Intellectual property could make destinations rich without harming their precious tourism assets.
An alternative world has appeared through the looking glass…
With any luck, an enormous battle will take place after the lockdowns - you need to take your side now.
Now we all have a little taste of things to come. Covid-19 has, quite literally, changed our entire world. Generously distributed by global airlines at no extra cost, carriers of the virus spread it to every corner of the globe.
And suddenly... The fact that people are now travelling much less has let us all have a peep into another possible world. The air we breathe is much better, there is much less noise, fewer planes in the sky, carbon emissions have dramatically decreased. We hear the birds once again and are reminded that nature can, and will, take care of itself – even if it means that the human race will be exterminated.
The fact is that in travel terms here we are again in 1992 - the clock has been put back to the year of the Earth Summit with 500 million international passengers a year. Even then we were worried that tourism was overheating.
Global mass homogeneous tourism may not be the cause but is, without doubt, a symptom of a way of living that is doing tremendous damage to environments, to human beings, to our cultures and our societies.
Shortly we will have a critical choice to make if our governments begin attempting to put an incredibly expensive sticking plaster on an unsustainable system that was never fit for purpose.
If so, they will use cynical meretricious phrases like “full employment” and “tourism for our economic development”. They will assert that “air travel builds economies and transcends borders” that “tourism brings massive opportunities for all”
And they will be right. Tourism has the opportunity to do all these things and more.
But, over the last 40 years or more, however many tourists travel, however big the tourism economy, however many hotels have been built or apartments let - the vast majority of tourism-related jobs have been rubbish, the vast majority of destination communities have had terrible deals.
Soon it will be time to build a new travel and tourism industry. An industry that may use the term ‘sustainable’ - not just as a buzz word, but one that implies responsibility in business practice, quality training and employment, sustainable tourism economies and businesses, social integrity, cultural and environmental respect, resilient sustainable destinations. Places that are good to live in first and good to visit second.
All that means destination communities that have actual ownership of their tourism assets and have the power to manage them.
Let us not forget the powerful brands that generate tourists like "Montmartre", "Paris", "da Vinci". "Times Square", "Thailand", "Venice" "stunning beaches", "wonderful climates", "New York". These and more represent the brands' massive power to attract visitors. Who owns the moral and intellectual rights to these brands and their images that serve airlines, tour operators, OTAs so well for free?
Virtual tourism could have answers, reducing actual travellers to lower numbers and higher prices and giving others the possibility of fundamentally understanding the destination they wish to visit through Virtual Reality.
Just imagine a confluence of the $ mega trillion gaming industry, the amazing Google Arts and Culture the augmented reality that TUI are now pioneering
Together they may change the world of tourism.
It's all in the 2021 Sustainable Tourism Report due to be published on 5 November. Price £200
A few review copies will be available for subscription now for £50 - a saving of 80% Subscribe HERE
The one thing that the last 20 years has taught us is that change is the order of each day.
The internet has a powerful hold on the travel and tourism industry since 1998.
First it was Lastminute.com, then Booking.com then Tripadvisor, now Airbnb. They came, they flew and finally they landed, no longer the taste of today.
At their root, the big booking engines depend on big exposure on the internet. And how do they get it? They pay. For instance it is said that Booking holdings paid nearly $4 billion to Google last year. That is a lot of money. It only needs a bit of a a challenge to their earnings and trouble is on the horizon. You may say “Look at how much they’re worth” that is just the moneymen betting on the future - and as soon as emotion changes - phew it’s disappeared. Even Airbnb with their valuation of an amazing $40billion and Booking’s $70billion valuation could both disappear.
And what are the principle needs that they addressed:
As they say “The money is in the future” Tracking and fulfilling public needs has always been a rewarding experience - that’s the way today’s ‘Unicorns’ have been born.
So what will be the holiday needs of tomorrow?
More experience, more safety less cost.
