Poster (Image from Mariano Mantel)
Who took part?
More than 160 people registered for the MET Conference which originally took place online in November 2001. Active participation was limited to media professionals (see the Directory of Participants) and we other stakeholders, including tourism leaders, environmentalists, and others, to listen as quiet observers.
To gauge who was taking part in the MET Conference, we polled participants where they lived and what areas of the globe they covered in their professional work.
Question: Since so many of us are on the road, where do you live more than six months of the year?
– Asia, 0 votes, 0.00%
– Africa, 0 votes, 0.00%
– Canada, 1 votes, 5.26%
– Caribbean, 0 votes, 0.00%
– Central America, 1 votes, 5.26%
– Europe, 3 votes, 15.79%
– Mexico, 2 votes, 10.53%
– Pacific Nations (including Australia and New Zealand), 0 votes, 0.00%
– South America, 1 votes, 5.26%
– United States, 11 votes, 57.89%
Multiple Choice Question: What regions have you covered in depth within the past two years?
– Asia, 2 votes, 4.55%
– Africa, 0 votes, 0.00%
– Canada, 4 votes, 9.09%
– Caribbean, 2 votes, 4.55%
– Central America, 3 votes, 6.82%
– Europe, 3 votes, 6.82%
– Mexico, 7 votes, 15.91%
– Pacific Nations (including Australia and New Zealand) , 4 votes, 9.09%
– South America, 8 votes, 18.18%
– United States, 11 votes, 25.00%
At the end of the MET Conference, participants were asked to evaluate the event. The results are as follows:
POLL QUESTION: In terms of timing, was the MET Conference…
– Too short, 2 votes, 28.57% – Too long, 1 votes, 14.29% – Timed just right, 4 votes, 57.14%
POLL QUESTION: During the MET Conference, did you consult the conference’s home page/archive on Yahoo Groups?
– Yes, 5 votes, 71.43% – No, 2 votes, 28.57%
POLL QUESTION: On a Scale from 1-5 (with 5 being the most), how useful was the Media, Environment and Tourism Conference?
– 1-Waste of time , 0 votes, 0.00%
– 2-Not very useful , 0 votes, 0.00%
– 3-Moderately useful , 2 votes, 28.57%
– 4-Very useful; I am glad I participated , 3 votes, 42.86%
– 5-Terrific. I’m glad I participated and will recommend this to others , 2 votes, 28.57%
Role of the Media
Richard Mahler — I have always found one of my biggest challenges as a full-time freelancer is being pro-active — trying to sell stories that I genuinely feel are important — rather than being reactive — simply responding to expressions of interest by editors. A key problem is that few publishers seem to have much skill in this arena. They know how to create and print a book, but what happens next is beyond their repertoire. It reminds me of people who are very good at producing a child, then don’t know how to feed, clothe, nurture, and house it, much less raise it to be a fully functional human beings. So many publishers send their “children” into the world to, basically, fend for themselves, then act surprise when they get smooshed. What to do? Take more responsibility for what we create, including its distribution and promotion. More work in a poorly paid profession, but, I fear, even more necessary than ever if we are to succeed.
Helena Katz — I decided to join this conference because I’d like to learn more about ecotourism and figure out ways to take my stories beyond the standard destination pieces. The news reporter in me wants to learn more about the communities I visit and share that with readers. I’d like to figure out how to point them (and me) in the right direction so that they can distinguish between “real” ecotourism and what is only labeled as such for promotional purposes.
Nancy Johnson — I am by nature an eco-tourist, but in the six years I have been freelancing I have struggled to find paying markets. If it isn’t life-threatening, the adventure magazines are not interested. I don’t stay at resorts owned by multi-national corporations, so I don’t do spas, and consequently Conde Nast doesn’t do my stories.
Bonnie Hayskar — I believe that in order to protect the natural world and indigenous cultures, we must come to know them. Once you know the penguins at Punto Tombo or the birds of the Seychelles or the Turkana peoples of Kenya, you have a reason to care about them and their well-being. Knowing can be through personal experience, if we are lucky enough to have that opportunity, or it can be through the written word or through images. All contribute to our connectedness.
George Leposky — As a young reporter covering the environmental beat for Chicago’s American in the mid-1960s, I inadvertently killed the oldest living thing in Illinois by writing about it. The victim was a 10,000-year-old cedar tree growing on a bluff overlooking the Fox River southwest of Chicago. The venue was a Sunday magazine article about efforts to designate that stretch of the river as an official state canoe trail. After the article appeared, the owner of the land on which the tree grew cut it down to discourage canoeists from climbing the bluff to see it.
After that, I became much more cautious about reporting specific information — especially when dealing with privately owned land. Specifics can help to gain support for protection of environmentally sensitive ecosystems and endangered species, but how much detail is too much? After almost 40 years as an environmental writer, I’m still struggling with that question.
Herb Hiller — As a Floridian, I could turn out endless destination pieces. Instead, it’s Florida tourism rather than Florida travel that interests me. Tourism has warped Florida culture for more than a century. Among upshots of the state’s overweening dependence on tourism, “anything goes” dominates Florida’s economy. Terrible disconnects result, such as the constant drive for low-paying tourism jobs without regard to the social fallout (so troubling today with widespread job layoffs that stem from the 9/11 impact on tourism). Seventy-five years ago, Florida abandoned any attempt to generate revenues through income or estate taxes, instead chiefly relying on a sales tax, as a way to encourage the wealthy to visit and consider permanent relocation here. Accordingly, Florida has been terribly constrained in its ability to provide for the basics from education to health care and has to rely on more and more people vacationing and moving here to buy things. Tourism has turned Florida doubly tacky: first for the kitsch it promotes and second for how it drives endless consumption. For an overview of how tourism dictates Florida policy, see my guest column in the Sept. issue of Ecotourism Observer.
When I found that editors did not want to buy my critical pieces about Florida (invariably about or otherwise related to issues concerning tourism), I began to make myself authoritative about the state. I gained a contract for an inns book that allowed me to travel throughout the state. I pursued my advocacy interests by starting up today’s Florida Bed & Breakfast Inns, then revived the long moribund state bicycling movement. A critical piece for Forum, the quarterly of the Florida Humanities Council, resulted in nomination to the council board.
In writing, I’ve since found outlets for op-ed pieces and otherwise sold critical essays to outlets such as Florida Naturalist, Florida Wildlife, Florida Trend and other magazines normally not open to travel writing. Interestingly, by building my Florida authority I’ve been able to sell more regularly to Sunday travel sections, always with an aspect of advocacy in what I have to say. To me, the question of becoming authoritative is critical to making a living and enjoying a life that has evolved from travel writing to writing more focused on place
Ron Mader — Herb Hiller wrote eloquently about the need to connect to place and establish one’s authority as a writer. But what if people don’t care about where you live?
First and foremost is the disinterest and sometimes rabid ignorance about international [read: outside the United States] affairs. I certainly have not been able to cache in on my “authority” on LatAm ecotourism when it comes to selling more than a few articles and books. Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of my publications and the relationships I have with publishers (two of whom are participating in this event). But this work has not been enough to a build a sustainable livelihood. The biggest obstacle — Mexico and LatAm are still off the map for most editors.
One of my favorite rejection letters came from American Airlines magazine which I had pitched a story about Mexican whales or Monarch butterflies. “No,” they replied. “We covered Costa Rica last year.”
I just wish there were more financial incentive to write about “renewable energy and tourism” or how successful environmental groups are — or are not — when it comes to working on conservation issues with locals.
Are we part of the problem?
Joe Franke — I do not see travel writing as some sort of benign activity that can be in any way value-neutral. We like to pretend that we just report the facts, when in reality we can cause a great deal of harm just telling people about the existence of a new hotel complex on what was once a turtle nesting ground or a former rice paddy. We can write about these places disparagingly, but 90% of tourists will still go there if the pool is clean and the employees sufficiently subservient, putting most of the money spent into the hands of people who will go on to destroy more places. My question is this, are travel writers a good deal more of the problem than we’d like to admit?
Peter Hutchison — Joe wrote: My question is this, are travel writers a good deal more of the problem than we’d like to admit? Unfortunately the answer is yes. It is not just about tourists wanting lobster – it is about locals wanting employment. A few people on (or at?) the MET Conference have good knowledge of Costa Rica. Last trip I took out to Tortuguero the wonderfully neutral Tico guide we had actually explained how most of the bananeros were going to be out of work because the World Trade Organisation required free trade on the global market. It’s not a straight forward situation and I’ll spare the details but when you’re on a bus loaded with people who are paying a daily rate equivalent to that earnt by a banana worker in a couple of months you’ve got to think something isn’t quite right.
It goes back to the earlier posting about killing the 10,000 year old tree. As soon as a light is shone on an area it is changed. Our role is within the overall situation as an element working to manage that change. I for one spend a great deal of time trying to work out effective ways of tackling that process personally – and that framework goes far beyond choosing where I might take a vacation (not that I take vacations in a traditional sense – a pleasant problem all-in-all, probably shared by most taking part!). That process rarely has an outcome that I totally happy with.
Julian Smith — A few thoughts on the recent round of comments on the idea of travel writers somehow “letting the cat out of the bag” by publicizing beautiful but fragile locations. I’ve wrestled with this idea in my work, whether it’s writing about a great village in the Ecuadorian Andes that stands a good chance of being “loved to death” if it becomes too popular, or about how relatively safe and easy (if not cheap) it’s become to come within a stone’s throw of a grizzly bear in the wild, knowing all the while that studies have found bears behave differently when people are around, and all the stories of bears having to be shot when they get to familiar with us and our tasty trash.
