Shifting Gears 1995


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This paper was written in 1992. It was an attempt to introduce a different, more holistic mindset to thinking about tourism and contains many themes that have consistently and persistently underpinned my thinking.

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Shifting Gears 1995

  1. 1. SHIFTING GEARS: Building a New Tourism for a New CenturyTravelWatch Number 2 June 1995The Context our ability to understand and respond to those forces in creative ways.As we approach the turn of the millennium, there isoverwhelming evidence that the earth and humankindis experiencing changes of a fundamental nature The Tourism Sector as Change Agentwhich are affecting: Traditionally tourism has had a tendency to follow not lead the forces for change and growth in our society. 1The Environment: a succession of environmental We have been responsive not anticipatory - when thecrises and warning signals from Mother Earth are steam engine was invented we climbed on board thereminding humankind that, as physical beings, we steamships and the railways to expand our reach;operate within the limits of time and space. We share when the jumbo jet was created we moved the massesthis planet with other life forms and our survival is into more exotic places with greater frequency anddependent on their health and well-being. ever greater numbers. Our values and objectives in tourism have reflected and followed those of ourThe Economy: while wealth was once a factor of society. Destinations became commodities - pieces ofhorsepower and the manufacture of things and was sunny, exotic or adventure-filled "real estate" thatassociated with a place, affluence is now a factor of could be "packaged" and sold. Guests became, at best,brainpower harnessed to create fresh ideas, concepts nameless passengers and, at worst, mere person-nightsand techniques that can be spread around the globe in - mobile generators of revenue, foreign exchange andan instant. As a consequence, old economic structures positive multipliers.are crumbling, new flexible and fluid corporate andpolitical "structures” are emerging to populate At the same time, tourism has traditionally beengeopolitical landscapes that would be unrecognisable viewed by other economic sectors as the "poor cousin"to previous generations. and for many years its existence and contribution was hardly recognised. Tourism managers and leadersSociety: our societal structures creak and strain under were not the originators of new economic models,the environmental and economic pressures from management styles nor strategic visions for the future.without as well as the personal pressures exerted from Instead, they followed or adapted the managementwithin - by billions of individuals whose aspirations fashions of the day - management by objectives, yieldare changing and whose ability to predict and control management, brand management, total quality controlthe future is dissipating. In the so-called developed, we are fed a litany of social woes on a dailybasis (congestion, crime, addiction, family But the very success of tourism - especially since thebreakdown, declining health and educational demise of the Cold War and the emergence of thestandards, growing distrust of government etc. ) service sector as the dominant, influential economic engine, is thrusting one of the worlds largest and mostThe Individual: most importantly, more and more ubiquitous sectors onto central stage. The tourismindividuals are changing the way they think; the way industry is maturing and slowly attracting a new breedthey see the world and interpret reality. As we ascend of thoughtful, strategic thinkers and leaders lessMaslows hierarchy of needs, growing numbers of obsessed with short-term operational problems, whopeople are recognising that there is more to life than might influence as well as be influenced.material acquisition. There is evidence of a search forspiritual meaning, value and purpose; a deeperunderstanding of and appreciation for the inter- There are several compelling reasons why tourism hasconnectedness of all life forms and the sacredness of a responsibility to spawn the leaders of the nextlife. century and focus more attention on the pressing issues of sustainability and peaceful co-existence: 1. Our Size: tourism cannot claim to be the worldsSince this is the context in which global tourism largest industry and then duck responsibility foroperates, our success - however defined - depends onTravelWatch The Strategy Group Page1
