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globe logo     Caravan: Newsletter of the Alliance for a Responsible and United World
Number 7 December 2000

bulletFrom Readers
bulletVisit to Mallorca & Catalunya
bulletASSEMBLY 2000-2001
bulletInternational Youth Parliament
 · For a sustainable tourism
 · Charter
 · Towards an ethics of tourism
 · What tourism...?
 · To go on a vacation
 · Transverses
 · Seen from the South
 · Tourism as Trade
 · Rural Integrated Tourism
 · Market attack on culture
 · Unauthentic carpets
 · Iran
 · Agenda Local 21
 · Calvià (Mallorca)
 · Balearic Islands
 · Initiatives
bulletThe Artist
bulletReturn to ALLIANCE LIBRARY

For a sustainable tourism
Section co-ordinated by Dora Valayer (Transverses Association)
Illustrations by Mohamed Guesmia* (Algeria)

Somewhere in Africa, a European visitor was invited by a friend to play golf in the golf course of the hotel. It is a beautiful, calm and serene space. The visitor, who had never seen a golf course, enjoyed himself thoroughly. The balls were going in all directions and one of them went into the bush that bordered the course. To get the ball out, he pushed aside the branches and his eyes met with those of a child in rags hanging on to the other side of the fence. Across the fence the land is dry. A little further, a couple of adults who are next to an old hut look at him in silence. The tourist realizes that golf has a price - of space and water- and that the inhabitants of that region are probably paying for it. Each year thousands of self-sufficient farmers are made to leave their land because of the greed of tourism. And there is no guarantee that the profit reaches them especially if the regime of that country is not very democratic and the benefits of tourism are used for security rather than for the well being of the population.

More tourists, greedier than ever...

The number of tourists in the world who leave their country has reached a figure of 635 millions in 1999 and the returns of tourism is roughly 439 billion dollars (airfare not included). According to the World Tourism Organisation's estimate, the number of tourists visiting foreign countries will be above a billion and a half by the year 2020. Middle classes of emerging countries have also begun crossing borders and oceans and people from privileged countries leave for other countries two to three times a year.

Nothing seems to slow down this growth: a world explosion is a remote possibility. When a meteorological catastrophe, an earthquake or a political explosion, can, in a few hours, wipe an entire region off the catalog of tour operators, the mass of tourists are immediately sent elsewhere without recording the least fall in international revenue. It is only the country concerned - if it largely depends on tourism - which can be affected seriously. Small time businessmen who rely solely on tourism are reduced to misery. Those who have some savings wait for better days. International travel agencies direct their activities elsewhere.

Tourism organizes spaces according to desires and dreams of tourists. In the last century, the first tourists were people with good fortune looking for adventure or a more serene sky to cure their tuberculosis or their ill being. Since the end of the Second World War, tourism as an activity has gained importance as industrialized countries recognize the rights to annual paid leave to their working class. This class, who first went to their native rural regions for vacations soon was ensnared by adventure and started going to other places: the tourism industry has now its clientele in all social classes of all ages. Other activities pertaining to tourism have become inseparable: insurance, all equipment related to the tourists: video cameras, cameras, sun protection creams and gears and outfits of all kinds.

Tourism is the only activity where the client - not the product - is transported and where he is face to face with the people of the producing country. But often money given to the transporting agency and the travel company is used only to have access to free consumption of images: a beautiful landscape, a child's smile. Misery itself becomes an object of photography. Between the airlines and the international chains of hotels, where does the client's money go?

...come to taste luxury in poor countries!

Since two or three decades, traders of dreams have multiplied activities that are foreign to the place visited like tennis or golf, opening access to luxury hitherto previously unknown by the tourist. People from modest backgrounds in big metropolis of the west who take the underground train everyday to their place of work from their two room apartment, are saturated with all kinds of images and publicity material for their forthcoming vacations: big hotels, vast spaces, virgin mountains, beaches, coconut plantations. These images impose a paradox - going to one of the poor countries to taste luxury that is not available in one's own country - which contributes to an increasing lack of understanding between peoples rather than create friendship between them belying thereby the wondrous role of tourism as instrumental in bringing people together.

However, tourism also attracts people some of whom are actively involved in their country with social issues. They are committed members of NGOs and so, can take to the streets to defend genuine and just causes, open their wallets to humanitarian causes, and who through reading newspapers can lend their solidarity to people far away. Once they become tourists, and are reduced to being infants by their travel agencies, deprived of their instruments of reading, they unconsciously behave like plunderers and voyeurs.

A responsible citizen must learn to establish the link between the international political and social information page and the page on tourism in the general press.

In the country that he dreams of visiting, there are also responsible citizens who make an effort to achieve tourism of hospitality and friendship for him. And they do not have access to high priced publicity. We need to multiply new information networks, invent new means of communication, so that a responsible citizen does not end up being an irresponsible tourist.


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* Find out more about Gues in Caravan 4!

Charter for sustainable Tourism*
(Lanzarote, Canary Islands, April 1995)
[Extracts of the principles]

1 - Tourism development shall be based on criteria of sustainability, which means that it must be ecologically bearable in the long term, as well as economically viable, and ethically and socially equitable for local communities. [...]

2 - [...] Tourism should ensure an acceptable evolution as regards its influence on natural resources, biodiversity and the capacity for assimilation of any impacts and residues produced.

3 - Tourism must consider its effects on the cultural heritage and traditional elements, activities and dynamics of each local community. Recognition of these local factors and support for the identity, culture and interests of the local community must at all times play a central role in the formulation of tourism strategies, particularly in developing countries.

6 - Quality criteria [...] (must be) determined jointly with local communities [...]

7 - [...] tourism must be based on the diversity of opportunities offered by the local economy. It should be fully integrated into and contribute positively to local economic development.

8 - All options for tourism development must serve effectively to improve the quality of life of all people and must influence the socio-cultural environment of each destination.

9 -Governments and the competent authorities, with the participation of NGOs and local communities, shall undertake actions aimed at integrating the planning of tourism as a contribution to sustainable development.

10 - [...] it is urgent that measures be promoted to permit a more equitable distribution of the benefits and burdens of tourism. This implies a change of consumption pattern and the introduction of pricing methods which allow environmental costs to be internalised.

11 - Environmentally and culturally vulnerable spaces, both now and in the future, shall be given special priority [...] Similarly, special treatment should be given to zones that have been degraded by obsolete and high impact tourism models.

16 - Particular attention should be paid to the role and the environmental repercussions of transport in tourism [...]

* The full text of the Charter can be obtained from Transverses.

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drawing of grass in a parched earth

© 2001 Alliance for a Responsible and United World. All rights reserved. Last updated March 9, 2001.