issue 245 - July 1993
1 Don't rely on guidebooks. Learn as much as you can from other sources (indigenous writers, independent newspapers, films etc). Try to understand the different cultures of the place you're visiting on their own terms and behave appropriately. For example, don't visit religious places semi-clothed.
2 Look at your own mindset. Try to understand why people behave differently: concepts of time, for example, vary between cultures. Don't demand special privileges, like better access to transport and services.
3 Don't steal pictures. In some cultures it's more than invasive to have your picture taken. Ask if it's OK for you to take someone's photograph and be ready to offer or exchange something you have.
4 If you make a promise to send a letter or photograph then keep it.
5 Use locally-produced goods and services - from your choice of airline through to the food you eat.
6 Respect the local environment. Try to be a guest rather than a colonizer.
7 Don't go somewhere if you think that being a tourist there supports a repressive regime.
8 Ask yourself - why am I going? Consider using international networks that can help you to stay with local families rather than in hotels.
Some points adapted from Guide notes for responsive travel published by Centre for the Advancement of Responsive Travel (CART).
On responsible tourism; Holidays That Don't Cost The Earth by John Elkington & Julia Hailes (Gollancz) The Good Tourist Katie Wood & Syd House (Mandarin) Handbook For Women Travellers Maggie & Gemma Moss (Piatkus)
Imagine you’re a Third World tourism minister looking for investment to start a tourist industry. You’ve managed to interest some developers. They put together tempting assessments of the foreign currency that will be earned by their schemes. One plan is to build a prestige hotel complex ‘as a badge of national status’. But do you need it? Here are some of the questions you’ll need to ask and principles you should try to follow if you want to construct a tourist trade worth having.
1 Is the project acceptable to and needed by the communities who will be affected?
What are your consultation procedures? How effective are they?
2 Base your plan on clear development objectives and a full understanding of the market-place. What kind of tourists do you want to attract? How realistic are your plans? How much of any income will ‘leak’ back to the North?
3 Commission a genuinely independent environmental impact report on your plans. Once the results are through ensure that its findings are fully implemented. Assess the social impact and be ready to abandon plans for tourism if necessary.
4 How effectively will income be distributed in the local economy? Will only a handful of wealthy owners benefit? How will you measure its effects? How much local involvement and control is built in?
5 What supporting services - water, electricity, roads, etc - will the new industry need? How is international transport co-ordinated with local transport?
6 Do you want to encourage the growth of local hotels and guest houses – or leave an international chain to ‘do it for you’?
Drawn up with suggestions from Robert Cleverdon of the University of North London
Beyond the Green Horizon. A discussion paper on principles of sustainable tourism. (Worldwide Fund for Nature & Tourism Concern 1992).
Be my Guest: An Introduction to Tourism’s Impact by Alison Stancliffe. Teaching pack for students (15+) exploring the global effects of tourism. (Available from Tourism Concern see Action Section below for address).
In defence of the package tour
Travel has traditionally been the preserve of the rich – at least that was until the advent of the package tour. Now, with ludicrously low airfares and high-rise hotels, nowhere in the world is out of reach of anyone with a few savings in their pocket and a spare fortnight to indulge themselves. But who would begrudge the masses their annual exodus en masse, and on what possible grounds?
There’s no compulsion for anyone to join what I can only believe to be a sweaty phalanx of the West’s working class in their quest for sun, sand, sea and sex, heavily laced with home-brew beer. For the package-deal operation to be profitable, the holidaymaker must be squeezed into as small a space as possible, both in the air and on the ground. Thus contained, the locals and the rich can enjoy the country, totally unaffected by anything happening below (save for the cheaper airfares should they wish to travel by Air Sardine Can). I have stayed with friends within a bass-guitarist’s beat from Magaluf in Majorca, a haven for thousands in kiss-me-quick hats and those with a penchant for loud music. Apart from going into town to buy a copy of The News of the World (Britain’s popular gutter-press Sunday paper), we could have been staying in a shepherd’s hut in the wilds, only we were actually in their perfectly lovely, fully-staffed villa.
Far more damaging are the new breed of adventure holidays, where groups in four-wheel-drive lorries carve up ecologically sensitive parts of the world and intrude on the lives of the natives, not to mention their animals. Having been photographed putting up tents in Kashmir by a group of Punjabis on undersized ponies, I know exactly what it is like to be treated as a native oddity.
The package holidaymakers do no lasting damage, except possibly to themselves by over-indulging in beer, sex and ultraviolet rays. The prime function of the locals is to exploit the holidaymaker to the full - possibly it is they, the holidaymakers, who should be protected from the locals. At least that is the right way round. Nor are the locals in resorts being corrupted by their visitors. They are far too busy taking those hard-earned savings off them - and looking forward to the off-season when they lead their own lives - to worry about such excesses.
Allow the rich, as they have done for centuries, to buy their own exclusivity. Let the anthropologist show us other lives on television. But, above all, leave the package holiday to those to whom it is geared. In the words of the hymn, let it remain ‘You in your small corner, and I in mine’, and everyone should be well content.
Nicholas Courtney is a royal biographer and the former General Manager of the privately-owned Island of Mustique, West Indies.
Ron O'Grady (writer on tourism issues), PACE publishers, Auckland PO Box 15774, Aotearoa/NZ. Tel; 64-9815220 Fax: 64-981-73574
Australian Council of Churches, PO Box C199, Clarence St, Sydney 2000,
New South Wales, Australia, Tel 61-229-2215, Fax 61-226-24514.
Third World European Network on Tourism (TEN), Zeb, Nikolaus Otto Str 13, D-7022 Leinfelden - Echterdingen, Germany, Tel 49-711-700-8285, Fax 49-711-700-8123.
Hawaii Ecumenical Coalition, 4504 Kakai St, Suite 16, The New Pacific House, Kapa’a, Kauai, Hawaii, Tel 808-822-7444, Fax 808-822-3446.
Equations/Equitable Tourism Options,168 8th Main Rd, Near Indiranagar Club, Bangalore 560 008, India, Tel 91-812-582-313, Fax 91-812-582-627 Attn 20. The Goa Foundation, Above Mapusa Clinic, Mapusa, Goa 403507, India, Fax 91-832-43231.
Japanese Men’s Group Against Prostitution in Asia, Tel / Fax (Tokyo) 81-3-3220-0347. Asian Women’s Association (Campaigning against sexual abuse), Sakuragaoka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 155, Japan, Tel/ Fax 81-3-34639752.
Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) Headquarters, Ghandruk Village, Ghandruk Village Committee, Kaski District, Nepal.
Ecumenical Coalition on Third World Tourism, PO Box 24, Chorakhebua, Bangkok 10230, Thailand, Tel 66-2-519-2606, Tel / Fax 66-2-510-7287. (They publish Contours & Concern for Tourism).
Tourism Concern, Froebel College, Roehampton Lane, London SW15 5PJ, UK, Tel (81)-878-9053, Fax (81) 392-3331 Attn ‘Tourism Concern’. http://www.tourismconcern.org.uk
Responsible Traveling (North America Coordinating Center for Responsible Tourism), PO Box 827, San Anselmo, CA 94979, US, Tel 415-258-6594, Fax 415-454-2493.