Lots of promises have been made over the past two years. Governments promised support packages for both businesses and individuals, corporations pledged to seriously reconsider some of their most damaging and unsustainable practices, and people vowed to treat each other and the environment around them better. Some of that has been fulfilled, much of it was not, yet, naturally, even more things have been sworn in during the past decade or so. Among them is the pledge to include communities as the beneficiaries of global tourism, make it more sustainable, and gradually turn away from mass travel, proven time and again to bring more harm than good. Just as with the New Year’s resolutions, it is probably time to take stock of these promises.
Maximum revenue extraction as the modus operandi has led to a phenomenon called overtourism. Negatively impacting the surrounding environments, while effectively disenfranchising locals from tourism-related decisions has become something that is just written off as the necessary collateral damage of the capitalist system we are all living in. As a result, community-based tourism – the type that actually involves the local population and benefits them – is considered a niche product. Well, the first step towards a better-behaved industry in 2022 may be to put effort into making it a mass offering, especially given that consumers are becoming more conscious by the hour.
An example to follow is Panama. Given the increased interest from the travelers (data confirms it), the country concentrated on putting the community in the spotlight. While early to measure results, Panama’s process has involved collaborating with local and international non-profit organizations with a track record in community tourism to form a transparent selection of an initial 10 host communities who are interested in tourism as an economic growth tool.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization is also looking into working with Planeterra to increase the communities’ integration into the tourism chain by providing the training needed for them to start offering their experiences.
The second important item in tourism’s to-do list is paying attention to its workforce. While the Global North experienced something labeled “The Great Resignation”, things did not seem that murky in the developing world, as most workers jumped on the opportunity to have their jobs back. This is not about the attractiveness of the said positions though, on the contrary, it may signal a lack of opportunity and a convoluted career path.
The majority of tourism-reliant countries continue to hire foreign workforce for their leadership positions. While this might make sense in a time of crisis, when highly skilled employees are essential no matter where they are coming from, this hardly seems to be a sustainable approach for the future. In the search for inspiration, we should probably turn to Bermuda, whose recent campaign to build homegrown talent offers promise.
Last but not least, tourism needs to get on board with tracking its progress. While this industry can be pretty damaging to the environment, cultures, and heritages, the past two years have shown that it is more than capable of change. It is time to make that change permanent and show the world how it should be done! This is why we vote for proper impact evaluation and transparent reports from the industry players, not just marketing clickbaits and promises. We are sure global tourism has lots to offer and can successfully transition to the new era it has been talking about for some time now.