For many players in the world of responsible
travel and ecotourism,
it is easy to be sold on an ideal only to experience frustration,
disappointment and in many cases failure. Successful tourism
and conservation strategies depend on security and building
quality relationships take time.
Thinking over a failed series of workshops and promotion I
had planned with Ecuador's director of tourism marketing, what
bothers me isn't that we didn't do a large project. It's that
we didn't do anything at all. We did not attempt anything small.
One of the many barriers to developing any project occurs when
the plan is too ambitious. Add bureaucracy and corruption and
you have a recipe for certain failure.
Most countries document their commitment to sustainability
and nobler elements of tourism and conservation through aspirational
documents. They read well, they inspire, but more frequently
than not they fail to provide the blueprint that locals or visitors
or media can follow to help nudge the goals along.
THE VALUE OF CONTINUITY
One of the benefits that continuity brings is that the process
of communication and organization is simplified over time. What
works works, what does not work changes. Long-term success requires
a willingness to collaborate over extended periods of time.
A visitor who plans a trip in advance and finds ways to stay
in contact afterward has a better chance of supporting continuity
in the development of tourism services.
Here are a few examples of continuity:
Working with colleagues, I have been able to stay in contact
with professionals more than a decade.
in the natural world we have co-hosted an annual tourism fair
in Oaxaca City from 2001-2011.
We are interested in seeing how projects are born and mature.
We'd like to see more analysis of work that fails as such projects
have much to teach. Instead of reinventing the wheel, conduct
public inventories of work already underway. This helps avoid
duplication. Pace yourself. All players need to make a long-term
commitment (6 month minimum and preferably a year or two)!
Everyone - Pay kudos to individuals and institutions
who have a track record. Give credit where it is due.
Everyone - Technical continuity tip: those
creating email accounts, Flickr galleries and such need to figure
out how to return and do the same task a day and a week later.
Everyone - Focus on place
instead of destination.
Donors and Foundations - Support the work
that is already underway. Instead of betting on a new solution,
consider the idea that perhaps the older solutions needed more
time. Create incentives for people working in the field. Donors
should fund creative extensions to existing projects, particularly
with individuals and groups with a proven track record.
Donors and Foundations - Conduct public inventories
and evaluations of efforts. Stop reinventing the wheel!
WHY CONTINUITY IS ELUSIVE REASON #1
If the topic is considered 'hot,' officials dedicate time and
money in developing institutional presence in the field -- regardless
of whether it duplicates other efforts. When interest dwindles,
the project is shut down and personnel sent to other divisions.
We continue to see tourism managed by program directors with
no expertise and frequently little interest. Given that tourism
development and promotion requires travel, many leaders are
on the road. This leads to a start-go-stop-backward, go-again
Many complain that bureaucrats just take up space. If they
are not actively sabotaging 'sustainability' projects, they
are simply neither supportive nor interested. "Every time
a new tourism official is put in charge of ecotourism, we have
to teach them all over again," a tour guide says.
Many are uncertain whether they their operations will survive
the coming year.
While sustainability is gaining in public interest, journalists
generally do not have the time to investigate or report on long-term
development. They don't see the larger picture because they
don't have the incentives to pay attention over time.
Lack of continuity is the Achilles'
Heel. Until we can develop a longer attention
span, a high failure rate in this field will be the norm.And
without continuity, sustainability and tourism
ethics is a long shot.
WHY CONTINUITY IS ELUSIVE REASON #2
People change! Most often it is difficult for professionals
(teachers, tourism operators, conference organizers) to perceive
the growth of students.