Experiences themselves can include a variety of destination suppliers (eg windsurfing/local meals/cycle trips/excursions), or could be supplied by one customer-oriented resort hotel. From the client’s point of view booking pre-travel can save precious holiday time and money.
OTAs, although they wish to extend their client’s spend, have so far failed to get the best quality destination experiences. Understandable as they have over 80,000 destinations and locality is not easy to compute.
Looks like there may be an opportunity for a set of well curated destination sites.
But how would they work?
Read about it in the Sustainable Tourism Report 2021 on offer at 75% reduction for review copy subscribers..
But there are loads of massive amazing fulfilling rays of hope if we choose to take them.
Where are we now?
In 1992 it looked as though we were on a trajectory that could save us all and help to make the world a better place. The post cold war Rio Earth Summit brought together 178 nations and 117 heads of state to address the issues of the environment and our relationship with it. The world seemed to recognise that we had a global problem that could only be solved globally but also with local commitment, participation and activity.
We recognised that if we carried on consuming at the then current level there would be little left for our succeeding generations- our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Something had to be done and the concept of sustainable development was adopted. Not a strange buzzword - just the simple principle of handing over to our next generation more than we had started with, were it business, culture, environment or society. This was to take the form of committments by all of us as individuals and consequently would have global effects.
Thus Agenda 21 was born as outreach “Global to Local” together with a number of other sustainability issues such as major companies producing ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ accounts to show how much they were using as well as how much they were making. By then international tourism was already at 500 million international travellers a year and looking as though it was burning through far too much precious resources. It was natural that there was to be an Agenda 21 section for tourism. The agreement was formalised at a side event of the Johannesburg Earth Summit in 2002. The Responsible Tourism Charter was born in Cape Town as a result of this event.
From then on tourism was on a sustainability path although still growing dramatically - by 2002 it had grown to 700 million international travellers per annum.
Nonetheless the major tourism players were still vaunting their ‘Green’ credentials. And in 2008 a major World Economic Forum event was held in Davos. ‘Climate Change and Tourism’ set out the challenges were tourism to increase dramatically and unsustainably - international passenger figures by then were nearing a billion a year.
Then, in 2009 the UN Climate Change Conference (COP15) was held in Copenhagen, attended by 120 heads of state who pretty much achieved nothing except stasis. Actually, there was no real progress or agreement until COP21 in 2015.
During this time the world economy was being shaken by the banking crisis but nevertheless, tourism carried on growing.
The UN tourism sustainability process, indeed any form of global agreement had by now become suborned by organisations all over the world that wanted to make a quick buck out of tourism; and populist anti agreement individuals, organisations and governments seizing power. Do not underestimate the naysaying power of right wing anarchists, led by the voice of post war Russian emigre author Ayn Rand opposed to any order in today’s disordered world. Even now Agenda 21 is seen by them as a method of disempowering people rather than a globally agreed path to harmonious living.
So, post financial crisis, without any limits in place, tourism grew dramatically and the results were major tourist cities and prime natural sights experiencing massive destructive unsustainable overtourism.
Then ... STOP! A pandemic - Covid 19 - brought tourism numbers back to those of 1992.
That’s where we are now. So what are the massive rays of hope?
Well, there are massive and sustainable accommodation rays of hope that really fit the situation; there are enormous financial rays of hope that will further sustainability and will make lots of money; there are lots and lots of little green shoot opportunities that will provide sustainable incomes and make the world a better place ... all while the plutocrats squabble about what’s left of our destructive black industries.
It's all in the 2021 Sustainable Tourism Report due to be published on 5 November. Price £200
A few review copies will be available for subscription now for £40 - a saving of 80% Subscribe HERE
Valere Tjolle is the travel and tourism insider. An entrepreneur, consultant, developer and journalist, he has been in at the beginning of almost every tourism development for the last sixty years. There is no one better placed to expose the seedy side of tourism nor its enormous opportunities to unite people across the globe.