Maybe this is somewhat self-justifying, but the way I put my conscience to rest (somewhat) is to remind myself that people are going to go to these places, whether we tell them about it or not. It may take a little longer if I don’t tell them, but it will happen. Expecting to “save” a place by not publicizing is naive, a little like not telling a friend a juicy but painful rumor about him – he’s going to hear about it eventually, so it might as well be from you.
In a similar vein, I figure people are going to hear about these great places and opportunities eventually, like I did in the first place, so if I can explain the history of a place, the character of a people, what makes a bear freak out and flee, and the risks these people, places, and ecosystems face by forces including the presence of tourists themselves, then I’ve done something good. They’re going to come, eventually, inevitably, so if I can disseminate this information in a sensitive way, *guide* my readers, educate them a bit beforehand and tell them how to tread lightly while they’re here, then that’s worth doing.
So this is a response to those who say we should keep our traps shut, stay home or at least not splash the news of these great places over the pages and airways. We travel writers, at least, wouldn’t be in the business if we didn’t like to explore interesting places, and more important, if we didn’t love to tell other people about our discoveries. Tourism happens, and it doesn’t have to happen in a destructive way – Theroux’s “blind blundering visitation of a mobile rich on an inert poor” – so if I can help nudge (or even shove) it in a positive direction, then I will.
Maribeth Mellin — Most of my books are geared toward well-educated travelers, and I am able to write essays on the environmental issues affecting each country. I try as much as possible to include ecologically responsible projects in my writing, and to not include ecological horrors. I try to describe resorts and attractions in such a way that environmentally conscious travelers know what’s going on. For example, I’ll begin by saying “Few locals have anything good to say about…” If a hotel is located beside a turtle nesting ground, I’ll say whether or not it works to protect the turtles. Often I don’t really know all the issues for a particular area. I’d love to know everything, but must meet deadlines and earn a living. I would encourage environmental groups, responsible travel business and travelers to WRITE LETTERS TO THE EDITORS OR PUBLISHERS. I’m often alerted to a problem this way, and can address it in the book’s next edition. I look forward to exchanging ideas with you all.
Susan Cunningham — If I have a reputation at all, it’s that I’m not a flack. All the travel organizations that bestow freebie trips probably have me on a blacklist as “too negative”, a troublemaker. I think the local environmental journalists took note of stories I did on ecotourism in developed countries and the environmental and economic benefits of backpacking tourists over the upmarket packaged variety.
Every beach is “pristine”, every facility “exclusive” and “luxurious” with a wide variety of satellite TV air-con sauna blah blah for your convenience. To them, ecotourism constitutes any activity that involves nature in the remotest way. I could give countless hair-raising examples; this isn’t the time to do it. But I will say that the root is a class prejudice that’s common to many hierarchical Asian countries: the elites regard tourists that go off camping, riding bicycles, staying on islands sans TV, sweating, walking in forests–as akin to peasants and thus “bad” cheapskate tourists. “Good” tourists, such as rich Thais, consume conspicuously and extravagantly. The latter– say, about 10 million–are what the government strives to attract. This is something that well-meaning foreign tourism professors, donors et al can’t grasp.
Bill Hinchberger — I once literally knocked on the door of a Brazilian state tourism agency. At that very moment, the department head was in New York trying to drum up interest among travel editors. Another time, I received an alert about a FAM tour for foreign journos in another Brazilian state. When I contacted the PR firm, they didn’t know what to do with me. As a Brazil-based foreign correspondent, I seemed to fall outside their categories. The New York office bushed me off because I was based in Brazil, and the local office did likewise because I wasn’t national press. I think that PR people need to understand that in-country foreign correspondents handle the bulk of the coverage about their clients.
Nancy Sont — For some time I had trouble with the idea of promoting a high class resort while I wouldn’t have normally traveled in those circles. Now I see the tourism more broadly, that helping the biggest resort helps all the people in a huge network of the economy, right down to the peasants that beg from the tourists that come to the area.
Susan Cunningham — Did you ask the beggar what he or she did before the resort came along? Sure, there is a place for big, fully-equipped hotels–in big cities by business travelers. When you get more than one big hotel, when you build whole resorts, colonize entire island or coastlines … you don’t just destroy an old way of life, you create all sorts of social ills. Prostitution, gambling, drinking places. A lot of it is similar to the problems spawned by industrial estates … but the promise of tourism is that it doesn’t have to be that way! If you (all right, governments) encourage tourism to be less concentrated, local people can stay home, families stay intact .. and still reap some of the foreigners’ dollars.
Bruce and June Conord — We used to look down our noses somewhat at the all-inclusive hotel zone vacationer but after seeing the rape of the coastline down to Tulum and the monstrous big hotels that have been built, we have come to understand the benefit of confining the environmental impact of resorts to one area. Additionally, from a tourism perspective, the duplication of the Cancun experience along the Riviera Maya only sucks tourism away from Cancun, rather than attracting a new market with smaller, boutique, hotels. Not to mention the ecological damage.
Joe Franke — What that beggar was doing before the hotel came along, indeed. Unless I’ve missed something, we’ve yet to talk about a couple of ugly facts about tourism development that fly in the face of the kind of trickle-down economics thinking that is evident in some of the posts of the past couple of weeks.
For instance, I’ve heard no discussion about how tourism development, particularly of the type in which outside capital is by people from outside of the community used to build a hotel or hotel complex causes economic hardship to local people.
Land prices rise, (which might be good for a few but bad for the majority) making subsistence farming more difficult. Yes, a few farmers might benefit if they can sell produce to the hotels, or take people on farm visits, or get involved in some way in the industry beyond the types of jobs that Susan alluded. However, in some cases, food prices rise with demand, particularly for animal protein. Again, this may benefit a few, but the poor majority, who don’t control the means of production or even own the land upon which they farm, may suffer.
There can be negative conservation effects as well. Ten years ago, in my Costa Rica Parks book, I wrote about the lobster poaching and over harvest situation on the Talamanca coast. Tourists eat a lot of lobsters, and the situation was out of control. Today, the government still refuses to do anything substantial in regards to enforcement, and the lobster fishermen go all the way into Panama, risking imprisonment to fish for lobsters to fill the bellies of tourists. We can ask people in our books not to eat lobsters and other dwindling wildlife, which I have, but we all know what the vast majority of tourists do when offered such a delicacy.
Ron Mader — Do we support the development of internationally-financed, 5-star hotels that are “eco friendly” or do we encourage local developments and pioneering conservation initiatives? My answer might surprise some of you. I say both. I don’t think that all tourism has to be ecotourism… well, not yet anyway. But if “ecotourism” is going to have meaning, we must be strict about its definition. At a conference in West Virginia a few years ago, the owner of a Hotel-6 asked why his hotel wouldn’t be called “ecotourism.” Well, again, the same rules apply. Where is the local participation beyond maintenance staff employment? Where are the benefits to conservation?
How will people know?
Harry Pariser — If we don’t explain that, how will people know? In fact one hotel chain (Barcelo) threatened to sue my former publisher who swiftly capitulated, removing the offending review. I put the lawyer’s letter up on the internet along with the review and have received many comments which I have also posted. Some people were angry because I troubled their conscience a bit. I doubt that a negative review in a travel guide encourages people to go there, because this type of business actually relies on travel agencies, who, for the most part, do not care at all. After a major magazine (travel) ran a completely uncritical piece on the hotel, I contacted the publication, the “conservation” writer (who got pissed at me) and the travel agent mentioned (whom I know). They ran another piece on Costa Rica this past month or so which was much more environmentally positive.
I did not know about the lobster fishing problem on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, possibly because I did not read Joe’s book. Now that I know about it, I will try to put it in. Governments do not care about anything unless their constituency brings pressure on them to do so.
All social change starts at the bottom, not from the top. The top is always corrupt. As I see it, it is a very imperfect world. And everything is a two-edged sword. If all travel guides disappeared tomorrow, there would be minimal impact on the travel industry. It is the job of the journalist to try to reach people with appropriate information. Most will never buy a book, and many will never read the history, culture, and environment sections. But some will and will learn.
Ethics and Pro-Poor Strategies
Sue Wheat — Many of the readers had never heard of ethical or fairtrade or eco tourism before, but were really excited to read about it and learn about the issues and what they can do. Tourism Concern also produce an alternative guidebook called the Community Tourism Guide which is a directory of community-run or owned tourism businesses around the world, particularly in the South. This is into the second edition and again, very well received.
Tourism Concern also co-ordinates a Fairtrade in Tourism International network, which brings communities, the industry and NGOs together to look at how fairtrade principles might be put into practice in the tourism industry. I know Tourism Concern are not alone in being extremely sceptical about ‘ecotourism’ which is why we prefer the terms ‘ethical’ or ‘fairtrade’ or ‘sustainable’ which are more encompassing of human rights and local economic issues. I realise there is a great deal of anomisity towards ecotourism by local people who feel it can be just another marketing term which excludes them. However, I have also seen very successful community-run ecotourism projects in Bolivia and Zambia and elsewhere which are providing very real benefits to the community and helping them with issues such as land rights.
Jean McNeil — While NGOs are increasingly interested in pro-poor tourism strategies, this hasn’t yet caught the imagination of the traditional media. Several travel writers have expressed to us their frustration with newspaper and magazine editors’ lack of interest in articles that are critical or which otherwise stray from the promotional trail. Advertisers wouldn’t like it, and without advertising it’s doubtful that newspaper travel sections would exist. Nor do they want too much information about local realities, which might detract from the delight of the tourist. Until selling a product ceases to be the raison d’etre of travel sections, it’s hard to see how this will change.
