Sun, sea and saving the world

Travel snobs have turned holidaymaking into a moral dilemma.

Jim Butcher

Topics Politics

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Tourism is changing, and not for the better. Not so long ago, package tourism was regarded simply as a welcome respite from the rigors and proscriptions of everyday life. Today, the tremendous growth of opportunities to travel and enjoy the environment – the beach, warm climates, snow-covered mountains – is regarded by the critics as a threat to the environment, to indigenous cultures, and to the traveller’s own sense of self.

In contrast with mass tourism, the New Moral Tourism is justified less in terms of the desires of the consumer and more from the perspective of its perceived benign influence on the natural world and on the culture of the host. But what is this ‘tourism with a mission’, and what does it mean for holidaymakers and the countries they visit?

Mass tourism

Modern tourism could be said to have emerged with modern industrial society in the nineteenth century. Industrialisation spawned both the means to travel – initially the railways – and created a growing market amongst the new industrial and professional classes, and amongst the working class, the masses, too. Thomas Cook pioneered leisure travel amongst the middle and working classes in this century. He and his son, John Mason Cook (whose initials JMC are now a brand of Thomas Cook tour operations), took an increasingly broad spectrum of the population to ever more distant destinations. Over the past 150 years, the achievement of the industry has been nothing less than the democratisation of leisure travel, from the few deemed worthy, and wealthy enough to partake, to an everyday activity for the majority in developed societies.

The growth of the tourism industry has been driven by economic development. Greater affluence has opened up the possibility to travel for leisure to greater numbers of people. Technical progress – notably the car and air travel – has consistently enabled greater speed, comfort and scope for leisure travellers. Whereas even as recently as forty years ago back-to-back charters were a new innovation, initially confusing to hoteliers and customers, today they are the staple of the big tour operators. The UK’s ‘big four’, Thomas Cook, Airtours, First Choice and Thomsons (now part of TUI, the first European wide package holiday brand, owned by German conglomerate Pressaug) dominate a market that takes annually some thirty five million British tourists abroad for their holidays.

By supplying en masse, such companies have lowered the real cost of holidays, and alongside growing incomes, this has contributed to what Vladimir Raitz, founder of Horizon holidays (the first post-war package holiday company to develop charter flight-based packages) refers to as the package holiday revolution. This growth has been mirrored worldwide, with today some 700 million travelling internationally per year for no other reason than leisure. It is estimated that by 2020, there will be some 1.6 billion international tourists.

Tourism has become big business – by some measures the biggest. It directly employs 74 million people directly, with tourism related activities estimated to provide some 200 million jobs. It provides the largest source of export earnings for countries as diverse as Spain and Barbados. By 2020 it is predicted that tourism expenditure will top US$ 2 trillion, or US$ 5 billion per day. The industry’s contribution to global wealth, measured from Gross National Products, is estimated to be four per cent directly and 11 per cent including indirect effects (1). It has also enjoyed consistent growth in recent decades, decades in which some countries have experienced relative decline in some of their traditional industries.

In economic terms, then, Mass Tourism seems self-evidently important. However, it is increasingly discussed less as an economic phenomenon linked to the creation of jobs and investment, or indeed simply as enjoyment, adventure and innocent fun. Rather tourism has increasingly become discussed as a cultural and environmental phenomenon, and more often than not as fraught and destructive.

This is manifested in a constant denigration of mass package tourism and mass package tourists amongst those for whom such things are deemed unethical. For some, post-war tourism is like Frankenstein’s (or perhaps Thomas Cook’s) monster, having seemingly run out of control, with dire consequences. The association of tourism with innocence, fun and adventure, have been challenged by a mood of pessimism and a sense that moral regulation of pleasure seeking is necessary in order to preserve environmental and cultural diversity.

The moralisation of tourism involves two mutually reinforcing notions. Mass Tourism is deemed to have wrought damage to the environment and to the cultures exposed to it, and hence new types of tourism are proposed that are deemed benign to the environment and benevolent towards other cultures. This ethical tourism is deemed to be better for tourists, too – more enlightening, encouraging respect for other ways of life and a critical reflection on the tourist’s own developed society.

