"Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going."
- Paul Theroux

AIRDA NewsDesk

Message of the Month

January 2020

In conversation with David Gillbanks,
publisher of the
The “Good Tourism” Blog

 

 

The “Good Tourism” Blog is independently published by David Gillbanks, a content and communications professional from Walpole, Western Australia. While David has worked in the travel & tourism industry he does not claim to be an expert in responsible travel or sustainable tourism. But he is serious about connecting the dots between theory and practice, rhetoric and reality - via the “GT” Blog.

Content on the “GT” Blog includes original “Good Tourism” posts by (or interviews with) academics, experts, and practitioners keen to share their responsible tourism insights, expertise and experiences for the benefit of all stakeholders in the industry.

What is The “Good Tourism” Blog all about? (What moved, or inspired you to start it?)

There are all sorts of buzz-words and buzz-phrases being bandied about the chattering class of the tourism industry: sustainability, responsibility, sustainable tourism, responsible travel, accessibility, accessible tourism, tourism impact, community-based tourism, inclusive growth, inclusive tourism, regenerative tourism, ecotourism, nature-based tourism. (There could be many more!)
The “Good Tourism” Blog is about all of that and more. Whatever good tourism means to you, there will likely be some content there for you. And if there isn’t, you are invited to submit a “Good Tourism” insight, or request someone to write a relevant piece for us.

I have worked for the Pacific Asia Travel Association and worked with ASEAN Tourism and Mekong Tourism. I’ve been to many tourism industry conferences and events since the early 2000s. The same topics keep coming up over and over again. Sometimes there are new and updated buzz-words and buzz-phrases associated with the topics being discussed.

The people who attend these events represent a tiny minority of the tourism industry as a whole. They are an elite class (and that’s fine.) They are generally all well-intended people with big ideas to change the world.

Last year I attended an international sustainable tourism event. Being an independent publisher with no sponsors (yet!), I couldn’t afford to stay at the venue hotel nor even the less expensive official alternative hotel. So I stayed in a budget guesthouse next door to the venue hotel. I found it strange that the guesthouse owner had no idea that there was an international sustainable tourism event taking place right next door! No one had bothered to reach out to let him know, nor anyone in the host destination - beyond those who would directly benefit from the event.

The other thing about these conferences and events is that they are mostly about meeting new people, networking, catching up with industry friends, and having a good time outside the normal office routine. For those to whom the content is important, these events can be a frustrating experience. Sometimes sessions are so poorly moderated that speakers go way over time or they blatantly self-promote, leaving other speakers with no time to deliver what they prepared, and no time at all for general discussions.

The “Good Tourism” Blog offers a platform for insightful content, the time and space to digest that content, compose a question and consider a response. It’s an ongoing industry event. And there are no delegate fees, airfares and hotel rates to worry about! It’s a free and open platform to all who sincerely care about the future of tourism.

Can tourism departments in countries take the lead role in increasing awareness? What measures do they need to first put in place as stake holders in the industry?

Tourism departments can take a lead role in coordinating tourism activities, including destination marketing and (importantly) destination planning and management. Tourism is a complicated industry involving so many stakeholders. It’s hard to determine where its boundaries are.

As an organ of government in a presumably democratic country, a tourism department should coordinate activities based on a bottom-up, consultative, democratic approach. Starting with: How does the populous as a whole and the residents of each local destination within the country wish to proceed?

Tourism is everybody’s business!

Community-based tourism principles need to be baked into destination planning, management, and marketing at all levels. It shouldn’t only be about international NGOs and foreign aid projects working in remote villages! These are presumably intended as case studies or proofs of concept for the wider industry, not mere curiosities.

The over-tourism problem for example, is often a result of top-down or outside-in impositions. Despite what some otherwise intelligent commentators say, the problem of over-tourism will not be solved by impositions! A tourism department in a democratic country should find out how the community wants to manage things and then help them do just that.

What support can business owners in the hospitality industry provide to support “good tourism” initiatives?

It’s a constant process of evolution. Keep an open mind and always seek to employ best practices in every aspect of your operation - you need not sign up to expensive accreditation bodies to do so. Always seek to employ best practices in every aspect of your operation. And be a good neighbour, partner, supplier, customer, employer and host. Try keeping all your stakeholders happy.

Follow your heart, as this GM in Laos has done his whole career: https://goodtourismblog.com/2017/06/how-to-make-hotel-green-responsible/

What can individual tourists do to support the cause as informed change makers?)

Individual tourists have their individual circumstances and motivations for travel. And they will have various levels of knowledge, understanding, and “sophistication”. While some travellers might enjoy being challenged, informed, or preached to by their hosts, generally I would say let them enjoy their time off, their holiday, their adventure. (Let them be.)

But definitely do supply them with information about local customs and behavioral expectations and hard rules if there are any - just so that they can be respectful guests because the vast majority of people will want to be.

Briefly what are the three big concern areas the tourism industry needs to address in the next five years?

The whole industry needs to recalibrate to focus on the host community, and thus the big concerns and priorities will vary from place to place. The primary message of the World Tourism Organization to its members should be “Don’t look up at me! Get your own houses in order!”

In general, the tourism industry should try to stay ahead of regulations. It’s best to self-regulate and be trusted by host communities and governments than to have host communities protest against you and have regulations imposed on you from above.

Could you please share some guidelines here for travelers, academics, experts, & practitioners who might want to write an article, or share a story?)

The guidelines are available right here: Your Good Tourism- Insights guidelines

 

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