Susan Cunningham — If you have any interest at all in getting the foreigners’ money to the largest number and the poorest of the locals–these big identikit hotels are a very inefficient way of doing it. Isn’t that widely known? Thailand, where I live, has virtually no ecotourism/socialistic sensitivities, but even I’ve written about this. Haven’t studies been done all over? The findings really aren’t that startling. How much does the general manager at one of those hotels make? $60,000? $80,000? Virtually tax free? In Asia, the people and their top assistants are almost all Europeans, even when the big hotel (as is usual in Thailand) is locally owned. The people cleaning rooms and washing dishes are very luck to make $100 per month and have no chance of promotion. Let’s leave aside for the moment the wastage on air-con, etc. Start looking into what the guest at these hotels buy–I’m speaking of short-term package tourists. In Asia, you wouldn’t believe how much stuff, such as hotel food, satellite dishes, etc. is imported. Anyway, the economic term is “leakage.”
In contrast is the low-budget or backpacking tourist that takes local transportation, stays in local guesthouses, eats at locally-owned restaurants and directly hires a local guide for a trekking jaunt. In Thailand, it turns out that these people spend as much as the “upscale” packaged tourist that the government authorities slaver over. Why? They typically stay longer, for six weeks or so. And, as I said before, their money goes directly into the economy, there’s a stronger multiplier effect.
Ron Mader — It seems a bit ironic that when we choose to write about “fair trade” in tourism, we rarely look at “fair trade” in tourism writing. Repeatedly, I am tapped as a reference for incoming investigators. I do this work for free and have a reputation as being “generous” with my sources. Despite the plethora of “Poor Poor” and “Responsible Travel” initiatives, there is rarely any money available for fact checking, original research or training workshops in the field. Tourism Concern’s wonderful guide to Community Tourism is a good example. I was happy to help with references, but, again, there was no money for consulting.
Harry Pariser — Sol Melia has decided not to pursue their plan to build a resort on a turtle nesting beach in Mexico. This shows that this type of protest can work.
I’m very concerned right now about the downturn in travel, international travel in particular. It may only last for some months, but it has already had serious effects: travel bookstores are hurting, tour operators of all kinds are in trouble, and there is no predicting if many of the smaller hotels and “ecotourism” operations can withstand a decline. This morning’s crash in Queens, of a flight bound for the Dominican Republic, intensifies the seriousness of the situation. The airlines are in big trouble, and fewer passengers, airline consolidation, and increased security will all translate into higher prices.
There are also too many travel guides right now. And, judging from looking at the sales figures (some of them astonishingly low) on Ingram’s iPage, nobody seems to be doing well. I really don’t know how some of the companies stay in business, given the small numbers they sell. Returns must be widespread, so profits and author royalties will both suffer. So some of the smaller companies may not survive. Some travel bookstores may also close, depending upon how long it takes for things to improve. And publishers may trim competing titles, just as they have with the Adventures in Nature series. So we can expect to see widespread effects.
Finally, I feel that those of us who are guidebook writers and work for the same company should stick together. If you see someone’s book being cut or someone being treated badly, you should remember that the same thing can happen to you.
Jean McNeil — I’ve been reading the conference correspondence with interest. It seems that ecotourism, as a term, and the idea of standardising or certifying it so that it becomes a more dependable concept are generating much discussion.
I don’t have the expertise comment much on academic or methodological debates, but it seems to me that Sue Wheat’s comment about Tourism Concern having adopted fair trade or ethical tourism as opposed to simply ecotourism points to the need not only for a more accurate term, but also to the need for a vision beyond terminology; for a tourism which takes into account the predominant social reality that surrounds tourism, particularly in the so-called developing world: economic inequality, and the lack of legislation to protect the rights of local people or the environment, or the lack of political will to enforce such regulation.
For their part, national governments and tourist boards, set up to promote the view of their country that best serves their needs and the needs of the industry players, are not interested in a more holistic or real appreciation of tourism. Based on my experience in Latin America it seems to me that governments and state tourism authorities define ecotourism according to their own perception of its potential to attract foreign investment, increase the wealth of local elites, and to advance a national ‘development’ strategy. Even countries with relatively shiny reputations, like Costa Rica, are not given to any deep self-analysis about where their country is being taken by ecotourism. They are publicly appreciative of ecotourism’s ‘low-impact’ effect, but on the other hand seem to be pursuing a tourism strategy based on several mega-resorts, including golf courses, albeit confined to one part of the country.
Our project is not about industry standards, or solving ‘demand-side’ problems, but it’s clear that travellers are increasingly wary of information and touristic experience which seeks to assuage the conscience of the concerned traveller, without offering any evidence that their holiday is truly benefiting local people. As Joe Franke mentions, informed travellers seem to accept that ecotourism is not a panacea for the developing world, and that it doesn’t guarantee a guilt-free holiday. There seems to us to be a genuine hunger among our respondents for more information about social, political and environmental realities, both in guidebooks and in the travel press.
Maribeth Mellin — Have been doing a California book, and find the environmental scene here to be absurd. Doing this, I actually feel more hope for Latin America.
Herb Hiller — I’m left thinking that as writers we are too weak to influence what happens with mainstream travel organizations no less with our own publishers. I don’t see a choice but for us to act in some concerted way to make our views toward sustainability in tourism more widely heard. As someone outside the WTO process I wonder whether even the best ideas can be heard if not channeled through that likely pre-emptive forum. I simply don’t know. With organization (but hardly without), I can imagine a laborious effort at getting international hotel chains to agree to some fund that would help pay for the education of the children of third world workers (possibly workers anyplace trying to improve their lives). Others among us might want to work at other priorities. I can understand. But to work at any priority we need to be organized.
We would need a strategy to reach the home offices of the Hyatts and Melias so that the kind of fund we might propose would be more than the right thing but so that it would resonate among a travel population that actively wants the hotels where they stay to support this kind of project. I’m not immediately proposing how to do this because I don’t know — but I don’t doubt the way can be found. Finally, for the sake of our writer incomes, I advert again to a previous posting, talking about our individual needs to become more authoritative about someplace that’s home to us. I have no compassion for the globe-trotters who find markets diminishing for their typically superficial reporting, their guidebook about this place, their next on the other side of the globe. This kind of skimming (to say nothing of the travel involved) seems inappropriate to me. I would rather see us become more knowledgeable about our places. Not simply by traveling near home and digging into crannies full of anecdotes but to study more formally, to study local history, geography, politics, economy, about ethnicity, building codes and so on. We need to become better informed generalists. I can imagine us helping organize not-for-credit courses at a local college or community college that help develop local authority for freelance and staff writers but also for every other kind of professional, for spouses of newcomers and still others. The more authoritative we become about our places, the more salable our skills. Although I write, I think of myself as an advocate for what I believe in. Writing is one way I express myself. Sometimes it’s the best way but often it isn’t. Having other anvils lets me bang away as occasions warrant and moods urge.
Developing Regional Expertise
Wayne Bernhardson — Although I work in countries far from where I live — Argentina and Chile, primarily — I agree with Herb that the most rewarding travel is to places I know and care about deeply, and developing that regional expertise is the most valuable thing a writer can do. In fact, I no longer have much interest in visiting new places, but am absorbed in revisiting places I already know, where I am able to evaluate developments over time and deepen my knowledge of them.
Maribeth Mellin — I agree with Wayne about writing about what you know. I’m inclined to search for assignments that keep me in Baja, Yucatan and other favorite parts of Mexico, along with Costa Rica and Peru. I now realize that by trying to cover new countries (such as my book on Argentina) I’ve diminished my contacts in the ones I know well.
Ron Mader — One of the problems in writing about the connections between tourism and the environment is the lack of reliable data. Focusing in on tourism stats — or the lack thereof, what I’ve found is that the information that does exist is rarely available for free or in a timely manner. Questions that ought to be answered easily include how many tourists visit a country or park. Less easily answered would be comparisons of the ecotourism-adventure tourism market or reviews of ecotourism potential in various countries — a particularly difficult task since few governments have the same definition of what constitutes “ecotourism.”
What I don’t understand about World Tourism Organization is how it keeps its reports and statistics fairly inaccessible beyond a brochure-level quality. Individual government tourism offices are not much better. There are some exceptions. Australia has an easy-to-use Bookshop. It’s good to see a mix of documents which are have a price and documents which are free to the public. I am impressed by the fact that the most basic info, such as the Directory of Tourism Statistics 2000 is available free of charge.
Les Beletsky — As others have written here, not very. Stats from gov’t/professional agencies in the US, Canada, Australia, etc, might sometimes be fairly correct and consistent, but those from many other places, especially developing countries, are, I find, very fluid. Check three sources for the numbers of international tourists to Botswana in 1997 and you’re likely to find three different numbers. The inconsistencies likely arise from multiple factors, such as: the primary source was not accurate in the first place; secondary sources quoted the primary source incorrectly; definitions of “international tourists” differ among various sources. Sometimes when I need a specific tourism statistic and I find multiple values for that number, I utilize an age-old statistical method: I take the average of all the reported values.