The New Moral Tourism

There are a plethora of terms that academics and those in the industry have applied to this more moral tourism such as ethical tourism, alternative tourism, ecotourism and responsible tourism. Perhaps the term that covers them all, and helps to identify what is distinctive about them taken together, is that coined by industry specialist Ahluwalia Poon – ‘New Tourism’ (2).

Poon outlined the marketing aspects of New Tourism thus: The holiday must be flexible and must be able to be purchased at prices that are competitive with mass produced holidays; holidays are not simply aiming at economies of scale, but will be tailored to individual wants; unlike mass tourism, production will be driven by the wants of consumers; mass marketing is no longer the dominant ethos – holidays will be marketed differentially to different needs, incomes, time constraints and travel interests; the holiday is consumed on a large scale by more experienced travellers, more educated, more destination oriented, more independent, more flexible and more green; consumers of New Tourism consider the environment and culture of the destinations they visit to be a key part of the holiday experience.

Poon clearly considers the New Tourist to be the ‘thinking tourist’ – more educated, independent of mind and aware. Also, from this definition New Tourism could be regarded as post-Fordist tourism – tourism that moves away from a standard, mass produced product towards a flexible, individually tailored one, led by individual demands rather than a homogenous mass market. But for Poon, and for many other advocates of New Tourism, it is far more than dry marketing for ‘thinking tourists’ – it is an ethical imperative; it is ethical tourism. As such it is not simply suggested as an option for prospective tourists, but is advocated as a solution to problems caused by Mass Tourism.

There are a diverse range of NGOs involved in the promotion of what they perceive to be ethical tourism. Global conservation NGOs such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Audubon Society and Conservation International increasingly view ecotourism as a means of winning support, both amongst local populations and more widely, for conservation aims. Ecotourism is at the cutting edge of conservation initiatives as it seems to proffer opportunities for people to benefit from preserving their natural environments rather than changing them. Its ethical credentials, then, reside in its ability to combine conservation with limited development goals. More traditional forms of tourism are regarded as less ethical as although they generally yield more in the way of economic development they are deemed to be environmentally destructive and culturally problematic.

British-based Tourism Concern is prominent amongst the campaigning NGOs. They engage in a wide variety of campaigning activities including lobbying the Gambian government to limit all inclusive resort developments, lobbying travel companies to pull out of Burma due to human rights abuses there and producing educational materials and codes of conduct encouraging young people to be wary of their impact on the places and peoples they may visit. In Germany, Studienkreis für Tourismus und Entwicklung (students for tourism and responsibility) operate their prestigious ‘To Do!’ awards. The winners are almost invariably small scale, locally oriented and green. This organisation, typical of others throughout Europe, state in their aims and objectives that they ‘support forms of tourism which contribute to intercultural encounter, which allow for joint learning processes, mutual respect as well as respect for cultural diversity and the sustainable use of natural resources’ (3).

In the North America, and internationally, The International Ecotourism Society is influential in marketing and promoting the ethical credentials of green holidays. Their role is not just to network with like-minded tourists with a love of the natural world, but to advocate the superiority of eco holidays for both parties concerned; tourists and hosts. The society claim that: ‘Ecotravel offers an alternative to many of the negative effects of mass tourism by helping conserve fragile ecosystems, support endangered species and habitats, preserve indigenous cultures and develop sustainable local economies.’ (4) They encourage prospective tourists to ‘travel with a purpose – a personal purpose and a global one’.

These and other organisations see raising awareness as a priority. In recent years, initiatives with names such as ‘Our Holidays, Their Homes’, ‘Worldwise’ and ‘Travelling in the Dark’ have sought to educate tourists in the UK as to their potential role in environmental and cultural degradation. Whilst their role is not restricted to this, there is an emphasis on changing the consumption patterns and the behaviour of holidaymakers in favour of holidays that are deemed benign to the environment and benevolent to the culture of the host. Such organisations have produced ethical codes of conduct.

Calls for ethical tourism have come from the media, too. Back in 2001, journalist Libby Purves argued that: ‘Tourists should not travel light on morals’, (5) while the Guardian’s environment editor asserted that Mass Tourism ‘wreak[s] havoc on the environment’ and that despite attempts to clean up the industry, ‘tourism is essentially and inescapably, environmentally destructive’. (6) On television, holiday programmes have come in for criticism over their supposed lack of ethical credentials. A report published in 2001 castigated British channel ITV’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ for not taking sufficient care to encourage thoughtful behaviour on the part of prospective tourists. The compiler of the report argued: ‘Editorial content that meets the growing thirst for a rounded insight into a destination will enable viewers to understand the impact their visit may have on the host country’ (7).