  2. 2. addressing the problems that affect the global selling products or commodities to namelesscommunity. consumers.2. Our Livelihood Depends on It: the environment and We have made a habit of referring to the tourismthe diverse cultures that inhabit planet earth are our "industry" implying a mechanical, formal structurebase product. Our future rests directly on our ability to with neatly interlocking parts, where every part has aprotect and steward those environmental and cultural fixed and clearly defined role. Traditionally, ourresources. compartmentalised, building block approach to tourism has divided this dynamic phenomenon into3. Our Universality. Tourism has reached every nook eight, tidy sectors - each seemingly separate andand cranny of this globe and involves people of all distinct from the other: Accommodation. Food &races, religions, colours and stages of Beverage, Outdoor Recreation,development. We have the option to Wise men and women Ecotourism and Adventure Travel;be the vanguard rather than the over the years have Transportation; Travel Trade;rearguard of change. What our consistently warned that Attractions; Meetings & Events;industry chooses to do can affect so Support Services etc.many, can set new models of hope change must start fromand positive change. within - we cannot hope But in the same way that we have ceased to view the planet, our galaxy4. Market Demand: research has to change the planet and and the universe as a static structureshown that the majority of travellers improve both the quality made up of discrete building blocks,are more likely to support companies of our natural or nor should we view tourism as anthat help preserve the environment industrial machine. Instead, weand are willing to pay more on cultural environments should view it as a living organism, aaverage for the goods and services unless we first start at body - the "body politic" (to borrowsupplied by those environmentally from Shakespeare). The flesh, bonesresponsible companies. home and many of the organs of the tourism body are equivalent to the5. Good Businesses Sense. Following the three Rs of lodging, food, beverage, attractions, recreation andthe environmental ethic - reduce, reuse and recycle - retail enterprises. The energy or blood flow thathas consistently been shown to improve the bottom courses through the tourism body is the market - theline. tourists - and without that flow of energy the tourism body would atrophy and collapse. The transportation6. We’re in the Healing Business: We go on vacation sector provides the arteries along which the blood canto "get away from it all" to rest, relax, recuperate, flow to all the extremities of the body. Those involvedrejuvenate, re-charge our batteries and "come alive". in research, planning, and policy etc. are the glandsConsequently, tourism is already playing a major role and nervous system of the tourism body which, likeas a Force for Renewal - as a Force for all organisms, do not exist in a vacuum, but within aTransformation. larger host environment.How Might Tourism Lead? The tourism system is not a closed, self-contained structure but a dynamic "open system" where theWise men and women over the years have whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And as anconsistently warned that change must start from open system, its survival and development depends onwithin - we cannot hope to change the planet and a balanced exchange of matter and energy with itsimprove both the quality of our natural or cultural host environment.environments unless we first start at home - within thetourism sector itself. Unless we can alter the way we As an open system, tourism is connected with everyview the world; unless we experience our own aspect of life on this planet and, as a result, both its"paradigm shift" or have our own "change of heart". survival and its health is all about achieving balance between the four core elements of the tourism system:In tourism this calls for a new model, a new paradigmfor tourism that meets the need of the whole man:physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. A newmodel that measures growth in qualitative termsinstead of merely quantitative ones. A deeper moreinspiring vision that sees tourism embedded within amatrix, an intricate web of inter-connectedrelationships, A clearer more accurate perspectivethat views tourism as an organic system - like a livingorganism - and not a mere set of discrete sectors,TravelWatch The Strategy Group Page2
  3. 3. 1. Guests: the market of travellers and consumers who The economy and society operate within the The problems brought on by tourism’s growth are beginning to cause real concern. Tourists are returning home dissatisfied with the experience; destinations are experiencing unanticipated problems; local people feel disenfranchised; and businesses are feeling increased pressure on their ability to make a profit. 2 create demand for the products and services ecosystem of the planet whose health depends on an supplied by intricate balance being held between the elemental forces of earth, air, fire and water.2. Suppliers: those business enterprises who ensure that the tourists needs for a resting place, food and Each individual also enjoys health and develops his or drink, entertainment and transportation are met in her full potential as a human being only to the extent a way that sustains their business; that they achieve a balance between their four aspects: body, mind, spirit and soul.3. Host community: those employees and community residents who also are knowingly or sometimes Traditionally theorists and philosophers have argued unknowingly involved in the act of welcoming that the three pillars of sustainability are the balance and providing hospitality to a guest; and between economy, society and environment. But they have neglected the fourth and most important pillar of4. The Natural Environment of land, water, air and any "system" - the individual expression of that their inhabitants of animals and