Brad Wieners — Reliable numbers. i really don’t think this is too much to ask, given that these drive so many decisions–including whether to assign coverage of a destination, much less assess impact of tourism. too often, i have sensed that tourism officials try to figure out what you want to hear and then tell you that. if they sense you’ll assign a writer because a place is “hot”, they’ll exaggerate the numbers. if you strike them a green activist, they’ll emphasize the numbers are appropriate. the disparity in numbers is, at times, mind-boggling. for ex, when i tried to get a figure for “adventure travel” as an industry last year, according to various sources, adventure travel represented an ‘industry’ worth two or three billion dollars annually, or $28.5 billion!
POLL QUESTION: Are you now or will you be writing about the “International Year of Ecotourism” in 2002?
CHOICES AND RESULTS
– Yes, 8 votes, 72.73%
– No, 3 votes, 27.27%
Ron Mader — Planeta.com publishes a Resource Guide to the “International Year of Ecotourism” (IYE) as well as hosting the IYE 2002 Forum to promote a dialogue among interested parties.
We encourage a frank discussion of what does and does not work. The IYE 2002 Forum is limited to messages specific to the IYE, and so far the forum has attracted about 200 participants. There is no cost to participate. In addition, we have our own modest Initiative in which we promise to focus on a select group of communities — ecotourism hotspots.
These are not areas where everything is perfect, but they are regions which have great potential in developing authentic ecotourism. The challenge lies in sharing information and supporting networks that foster positive change.
Bill Hinchberger — I’ve got an article on IYE2002 forthcoming in EcoAmericas, the newsletter edited and published by conference participant George Hatch. My guess is that there will be very little demand for news stories about IYE2002. And I doubt whether editors will consider IYE2002 a sufficient excuse to run more ecotourism features. (Or am I wrong? Any editors out there want to contradict me?)
Hitesh Meta — I would like to offer information, both visual and textual to any of you who plan to write any articles/books especially on the accommodation facilities and tours in ecotourism. I have a large collection of slides and case studies and would be happy to share with any of you who will be writing articles on the subject during IYE.
Does certification work?
Bruce Conord — Although as travel writers for consumer magazines and newspapers, many of us can and do promote environmentally friendly properties which theoretically brings them recognition and hopefully more business, but we rarely if ever trash a property that is an ecological nightmare. Where would it be printed anyway? If it is of interest to a media, it’s more “news” than travel. Promoting green labeled hotels over ones with no label is not the job of travel writers, in the sense that promotion and marketing is a job for a PR agency, an association, or a government tourism board. Otherwise it could be part of a “movement” like the union label on grapes and lettuce back in the 1960s and 70s. I wrote a bio of Cesar Chavez, whom I consider an American hero, but who looks for one these days? If there’s a head of lettuce less than $1.29, I buy it without thinking about the poor sod who had to pick it. Would this apply to vacation bound tourists as well?
Diane Jukofsky — I’m wondering….do editors want articles to include info about the environmental issues in a particular destination or the environmental impacts of a hotel or development? If a lodge has been “certified” or has some sort of green label, reporters would likely mention this. (Wouldn’t they?) In describing a resort’s facilities, should reporters describe what happens to organic and inorganic waste? What would editors say?
Ron Mader — In the past few years the evaluation and certification of ecotourism and sustainable tourism operations have become popular topics among consultants and policy-makers, but does the public care? To find answers, Planeta.com initiated a public Workshop which brought together nearly three hundred people from more than a dozen countries. The innovative Ecotourism Certification Workshop debuted in January 2001 and reconvened in June as an ongoing forum. We hosted the Workshop as part of our mission to engage professionals in a lively discussion which of the topics which make “ecotourism” so complex. The Workshop brought together a diverse group of proponents and critics from around the globe. Consultants and program backers have demonstrated the merits of various programs and activists have chimed in on why certification focuses so much on technology and not local communities nor indigenous peoples.
Bill Hinchberger — I discuss the issue a bit in the EcoAmericas article: apparently there are over 100 different schemes out there right now.
George Leposky — The article from the July/August 2000 issue of Vacation Industry Review, is relevant to the discussion on certification. It deals with La Cabana, a timeshare resort on the island of Aruba that won a Green Globe award. The article describes the Green Globe program and details what the resort did to win the award.
Julie Fanselow — I’m surprised by the lack of Native American (First Nations in Canada) tourism initiatives. When I find them, I do publicize them, even if they are fledgling. Examples: Calvin Grinnell, a tribal historian for the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota (Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara), does guided tours of the res, as well as offering camping land. With advance notice, he’ll arrange for tribal dancers and/or a sweat ceremony. He didn’t even have a brochure when I spoke with him in 1999 while updating Traveling the Lewis & Clark Trail, but I was so excited to hear *someone* was doing something along these lines that I included the info in my book. Harry, is that what you mean?
But then there are many areas where *no* such businesses exist. One notable area is the Lolo Trail in North Idaho, where L&C almost starved during their crossing in 1805. It’s also generally one of the least-changed areas along the L&C route, but the Nez Perce have had some problems with vandalism of sacred spots along the trail. I’ve repeatedly asked tribal members whether any Nez Perce people plan to do tours on the Lolo to share their story, but none are. Is it because they don’t want more people on the trail? That’s a lost cause; people are coming, though the Forest Service plans a permitting system (akin to the systems used on some rivers) during 2002-2007, the anticipated years of high traffic on the trail. Since people *will* come, wouldn’t it behoove the Nez Perce to get a piece of the action? I’d think so … but perhaps there are factors that I, as a non-native, can’t begin to understand. I’d welcome comment from others on this idea.
In private conversations with New Perce tribal members, suggested they’d do very well with tours of the Lolo Trail and the Clearwater River area where they provided life-saving hospitality to Lewis and Clark. But of course I’d be way out of bounds telling them what to do. I guess it’s a thin line, though. I hope to get my website up to speed over the next few months so I can provide frequent updates and some live reporting on the rapid changes that will be happening along the trail over these next few years.
World Travel Market
Tim Burford — A few thoughts on the World Travel Market where the Cancun stand was bigger than those of many countries. Amusingly, given theme of this e-conference, there were references to the ‘Sol Media’ [sic] project! In fact the World Tourism Award was awarded to Mexico (jointly to the Ministry of Tourism and the Mexican Tourist Board) – due to boosting tourism 6% in the first 5 months of 2001. The debate on ‘Responsible Tourism: whose job is it anyway?’ was really about nudging people along the continuum, as Peter Hutchison put it – the details of what’s said don’t much matter, as long as it’s seen that the issue is being taken seriously.
It featured all the usual suspects – Keith Richards of the Association of British Travel Agents, Roger Heap, formerly of British Airways Holidays, Jeffrey Lipmann of Green Globe, Tricia Barnett (& Sue Wheat, Angela Kalisch & Adama Bah) of Tourism Concern, Harold Goodwin of CERT, people from Thomsons, the WTO, WTTC, UNEP, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, Friends of Conservation, Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society, responsibletravel.com, Climate Care, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Anita Roddick (on video) et al – there were also quite a few people from WWF, who were sponsoring the debate. Green Globe made the point that they had a certification programme ready, which they were willing to give away to all who need it – others complained that certification can cost £1-3000 (say $1500-5000), far too much for a Southern community.
Peter Hutchison — A postscript back to Tim Burford’s comment on the Environment Discussion at the WTM if I may. The discussion was well attended by the good, bad, evil and the moderately interested. The format was similar to those found on (daytime UK) TV with a question for debate followed by discussion stimulated by the chair and several suitably informed attendees lurking in the audience.
The subject to discuss. Responsible Tourism: Whose job is it anyway?
At the end the voting options were:
A: The industry
B: The destinations
C: The punters
No great surprise that the show of hands at the end was inconclusive. In my opinion the answer is all of them. If forced, and I mean forced, to choose one it has to be the punters – it is, after all, their money. After thinking through several conspiracy theories relating to the media my mind is spinning but I’ll leave that aside.
Everyone likes a debate, but a discussion is more fruitful. The world is not black and white, it is grey – and if an article takes the stance that ecotourism exists for those on a higher plane, the vast majority of people will turn the page or switch off because while concerned about the environment the elusive vast majority see environmentalism as equating to camomile tea and early nights. Personally I believe the very word “eco – tourism” is partially responsible for creating this separation. Presumably the goal of promoting the environment in our journalism is to encourage more people to be more environmentally considerate. As Jean McNeil said it’s not about “preaching to the converted”, but getting some of the masses who currently don’t care to come and listen to something new. To point out that the experience of walking in nature, as Ron put it, is not changed by being environmentally considerate – it is the preparation, planning and follow-through that goes in to the event that makes it environmentally sensitive.
It is not just to get everyone to stay at lodge X which has achieved certification Y. Surely, as Tim paraphrased me after the WTM conference it is “about nudging people along the continuum” to stop the pig-ignorant and filthy to be a little more considerate, to get the concerned to take another step further, and so on. Not the big leap, but the small step that makes the journey.
The mood of the debate was such that lots of people wanted to do something, there was acknowledgment that people would choose a more “responsible” option if they could and knew how to. Following on from that it would be fair to assume that on the surge wave of this slowly rising tide there should be a greater interest from Commissioning Editors to get some copy that covers this issue.
Continuing this line of Utopian fantasy for just a little longer. Next year is the International Year of Ecotourism, there is also a World Environment Summit in Johannesburg (Rio Part III – like films probably based on the original idea but not as funny and with a very weak plot). As far as hooks go, there are a couple of biggies worth hanging any article you like on. Getting any commission is that mix of making the phone call on the right day – arrange for a rubbish truck to empty it’s load on the Editor’s driveway and then see if s/he says the environment is not relevant.