Similar points are frequently made with regard to tourist brochures, and even travel guides have been castigated for failing to present what ethical tourism campaigners consider to be an enlightened view. Lonely Planet Guides, for example, have been subject to a campaign to boycott their Burma guide, on the basis that it encourages travellers to travel to a regime that has used coerced child labour to build up its infrastructure. In fact the guide itself is critical of the regime, too, but takes the view that travellers should decide the ethical issue for themselves. Lonely Planet are also criticised for ‘making or breaking’ local businesses, depending on whether they are listed in the guides.

These examples are illustrative of the New Moral Tourism. The holiday is re-presented as an arena for ethical behaviour to the benefit of other peoples and the environment, leading to a holiday experience deemed to be far superior. Many of the above assertions present tourists simply as environmental footprints and cultural impositions. That development has a creative, as well as destructive, side is rarely alluded to. Indeed, some of the characterisations of modern tourism seem to typically – as one author points out in relation to a different case, modern travel writing’ – attach the word hideous to man made things, but never to nature’ (8).

What all the pronouncements from this variety of organisations and individuals point towards is a profoundly negative view of the development of Mass Tourism, and also an appeal, implicit or explicit, for tourists to change their lifestyle and regard their holidays in a different way. It is held that host communities – their environment and culture – and indeed the tourists too, will be the losers if this does not happen. It is suggested that the tourist also benefits from the New Moral Tourism approach by being engaged in something more meaningful and more enlightening than typical package holidays.

Tourism against tourists

Many of the cultural assumptions of New Moral Tourism are expressed through distancing these new forms of tourism from mass, package tourism. Responsible tourism, ethical tourism and new tourism – these labels, whilst broad, clearly suggest the previous existence of irresponsible tourism, unethical tourism and old tourism (Mass Tourism), and are attempts to counter these with more moral products. In fact, it may be more useful to consider New Moral Tourism in terms of what it is not, rather than trying to pin down what it is. New Moral Tourism is defined against Mass Tourism – according to one author it originated in ‘a worldwide reaction against mass tourism’ (9).

A slightly less categorical assertion, although expressing a similar sentiment, comes from two prominent authors in the field: ‘By the 1990s, there is a sense that the public has become “tired” of the crowds, weary of jetlag, awakened to the evidences of pollution, and in search of something new.’ (10) The stereotypical associations of tourism in its mass form – crude, homogenous, insensitive to hosts, involving resorts that alter the landscape, crowded, frivolity – are railed against by the advocates of a New Moral Tourism.

Hence New Moral Tourism and Mass Tourism can be seen as a series of oppositions. For the New Moral Tourist, Mass Tourism is characterised by:

(i) Sameness – It does not involve experiencing cultural differences, being based around a mass marketed and consumed product in resort complexes, purpose built for tourists.
(ii) Crudeness – It involves a lack of self-restraint – alcohol, sex and sun bathing, perhaps in excess.
(iii) Destructive – Mass Tourism is deemed to be destructive in two senses. It is seen as paying scant regard to the environmental consequences of tourism. It is also held to involve the imposition of the tourist’s culture onto the host, as the former has little interest in the latter. They are there as self seeking / pleasure seeking subjects

In contrast to this New Moral Tourists associate themselves with:

(i) Difference – The New Moral Tourist wants to experience cultural and environmental difference and to encourage and sustain that difference. This is done for altruistic motives – Mass Tourism is seen as being bad for the host – but also through a certain deference to the host culture which is held in esteem.

(ii) Cultural sophistication – the New Moral Tourist takes the trouble to learn about the host’s culture and language. Aware of the importance of cultural difference in the host – tourist encounter, the New Moral Tourist adopts a cautious approach, and is sensitive with regard to their behaviour.
(iii) Constructive – The New Moral Tourist, where possible, will try to be constructive with regard to local cultures and environments. This will involve, for example, buying craft goods from local traders rather than souvenirs (possibly mass produced, using imported materials) as such goods encourage the preservation of the local culture rather than supporting a western one. New Moral Tourists may themselves get involved with activities to preserve and sustain a particular way of life, through work on projects, although such assistance may also be in the form of financial support for NGOs and charities which are sometimes included in the tour cost.

