ing the eco­nom­ies of des­tin­a­tion and com­munit­ies, espe­cially those that were pre­vi­ously depend­ent on tourism. 

If, for example, Europeans stop tak­ing long haul flights, what will this mean for devel­op­ing coun­tries in Asia or Africa? 

Are we being fair to those des­tin­a­tions when we favour our own rel­at­ively well-developed nation­al eco­nom­ies with our stayc­a­tions, excur­sions, and domest­ic travels? 

Fair­ness also means ensur­ing that travel is pos­sible for the greatest num­ber of people in soci­ety. But is tour­ism a lux­ury or a neces­sity? Is it a basic human right? 

The answer to this is not alto­geth­er clear in an era of post-over­tour­ism where it is only too obvi­ous that over-con­sump­tion of any kind is unsustainable. 

Ideally, gov­ern­ment funds should be made avail­able for social tour­ism to allow less well-off mem­bers of soci­ety to travel too. But this brings us back to wheth­er tour­ism is a neces­sity or a right and determ­in­ing who should pay.

It seems that we are all pay­ing the price for the priv­ilege of the few.

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Tourism can contribute to a more ‘equitable’ world

Richard A Shepard, Trustee & CEO, Sustainable Rural Development International, UK

I’d like to change the ques­tion. It should not be a ‘fairer’ world, but a more ‘equit­able’ one. It’s too long to delve into the dis­tinc­tion, but there is one. Most con­flate the two. 

In essence ‘fair­ness’ means treat­ing every­one the same while ‘equity’ requires a more nuanced approach that takes into con­sid­er­a­tion mul­tiple factors. 

If stu­dents, for example, were treated fairly, then all stu­dents would be afforded the same struc­tured edu­ca­tion. But no, we treat them equit­ably. Stu­dents with spe­cial needs are provided dif­fer­ent opportunities. 

Hav­ing reframed the ques­tion, the short answer is ‘yes, but’.

Tour­ism can con­trib­ute to a more equit­able world, so long as loc­al eco­nom­ic needs, envir­on­ment, and social struc­tures are taken into consideration. 

It means that tour­ism needs to be taken to a more gran­u­lar level, from the ground up, to look at loc­al needs and capacity. 

That is the whole point, I think, of sus­tain­able tour­ism because con­crete actions can be taken to make tour­ism more equit­able loc­ally, rarely nationally. 

Des­tin­a­tions can determ­ine what is best for them­selves. In the major­ity of cases they can only do that with the guid­ance, assist­ance, and loc­al buy-in of all stake­hold­ers in the tour­ism value chain. 

Changes made loc­ally can impact nation­al policies if imple­men­ted gradu­ally and con­sist­ently. Grand state­ments of policy from nation­al gov­ern­ments — or for that mat­ter in giant con­fer­ences — usu­ally deliv­er no con­crete results.

Loc­al endeav­ours can also ensure that the major­ity of trav­el­ler expendit­ure stays in the des­tin­a­tion where it will bene­fit the people who provide the services. 

In our exper­i­ence, when loc­al people are allowed to organ­ise, plan, and improve their live­li­hoods, the loc­al envir­on­ment and cul­ture is also bet­ter protected. 

Tour­ism can con­trib­ute to equity by recog­nising loc­al needs and act­ing accord­ingly, while influ­en­cing nation­al policies and goals. 

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‘Ubuntu’ may help tourism in southern Africa become fairer

Shamiso Nyajeka, Masters student, Dalarna University, Sweden

With mil­lions of trav­el­lers mov­ing across the globe, cre­at­ing bil­lions in export rev­en­ues each year, the travel & tour­ism industry is well posi­tioned to play mul­tiple roles in trans­fer­ring wealth from rich­er soci­et­ies to poorer ones, steer­ing the world towards a more equal society. 

As simple as this may sound, it is marred by sev­er­al com­plex­it­ies. For instance, while Europe accounts for nearly 40% of inter­na­tion­al tour­ism receipts, Africa, a region with a sub­stan­tial pro­por­tion of the world’s poor, only gen­er­ates 3%. 

This shows the grav­ity of inequal­ity on a glob­al scale. 

How­ever, for tour­ism to make a mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tion to a fairer world, the focus should not only be on the dis­par­it­ies among regions but also with­in countries. 