plants that totality - the person. If we as individuals are living out provides the setting in which the encounter of balance, then our participation in the social, between guest and host can take place. economic and environmental spheres will be out of balance too.By drawing on the powerful symbol of the MedicineWheel, we can envision the tourism system as having Valuable as sustainable economic models may be inwheel-like qualities. In two dimensional terms, this reducing ecological damage, they will not on theirsystem can be represented as follows: own be sufficient to meet the challenges ahead. The changes we need to make go far deeper. In order to develop a caring attitude towards the world, we need to develop a new model of ourselves, a new sense of who we are and what it is that we really want. We Host have to move beyond the limited perception that sees Community Guest fulfilment only in the joys we can derive from the world around. We must come to value our inner development as much as, if not more than, our material development. In other words we need a change of attitude - a change of heart. 3 Supplier Environment This circular, connected model of a dynamic tourism system manifests itself on both a macro and a micro level. On the macro level it means balancing the four elements of the system:In reality, there are a whole series of interlockingcircles or spheres of influence. Tourism is one circle - insufficient attention to the tourist, the guest, and thewithin a much larger economic and social system now market will dry up - the body will starve and die;encompassing the entire globe - the global economy.And within each of the four elements of the Tourism - insufficient attention to the needs of the supplier forWheel, there are further circles and cycles: profit, for return on investment, security of tenure etc. and they will also wither;Tourism suppliers (businesses in tourism) form part ofan economic system whose health depends on the - insufficient attention to the needs, hopes andbalance of capital, labour, resources and technology. aspirations of the host community and they may say "enough is enough"The economic system operates within a social system- the Host Community - whose health involves - insufficient attention to the natural environment andbalancing the needs and powers of individuals, we will destroy what attracted the visitor in the firstfamilies, communities and institutions, place. On the micro level it again means ensuring that we cater to the whole person:TravelWatch The Strategy Group Page3
  4. 4. care for a temporary in-migration of residents to a- on the physical side we must ensure our guests community etc. There is room to improve theexperience is comfortable, clean and safe; we must economic accounting of tourism to ensure we knowclean up our beaches, freshen the foul air, dispose of the true costs and benefits of this economic activity.our waster properly and restore our heritage; Environment- on the social/emotional level it means enriching our What ecological footprint does the tourism industryguests experience while ensuring that those who serve leave? How might our sector "tread more lightly" -them also retain their sense of dignity, pride and self use less energy, water and scarce resources; generaterespect; less toxins and pollutants; engender less destruction of natural habitats needed by fellow inhabitants of the- on the mental side, it means providing sufficient planet? What action can individual enterprises take tointellectual stimulation and information that interprets improve their environmental performance? How manyand enriches our guests experiences and enhances residents and visitors can our community safely andtheir knowledge and understanding of the place and sustainably absorb?people they encounter on their travels; Host Community- on the spiritual side, it means ensuring that both our To what extent is the entire community involved inguest and their hosts find meaning and fulfilment from the act of hospitality? How do our fellow residentstheir encounters with one another. feel about tourism and the way we extend the welcome and hospitality to others - are our guests anIn this context and given this vision of balance and unwelcome intrusion or are they honoured andwholeness, the challenge becomes one of valued?operationalising the balance through wise tourismmanagement. The task to be undertaken, is to develop Tourism can provide us with a mirror in which we seeways of achieving balance and methods of measuring ourselves; tourism can engender a sense of pride inwhat balance or imbalance looks like. our community. How do we realise and nurture a sense of place? What is the Soul, the Essence of ourThe role of the destination marketing organisation town that we want to convey to and share with ourshifts from being concerned with increasing the guests? What chance do our residents have to expressnumber of visitors and the health of their supplier and share their values, aspirations and concerns withmembers to one of ensuring a balanced wheel. The incoming tourists? To what extent does thefocus shifts from destination marketing to destination composition of the destination marketing organisationmanagement and, as such, catapults what was once reflect the social and cultural mix of