The New Moral Tourism defines itself against its Other, Mass Tourism. Here, Mass Tourism is more than a reference to numbers of tourists – it is also about a type of tourist, and a particular type of person. The use of the term ‘mass’ in the context of Mass Tourism, when not used in a purely descriptive sense, tends to carry pejorative connotations. Mass Tourism is an exemplar of mass consumption in modern, industrial, mass society, and mass consumption is eschewed by the New Moral Tourist.

It is instructive to consider the usage of the term ‘mass’ in this broader context. Ideas of mass society developed in the latter half of the nineteenth century. They reflected the reality of industrialisation, large conglomerations of people in cities and an attendant fear of the masses – especially when they were organised and politicised. Uses of the term ‘masses’ at this time carried negative connotations. Generally, the term was used to describe the multitude of ‘common’ people, perceived as lacking in education, cleanliness and civility. A further association was with disorder – the mass could easily become the rioting mob, acting without recourse to rationality. Finally there was a paternal element to elite conceptions of the masses – they lacked civility, and were therefore in need of civilisation and culture.

These ideas were reflected in the view of early package tourists in Britain and elsewhere. Thomas Cook’s first tours were temperance trips, promoting the virtues of abstinence and Godliness. Cook himself held a paternal view of his customers, and he was quite prepared to comment on what he considered their uncouth behaviour. In turn, Cook’s critics castigated him for enabling the ‘uncultured’ masses to partake of leisure travel.

The association of mass with a new type of social form, mass society, was first made by Herbert Blumer in the 1930s (11). For Blumer, mass society was the object, not the subject of society. The ability of the masses to think critically and act rationally came a poor second to the sense that they were acted upon. Mass culture makes us, rather than the other way round, is the logic of this conceptualisation. The masses lack individuality – they are not the rulers of their own destiny, but dupes of voracious advertising. Blumer’s view of mass society, whilst it is contested, is important in shaping the post second world war conception of mass consumerism, and it is a strong undercurrent in the criticisms of modern Mass Tourism.

New Moral Tourism is a crusade against a particular characterisation of Mass Tourism, and the mass tourist. Raymond Williams’ comment that: ‘There are no such things as masses, only ways of seeing people as masses’ is pertinent (12). The mass can also be considered the many with a common goal – either threatening or worthy of championing. In the past, negative conceptions of the masses would have been contested by political movements and Trade Unions that stood for the masses, or tempered by a sense that growing affluence for the masses was a sign of progress. Cook himself defended his tours from the critics on this latter basis. However, today, in the absence of a common goal, and without the sense that more opportunities for people to travel is part of human progress, they can be presented as a homogenous, unthinking mass, patronised and talked down to by the self appointed spokespersons of new, ethical tourism.

Tourism against development

As well as a slight on tourists, New Moral Tourism also stands against modernity and transformative economic development. In the view of the New Moral Tourism advocate, for ‘transformative’, read ‘destructive’. The place most often characterised as having been destroyed by Mass Tourism are the Spanish Costas – especially the Costa del Sol. From the Monty Pythons comedy sketch featuring ‘Brits’ abroad drinking Watneys Red Barrel and singing ‘Torremolinos’ to the predictable disparagement from Rough Guide and Lonely Planet guide book authors, the Costa del Sol has long been stereotypical Mass Tourism.

One author asserts an unequivocal view of Mass Tourism developments such as those in the popular Mediterranean resorts: ‘The building of high rise hotels on beach frontages is an environmental impact of tourism that achieves headline status. This kind of obvious environmental rape is now less common than it was during the rapid growth periods of the 1960s and 1970s.’ (13)

The high rise represents mass society – catering for many people, a common standard of accommodation, and the beachfront represents a natural encounter between the land and the sea (14). The latter is sacrosanct for the critics. It is worthy of note that this characterisation of high rise hotels conveniently located for the beach as ‘rape’ is not the assertion of environmental campaign literature, but appears in the most widely read textbook on the tourism industry.