From a south­ern Afric­an per­spect­ive, gov­ernance has been a major bar­ri­er to real­ising tourism’s poten­tial to reduce inequal­it­ies with­in countries. 

Cor­rup­tion and polit­ic­al power struggles often skew the bene­fits of tour­ism towards the few elites at the expense of the community. 

In the absence of good gov­ernance, tourism’s con­tri­bu­tion to redu­cing inequal­it­ies remains a dis­tant dream. 

Des­pite some adop­tion of pro-poor, com­munity-based, and sus­tain­able tour­ism prac­tices there is still a glar­ing inequal­ity gap in our region. 

It is per­haps an ideal time to con­sider embra­cing Ubuntu, an ideo­logy that has sus­tained south­ern Afric­an soci­et­ies for generations. 

Without tak­ing any­thing away from exist­ing approaches, Ubuntu is nat­ur­ally more relat­able to the inhab­it­ants of south­ern Africa. 

Ubuntu val­ues are centred on ‘human­ness’: Serving the com­munity; a respons­ib­il­ity to and for each oth­er; and pri­or­it­ising human devel­op­ment, com­pas­sion, and empathy. 

Embra­cing these homegrown val­ues in tour­ism gov­ernance may not be the pan­acea to devel­op­ment in our region, but could help us cre­ate a con­du­cive frame­work for the sector’s con­tri­bu­tion to a fairer society.

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People and planet over profit

Edwin Magio, Teaching & Research Assistant, Moi University, Kenya; Commonwealth Scholar, Leeds Beckett University, UK

Travel & tour­ism has an impact on the world and there­fore must be designed and man­aged in a way that bene­fits everyone. 

Here I provide three insights into how travel & tour­ism can con­trib­ute to a bet­ter world for all:

Shift­ing the industry towards great­er equity
Des­pite efforts to advance sus­tain­able tour­ism, fair­ness for dis­ad­vant­aged loc­al groups, includ­ing the poor, eth­nic minor­it­ies, and indi­gen­ous peoples, has been slow to emerge. 

For example, only a small frac­tion of tour­ism spend­ing goes to the Maa­sai com­munity here in Kenya. 

Travel & tour­ism stake­hold­ers must integ­rate equity into their inter­ven­tions by mean­ing­fully includ­ing com­munit­ies, espe­cially indi­gen­ous and dis­ad­vant­aged groups, in decision mak­ing and ensur­ing that bene­fits are shared equitably.

Address­ing human rights issues
The tour­ism industry has a repu­ta­tion for poor work­ing con­di­tions char­ac­ter­ised by low wages and sea­son­al­ity. There­fore, con­sid­er­able efforts should be made to ensure the rights of workers. 

Stake­hold­ers must ensure that those work­ing in the travel & tour­ism sec­tor are adequately com­pensated, treated appro­pri­ately, and giv­en pro­mo­tion opportunities. 

In addi­tion, reforms are needed to pre­vent dis­crim­in­a­tion, and to pro­mote the health and well-being of people who are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­able, such as chil­dren, women, indi­gen­ous peoples, eth­nic minor­it­ies, and people with disabilities.

Con­sid­er­ing people and plan­et over profit 
We have wit­nessed how eco­nom­ic returns and pres­sures to meet vis­it­or needs can over­ride the genu­ine aspir­a­tions of loc­als and con­cerns for the nat­ur­al environment. 

If we want to cre­ate long-term sus­tain­ab­il­ity for the world — and a fairer world — we must pri­or­it­ise the interests of com­munit­ies and the envir­on­ment over profits.

There are oth­er ways to get tour­ism on track to con­trib­ute to a fairer world. How­ever, in my opin­ion, these three are best placed to make the greatest strides.

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Fairness important in every meeting, plan, and policy

Nico Eden, Founder, Eden Consulting

A way in which the travel & tour­ism industry can con­trib­ute to a fairer world is by rev­en­ue-shar­ing through loc­al com­mit­tees focussed on com­munity development.

Nico Eden
Nico Eden
Nico Eden

This struc­ture drives socio-eco­nom­ic and envir­on­ment­al ini­ti­at­ives, as both con­ser­va­tion and com­munity walk hand-in-hand.

It is also essen­tial to work with and listen to loc­al com­munit­ies on how to devel­op sus­tain­able prac­tices, and share meth­ods and tech­niques together.

