How to rebuild tourism with the politics involved? Impossible mission?

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  • Sociocultural, environmental and economic impact on source and target markets and both on their companies and on (potential) hosts and visitors;
  • Assessment of travel and tourism, the degree of its importance to our place and the strength with which tourism is closely linked to related sectors and industries;
  • Readjustment of the policy framework to promote travel and tourism as an exceptional service industry and to leverage tourism as a set of communication ‘tools’, in order to strengthen the umbrella brand and image of the place / destination in its entirety – as a place to live, work, invest and travel.

Travel & Tourism is the industry dedicated to making dreams come true, spearheading people’s aspirations to travel freely, enjoy leisure and fun, sport and adventure, the arts and culture, new perspectives and points of view. Aren’t these key properties that make human life even more interesting? Are not travel and tourism therefore gaining a prominent voice on local, regional, national and global stages which defend human rights and urge human duties?

In an age of manipulation, plagiarism, fake news, populism and virtual hate speech, tourism provides a stage for creativity, evokes the natural and the intangible, art and the unique strengths of World Heritage and from their inspired “Disney” worlds “second hand”. There is no need to demonize the artificial: However, without neglecting the artificial, Tourism aims for the “authentic” – and we are aware of this: authenticity, that is to say the feeling of not to be deceived, can also be realized in the “’world of artifice which is inspired by the heart – and’ art ‘, and therefore dedicated to the classic ideal of’ the true, the beautiful and the good’.

Though fragmented into a few thousand ‘big fish’ and millions of small and medium (SMEs) private companies and public institutions, Travel & Tourism prides itself on being the world’s largest industry – driven by ideals and committed to serving and provide exciting travel experiences. In addition, tourism even considers itself the primary industry for peace. Is this known to anyone outside of the industry? Does Travel & Tourism live up to this noble claim?

The vision of traveling the world once prompted Thomas Cook to organize the first package tour. Centuries later, the vision of free travel across borders turned out to be the vector that sparked Monday’s protests in East Germany. Together with the freedom-loving world leaders, the peoples’ “mission impossible” ultimately led to nothing less than the overthrow of oppressive communist regimes and the dramatic fall of the wall! What a change in situation ! One of a kind is hard to repeat.

In turn, however, old patterns seem to reappear: indeed, we have moved from the Cold War to the Cold Peace, knowing full well that this is only an armistice. Is this what we wanted?

After the fall of the wall, chances and opportunities are shaping up as the promotions of the season, ready to be seized. The Soviet Union had disintegrated, Russia was in turmoil, but President Yeltsin, a usurper, proved strong enough to prevent a coup. Ten years later, his successor Putin, generally not considered a “flawless democrat” (despite the somewhat hasty assessment by ex-German Chancellor Schröder), spoke in the German Bundestag and was widely acclaimed. parties. The Warsaw Pact had been dissolved, but NATO, eager to free Eastern Europeans from their nightmare “from the Russian threat”, took the time by the forelock and expanded eastward. Russia felt stunned and its growing awareness of truly being a part of Europe was guilty of ignoring. The Western alliance has shown itself to be militarily determined but politically short-sighted. Today, instead of giving substance to the original spirit of a Euro-Russian partnership, it is better to be wary of Russian expansionism.

What a missed chance at the start of the 90s to “dare the best of all possible worlds”: to open Russia to Europe and the West and to throw all these rotten instruments of the Cold War out of their toxic vintage political structure. “NATO is obsolete” – does it matter, since it was just Trump who said that? –

What an opportunity missed by visionary leaders at state, government and corporate levels to show foresight and enthusiasm, and to speak out? What a missed chance for Travel & Tourism, the first peace industry in the world, to leave the professional ivory tower of its stakeholders and make it a beacon of universal influence: launching rigorous calls for cooperation, arbitrating summits transnational cross-sectoral meetings of key decision-makers, organize socio-cultural events, contribute to reinforce mutual trust and send strong messages of Peace through Tourism to people in upheaval?

Sadly, such a political opportunity has elapsed, and ideas for shaping a turn for the better have either been denied or ignored.

“In the beginning was the word”: There are today efforts – sometimes doubtful, it must be admitted – to rename familiar words: Thus, the simple “host” has been at least linguistically elevated to “resonance manager “. If the emphasis is on ‘resonance’, travel and tourism organizations should internalize this notion, genuinely improving their resonance and visibility as more ‘societal catalysts’, rather than keeping their nobility as worried talkers, having managed to live with daily bureaucracy and the constraints of their fragmented industry.

This is more than just further proof that the mantra of some hotel executives is contradictory: “keep politics out of tourism”. Well, this may be understandable given the implication of tourism in daily politics: tourism, in order to act more freely, should be exempted from the corsets of public administration and given a separate form of private law. However, there is a serious contradiction in recommending tourism to be an actor “outside politics”.

In fact, the UNWTO, WTTC and other leading travel and tourism organizations are hardly perceived by the general public as “torch relays” of True, Beautiful and Good, who are dedicated to manifesting and acting beyond the limits of tourism. itself and its sympathetic periphery.

They should better start doing it, given current developments during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, and given environmental disasters and social upheaval. It is mandatory that the travel and tourism sector actively support and through concerted actions with national and international teams the United Nations 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. However, all goodwill and technical abilities combined, we can hardly achieve the maximum temperature target of 1.5 degrees set by 2040, as the German political parties are planning, for example, to fight against the global greenhouse effect. Therefore, in addition to strengthening our efforts to contain climate change, we must provide our part to invest a lot of thought and money in developing a way to live with climate change. Finding solutions will be crucial for preserving freedom, social well-being and peace. Is the mission impossible? – Never say never!

Travel and tourism, as the number one alleged peace industry, cannot shy away from political commitment and responsibility – they sit in the middle of it all and should try to lead the overall appearance. of the respective destination, its actions and creative solutions. , in partnership with like-minded institutions, organizations and businesses, such as schools and universities, civil and charitable organizations, transport / mobility and renewable energy sectors, garbage removal, management water and wastewater, safety and security, civil construction… Travel & Tourism should increase its political weight to endow cross-sectoral social and environmental campaigns with their highest possible impact and symbolic rating.

The recent World Cleanup Day, very well received in the West and, as a “subbotnik” (in fact the “Saturday” cleanup), familiar in Russia and Eastern Europe, would have been a perfect example to begin with, as a deliberate “prelude” to the annual World Tourism Day on September 27.

Wishful thinking only?

Author Max Haberstroh, tourism consultant in Germany, member of the global tourism network

A Practical Truth is an article published by Max Haberstroh.


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