Another commentator on the tourism industry makes a similar point in relation to the development of tourism in the Algarve in Portugal: ‘This frenzied activity is how it must have been in the South Wales valleys at the start of the industrial revolution: endless digging, building and labouring. In those days the commodities were coal, iron and steel. In the Algarve today they labour for tourism. But the results are similar. Clifftop by clifftop, beach by beach, valley by valley – the natural beauty of the countryside is being eroded. No dark satanic mills or slag heaps, perhaps, but the landscape here is being disfigured just as badly by tower blocks of hotels and apartments.’ (15)

Not only does this author bemoan ‘disfigurement’ (like ‘rape’, implying that nature has human characteristics) of the environment, without any sense that something may be gained, too from this, but he distances himself from industrial development per se on the grounds that it erodes natural beauty. Such emotive assertions, made without qualification, reflect the ‘pro environment – anti people’ character of the critique of ‘old’ Mass Tourism. And whilst the Costas are iconic of Mass Tourism, package holidays generally are criticised for their effects on the environments and cultures of the destinations.

The critique of modern society implicit in New Moral Tourism is also evident in the idea of a ‘post-modern tourist, or ‘post tourist’, invoked by John Urry and Maxine Feiffer. The post tourist reacts against modernism, central to which is ‘the view of the public as a homogenous mass’ (16). Urry argues that the weakness of the working class and the growth of the middle class heighten this ‘anti mass’ sentiment. One could go further. Regardless of the size of the various social classes, however one might define them, it is the decline of collectivity, embodied in political projects of left and right, trade unions, church and community that may reinforce the type of individualism exercised by the post tourist. Moreover, postmodernism’s rejection of the idea of progress stands against modernity, and mass consumption in the form of Mass Tourism is exemplary of modernity (17).

An example of the anti modern emphasis of New Moral Tourism is the UnTourist network, which appeared in Australia in the 1990s. UnTourists are explicitly seeking out the antithesis of the modern societies: ‘we sought out all the most discerning, untouristy people we knew – the insiders, the writers, the foodies, the fishermen, the sailors, the farmers, the culture buffs, the historians and the savvy locals – they helped to hunt out the best of everything the destination could offer in things to do, see, eat, buy, and in places to stay.’ (18)

This self conscious search for the ‘backstage regions’ (19) – those hidden from the less discerning tourist – is characteristic of the New Moral Tourism.

And this is not simply a question of lifestyle – untourism is also linked to ‘giving something back’ to the hosts: ‘Mass tourism is about infrastructure (big hotels, souvenir shops, garish promotions and the fast buck) whereas untourism is about caring for people, maintaining unspoiled environments, authenticity and value for money…. If untourists won’t go to places created solely to soak up the tourist dollar, preferring to see and do what the locals do…there will be less room to spoil what is natural, authentic and / or special about a place.’ (20)

So for this type of tourist, whom sociologist Peter Corrigan argues are becoming more commonplace, taking a stand against modern values (and Mass Tourism) through leisure travel is good for the environment, the communities visited, and, as a more moral form of activity, good for the tourist too. But is it so good as it sounds?

Much of the scepticism of previous forms of mass tourism development is couched in terms of its lack of ‘sustainability’. As with so many other phenomenon – housing, communities, economy, architecture etc – tourism has acquired the prefix ‘sustainable’. Broadly speaking, certain types of tourism have become strongly associated with being sustainable, and others unsustainable. Typically, ecotourism, nature tourism, green tourism, alternative tourism etc, whilst critically regarded, are placed under the rubric ‘sustainable’, whilst the package holidays that dominate the market are rarely associated with sustainability.

The commitment of global government to reforming the tourism industry, and the tourist, was formalised through the documents that came out of the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio. Agenda 21 documentation for the tourism industry asserts that ‘the travel and tourism industry has a vested interest in protecting the natural and cultural resources which are the core of its business’ (21). Elsewhere, the document argues that: ‘Travel and Tourism should assist people in leading healthy and productive lives in harmony with nature’, that the industry should ‘contribute to the conservation, protection and restoration of the earth’s ecosystem’, ‘environmental protection should constitute an integral part of the tourism development process’ and that ‘tourism development should recognise and support the identity, culture and interests of indigenous peoples’ (22).

