“Tourism andthe travel industry are essentially the renting out for short-term lets, ofother people’s environments, whether that is a coastline, a city, a mountainrange or a rainforest.
These “products” mustbe kept fresh and unsullied not just for the next day, but for every tomorrow” (Pender & Sharpley, 2005).Tourism is a phenomenon with anenormous impact on its environment. Furthermore, does it have an influence on economical,ecological and socio-cultural area. Tourism ensures that people from differentparts of the world can meet, but when the number of incoming tourists is growingare there still only positive influences? Is it positive or negative thattourists visit indigenous communities? Do these intercultural interactionsreally raise cultural understanding or can it be considered as a form of NeoColonialism? Can the money that is earned with tourism help to conserve the heritageof the visited area? Does tourism only have negative consequences for thenatural environment or can tourism contribute to the preservation of endangeredspecies? The main question asked is “how should we deal with these problems and whatis my responsibility as a future tourism professional?”In this essay, a well-founded argumentation on/analysis of the statement”Mypersonal contribution as a tourist, student and future professional to developresponsible tourism practices” will be given. My argumentation will be based on several examples ofdilemma’s I came to know of this module. According to the worldview-testof Annick de Witt (2016), the worldview I identify with the most is calledintegrative. People with integrative worldviews generally try to synthesize andbring together elements or domains that in other worldviews are viewed asmutually exclusive, such as science and spirituality, rationality andimagination, economy and ecology, humanity and nature domains.
In thisworldview, such opposing perspectives are understood “on a deeper level” to bepart of a greater whole (de Witt, 2016).The view of reality is of a greatinterconnected whole, which is both spiritual and physical, a largerconsciousness or divine reality uniting all the separate elements of ourexperience. This view of reality may lead to a profound sense of connectionwith nature, and an understanding of earthly life as imbued with consciousnessor “spirit.” Nature tends to be seen as having intrinsic value and spiritualsignificance (de Witt, 2016).Furthermore, the individual isprominent in this worldview, and there often is a great focus on thedevelopment or evolution of one’s “higher self” or full human potential (e.g.,through spiritual or other practices).
Universal, existential concerns such aslife and death, self-actualization, global awareness, and serving society,humanity, or even “life” at large are often of central importance (de Witt, 2016). One of the subjects which cameacross this module was volunteer tourism. According to Benson (2011), volunteering overseas isincreasingly popular with people of all ages, from young people on gap years, toolder people taking a sabbatical or in retirement. In volunteer tourism, tourists forvarious reasons seek alternative goodwill experiences and activities. To meetthis demand there has been a surge in volunteer programs offered in range ofdestinations organized by a variety of charities and tour operators. Though there are some seriouscriticisms leveled at volunteering, particularly where the boundaries betweenvolunteering and tourism become blurred, the so-called ‘voluntourism’ sector. Thesecan question everything from how certain projects are formulated and whetherthey bring real benefits to local people (Benson, 2011).
Accordingto Wearing (2001), volunteering your time at a non-profit or public agencybenefits not only the targeted population but also yourself. Volunteer hourscan help groups continue to operate. Participating in charity organizations enablesyou to help less fortunate persons move towards living healthy, productivelives.
