All too often, visitors are taken
During the International
Year of Ecotourism the traveling public were largely ignored
as valued players during official policy making events. For
example, the Quebec
Ecotourism Declaration did not include travelers as stakeholders.
A serious omission, n'est-ce pas?
Tourist or traveler -- does it matter which term is used? My
current favorite term is the neutral 'visitor.'
Chances are that during any trip, the visitor (by any name)
has an opportunity to play multiple roles.
Tourism development thus is developed from those who understand
the supply but rarely the demands of visitors. What seems strange
is that, despite the rhetoric and costly policy meetings, we
find few attempts among specialists to actively listen to visitors.
There are few attempts to create social bridges that connect
locals and visitors.
WHO IS THE TOURIST?
The tourist is more than a consumer and plays the various roles.
Travel is something amateurs do very well. For those making
a journey, the limited amount of time makes any interaction
significant, if not sacred. Travelers visit churches, markets
and parks with an understanding that the opportunity may not
present itself again.
While crucial stakeholders, travelers are generally poorly-served
by most tourism campaigns. Further confusing the issue, many
countries continue to equate ecotourism with being outdoors.
Whether such misdirection reflects naivety or intentional obfuscation
remains to be seen.
If we consider ways in which tourists can be respected, we
need to look no further than the guest book that visitors are
asked to sign in tourism offices. Too often officials neither
consult this information or develop any framework to incorporate
the compliments into action.
Until recently, travelers rarely thought much about the environmental
or social impacts of their journeys. In fact, most view a holiday
as a way to escape 'cause-and-effect' logic. After all, trips
are made to escape the routine.
THE MYTH OF THE MONOLITHIC
Visitors are curious beings, and they frequently do not aim
for consistency. Times spent 'living healthy' are mixed with
parties and reventón. Mixing up ones activities
is a way of experiencing as much as possible and reacting to
It's time to take a look at the term 'tourist' and to dismiss
the myth that tourists are easily categorized. Many travelers
practice responsible tourism without proclaiming to themselves
(and others) that they are a "responsible tourist"
or seeking "responsible tourism." Likewise, many proponents
of 'responsible tourism' display behaviors that others would
Travelers need to be educated before their journey and locals
need to know what is expected. In the best of all possible worlds,
there is a mutually beneficial experience, a virtuous
Said Clay Hubbs, founder of Transitions Abroad in his essay
on the 30th anniversary of the publication: "Outside our
own country we are all seen as tourists; even we use the word
tourist to describe the 'other guy.' What distinguishes one
tourist from another is how we travel, not where or even why.
What distinguishes Transitions
Abroad readers from the other guy is a desire to learn from
our hosts and openness to change."
During the Media,
Environment and Tourism Conference, journalist Susan Cunningham
described class prejudice as a root problem:
"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 and donors can't grasp."