What a month and half its been for wildlife conservation! But it seems things are now starting to calm down giving us all some time to catch our breath, brush ourselves down and reflect on recent events. Since Cecil the Lion’s death the media have had a field day and long shall it last! The more publicity this story gets the larger the audiences conservation will be attracted. It’s a welcome step away from the economy and towards subjects that really matter. However, over the past month, an uncomfortable concern has been growing on how beneficial the media really is, especially in relation to its impacts. This time of calm is a good opportunity to revisit the case of Cecil, look back over the medias role and perhaps reinvigorate the hunting argument.
Yesterday I woke up to a whole barrage of tweets, emails and news reports on Carnival Cruises new venture into Cuba. It was a huge hand to head moment, how could I have missed it! Of course, Fathom was merely a ploy to open the back door into Cuba. By taking advantage of the Cuban visa loop-hole, people-to-people holidays, Carnival Cruises has been able to enter the holy grail of American destinations.
As the doors have been ‘supposedly’ flung open and the Americans are welcomed with open arms tourists have been falling over themselves to get there before ‘its too late’! However, Americans still face the difficulty of finding the right key to enter, if they have it at all! Heavy sanctions still apply to American citizens and it can still be very complicated to acquire a visa as seen here. But, as Carnivals massive cruise ship sails through a tiny visa loophole mine and many others hearts will sink to the bottom of the ocean.
I think it’s fair to say that large ship cruises are currently one of the undisputed champions of irresponsible tourism. This made it even more surprising when Carnival Corporation announced last week that they are stepping down from the podiums top spot and entering the world of responsible tourism. I had to double check it wasn’t April 1st before I believed it. At first, I was pleased, perhaps they have finally given in to the long list of campaigns and criticisms to become more responsible! However, when a company that was voted 3rd in the top ten corporate criminals list just last year suddenly decides to become the next powerhouse for ‘sustained and long-lasting positive impact’, alarm bells started ringing and concerns start to bubble up.
However, I have previously suggested that perhaps it’s time to work with the irresponsible companies to improve their approaches to tourism rather than fighting them. Nobody can deny that if cruises were responsible they would be a huge force for good. Unfortunately, cruises will always be popular and will not disappear. Therefore, it should be music to my ears when I hear Carnival suggest they ‘harness the assets and resources of the world’s largest travel and leisure company and combine them with the talents and hearts of those working in social enterprises around the world’. In this blog, I have decided to delve into their press release with an open mind and give them a chance to see how they are stepping into responsible tourism.
I am still unsure whether holiday companies have grasped the idea that responsible tourism is essential if they are going to keep their heads above the water. Profitability is always the best way to convince holiday companies that responsible tourism is a sensible addition to their products. For example, it provides a competitive advantage and is making its way into holiday itineraries. However, responsible tourism isn’t essential for business but rather an additional cost or a bit of a pain (so much so that many pay other companies to increase their responsible tourism credentials through tokenistic schemes like carbon offsetting) and it is also a lot of extra work for little return. So how do we make responsible travel indispensable?
Tourists are now searching for something a little different in their holidays and marketers have been cashing in on the demand. Words like ‘authentic’ are now being spread across many holiday itineraries like its tomato ketchup; itineraries cannot do without it but tourists are noticing things still taste as bland as ever. The general multinational holiday providers such as First Choice haven’t been able to keep up with the demand and tourists are beginning to look elsewhere. This change is opening up huge opportunities for smaller, more specialised travel companies such as the ones offered by Responsible Travel.
As tourists start to branch into new possibilities the larger, more general operators need to be reactive and anticipate the trends. It is still the case that Disney Land, Benidorm, cruises and the all inclusive holidays make up the largest chunk of tourism revenue. But amazingly, responsible tourism is forcing its way in and popping up in places you would least expect.
The answer is, I hope so……
Recently Orphanage Volunteering took a beating (and rightly so) as volunteers unwittingly found themselves fueling child exploitation when they intended to do the complete opposite. But will this have an impact on the rest of the tourism volunteering industry, will it also have to step into the ring to defend itself?
Responsible and sustainable should no longer be a fancy phrase travel companies use, or words placed in CSR reports to shut the campaigners up. They are quickly becoming a necessity. I hope this is the year that the tourism industry will awake from its perfect dream of profits, development and increase tourist numbers to the realization that this is a business model that is not sustainable unless responsible tourism is taken seriously.
Working in the industry, I understand how important WTM (World Travel Market) can be for obtaining and spending marketing budgets, creating new partnerships and promoting products. But within business to business discussions, how much of it includes the essential responsible tourism? You would hope quite a lot, especially as it is essential to protecting and even enhancing their product! But in the real world, I bet responsible tourism is barely touched upon. Off course, Wednesday 5th November is World Responsible Tourism Day which is kicked off by the 11th World Responsible Tourism Awards at WTM, but how much is responsible tourism discussed on the exhibition’s floor, during business meetings, in making new deals, when creating partnerships? DMO’s and Tourist boards are just not interested, they are blinkered by quick profits, so how can we change this? Perhaps these 4 points may help travel organisations realize that ethical, sustainable and responsible tourism sells?