At the end of the debate with well-intentioned words floating around from ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents), British Airways Holidays, Green Globe, the WWG, Tourism Concern and so on. Tom Morton of Climate Care took the mike. He politely pointed out that the majority of the discussion had been missing the point – the most irresponsible part of the average holiday is the airline flight and in particular the fuel. Fantastically pollutant and ridiculously priced with no tax at all. Forgive me, I don’t have the figures to hand, but apparently for every passenger travelling on the London-South Africa flight for the environment conference next year two tonnes of fuel will be burnt.
On the Climate Care website there is a pollutant calculator (I haven’t seen it) which allows people to calculate the amount and of fuel being burnt for their ticket. A figure is suggested as to the appropriate amount of carbon tax that should be paid and they can make a contribution to Climate Care (or any other organisation) that works to reduce global warming. In the noise after the event the head of Thomson Holidays – the largest UK tour operator by a long shot – bee-lined for Tom and took his card in a way that we all like to see when we’re on the receiving end, the way that says “we can do business.”
I very much hope that Tom’s action encourage Thomson to do something. I will be extremely cynical of the piece meal gesture that will probably be the outcome but getting such large numbers to shift awareness has to be the role of environmentally concerned journalists wherever they sit on the green fence. Double checking previous postings the Media, Environment, Tourism conference has drifted towards an interesting discussion on ecotourism, our role is surely to push people towards being more environmentally concerned to all tourism not just to the ecotourist.
ps: Somewhat amusing to note that the default dictionary in Microsoft does not recognise “ecotourism”.
Bruce Conord — For those of you who have never had the experience of attending a tourism or trade show, they [Adventure & Eco-tourism Show in Chicago] feature rows and rows of booths that promote whatever project/service they offer. Not only in this case is adventure touring and tourism featured — rafting, ballooning, hiking, mountain biking — but also hotels and attractions that lay a claim to being ecological. Included in exhibits may be the latest technology in black water treatment, recycling, or even crash helmets. It depends solely on the exhibitors perception of whether paying the bucks for the space will generate sales leads. My publisher, Hunter Publishing, or example, is considering getting a booth to promote their Adventure Guide series of travel guidebooks (including ours on the Yucatan and an upcoming Costa Rica guide). In addition to all the good gadgets and ideas that come from these kinds of shows are all the goofy hype that goes with eco-tourism marketing. Perhaps more than one not-so-very-ecological property or attraction will market themselves as eco-friendly because they built their buildings in the middle of an environmentally sensitive rainforest. Although we can’t say anything about this specific show, if you have a chance to attend you may very well come away with new ideas, impressions, contacts, plans, and lots and lots of printed material. Not to mention all the cool free goodies given out by the exhibitors as advertising gimmicks.
Joe Franke — I would agree with Ron about the value of most, if not all, tourism conferences that have taken place in recent years. I stopped going to them in the late 1980s for the reasons he outlined. Although I admit that my disenchantment industry-led discussions about eco-sustainable-responsible tourism may have pulled me out of the loop, I have yet to hear about the existence of a well organized conference that fully seeks out and incorporates the views of people trying to design and implement tourism programs on the community level. In order to do this properly, a well heeled organization would have to pay the way of most of the participants. USAID pissed away millions during the ’80s and ’90s on “ecotourism” projects (a couple of exceptionally corruption-ridden boondoggles in Costa Rica come to mind) and it is too bad that they and similar organizations didn’t see fit to do something like this before the bloom came off the rose and money became less available.
Writing about this reminds me of an ad-hoc workshop that I organized in the context of a meeting of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists meeting in Thailand some years back. Most of the participants were people living in small villages all over Thailand and Cambodia who were interested in the expansion of INEBs reality tours (one of which turned out to be nearly lethal to several participants – me included – a long story) to include their communities. These people were truly interested in new ideas, and as they were starting with literally nothing, where in a perfect position to build their programs small and sustainable, rather than having an idea about a five story hotel and having to scale down to meet the interests of sustainable tourism advocates.
My point here (sorry to be so long winded) is that most of these conferences are little more than glorified trade shows, and are not the right place to discuss new ideas that don’t make a lot of money for the big tour companies. It is no wonder that they become tiresome.
Les Beletsky — I’m strongly conflicted about this. I’ve had the same experience as some others here: collaborating with a publisher to put out a superior book, but then having no marketing or advertising done. The publishers harm themselves in behaving in this manner, and they harm us. I don’t understand it at all. They are in business (even if they are not the greatest business people). How come I (with a background in science, and never having taken a business or economics course) know that books won’t sell if consumers don’t know they exist, but publishers don’t seem to know this?
Here’s the thing, though. It is THEIR job to sell the books. It’s an unspoken contract we have with them. We write them, make them as good as we can with the resources we have available, and then they carry out their part of the contract: print the things and sell them. Well, they can print, but they can’t sell. Should I go out and sell my books? Well, maybe, if no one else will. But I already have a job – I do research and write, and that takes up all of my work time. A professional marketing person should market books (an experienced person; not like the 22-year-old recent college grad who was introduced to me by my publisher last month as “the person who now will be taking over the marketing of your books.”)
Tim Burford — A few thoughts on the marketing of guidebooks – basically we’re all up against the power of Lonely Planet, which has enough marketing clout to put its books everywhere and to persuade a lot of people to buy them. LP publish some really poor books (I’m thinking of Romania, Central Asia, the Caucasus etc – not books by the esteemed authors on this conference!) but somehow this doesn’t seem to harm them as one would expect it to do. This distorts the whole market – people buy their books although they might actually be better off with one of our more eco guides. LP are also just about the only company still publishing a guide to Burma, in defiance of the boycott.
Wayne said that ‘Lonely Planet …has apparently made the decision that continuity in authorship is undesirable’ – I can see some minimal merit in moving authors around to keep them fresh and give new ones an opening, but if expertise is simply thrown aside the books will suffer. On the one hand writing a guidebook is engineering – with experience one learns how to go there, get the facts and put them together in the right order, and to a certain extent I can now go and do this anywhere in the world – but to produce a really *good* guidebook requires more than this, such as a real feel for the place, and the chance to evolve through editions.
I do believe that the web is going to be more and more important for niche markets like ours. As an author I of course find it frustrating that by the time the book has crept through the production process much of it is inevitably out of date – web publishing does allow for near-instant updates and corrections. (But Menem was arrested the day before the last edition of the Bradt Chile/Argentina guide went to press – and I managed to get it in! It was in the shops a month or so later, undisputably the most up to date on the shelves – very satisfying.)
Adventures in Nature
Ron Mader — Just before the MET Conference began, I received confirmation from my publisher that they have decided to cancel the Adventures in Nature series of environmental/travel guidebooks. First published by John Muir Publications in the early 1990s and then by Avalon, the AIN series was one of the best to tackle serious environmental issues and provide tips for travelers interested in nature. I am very grateful for my experience which I’ll review in this post.
I loved this series since I came across “Guatemala: A Natural Destination” in 1995. Reading Richard Mahler’s Guatemala book convinced me how a guidebook could educate its readers on cultural and environmental issues. There was a depth and a sense of humor which reminded me of another classic guidebook — “New Key to Costa Rica.” I was amazed and I wrote Richard a fan letter. Back in 1996 — my miserable year in Miami — I called Richard and asked if the publisher were interested in expanding the series. That was on the table, he told me! So I pitched the query that I write AIN Mexico and Honduras. I wisely asked Jim Gollin to come on board with me for the Honduras book. We had just met at the ecotourism conference in La Ceiba.
I am grateful for the experience of writing two guidebooks at the same time. Although it’s three years old, my Mexico book offers an overview of environmental policy and contacts which are simply not found in other books. This was the most difficult and most complex work I’ve done. Writing the AIN guides I learned how to balance critical assessment with a compassion for locality.
Coming to this field from strict environmental reporting on the US/Mexico border, I learned on the job of how to write convincingly of the reasons why — and how — a traveler should visit a place. Just two years before when I was covering border issues, I attended a meeting in Arizona in which activists complained that reporters would dart in and out. I’ll paraphrase what I was told: “You have to understand. You are visiting our homes. You can’t just report on what’s going wrong. You have to learn to understand what it’s like to live here, what it’s like to bring up your family here.”
It’s that compassion that I’ve spent the most time developing in my writing — and it is a single-most unmarketable talent — in the past decade. The AIN series has grown and so have my professional contacts. A year ago I received a fan letter myself from Sally McKinney who told me that she used the Mexico book in her writing of the New Zealand guide. Sally and I have collaborated and last month Planeta.com published a four-part series that gives ample credit — and promotion — to Sally’s wonderful book about New Zealand.]
Personally, I’m disappointed about the demise of the series, but I have been disappointed by JMP for a few years. The current publisher talks about the lack of a market [see below], but I don’t think JMP or Avalon handled this market well. For example, I didn’t see ads for the books in Outside or other nature travel magazines. My major complaint — when I received clips that mentioned my books, they were usually articles I had written or interviews I had facilitated myself.
On top of that, it was a bear trying to get them to sell the books in Mexico. JMP had several Mexico titles — and made zero effort to sell them south-of-the-border. “We don’t have anyone who speaks Spanish,” was the reason given.
Since neither of my books made any money, I’m not put out financially. If the market “doesn’t exist” in traditional publishing, there are alternatives to explore. I do sense more electronic publishing in the immediate future for myself and the other AIN authors.
It seems ironic that the AIN series has been cancelled just at the time in which Planeta.com is revving up. This has always been a popular site, but we’ve received more kudos and more hits than ever. Visitation ought to increase during 2002’s “International Year of Ecotourism.”
