“An alternative approach to tourism”
I recently read an interesting analysis by Andrew Holden (Director for the Centre for Research into Environment and Sustainable Tourism at the University of Bedfordshire) in which he describes the characteristics of “alternative tourism” as opposed to traditional mass (neoliberal) tourism. We all know how damaging mass tourism can become if left unchecked with the race to make a fast buck becoming the be-all and end-all. What do we need to do to avoid this? I would like to quote this section of his book “Tourism Studies and the Social Sciences” in which Holden argues that the following points are vital:-
- pace of development directed and controlled by local people rather than external influences;
- small-scale development with high rates of local ownership;
- environmental conservation and the minimisation of negative social and cultural impacts;
- maximised linkages to other sectors of the local economy, such as agriculture, reducing reliance on imports;
- maximisation and an equitable distribution of the economic benefits of tourism for local people;
- empowerment of women and other marginalised groups in democracy and decision making;
- attracting a market segment that is willing to accept local standards of accommodation and food and that is interested in education in the local culture and environment.
It’s gratifying to note that Path’s philosophy of sustainable tourism chimes strongly with Holden’s list. We employ local guides, work with local businesses and seek to tread lightly wherever we go. We want local communities to benefit from our activities, and for our customers to enjoy an immersive cultural experience. If local communities benefit from their involvement in sustainable tourism then we can hope to create positive growth for the advantage of all parties, something that will persist into the future not just today.
A key element of this process should be local ownership and decision making. This is where Path’s local focus really comes into play. Because we employ local guides who live, eat, sleep, breathe the local culture we are able to fine tune our travel experiences so that our customers enjoy a unique cultural adventure. Our full-time guides are highly skilled at managing the relationship between customers and local communities and fostering a mutual respect on all sides.
This local focus also helps local businesses. Our guides seek out authentic local entrepreneurs who are best placed to add value to our customers’ travel adventures. At each and every stage of the journey we want local involvement and our customers recognise that this helps to make their experience even more special.
I believe that tourism should never become a zero-sum game, with tourists and travel companies “winning” and local communities “losing”. There is plenty of scope for all parties to enjoy the advantages that responsible, sustainable tourism can bring.
Source: “Tourism Studies and the Social Sciences”, Andrew Holden (2005)
“We create travel experiences for people who want to experience Southeast Asia, responsibly.”Dan Moore