And, where pos­sible, it is import­ant to work with loc­al sup­pli­ers that share sim­il­ar val­ues and who are able to demon­strate how and what they are doing con­trib­utes to a ‘fairer world’.

Empower­ing employ­ees with resources and encour­aging them to take action with­in their respect­ive com­munit­ies can cre­ate longev­ity for sus­tain­able action.

In short, focus on ‘People, Pur­pose, and Profit’.

Shar­ing ini­ti­at­ives with trav­el­lers through pur­pose-driv­en guest exper­i­ences invites them to be part of the pos­it­ive impact nar­rat­ive and rewards them with inspiration.

None of us would have pre­dicted the tur­bu­lence the industry exper­i­enced over the last few years. Crisis man­age­ment has been at the fore­front of operations.

How­ever, dur­ing that time there has been an evol­u­tion in the travel & tour­ism industry and the mind­set of our guests. We have seen a great uptick in con­sumer interest and spend­ing on pur­pose-driv­en tour­ism, and a grow­ing demand for exper­i­ences that have com­munity and con­ser­va­tion val­ues at all levels.

A fairer world should be an import­ant con­sid­er­a­tion in every busi­ness plan, every board meet­ing, and every policy man­date across all sec­tors and industries.

And invest­ing in a green future for all of us is not only a good busi­ness decision but is also good for the plan­et, as Jeremy Rifkin tells us in his book A Green New Deal.

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It’s ‘like dreaming the impossible dream’

Bert van Walbeek, consultant, author, and lecturer, UK

Before answer­ing that ques­tion, anoth­er ques­tion: “What is fair?”

Accord­ing to the Oxford Lan­guage Dic­tion­ary it means: “Treat­ing people equally without favor­it­ism or discrimination.”

Fair describes some­thing as being free of bias or injustice. Fair also describes some­thing as being done accord­ing to the rules, or as neither good nor bad. 

Regret­tably, these days we live in a world full of bias, injustice, and evil con­flicts world­wide that dis­respect all rules. 

Above all, inequal­ity dis­pro­por­tion­ately affects the vast major­ity of people liv­ing on our planet.

The world’s pop­u­la­tion in 2019 (the last “nor­mal” tour­ism year) was 7.7 bil­lion and the WTTC repor­ted 1.5 bil­lion inter­na­tion­al vis­it­or arrivals. This means that at least 6.2 bil­lion inhab­it­ants of this world did not have the oppor­tun­ity to travel internationally.

Seni­or gov­ern­ment and busi­ness exec­ut­ives tell each oth­er at con­fer­ences that travel & tour­ism is one of the most import­ant eco­nom­ic sec­tors worldwide. 

But there is a huge price to pay. Tour­ism rein­forces social inequal­ity, leads to envir­on­ment­al prob­lems, and strains loc­al cul­tures due to the demon­stra­tion effect. 

Look­ing for answers to the ques­tion reminds me of a chan­son called “Parole, Parole”.

“Encore des mots, tou­jours des mots, les mêmes mots”
(“Still words, always words, the same words”)

The only way travel & tour­ism even­tu­ally might con­trib­ute to a fairer world is by edu­cat­ing the next generation(s) and train­ing the present stake­hold­ers, includ­ing con­sumers, on top­ics such as:

  • Respect for for­eign cultures;
  • Eco­lo­gic­al compatibility;
  • Involve­ment of the loc­al pop­u­la­tion; and
  • Human rights.

There­fore, as long as “con­trib­ut­ing to a fairer world“ is used as a sleep­ing aid for our self-serving con­science in this world full of bias and injustice, the ques­tion raised is, sadly but real­ist­ic­ally, like dream­ing the impossible dream. 

It is not about how, but a mat­ter of when.

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What do you think?

What do you think? Share your own thoughts in a com­ment below. Or write a deep­er “GT” InsightThe “Good Tour­ism” Blog wel­comes diversity of opin­ion and per­spect­ive about travel & tour­ism, because travel & tour­ism is everyone’s business.

Fea­tured image (top of post): Fair fun for some. There are diverse per­spect­ives on how travel & tour­ism can con­trib­ute to a fairer world. Photo of Coney Island through a chain link fence by sebas­tien cord­at (CC0) via Unsplash.

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