I hope that this conference can focus the attention on the opportunities we have to co-create and foster a publishing marketplace that gives nature travel guidebooks their proper due.
Holly Quan — Hello everyone, Holly Quan from Canada again. I’m responding to Ron’s posting about the Adventures in Nature guidebook series, and adding some comments of my own regarding my thoughts on what eco-tourism is and my ambitions for writing about it.
I also have a title in the AIN series and I concur with Ron’s observations about how the publisher bungled the marketing of the entire series. Eco-tourism is a growing market but it seems to me that people interested in environmentally and socially responsible travel frequently seek information from non-traditional sources. This is an audience that likes to keep up with ever-changing issues and emerging information, an audience not well served by traditional guidebooks. Web sites, newspaper and magazine articles and e-books are more current and more responsive, and I believe these media will help to disseminate information about eco-tourism in the future.
All facets of tourism are in crisis. Just a few days ago, Canada’s second-largest airline declared bankruptcy and grounded its aircraft, stranding thousands of passengers around the world. This morning another aircraft went down in New York. The days of mass tourism are numbered; to paraphrase Martha Stewart, this is not a bad thing. It will mean the re-thinking of what tourism is, how it must be operated to be safe and sustainable. Eventually, ALL tourism must be “eco” tourism.
For the moment, however, “eco-tourism” remains an ill-defined concept that lacks accepted standards. To me, the essence of true eco-tourism lies in education, as I alluded to in my posting last week about the Banff Heritage Tourism Strategy. An increasing segment of the traveling population is interested (at some level) in learning about their chosen destination, and committed (at some level) to low-impact travel. I believe it is the duty of travel writers to provide information to the traveling public so that tourists can have realistic expectations and make informed choices. If the publishers we deal with are unable or unwilling to support writers in this task, then we must turn to non-traditional publication.
In the long term, it’s in the best interests of travel service providers — from airlines to hotels to attraction managers and so forth — to accept that travel must have limits. Service providers will be successful by re-thinking their services, by acting in socially and environmentally responsible ways and by promoting their actions.
I believe that tourism needs to have a kinder, gentler and more intelligent face if it’s to be sustainable, especially in ecologically sensitive places, and I want to help be the voice of that evolution. My book in the AIN series was unsuccessful in part because it was not supported and promoted by the publisher, but also because it’s an ordinary guidebook, a format that simply can’t keep up in the rapidly changing and evolving tourism industry.
Richard Mahler — I am sure we all have horror stories about publishers and editors. My experience with John Muir Publishing and its successor, Avalon, has been very mixed. I praise them for producing a product (the AIN) series that tries to meld practical travel writing with useful information about environment, culture, and history. However, as has been pointed out, they completely dropped the ball when it came to promotion, marketing, and building an audience for this product.
A key problem is that few publishers seem to have much skill in this arena. They know how to create and print a book, but what happens next is beyond their repertoire. It reminds me of people who are very good at producing a child, then don’t know how to feed, clothe, nurture, and house it, much less raise it to be a fully functional human beings. So many publishers send their “children” into the world to, basically, fend for themselves, then act surprise when they get smooshed. What to do? Take more responsibility for what we create, including its distribution and promotion. More work in a poorly paid profession, but, I fear, even more necessary than ever if we are to succeed. Forums like this help.
Richard Mahler — I can think of a half-dozen things a publisher like JMP or Avalon could (and should) have done to promote and market the Adventures in Nature series better:
- 1) Have the book distributed more widely in-country, particularly among lodges, outfitters, stores, eco-destinations, and travel agencies that cater specifically to likely readers/purchasers. (It was almost impossible to find my books ANYWHERE in Guatemala or Belize.)
- 2) Make more comp copies available to journalists and publications covering the environment, ecotourism, and adventure/nature/heritage travel. (I provided mailing lists for key people, but was told there was “no money” for such freebies, beyond a select few.)
- 3) Actually donate a small percentage of book income to local environmental organizations or programs that are deemed worthy and legitimate. This could be used as a promotional tool as well as giving back some money to people who are trying to preserve what the book is describing. (I was rebuffed by my publisher in this regard and have instead made donations from my own royalties.)
- 4) Hire (or train) a specialist in marketing to travel agents, media outlets, travel bookstores, and others who are in a position to promote the book to those with an obvious interest. (My publisher, in general, did not have a clue as to how to do this, and didn’t seem interested in making the effort anyway.)
- 5) Cover the expenses of an author who is ready and willing to do a “road show” promoting his/her new book, possibly including a slide and lecture program at bookstores, environmental forums, and so on. (All the bookstore appearances, slide shows, and talks I have done have been at my own expense. The exceptions have been a bit of paid advertising to promote these events and a paid trip to Los Angeles for a CNN interview.)
- 6) Come up with Internet material that really gets a potential reader/buyer interested in obtaining a book. My publishers have provided only the minimum information, in contrast to folks like Lonely Planet, who do a bang-up job. (I have brought up this subject for years with my publishers, but have been told that the Internet has failed to prove itself as a marketing/sales tool.
Polly Pattullo — Selling books: a problem for publishers and writers. My experience with Last Resorts (on the impact of tourism in the Caribbean) was that the small and impoverished Caribbean distributor (the book had a UK publisher – Latin America Bureau) had problems of distribution – large areas to cover, small volume of local readers, and getting money out of bookshops a problem. Having said that, I was able to identify one major outlet: Papillote Wilderness Retreat in Dominica. This small (six-bedroom) guest-house has sold more than 100 copies of my book. Not by any magical hard sell but because its clientele are the exact market for the book.
Wayne Bernhardson — I have noticed some of the comments from the Adventures in Nature authors (and others as well) about promoting our work. While certainly the publisher should bear a major responsibility in promotion, I believe that authors cannot and should not even want to leave that responsibility exclusively up to publishers. I think it’s possible to do this and even make a bit of money on the side, as I have done. While I was never fortunate enough to have royalties for my LP books, LP was progressive enough to pay me (and other authors) to promote their own books in slide shows and other presentations at venues ranging from travel bookstores to public libraries and travel writing workshops. My own judgment, however, was that in the long run LP’s agenda and mine were not the same, but at the same time I enjoyed the public presentations tremendously.
This also ties in with my belief, articulated earlier in this conference by Herb Hiller and seconded by Maribeth Mellin, that we are better off establishing our regional credibility and deepening (I prefer the Spanish profundizar in this context) our knowledge of the destinations we cover, rather than zigzagging all over the globe.
Thanks partly to LP’s high profile in the guidebook business, I had considerable credibility when I approached the Corporación with the idea of a series of slide lectures at travel bookstores throughout the western U.S., with a handful of dates in the Midwest and on the East Coast. Using some existing contacts but also stores that I did not know before, I set up an itinerary and a budget for the tour and, thanks to an open-minded CEO at the Corporación who had a great deal of autonomy, got the budget approved. They in turn provided me a fair amount of promotional material.
In the northern summer of 2000, over the course of 15 talks, we had an average audience of about 60 persons, with a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 150. I made enough money on the project to justify it and, while I don’t wish to disclose financial details publicly, the Santiago-based Corporación de Promoción Turistica found it an economical way of reaching an audience that was self-selected for interest in traveling to Chile.
That said, in retrospect I think I undervalued myself, as the effort of arranging such an ambitious itinerary was more time-consuming than I had anticipated, and I have since raised my rates. At the same time, last year’s effort has laid the groundwork for future projects of this sort which I hope to continue as I do a series of books on Chile and Argentina for Moon/Avalon, my current publisher. These are essentially synergistic activities–getting paid for promoting my own books, in addition to any royalties that come my way. This year, because of administrative changes at the Corporación, there was only enough money to undertake a smaller series of talks, which I did at REI stores in the Bay Area, Seattle, Portland and Denver, some of which were very well attended despite the events of September 11. Nevertheless, I hope and expect that we will be able to restore and even expand the series.
Sometimes, however, events are beyond our control. Late last year, I proposed a similar program to Argentina’s Secretaría de Turismo de la Nación and to the Argentine equivalent of the Corporación, pointing out my success with the Chileans, but despite their enthusiasm and strong support from the Argentine consulate in Los Angeles, the current Argentine economic crisis (the country is on the point of defaulting its international debt) made it impossible to get funding. While I think this is a real possibility for the future, one must also be aware of political changes–most of my current contacts, for instance, are with people allied with the current Argentine administration, which suffered an overwhelming defeat in recent congressional elections and is unlikely to win re-election to the presidency–meaning that I may have to deal with a whole new bureaucracy the next time around.
Herb Hiller — One of the conditions most troubling about Florida tourism is that the Florida Commission on Tourism, which is the policy body behind the Visit Florida marketing arm, dictates an agenda limited to marketing. No investment is made in protecting the resources that tourism exploits. So, for example, the Commission on Tourism is unconcerned about preventing beach erosion, about river or lake pollution, about eradicating pest trees from forests, about overuse of springs.
The typical response would be that other state and county interests look after these matters. There is a state Department of Environmental Protection and a state Department of Community Affairs responsible for coastal conditions.
Yet here is the dominant sector of the Florida economy, that depends on these resources, unwilling to occupy the bully pulpit in behalf of conservation. Obviously, the Commission on Tourism and Visit Florida can’t be seen as acting in a politically partisan manner. But questions of conservation and historic preservation are not partisan matters. Both parties understand the values of natural and historical resources.
