COUNTING THE PLAYERS
Too often the traditional focus on defining ecotourism narrowly
targets what is ecotourism instead of looking at who participates
in the process. Years ago a consultant told me that ecotourism
would be better if it didn't include travelers. Yes, I told
her, that's called conservation.
Another time a businesswoman who wanted to develop ecotourism
-- what she called saving one of three mangroves from bulldozing
and the creation of a golf course.
There can be no ecotourism if a project doesn't include travelers
AND locals ... if it doesn't foster conservation AND promote
tourism. Mind you, these are difficult tasks, particularly in
developing economies. Even more challenging is when one stacks
up the various responsibilities asked of ecotourism
We need to build constituencies from the ground up and we need
to welcome new players as if they will ignite the game when
the come on.
CONNECTING THE DOTS
Who are the principal actors -- stakeholders -- in ecotourism
and responsible travel? This is an important question. After
all, determining who is or is not considered a stakeholder determines
how the game is played.
The following checklist used in conjunction with the
Stakeholder Worksheet is based on a holistic view of those
working toward ecotourism. It provides a practical checklist
of responsibilities and responsibilities.
This model helps us ask one another how we perceive our individual
and collective responsibilities and how we might collaborate
toward making tourism more eco- and people-friendly.
This model also reminds us that we have different perspectives.
We can review any specific practice and ask its role and how
it's interpreted by various stakeholders. One example would
be dual pricing. What policy-makers can tout as a discount for
locals can be considered price gouging by visitors if the policy
is not clearly explained.
In early 2003 I delivered a presentation on strengthening constitutiences
working toward sustainable tourism at the World
Bank. "We know about stakeholders," was the response from
one bank official. "True, but what do we know about you?" I
replied. Most bank officials do not participate in public gatherings
that they do not initiate and the information posted online
is certainly not written for locals.
Frequently 'stakeholder' meetings are conducted not for listening,
but to give the appearance of listening.
At the local level information is typically unavailable or
restricted information. Also missing are effective ways for
residents and travelers to provide feedback.
BREAKING DOWN THE BARRIERS
Breaking down the barriers between travelers and locals requires
finding a place where both groups wish to interact, and one
such locale is a traditional market.
As part of our vision, Planeta.com focuses on environmental
and cultural attributes of travel and markets provide a clear
link to both. We explore markets of all kinds.
ENCOURAGING MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL TOURISM
What do we expect from sustainable tourism? The answer depends
on who is asked. For a tourist, the ideal vacation is one without
stress. What has been promised in advertising is delivered.
For a local, the ideal tourist is one who is respectful, contributes
to the local economy and can assist -- either via financial
means or labor -- conservation and community development.
As travelers, if we get what we expect -- or more than what
we expect -- we are content and likely to repeat the activity
and recommend it to others. If we participate in the development
of mutually beneficial tourism, then we create the satisfying