Sustainability management positions have arisen over the last few years in the large global tour operators. These positions have often been concerned with pushing corporate philosophies around the eco footprint of hotels, the type of tours that operators conduct, the treatment and management of wildlife and wildlife sanctuaries and matters of the industry’s impact on the environment and its communities. These often reflect broader community social themes. The impact is being felt across the globe.
But in many forums that we are involved in within Africa, there are whispering s about a ‘neo-colonialism’ that is emerging. Of large multinational tour organisations telling local African communities what they can and cannot do in terms of the tours they can run and how they can be run and the tour sites that can be visited. However often these pronouncements are made without appreciation of the facts on the ground. They’ve read a book, so they must be right. We would suggest that if one is to act as a change agent, then they need to have done their research and perhaps then the multinational tour organisations can speak from a fact base rather than ideological base. As Winston Churchill once remarked, “the problem with an ideology is that you don’t have to think”.
Many local communities on the other hand, are also challenging the tourist industry to curtail the huge number of tourists trampling local communities and making life unbearable for the locals. The case of what is happening in Barcelona is one of many. It seems very likely that local communities may themselves put restrictions on the number of visitors to achieve some type of balance with all the competing interests. At this stage, is doesn’t appear that the global tourist industry knows how to respond.
The global tourism industry is a mega trillion dollar activity with tour operators focused on profits and commissions. It appears they are active social citizens who see themselves as change agents. But they may be ignoring the basic issue of óvertourism’ and their support of the multinational hotels and the salaries they pay their staff (particularly in third world countries) Most domestic staff in Kenyan hotels (those who clean rooms) earn around $100 – $150 a month, whilst the room rates charged are between $250 – $350 a night. I can bet you won’t see these self appointed change agents taking that one up with the hotels. The hypocrisy is there for all to see.