In many respects, these resources are troubled precisely because there are no private sector bodies that speak to their protection. Only state and local governmental agencies and NGOs advocate protection. It would be somewhat understandable for private sector companies to remain silent about these issues if, for example, their products are merely consumptive or technological or otherwise not even remotely concerned with such resources. But tourism is directly involved in their use. The resources are finite.
I ask if any of you are familiar with places where resource protection is a priority of tourism promotion agencies and whether you know of anything that has been written on the topic. Are you aware of any consumer magazines or newspaper travel sections that have tackled the subject or even regularly report on this?
Joe Franke — This is a common problem all over the world, and one of the reasons that I think that the “ecotourism” industry has, with perhaps a few exceptions, done very little to protect the resources that it utilizes for profit. As the author of a guidebook to the Costa Rican protected areas system (Costa Rica’s Parks and Preserves: A Visitor’s Guide – Mountaineers Books) I’ve had the opportunity to see firsthand how little of the money collected from people who come to the country specifically to visit the park system goes back to the parks, while degrading these areas through over use, and how the poorly regulated hotel industry has further eroded resources around the park boundaries. While I don’t have specific figures on hand, I’ll stick my neck out far enough to say that I believe that the majority of funds from entrance fees has gone to service Costa Rica’s crippling debts to the IMF and World Bank, and to the general services funds of the government.
Nancy Johnson — Herb Hiller raises a good question: How does a state or region effectively protect its environment AND promote tourism? I really appreciated the comment of George Leposky in his introduction to the effect that in the 1960s he “inadvertently killed the oldest living thing in Illinois by writing about it.” I had an elderly friend read one of my stories about Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and comment, “But aren’t you afraid if people read about this place, it will be overrun, like Yellowstone Park?” Many recognize the problem. What is the solution?
This issue links to the Newdesk’s question: What do journalists covering environmental tourism want from government offices, travel agencies and their own publishers? We want help! We want to be able to print the truth, not just the pretty parts. We want to know that what we write about is recognized as valuable. But not another tax-gobbling law or impossible agency oversight, please!
Perhaps “bully pulpit” is the way to go. Instead of all gloss all the time, the state tourism office should give space in its brochures to how and why tourists should be careful. Give space in a meaningful way, not just another “protect against forest fires” logo on the back. Like Herb, I would like to know, “if any of you are familiar with places where resource protection is a priority of tourism promotion agencies and whether you know of anything that has been written on the topic. Are you aware of any consumer magazines or newspaper travel sections that have tackled the subject or even regularly report on this?
Joe Franke — One of the problems with the execution of sustainable tourism projects and a serious analysis of “ecotourism” is that it has been treated in an overly simplistic manner by funding agencies and by most of the academic community. Unfortunately, this sort of limited view is parroted by most travel writers.
I think that ecotourism’s promise as a stand-alone, market based solution to the need for environmental protection and “sustainable development” for local human populations has been overstated. If treated as such, responsible tourism will be forever relegated to “niche market” status, while the rest of the tourism industry continues on its destructive path.
In reality, a model of truly sustainable tourism would be included within a holistic ecological/social model of development, at least on the national level, if not bioregionally. I don’t believe that an ecotourism industry that is not part of an integrated ecological/social plan can ultimately be anything but a museum diorama, particularly in the context of repressive countries governed by the whims of transnational corporations and greedy oligarchs. Even in the case of successful community based projects, the likelihood is that the rest of the country will go to hell, even if a small piece if preserved as a result of responsible tourism projects.
In a holistic development model, traditional, unsustainable tourism would be rejected and sustainable models adopted as a matter of course.
While the resources gained from community based, socially responsible tourism will help that community resist destructive forces, they will eventually be overwhelmed by systemic ecological damage or outside social pressures unless communities and the ecosystem they depend upon remain healthy as a whole. Responsible tourism can act as a small part of that whole, but only a small part.
Jean McNeil — I wonder if the problem with environmental journalism is one of categories, and a reluctance on the part of editors and journalists to see beyond what many editors seem to think of as the environment ghetto. There’s no doubt the environment has slipped down the news agenda.
I used to be a journalist and editor for Friends of the Earth, a UK and international environmental campaigning organisation. We covered many topics that we felt fell under the umbrella of environmental concerns: genetically-modified organisms, organic food, nuclear reprocessing plants, global warming and, of course, ecotourism. I was in the luxurious position of not being freelance and having to fight to get my stories placed; they were all used for our campaigning magazine and membership materials. (This is otherwise known as preaching to the converted.)
That job alerted me to the fact that, as Ron points out, the ‘environment’ had its heyday in the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s. Then it was a discrete category of thought and concern.
But increasingly the environment – in whatever manifestation, from watershed erosion caused by loss of rainforest cover, to inadequate septic tanks in hotels located in pristine areas, to climate change and global warming to overfishing – is not an isolated concept, a single horse to which a bandwagon can be conveniently hitched. It interacts with a nexus of issues, and they are political, economic, social and cultural.
The increasing complexity of environmental issues makes reporting on them, especially news as opposed to features reporting, challenging. A new concept of the ‘environment’ may be needed – just as I suggested in a previous post that a new concept of tourism is needed – to take into account globalisation, economic rights, and local social realities.
Editors of magazines and newspapers that run pieces on the environment have to realise we not going to return to the clarity of the save-the-rainforest days, even if single-issue campaigns are what stimulated so much concern in the first place. In a time when the ‘environment’ as well as ecotourism are likely to be positioned in our culture as just another lifestyle issue, about consumption and concerns that lead principally to our own satisfaction, I wonder if our task as writers is to be more thoughtful and more tenacious in pursuit of the real, often hidden, story.
Report from Venezuela by Dominic Hamilton
In 1999 in Venezuela, the Corporacion de Turismo levied a 1% tax on all tourism businesses to “improve the country’s promotion abroad.” To be honest, I don’t know if their presence at International Travel Fairs (or the like) has improved, since I don’t attend them. But, suffice to say that two years on, Venezuela is yet to boast an ‘official’ tourism website.
This is criminal, considering the low costs that such a website would take to build, and the amount of revenues which the Corporacion must have received from their ‘un porcentico’…
On a more positive note, in line with Venezuela’s new ‘Bolivarian’ Constitution, the Pemon Indians of Canaima National Park have begun to become far more involved with its management and decision-making. It’s hoped that the park’s director will soon be a Pemon. There have been long-running conflicts between the Pemon and the National Parks Institute (INPARQUES) which administers it.
I mention Canaima because it’s a prime example (and I’m guilty of it too) of travel journalists and the media writing ‘blinkered’ articles about a natural and fragile destination — something that’s been touched on in this discussion. While tens of thousands of tourists visit Canaima every year to get a glimpse of Angel Falls, the local Pemon’s lagoon is being polluted, the aqueduct for the village has taken years to build, and outside developers are putting up ‘posadas’ and hotels on their land with no consultation.
In my guidebook to Venezuela, I tried hard to encourage readers to contract local Pemon operators and to look for independent alternatives to the group travel which dominates the region. The downside to that, in my experience, is that the fledgling Indian operators are often disorganized, sometimes unreliable and can’t match the comfort levels of larger operators. This is mainly a question of capital, and experience.
One example is a great Pemon guide who was starting out. I put his name and number in the book. But then he changed his cellphone, and no-one can get hold of him! As a writer (because it looks bad in your book to have ‘dead’ phone numbers), you become more sceptical and perhaps more dismissive of the smaller, probably more ethical and low impact, operators.
The long-term solution to this problem is to encourage governments and international agencies to pay more attention, and to fund, these smaller local initiatives.
The short-term solution (for guidebooks at least) is the internet. Lonely Planet now has a ‘reboot’ your guidebook option. I imagine others will follow suit. But I think the writers can also (coupled with a bit of self-promotion…) create a website themselves where they can include the updates they receive, and mention this in their books. I do believe it’s our duty to dig deeper, and to report on the ugly too. As someone mentioned before, you can do this subtly, and still make the article saleable.
Report from the Lewis and Clark Trail by Julie Fanselow
I live and work mostly in the American West, which has been the site of much heat and not much light on the issue of public lands use, on everything from logging and fire management to President Clinton’s 11th hour round of national monument designations. In this region, the very words “ecotourism” and “environmentalist” can divide people. On one hand, an activist in Sun Valley, Idaho, has one definition of what it means to be an environmentalist. A rancher 50 miles away on the Camas Prairie has another definition, and says he can back it up by the fact his family have been ranching on that land for four generations. Tribal members from the Shoshone Bannock and Nez Perce nations have still other definitions, and theirs are backed up by centuries — perhaps millenia — on this land.
One major issue I’ll be facing personally over the next few years is the impact of tourism on the Lewis and Clark Trail. Public lands people in the Northern Rockies seem very conscious of the potential impact of the trail’s upcoming (2003-2006) bicentennial, when as many as 25 million people may descend on areas that are still quite pristine. I want to know how I can work with (mostly federal, Forest Service, as well as tribal) officials to identify areas that could be seriously affected by heavy tourist traffic, and perhaps help to mitigate that impact. But I see a dichotomy: Some of the areas most likely to be negatively affected are also those that best help modern travelers understand what Lewis and Clark and their party experienced. As a journalist, what’s my responsibility — to the land, to my readers, to the tribes, to all of the above?
