This is the second part of Isabel Babou’s article in the French monthly magazine Biocontact, may 2010 is mainly about the development of an alternative type of tourism in the face of the mass tourism growth.
The state of tourism in numbers
In these times of worries and concerns about the planet’s future and the depletion of the fossil energy sources, what is the tourism’s place, this useless invention, as the French historian specialized in tourism Marc Boyer puts it?
From an economic point of view, tourism is extremely important. The World Tourism Organization predicts there will be 1,6 billion tourists by 2020. In 2007 the tourism industry’s revenues were 625 billion euros, the equivalent of the 30% of world wide services (Source: WTO).
In the environmental front, tourism is strongly criticized. Its greenhouse gas emissions contribute to about 5% of the total. Air travel is responsible of 40% of the emissions related to tourism, while road transport produces 32%.
Tourism makes local population hosts, but the economic effects are not as big as they could: Only 20% of the price paid by the tourist to the tour-operator remains in the country when the destination is in the South!
Alternatives to the mass tourism
We can still enjoy our right for holidays, but in slow-mode!
What does this mean, what is this kind of tourism? It is a respectful tourism. What does it respect? The environment, the local population, their local economy, their culture. The problem is that sustainable tourism comes in many different names, colours and shapes, which make it more difficult for the traveller to choose.
Taking all these definitions into account, a responsible tourism should allow the traveller to discover the way of life of those visited. ‘This implies evidently that the responsible tourist accepts to share the everyday constraints of the local population he/she visits, like the accommodation, the food or the water shortages‘ (Pince, 2007). This also implies that the host consents to this visit. Does the host normally have a choice? The example of Gabon is telling: they prepare a future without oil by betting on tourism, what a paradox!
So our theoretical traveller is going to choose another version of this ‘good tourism’. He/she will seek the advice of a professional who will propose the fair tourism, which is ‘a series of activities and services offered by the tour operators specialized in responsible tourism and which are controlled by local communities. These communities participate with a relevant role in the evolution of these activities’ definitions‘ (source: Association pour le tourisme équitable et solidaire).
Some sources establish that in the responsible tourism ‘the tour operator is responsible of the effects of tourism on the local population and the environment‘ (Claudine Zysberg, who was in charge of the French Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable development in 2004).
Another option is the ecotourism, which the International Society of ecotourism (TIES) defines as ‘a kind of responsible travel taking place in the natural spaces and which contributes to the protection of the environment and the well-being of the local population‘.
Mass tourism keeps growing, but like with energy or food, we will have to share. The carrying capacity of the destinations should be analyzed and understood. For the fans of the ‘antipodes’, an eco-tax can make the responsible actors aware of the effects of their trip and help limit them. We are occupying ourselves the causes rather than the consequences, but all these are options that are worthy of careful thinking.
Related articles: History of Tourism (1/2)