In minutes or just a few short hours, you can make a difference in yourcommunity or the nation (Wearing, 2001). The organisation Tourism Concern (2014),stated that the desire to travel and experience new cultures aroundthe globe is essentially a good thing, and so is the desire to volunteer;people who volunteer generally hope to do something they will find interesting,something they will learn from and something that will help other people. Butit’s up for debate whether many volunteering opportunities bring real benefitsto host communities, and many exploits the good intentions of well-meaningvolunteers. Volunteers can pay thousands of euros (with money mostly going tothe tour operator) to undertake short volunteering placements overseas, whichalthough well intentioned, can often do more harm than good. Volunteers oftenhave unfulfilling and disappointing experiences; volunteer placements canprevent local workers from getting much needed jobs; hard pressed institutionswaste time looking after them and money upgrading facilities; and abused orabandoned children form emotional attachments to the visitors, who increasetheir trauma by disappearing back home after a few weeks (Tourism Concern , 2014). Althoughthere are well respected development charities that arrange volunteerprograms for professionals to spend one or two years overseas,many of the volunteering placements being offered by commercial operators arelittle more than expensive holidays. Finally, many volunteers have misplacedidealism, misconceived attitudes and unrealistic expectations of what they canoffer local communities (Tourism Concern , 2014). Moreover, accordingto the organization Tourism Concern (2014) there aremany opportunities for people to undertake meaningful volunteering in their owncommunity, where they will receive proper training, support and supervision –without the need to pay a tour operator for the privilege.
In the majority ofcases people would be far better (and have a more rewarding experience)volunteering at home. They would then experience the real community and thecommunity would get real benefits as a result. Volunteersalso need to be realistic in what they can offer, this isespecially the case when volunteering with vulnerable children (Tourism Concern , 2014). One exampleof this type of volunteer tourism is the opportunity tovolunteer in an orphanage.
According to Hannam, Mostafanezhad and Rickly (2017),thenumber of orphan children has declined worldwide in the past decade, whereasthe number of orphanages in many developing countries has risen in response tothe demand from tourists wishing to volunteer. Orphanages have become a real touristattraction and a ‘bucket list’ volunteering opportunity. The resultingrise in the number of tourists volunteering in orphanages is actuallyfuelling the number of “orphans” and causing unnecessary separationof children from their families (Hannam, Mostafanezhad, & Rickly, 2017). Whilst it is appreciatedthat aspiring volunteers offer their services for the best of motives, my opinionis that looking after vulnerable children should be undertaken by local,full-time, professional staff and not by short-term volunteers, no matter howskilled or qualified.Also visiting an orphanagehas become part of the itinerary for many travellers, especially in places suchas Cambodia, where some orphanages even promote themselves as ‘touristattractions’ (Tourism Concern , 2014).
According to Luke Gracie,Alternative Care Manager from Friends International, there are several issues travellersshould consider before visiting an orphanage:The first issue that shouldbe taken into consideration is that children do not belong in orphanages; theyare highly damaging and dangerous institutions. Children belong with theirfamily or another family-like situation. 75% of the children in Cambodianorphanages are not actually orphans, as they have at least one living parent. Inmost cases there are numerous other options for marginalized children, such asliving with extended family members, people in the community or foster careoptions. The act of removing a child from his or her family is extreme; it isat the absolute pointy-end of child protection services, the drastic lastresort when everything else has failed. It’s certainly nothing to be takenlightly (Gracie, 2018).Despitethe fact that orphanages are highly damaging and dangerous institutions, orphanage tourism is bigbusiness in Cambodia. Tourists who spend a few hours walking or travelling viaa tuktuk in Cambodia’s tourist hubs will be invited to visit numerousorphanages or see orphanage tourism flyers posted up on boards in travelagencies and guesthouses.
Tourists even come across the children themselveshanding out flyers spiking their ‘home’ or performing dances. There areunfortunately a lot of orphanages that are run purely as a business, they aremalicious institutions where children are used for profit and conditions arekept in a pretty dilapidated state to warrant pity and eventual donations fromwell-meaning donors. The orphanages that look for tourist visitors and allowoutsiders in without any child protection checks generally fall into the lattercategory. Visitors giving money to these centres (which the children rarely seeany of) is perpetuating this system; they simply would not operate if theycould not make money out of it (Gracie, 2018).At first sight, the touristswill not even notice that the children living in orphanages are having a hardtime. The children seem happy when tourists arrive, they hug them and they willnot stop holding the tourists hand.