Report on Heritage Tourism by Jonathan Lerner
I am blessed and cursed by not having gone to J-school and never having had a class in journalistic ethics. I just try to tell the truth as I see it. My travel writing has been mostly about architecture and preservation, not environment, but analogous questions arise. When I’m doing a story with a preservation angle, I try to make a point of describing both the restored sites (the ones the local tourism bureau likes to showcase, and which most travelers find easier and most comfy to tour) as well as places I find (because I make a point of looking for them) that have been overlooked or are in ruins. The latter are as evocative as the former, and add an extra dimension. The fact that they’re not considered worth saving, or that there just aren’t the resources to restore them, can teach readers that real historic places are not shiny theme parks, and that the real world is full of problems.
I’m saying that I feel responsible to describe a place in the fullness of its contradictions. Real places aren’t perfect. Old towns always contain important places that are tragically lost, or going that way fast.
I also make a point of looking for sites that tell the diversity of a place. Not just the great house, but the slave quarters, even though the quarters have usually melted back into the ground ages ago, since they were built of mud wattle and not stone, and often that’s pretty much all I can find to say about them. Or, the house where a suffragist convention was held, or the native American shell mound, or — but you could spend the rest of your life looking for these, given how invisible this strand of history is — the landmarks of gay history. This is just to say: I want to put all the obscure richness I can fit into my 1700 words (or whatever it is). The darker bits add the depth.
As to the second question–“Is it appropriate for me, as an outsider, to encourage tribal members…”–I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to go to the tribe yourself and ask or tell them what you think they ought to do. But it certainly is for you to point out and regret, in your writing, from the point of view you concede as an observer, whatever you think is missing that they might provide. In the preservation context, I might write something like, “Haywood Plantation is a wonderful example of sensitive restoration. Unfortunately, the state DOT’s insistence on widening River Road meant cutting down an allee of irreplaceable 300 hundred year old live oaks. And the county council has rejected a zoning plan that would have prevented additional subdivisions adjacent to the plantation; two are now planned. So see this gem right away, while you still can appreciate it.”
Of course, that last line only encourages people to overrun the delicate site…which brings us back to the central conundrum of responsible travel writing.
Report from New Zealand by Polly Stupples
Tourism is New Zealand’s second largest industry. Travellers have always visited New Zealand for its accessible wilderness. In the last few years they have also been coming to view our marine mammals and unusual birdlife. Yet “ecotourism”, as a concept, is still fairly young in New Zealand. As we encourage more and more tourists to visit this country, their impacts are becoming more and more visible. And there is much heated debate about development within national parks. Is a gondola through a pristine valley eotourism or ecoterrorism?
Report from Montana by Perri Knize
A few years back, I wrote a story for Traveler about how the state of Montana became the new chic place to go. These things do not happen organically. The rise of Montana from a place nobody had heard of–in the early 80s, the average New Yorker only knew that it was cold and up north somewhere–to a hotter than hot destination, was a carefully orchestrated and deliberate and highly successful campaign launched by the state and its tourism industry.
How did the state accomplish its meteoric rise to *the* place to go of the early 90s? Travel writers. They paid for fam trips for planeloads of travel writers, hosted conventions for them, wined and dined them, got them assignments. Suddenly Montana was on the covers of all the travel magazines. I can name the month–March of 1989. And that summer the state became changed forever. It was a deluge, no, a siege, of Winnebagos and dudes and millions upon millions of people playing out their western cowboy and nature freak fantasies in this newly discovered place. There was a direct and highly obvious correlation between travel writers and the Montana phenomenon.
And you know what the former state officials who created the campaign said to me? They said they were sorry. They said they didn’t realize. They were environmentalists who thought tourism would save Montana from the loggers and miners by making trout streams more valuable as is, than as dumping grounds for mine effluent. But the sheer volume of visitors and their impacts were overwhelming, and the infrastructure and the society there–an agricultural society, by and large–couldn’t deal with it. The social and economic and ecologic impacts have been huge. Now the environmentalists say “just give me a good, clean mine.” One tourism operator who got into it thinking he was being an environmentalist now says he has come to believe there is nothing sustainable or responsible about tourism.
There is a direct correlation here:
travel writers write—
Hell, yes, we should be looking at our role! Please get rid of all the travel guidebooks tomorrow. I think it will help enormously. Of course, I don’t expect that to happen. But that is no excuse for not examining our role in what is happening in the world and making personal choices about what our role will be in future.
Really, the larger question here is: why has tourism become the fastest growing and the biggest industry in the world? What is it tourists are seeking abroad that they can’t find at home? Why do we fail to find fascination with our own backyards, which are every bit as exotic to a Spaniard as the Spaniard’s is to us? What does this say about the wealthiest few who annually “bag” new destinations?
I think if travel writers want to help the health of the earth and its societies, we should now make it very, very fashionable to stay home and appreciate what we have there, and gain greater depth and understanding of ourselves through our own, local environment. We’re very good at what we do. We can make staying home sexy.
Ron Mader — Here are a few ideas with guestimated pricetags:
1) Find the $ for “Environmental/Travel Research” which could be divided between publications aimed at both academic and popular readership. Cost:$25-100,000
2) Offer internet workshops for those local leaders working toward environmental conservation or tourism development. Cost: $5-50,000
2) Create a synergistic network of websites dedicated to Environmental travel and establish a larger advertiser base. Cost: Free/Time involved
3) Encourage local roundtable discussions around the globe. Choose a quarterly date or allow individuals to establish their own calendar. Announcements and summaries are posted online the appropriate Planeta forum. Cost: Free/Time involved
Susan Cunningham — I dream of producing a magazine and/or a Web site on adventure travel in Asia. It would do something unprecedented here by giving readers background on environmental threats and local politics of the pretty places they visit. Right, but who would advertise?
Herb Hiller — I would like us to consider our own publishing arm for a literature that focuses on the quality of place. By “place” I mean a combination of natural and built heritage too, and of how travelers might better get in touch with what makes places special. I have in mind less conventionally formatted guidebooks but more essayistic work, works more like the Insight Guides or perhaps Travellers Tales, written by people authoritative about their places. The purpose would combine both a journalistic wish to inform and an advocate’s urge to protect. The connecting element would be people’s desire to travel and experience places more fully at first hand.
Publications I have in mind would be to travelers and armchair travelers. The goal would be to make travelers more environmentally aware by helping shape their travels, broadly speaking, around culture and heritage, to see natural resources as part of what makes places special and to define sustainability as something not the narrow concern of professional environmentalists but of everyone who values the importance of what’s familiar and cherished in our lives, especially in these times of fast change. I have in mind some wedding of a dynamic geography that combines learning with the pleasure of travel experience and a non-didactic, non-confrontational way of drawing people to care about environment — a kind of on-the-move classroom of the traveler. I see this work as our own, on our own site (of course widely linked), and I can imagine that, driven in good measure by advocacy, the effort would attract financial support from one or more sources like the Pew Charitable Trusts so that we might also produce our work in print, either print-on-demand or more conventionally. One factor that would lend the effort credibility would be precisely who we are: writers authoritative about our places rather than simply PCs for hire, slinging guidebook hash without local insight. As to who the “we” are, this, like every other aspect of what I propose, in the first instance is for debate among ourselves as conference participants here in Ron’s world.
We need not be more subject to what’s out of our hands than we already think we are. Instead, we might shape with our own hands the opportunities that others ignore. It’s the difference between keeping focused on where we’ve been and looking to where we might be. I understand the complaints. We can turn our own complaints around.
Jonathan Tourtellot — Here’s another proposal for coping with some of the issues raised in both this forum and that on eco-certification. As has been noted, travel writers themselves can take some initiative in the degree to which environmental issues are included in what we write. That extends to the destinations and facilities we cover.Guidebook writers cannot be expected to perform any kind of systematic certification on their tight schedules, but that does not mean that good and bad environmental practices need be ignored. Would it not be feasible to work up a set of easy-to-check sustainable-tourism indicators for travel writers? That way, we can begin to raise awareness (including our own) in the course of what we are doing anyway.
It may be a long time before the various certification programs coalesce into something readily recognizable by the public. There is no reason we travel writers can’t in the meantime add sustainability to our basic job: reviewing destinations. If anyone is interested working up such a set of indicators and debugging it, I’d be happy to host an online working group. The goal is not perfection; it’s simply to get sustainability–and preservation of sense of place–onto the journalistic table.
Ron Mader — Jonathan Tourtellot wrote and suggesting setting up a working group to create an index of sustainability for journalists. This is an excellent idea. Would there be any chance we could find funding to develop the idea and bring it to fruition? Otherwise, we are all working on borrowed time.
Herb Hiller — If the committee thinks things through well, costs should be minimal. It’s mainly the time of those who think this might be a good enough idea to work on. Assume we think this through to where the books that could result would be an important step in aligning tourism more closely with natural and heritage resource protection, that objective would likely elicit a backer. Even at this preliminary point, I can imagine the backer would come on board in part to provide the equivalent of an advance for the one or two writers (or multiple contributors to an anthology or two) who initially get involved; to provide edit support and to help the group see through those steps that would get the parent body establish buzz for the project. Clearly, the need is to get the traveling public and the conservation/heritage community to turn to the website. If the books are well represented and reviewed and if online sales result, we may well find a distributor for the titles and get Barnes & Noble and others on board.
Bill Hinchberger — I’d like to see a portal that highlights independent destination websites around the world. Like Ron, I envision opportunities to pool resources, share back office costs and offer package deals to advertisers. Last year, I collected a modest list of sites similar to BrazilMax. I contacted some of their owners. The response was lukewarm. But I’m not discouraged. If we can get a core group of sites together first, perhaps we’ll encounter more success in our recruiting.
Elsewhere on the Web
The Coverage of Place – Ron Mader/Rhodes Journalism Review (PDF)