Agenda 21 for the Tourism Industry also reflects an impulse for education of tourists. It suggests that publicity for the tourist should promote education for ethical tourism, including in flight videos, magazine articles, and advice on sick bags.

Whilst the efficacy of Agenda 21 is much debated by grass roots environmentalists, this perspective on tourism has been widely taken up by governments and NGOs. Aid agencies around the world have increasingly financed NGOs engaged in ethical tourism development, seeking to generate a rural development sensitive to the natural environment and culture of recipient communities. In the UK the Department for International Development pioneer ‘Pro Poor’ tourism as a means of relieving rural poverty in the Third World. They also support schemes to enlighten prospective tourists through, for example, a recent schools video that portrays package tourists in the most unflattering light (23). USAid, the aid arm of the United States government, also back up the ethical claims of ecotourism by funding its development as a means of generating limited development through ecotourism revenues alongside conservation of the natural environment in the Third World. Promoting an appreciation of the value of conservation for the prospective tourist and their hosts are key aims too.

A host of other quasi-governmental organisations concerned with the environment have also developed a commitment to ‘sensitive’, sustainable tourism development over the last ten to fifteen years. Their definitions of sustainable tourism are general, but often suggest a preservationist emphasis with regard to the environment and culture. For example, the Federation of Nature and National Parks in Europe, in their influential publication Loving Them to Death?, define sustainable tourism as activity that ‘maintains the environmental, social and economic integrity and well being of natural, built and cultural resources in perpetuity’ [my italics] (24).

This begs the question: if tourism’s critics propose to protect nature from the excesses of development, how do they address the poverty and inequality arising from a dearth of development in many parts of the world? Maintaining a society’s relationship to its natural environment ‘in perpetuity’ is hardly likely to tackle this.

It is also notable that sustainable tourism has tended to develop increasingly as a socio-environmental category, with an emphasis on people as well as the effect of development on ecological processes (25). Hence sustainable tourism has developed a profound sensitivity towards cultural change, change in how communities relate to their environments. In the context of tourism, Third World communities are often viewed as guardians of precious environments, and their cultures deemed sustainable on this basis.

Put the fun back into travel

While distinct ‘new tourism’ markets remain relatively small, the moralisation of tourism is a pervasive agenda, colouring the way we see contemporary leisure travel. It casts a shadow over the growth of leisure travel, a growth that one may have assumed would be viewed in more upbeat fashion. It also questions the notion of innocent fun, traditionally associated with holidays. Simply pleasing oneself has become moral terrain.

The ire directed against tourism is misplaced. The growth of Mass Tourism has been a mark of real progress in modern society. Many can travel abroad for leisure when only a couple of generations ago foreign travel was a rarity for most people. New opportunities have opened up as the holiday companies have expanded to ever more destinations. This has not been at the expense of those hosting the growing numbers of tourists. Tourism to the resorts on the Spanish Costas – for tourism’s critics surely near the top of the ‘unethical’ list – have contributed to economic growth that has enabled the Spanish themselves to travel increasingly as tourists. Indeed, Torremolinos can no longer be viewed as a colony of British lager louts with little thought for locals – a large proportion of tourists late on in the season are the Spanish themselves.

In poorer countries the gulf between tourist and hosts is more marked. The response to this from advocates of New Moral Tourism is to call for more ‘sensitive’ tourism – tourism that tries to avoid displays of wealth such as comfortable hotels and cameras. But whilst tourism may bring together people with different access to wealth and opportunity, it did not create this inequality. Get rid of the all-inclusive resorts, the conspicuous displays of wealth and privilege, and poor people are if anything worse off.

It is true that tourism can bring together people of very different backgrounds – the ultra rich and the poor, the latter perhaps cleaning rooms for the former in some grand hotel. But for the most part, tourists are people seeking out good weather, good food, fun and perhaps a little taste of a different way of life. It is probably something they have worked and saved hard for. The portrayal of tourists, still today, as rather thoughtless people who contribute to the exploitation of the places they visit, is belittling. It also trivialises any discussion of poverty and how to tackle it. In fact, the solutions offered up by the New Moral Tourism lobby are less concerned with material wealth and more with cultural difference. More often than not a preoccupation with the latter gets in the way of addressing the dearth of the former (or even seeing it as a dearth at all).