its entireperceived as a fringe, even trivial group, within the community?body politic of the city, to a lead player, a crucialactor on the stage of community health and To what extent are the employees working in tourismdevelopment. in our community treated fairly, with respect and dignity? How are the values of tourism infused in allFrom Vision to Reality our major institutions - is tourism perceived as anHow is the vision of balance achieved? How do we honourable profession or marginalised as supportingknow when we are in balance or out of it? What are only servile occupations of low value and status?the stress or health indicators? This is where muchwork needs to be done and new topics for discussion The Individual Travellerraised. How well are the visitors, our guests cared for in terms of:Economy Body are the physical amenities and services clean,The economic quadrant of the tourism circle has been efficient, safe and comfortable?the one to gain most attention in the past. On themacro level, economic impact models have been Mind is their experience stimulating, informative,developed to measure the input and outputs of tourism uplifting? Do they leave feeling enriched, stretchedfrom an economic perspective. On the micro and informed? Did they get a sense for the uniqueperspective, balance sheets, pro formas and other expression that is Vancouver, Amsterdam, Dallas,forms of financial statement have been used by Tokyo, London etc.?managers and their auditors to measure the corporatehealth of individual enterprises. But many important Spirit did the experience make them feel more alive?factors have been treated as "externalities" and Did they have a good time? Were their spiritsexcluded from the accounting process - e.g., the social uplifted? Did they feel better for the encounter withcost of air pollution from diesel engines running at a the community and its peoples?popular landmark; the community cost of additionalwaste disposal or water consumption associated with a Soul was the experience transformative? Were ourmajor hotel; the cost of additional policing and health guests touched at a deeper level? Did their encounterTravelWatch The Strategy Group Page4
  5. 5. with a new place and a different people leave them A Bwith a sense of wonder, a deeper sense of connectionwith people or places associated with another part ofthe planet than the part they call home? To whatextent did the experience help them learn aboutthemselves as well as their hosts? Old Tourism Cycle New Tourism CycleIn the same way that current environmentalconsciousness has been founded on three Rs, this At what stage are we in the cycle of tourismmodel of a new, holistic balanced tourism is based on development - at point a, b, c or d? In either case, thethree core principles or core values: wise leader knows that a quantum leap or metamorphosis is needed to shift from the declining * Respect first curve to its replacement. In the tourism system, * Restraint the most likely shift is from growth as measured in * Renewal. terms of volume to growth as measured in terms of quality of experience; from a system that perceivesThe value of respect is acknowledged when we itself as separate from its environment and hostrecognise our inter-dependence and our inter- community to one that lives in balance and harmonyconnectedness. In a circle, no one member of the with all its is any less or more important than another. Eachbrings their unique perspective. Each quadrant of the And finally, back to the essence of the travel andtourism wheel is equally important and contributes to hospitality industry - our core value is all aboutthe balance of the overall system. Relationships renewal. Tourism can be promoted and positioned notbetween the elements of the system are reciprocal and just as a good thing in itself but as an agent for changean emphasis is placed on adding value to every and renewal: a justification for protecting our naturaltransaction between the elements. resource, for healing our environment; for providing diversity and balance in our economy, for fostering aThe value of restraint is a practical and realistic sense of place and nurturing a sense of pride inresponse to the limits imposed by physical reality. community; for adding value and quality to peoplesThere are no straight lines in nature and it is folly to individual lives and experiences, and, throughassume that each year we can insist on more growth - respectful encounters between guest and host, foras expressed solely in quantitative terms - when there providing opportunities for meaning and fulfilment.are practical limits to the number of people and theirartefacts that can be contained within a finite space. This paper has outlined a conceptual model for a tourism management approach based on the notion ofNo system continues in its current form in perpetuity balance and wholeness and is inspired by the conceptbut obeys a natural cycle of birth, development, of the Medicine Wheel sacred to the indigenous Firstmaturity and decay. What may appear as a straight Nations of North America and shared by aboriginalline in a chart of change over time is, in fact, a small peoples and cultures around the world.section of a traditional S-shaped curve (the Sigmoidcurve) that charts the rise and fall of