Artwork (Some rights reserved)
From the archives, late 90s/early 00s
What’s on your Wish List for Responsible, Sustainable Ecotourism that Alleviates Poverty, Creates Jobs, Conserves Biodiversity, Engages Events, Fosters Education, Greens Transport, and Promotes Meaningful Engagement among Stakeholders while creating a more Peaceful World?
Our Planeta.com wishlist is based on numerous conversations with colleagues about what they want to see. Based on two decades of listening to complaints and suggestions, this is a wishlist (wunschliste) that seeks to integrate, well, everything. Every year there are new buzzwords. Prepare for a deep dive into the basics.
Here are a few ideas about how travel and tourism can contribute to … Biodiversity Conservation – Cleaner Transportation – Effective Education – Engagement – Greener Events – Job Creation – Transparency in Banks and Foundations – Improved Media Coverage – Independent Journalists – Indigenous Peoples – Parallel Web Conferencing – Ethical Marketing – Water Conservation
Biodiversity Conservation – Biodiversity conservation is crucial, so much so that it was embedded in the 2002 International Year of Ecotourism and 2010’s International Year of Biodiversity. Let’s review how environmental conservation works in the field and promote the areas in which tourism can be of assistance and not a hindrance.
Engagement – Successful tourism requires meaningful collaboration among all the players, aka stakeholders, starting with locals and visitors. How we improve points of contact and communication among wildly different groups is the task at hand.
Indigenous Peoples – Visitors have connected with Indigenous communities and vice-versa for a long time, though only recently are we asking for more respectful interactions. Welcome to the world of Indigenous tourism. The Web creates an opportunity for Indigenous guides and tourism services to get the word out about their tours, their crafts and the protocols expected of visitors. Most travelers are willing to obide local protocol, but it needs to be clearly defined and visitor education needs to begin before arrival.
Job Creation – Poverty alleviation starts with job creation! We need to support meaningful and good-paying employment.
Effective Education – Students need practical skills. The tourism sector needs educated professionals. Communities should be able to partner with educational centers in a proactive manner.
Water Conservation – One of the key issues is the conservation of water. We also need to review how local communities are or are not served in terms of access to water. It is not fair when visitors have access to water and locals do not.
Cleaner Transportation – While we are not keen on individual carbon offsetting tickets, we would like to see airlines and other modes of transportation make improvements. The environmental impact of transportation needs to be reviewed at the regional and national levels.
Transparency in Development Banks and Foundations – We’d like more user-friendly information on bank and donor websites. A good starting point is asking banks to create a single reference page on their own websites that could be linked from our index. Many internationally funded conservation and ecotourism programs have failed, leaving individuals and communities cynical of ecotourism and ‘sustainable development.’ What works? Competition for contracts and more public bidding works best. Planeta.com used to host the Sustainable Tourism Bank Watch. Something like that is needed again.
Improved Media Coverage – If there is a chance the ecotourism word will survive, it will be if ecotourism is treated seriously in the mainstream media. Lackluster coverage – from Christian Science Monitor’s sensationalistic ‘When Ecotourism Kills‘ to mixed messages from the New York Times – show that media simply does not care. What’s needed? Editors who respect ethics and sustainability concerns. What about creating a new position at papers and magazines – the sustainability editor? The Media, Environment and Tourism Industry Conference (2001) generated several proposals for collaborative work. The chief recommendation – more engaging dialogues that include frank conversation among conservationists, tourism officials AND media.
Support for Independent Researchers/Journalists – If we wish to develop such noble concepts such as ‘responsible travel,’ we need to implement Fair Trade in Travel Writing and Photography. Top-notch journalists could expand the coverage of such pertinent issues as community-based tourism and park management strategies if there were more reliable funding. Portals that feature sustainable development issues should begin paying retainers to journalists in the field for content collection. Or journalists could work as ‘scouts’ – finding services that can be linked into a value chain. It would be helpful to see more grants for independent travel and research and a lucrative publishing market.
Parallel Web Conferencing – Traditional conferences need to include parallel forums on the Web. Please, no more closed door meetings that do not include an opportunity for a virtual dialogue among interested parties before, during and after the event. Interested constituencies without the money or time to attend the event in person should have the opportunity to participate.
Greener Events – We would like to see events which are more eco-friendly and people-friendly.
Ethical and Effective Marketing – Travelers need better information about where to go. Find a common language. Individual operators and communities often do not know how to communicate with potential clients. We recommend that tourism boards pay professional editors to review and redo brochures and websites. Suggestions were made in our 2003 Ethical Marketing Conference.
Regarding ‘evaluating conservation’ – We need to be able to measure ecotourism’s contribution to conservation. In protected areas, I believe this means ensuring capacity exists to monitor, measure and control tourism, before we promote them as a destination, and the cost of installing this capacity should be covered by the industry and/or the visitor through entrance fees, user fees, license fees etc. Also, we should ensure that nationals are not priced out of their own protected areas and that foreign visitors pay a fair market value and have the opportunity to contribute beyond the mandatory fee. – Andy Drumm
As a professional editor/writer and world traveler, I am very disappointed in the quality of translation and language skills I see in print. I would love to be part of the initiative to connect eco-conscious destinations with skilled writers and editors from our sphere. How do I get involved NOW? What’s our first/next step? – Suzanne Gerber
I’d add that if the E-word is to survive the decade, it will be if people stop taking potshots at ecotourism when their target is clearly not ecotourism, but some phony imitation of it. It really frustrates me when critics purport that something is ecotourism, then point out its problems, when it is readily apparent to most thoughtful people that it was never ecotourism anyway. – Pam Wight