Campaigners for New Moral Tourism like to champion the cause of those who have lost out in some way from resort developments. Yet they are reticent to balance this against the many benefits derived from tourism developments. Their agenda is preservationist with regard not only to the natural world, but also with regard to culture. Individuals and their aspirations for a better life are distorted by the preoccupation with an iconic culture, cast in china, in need of protection from other cultures, other people.

Whilst the moralisation of tourism sees only the differences between people, we should regard travel, for leisure, for education or for business, as part of a common culture. This is not in the sense that we all engage in it, but that there can be few who do not have the aspiration to travel for leisure. Aspiration is important – it provides a link between culture as what is and culture as what could be. But culture in the latter sense is often obscured by a debate that assumes the differences between peoples as their defining characteristic, even in the prosaic realm of leisure travel.

Jim Butcher is author of The Moralisation of Tourism: Sun, Sand… and Saving the World, from which this essay is an edited extract. Buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA).

(1) World Tourism Organisation figs, cited in Industry and Environment, United Nations Environment Programme, vol24, no3-4, July-Dec 2001, p5

(2) A Poon, Tourism, Technology and Competitive Strategy, Wallingford, CABI, 1993

(3) Aims and Objectives, on the Studienkreis fur Tourismus und Entwicklung website

(4) See The International Ecotourism Society’s ‘Ecotourism Explorer’ advice initiative

(5) L Purves, ‘Tourists Should Not Travel Light on Morals’, The Times, July 10th, 2001

(6) J Griffiths, ‘Tourism is bad for our health’, The Guardian, Feb 8th Feb 2001

(7) ARice, quoted in M Wells, ‘Travel Shows Portray Paradise and Hide Reality’, The Guardian, August 28th 2001

(8) I Ousby, The Englishman’s England: Taste, Travel and the Rise of Tourism, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p130

(9) PS Valentine, ‘Ecotourism and Nature Conservation: a Definition with some Recent Developments in Micronesia’, in Ecotourism Incorporating the Global Classroom, International Conference Papers 1992, p 4-9

(10) WR Eadington, & VL Smith, ‘Introduction: the emergence of alternative forms of tourism’ In VL Smith & WR Eadington, (eds), Tourism Alternatives: Potentials and Problems in the Development of Tourism, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992

(11) H Blumer, ‘The Mass, the Public and Public Opinion, in AMLee, (ed), New Outlines of the Principles of Sociology, New York, Barnes & Noble, 1939

(12) R Williams, Culture & Society, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1961, p289

(13) C Cooper, J Fletcher, D Gilbert & S Wanhill, Tourism: Principles and Practice, first edition, London, Pitman, 1993, p103

(14) L Lencek & G Bosker, The Beach: the History of Paradise on Earth, London, Pimlico, 1998

(15) F Barret, ‘On the Algarve’s Road to Ruin’, Independent, 22nd July 1989, p45

(16) J Urry, The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Society, London, Sage, 1990

(17) G Therborn, European Modernity and Beyond: the Trajectory of European Societies 1945-2000, London, Sage, 1996

(18) PCorrigan, PThe Sociology of Consumption, London, Sage, 1997, p145

(19) The dramatic analogy, in which experiences of other societies can be ‘back stage’, referring to an authentic experience, or ‘frontstage’, referring to a something acted out for a particular audience, is commonly invoked in the academic study of the sociology of tourism It originates with the sociologist Irving Goffman See I Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1959

(20) PCorrigan, The Sociology of Consumption, London, Sage, 1997, p145

(21) WTTC, WTO & Earth Council, Agenda 21 for the Travel and Tourism Industry: Towards Environmentally Sustainable Development, London, World Travel and Tourism Council, 1995

(22) ibid

(23) Tourism Concern / DfID, Looking Beyond the Brochure, 1999 (educational resource – video)

(24) Quoted in J Croall, Preserve or Destroy: Tourism and the Environment, London, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1995, p1

(25) Mowforth and Munt usefully term the NGOs concerned with sustainable tourism as ‘socio-environmental’ organisations, as opposed to simply environmental or ecological organisations M Mowforth & I Munt, Tourism and Sustainability: New Tourism in the Third World, London, Routledge, 1998, ch6

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