Often that is a blatant sign that thechildren are experiencing attachment disorder. Forming attachments withcare-givers is an integral part of early childhood development; it contributesgreatly to cognitive and emotional development. Children growing up in groupresidential centres often don’t form these attachments because they are removedfrom their families and house parents in an orphanage simply can’t replicatethe high levels of love and attention children truly need. The reason thechildren are so eager to touch and hold the tourists is that they are starvedfor attention; and then in two hours, or two weeks, the visitor leaves again (Gracie, 2018).
According to Luke Gracie, Alternative Care Manager fromFriends International (2018), most people would never consider visitingorphanages to be acceptable behavior in their home country. In my opinion, if people should still decideto visit or volunteer in orphanages, they should know they could be contributingto a broken and dangerous system that places significant risks and harm onchildren.On theother hand, there are some very good organisations sending volunteers overseas.These organisations aim to promote best practice in international volunteering,to maximise the beneficial developmental impacts in the communities wherevolunteering takes place, minimise the negative impacts, and to ensurevolunteers have a worthwhile experience (Tourism Concern , 2014). But in myopinion, itis worth taking a step back and thinking about the situation actually occurringhere. These are highly vulnerable kids, irrespective of whether they areactually orphans, and some people see no problem visiting their place ofresidence, hugging them, taking photos of them, and playing with them. It isliterally treating a child as a tourist attraction, a commodity that is viewedand enjoyed like a temple, market, or zoo animal.
Another dilemmathat I came to know this module was about indigenous peoples and tourism. Allover the world, different terms are used with reference to indigenous peoples:Aboriginals, Native, First Nations etcetera. These names stand for groups ofpeople who originally populated certain parts of the world, now oftenmarginalised by nation states (Das, 2001). According to Zeppel(2006), ‘Indigenous Tourism’ is a term that has gained currency in recentyears. The ‘off the beaten path’ trails once reserved for specialists havenow become a ‘well-worn path’ for millions of tourists searching for an’authentic’ experience. This can be positive: it can assist culturalrevitalisation and be a force for empowerment.
On the other hand, it may see the marginalisedpeople and their villages becoming mere showcases for tourists, their culturereduced to souvenirs for sale, an environment to be photographed and leftwithout real engagement (Zeppel, 2006). Accordingto the organisation Tourism Concern (2017), there is a whole spectrum of waysin which people can be involved in indigenous tourism: from being part of a’human zoo’, performing for the benefit of visitors, to something morecreditable where they are in greater control of what is on offer. A dilemma inindigenous tourism is the question “shouldyou take photographs?”. Travelling nowadays presents an opportunity tophotograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimesthere may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for thecamera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world whodo not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let aloneaccess to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have noidea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Photography andits use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and thinka little about the ethics of photography (Tourism Concern, 2017). In someplaces people genuinely make a living through having their photograph taken – the Mursi tribe who lives in the basin of the Omo river in the south ofthe African state of Ethiopia for instance.
The women of this tribe are placinglarge pates in their lower lips and are wearing enormous, richly decoratedearrings. Every year hundreds of tourists visit the tribe to see the unusuallyadorned natives. Posing for camera toting visitors has become the main incomefor the Mursi people. To make more money they embellishtheir costumes and finery so that less of their original culture remains. Theyhave different set price for pictures of women wearing plates in their lowerlips and for children (Kok & Timmers, 2011).
In myopinion, it is not right to visit a village and encourage people to giveinappropriate demonstrations for photographs, clicking away with little thoughtto people about their daily lives is not ethical, tourists would not behave thesame at home. Sticking a camera in front of someone and take their photograph,is not being considerate in attitude and approach, but is rather beingvoyeuristic, thoughtless or even selfish. But if the indigenous peoplegenuinely make a living through having their photograph taken and agree withthis kind of living, it is not better to decline and not take the photograph. Iwould like to see Indigenous peoples being in a position to have a free, priorand informed choice regarding their involvement in the industry and for touroperators and travellers alike to make choices of who to visit based on thispremise.