empires, product It is a powerful symbolic model that can integrate thecycles, corporations and even personal relationships. currently discrete and disconnected activitiesLuckily, there is life beyond the curve. The secret to associated with tourism - marketing, development,constant growth is to start a new sigmoid curve before customer service, and environmental protection. It isthe first one peters out. The right place to start that an integrated model for a New Tourism better suitedsecond curve is at point A where there is the time, as to the New Century that lies just around the corner.well as the resources and the energy, to get the newcurve through its initial explorations and flounderings The challenge - the work that needs to be done - is tobefore the first curve begins to dip downward. This find practical ways of turning the model of balancewould seem obvious; were it not for the fact that at and harmony into reality. While the task may at firstpoint A all the messages coming through to the appear "awesome" in its grandeur and sweep, there isindividual or the institution are that every thing is comfort in knowing that many of the elements havefine, that it would be folly to change when the current already been developed - albeit in isolation. What isrecipes are working so well. All we know of change, needed is a small critical mass of conspirators, bothtells us that the real energy for change comes only visionaries and practitioners who are willing andwhen you are looking disaster in the face, at point B committed to translate the vision into practical actionon the first curve..... 4 so that all participants in the community can identify with and adopt, as appropriate to their involvement, interests and roles. What is needed are some courageous and leaders, standing at point "A" of the Old Tourism curve, with the vision to see how toTravelWatch The Strategy Group Page5
  6. 6. initiate a New Tourism curve based on the principles Where are you making for? It takesof wholeness and balance espoused in this paper. So many thousand years to wake But will you wake for pitys sake?In practical terms, and from the perspective of thedestination management organisation, New Tourism Christopher Fry, A Sleep of Prisonerscould involve action within a number of "spheres ofinfluence" concurrently: References 1. Pollock, Ann The Need for Corporate Leadership:* modifying existing economic impact and financial Is Tourism a Trojan Horse?” in Proceedings of the models to ensure that "externalities" are internalised; 1992 World Congress in adventure Travel and Eco- Tourism, Whistler, British Columbia, September 20-23, 1992* finding ways of measuring quality of experiences as 2. Mill, Robert Christie, Key Success Factors in a success factor in addition to measuring quantity of Community Tourism” paper presented to the return; international T.T.R.A. conference, Acapulco, Mexico, June 11-15, 1995.* identifying and measuring the "ecological footprint 3. Russel, Peter, The Awakening Earth, The Global of the tourism sector and determining what limiting Brain, Penguin Books, 1992. factors exist in the natural world to require restraint 4. Handy, Charles, The Age of Paradox, or re-direction;* helping businesses reduce their ecological footprint About the Author by giving them information and practical tools with Anna Pollock is principal of the Strategy Group, an which they can reduce waste, energy and water international tourism consultancy. All comments consumption and minimise production of pollutants; (affirming, questioning, critical or creative) are welcomed. Please e-mail the author at apollock@ A web site is under construction to create a focal point and* providing new ways of absorbing visitors into the forum for the exchange of ideas and to identify persons, community and giving residents greater opportunity agencies, destinations and enterprises interested in for expression and interaction; developing practical, applied models of tourism management.* ensuring the benefits of the guest industry are shared by as many members of the community as possible;* empowering all service providers ( from front-line to senior management) with the shared responsibility of treating each guest as an individual;* identifying the Soul, the essence of the community and finding ways in which guests have can have meaningful experience of the place and its peoples.Thus this paper is a "call to arms" so to speak. Notarms of the offensive, divisive and violent kind, butarms of creativity, shared purpose, hope andwakefulness. Nothing less than a quantum leap inthinking is required to catapult us from one curve, onecycle to another so there is room for everyone andevery persons individual effort is equally important.This paper is an invitation to both visionaries andpractitioners to share ideas, contribute expertise,communicate experiences, and conspire to build asustainable tourism that nourishes the wholeindividual, lives in harmony with nature, enriches thehost community and sustains a healthy livelihood forsuppliers. .....Thank God our time is now when wrong Comes up to face us everywhere, Never to leave us til we take The longest stride of soul men ever took. Affairs are now soul size. The enterprise is exploration into God.TravelWatch The Strategy Group Page6