CONTRIBUTOR: Tammy Marshall
PRESERVING WHAT’S PRECIOUS!
I consider myself very lucky, like so many of my friends and colleagues who love travel as much or even more than I do. For thirty years now, I have actively sought out new experiences, new cultures and new places.
Without travel I would not be who I am today. I have grown exponentially, I have experienced breathtaking beauty, the sheer wonders of this world, met incredible people whose culture is so different and learned to see it through new eyes. So many experiences, so many precious moments and a wonderful journey of the senses.
Travel has the ability to transform us, it touches our soul and it is something we need to preserve for the generations to come.
EXPERIENCES OVER THINGS
Tourism will become the biggest industry in the world. Today, it already represents 10% of global GDP. And with tourism in demand like never before, we as a society now place greater value on experiences more than things.
But with this growth in demand, we also all have an ever-increasing responsibility to protect what is precious – our cultures, customs, natural assets and our environments. Some destinations during peak season are hitting the tipping point of too much tourism.
BUT WHAT IS TOO MUCH TOURISM?
It can mean many things:
- Insufficient visitor dispersal and visitors largely see and do the same things
- Insufficient infrastructure to handle visitors arriving by air, road, rail and sea
- Cities and islands bursting at the seams and the locals feeling like they’re being invaded
- Too many visitors at key locations or attractions
- Maybe it’s too many visitors from one source market
As destinations, our goal is not just about driving demand and the “cha-ching”, it’s also about balancing the economics with the social, cultural and environmental for the future. Is it time to develop new strategies or set visitor thresholds every day and every year?
DESTINATIONS IN DEMAND ARE STARTING TO ASK QUESTIONS
- Should we stop building hotels? (particularly with the rise of AirBnB)
- Should we cap arrivals by air, by land and by sea during peak periods?
- What’s our long-term plan to minimise impact?
- What’s the cost of over tourism?
There are destinations that clearly understand their capacity and are limiting visitors by capping visas like Botswana and capping visitor numbers like Bhutan and Galapolos. Seychelles have just stopped building hotels. Venice, Barcelona and Dubrovnik are capping the number of ships arriving.
As my friend, Rick Antonson eloquently delivered in an opening address at the Pacific Insights Conference in Vanuatu, “long term planning is vital”. To elaborate he introduced the concept of Cathedral Thinking which stretches back to when architects and stonemasons laid plans and began construction on structures that they would never live to see complete.
Cathedral Thinking can be applied to tourism. What’s required is:
- a far-reaching vision;
- a well-thought-out blueprint; and
- a shared commitment to long-term implementation.
His question was simple, what is your cathedral thought? What could you do in these times that will bring benefit to future generations? It’s an important question for all of us and for me personally given my love of travel. I would like to play my part in helping preserve beautiful places, customs and traditions that future generations will continue to travel and enjoy.
The principle of Cathedral Thinking is, it’s not what we do that matters, it’s what we cause to happen and it is vitally important to be involved in unfinished work.
SO, WHAT ARE THREE THINGS AS TOURISM OPERATORS WE COULD DO TO HELP DESTINATIONS?
- Help drive visitor dispersal
- Limit the arrivals in peak season and create demand in shoulder and off peak seasons.
- Disperse visitors away from the well-trekked tourist trails
- Design experiences that support more locals, agri-tourism is a great example
- Educate our guests to help protect and respect the cultural, natural assets and the environment. We want our grand kids and their grand kids to continue to enjoy the travel experiences that so many of us will forever be grateful for.
FORGET SHORT-TERMISM AND START PLANNING FOR THE LONG-TERM
We should all be contemplating the principle of Cathedral Thinking. We can’t take for granted that in 30 years’ time our favourite tourism destinations will still be pristine and economically, socially, culturally and environmentally sustainable.
We need to keep an eye on the present while firming planning for the long term – 20, 50 and 500 years from now. Focusing on the present and the longer term are equally vital and sustainability should be front and centre for all tourism businesses.
We all have a responsibility to leave our planet in a better place than it was before we came into it, so what are you going to start doing today to help make that a reality?
AND WHILE YOU’RE HERE DON’T FORGET
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