“Tourism greater whole (de Witt, 2016). The view

“Tourism and
the travel industry are essentially the renting out for short-term lets, of
other people’s environments, whether that is a coastline, a city, a mountain
range or a rainforest. These “products” must
be kept fresh and unsullied not just for the next day, but for every tomorrow” (Pender & Sharpley, 2005).

Tourism is a phenomenon with an
enormous impact on its environment. Furthermore, does it have an influence on economical,
ecological and socio-cultural area. Tourism ensures that people from different
parts of the world can meet, but when the number of incoming tourists is growing
are there still only positive influences? Is it positive or negative that
tourists visit indigenous communities? Do these intercultural interactions
really raise cultural understanding or can it be considered as a form of Neo
Colonialism? Can the money that is earned with tourism help to conserve the heritage
of the visited area? Does tourism only have negative consequences for the
natural environment or can tourism contribute to the preservation of endangered
species?  

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The main question asked is “how should we deal with these problems and what
is my responsibility as a future tourism professional?”

In this essay, a well-founded argumentation on/analysis of the statement
“My
personal contribution as a tourist, student and future professional to develop
responsible tourism practices” will be given. My argumentation will be based on several examples of
dilemma’s I came to know of this module.

According to the worldview-test
of Annick de Witt (2016), the worldview I identify with the most is called
integrative. People with integrative worldviews generally try to synthesize and
bring together elements or domains that in other worldviews are viewed as
mutually exclusive, such as science and spirituality, rationality and
imagination, economy and ecology, humanity and nature domains. In this
worldview, such opposing perspectives are understood “on a deeper level” to be
part of a greater whole (de Witt, 2016).

The view of reality is of a great
interconnected whole, which is both spiritual and physical, a larger
consciousness or divine reality uniting all the separate elements of our
experience. This view of reality may lead to a profound sense of connection
with nature, and an understanding of earthly life as imbued with consciousness
or “spirit.” Nature tends to be seen as having intrinsic value and spiritual
significance (de Witt, 2016).

Furthermore, the individual is
prominent in this worldview, and there often is a great focus on the
development or evolution of one’s “higher self” or full human potential (e.g.,
through spiritual or other practices). Universal, existential concerns such as
life 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 came
across this module was volunteer tourism. According to Benson (2011), volunteering overseas is
increasingly popular with people of all ages, from young people on gap years, to
older people taking a sabbatical or in retirement. In volunteer tourism, tourists for
various reasons seek alternative goodwill experiences and activities. To meet
this demand there has been a surge in volunteer programs offered in range of
destinations organized by a variety of charities and tour operators. Though there are some serious
criticisms leveled at volunteering, particularly where the boundaries between
volunteering and tourism become blurred, the so-called ‘voluntourism’ sector. These
can question everything from how certain projects are formulated and whether
they bring real benefits to local people (Benson, 2011).  

According
to Wearing (2001), volunteering your time at a non-profit or public agency
benefits not only the targeted population but also yourself. Volunteer hours
can help groups continue to operate. Participating in charity organizations enables
you to help less fortunate persons move towards living healthy, productive
lives. In minutes or just a few short hours, you can make a difference in your
community or the nation (Wearing, 2001).

 

The organisation Tourism Concern (2014),
stated that the desire to travel and experience new cultures around
the 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. But
it’s up for debate whether many volunteering opportunities bring real benefits
to host communities, and many exploits the good intentions of well-meaning
volunteers. Volunteers can pay thousands of euros (with money mostly going to
the tour operator) to undertake short volunteering placements overseas, which
although well intentioned, can often do more harm than good. Volunteers often
have unfulfilling and disappointing experiences; volunteer placements can
prevent local workers from getting much needed jobs; hard pressed institutions
waste time looking after them and money upgrading facilities; and abused or
abandoned children form emotional attachments to the visitors, who increase
their trauma by disappearing back home after a few weeks (Tourism Concern , 2014).

 

Although
there are well respected development charities that arrange volunteer
programs for professionals to spend one or two years overseas,
many of the volunteering placements being offered by commercial operators are
little more than expensive holidays. Finally, many volunteers have misplaced
idealism, misconceived attitudes and unrealistic expectations of what they can
offer local communities (Tourism
Concern , 2014).

 

Moreover, according
to the organization Tourism Concern (2014) there are
many opportunities for people to undertake meaningful volunteering in their own
community, where they will receive proper training, support and supervision –
without the need to pay a tour operator for the privilege. In the majority of
cases people would be far better (and have a more rewarding experience)
volunteering at home. They would then experience the real community and the
community would get real benefits as a result.  

 

Volunteers
also need to be realistic in what they can offer, this is
especially the case when volunteering with vulnerable children (Tourism Concern , 2014). One example
of this type of volunteer tourism is the opportunity to
volunteer in an orphanage. According to Hannam, Mostafanezhad and Rickly (2017),
the
number of orphan children has declined worldwide in the past decade, whereas
the number of orphanages in many developing countries has risen in response to
the demand from tourists wishing to volunteer. Orphanages have become a real tourist
attraction and a ‘bucket list’ volunteering opportunity. The resulting
rise in the number of tourists volunteering in orphanages is actually
fuelling the number of “orphans” and causing unnecessary separation
of children from their families (Hannam, Mostafanezhad, & Rickly, 2017).

 

Whilst it is appreciated
that aspiring volunteers offer their services for the best of motives, my opinion
is that looking after vulnerable children should be undertaken by local,
full-time, professional staff and not by short-term volunteers, no matter how
skilled or qualified.

Also visiting an orphanage
has become part of the itinerary for many travellers, especially in places such
as Cambodia, where some orphanages even promote themselves as ‘tourist
attractions’ (Tourism
Concern , 2014). According to Luke Gracie,
Alternative Care Manager from Friends International, there are several issues travellers
should consider before visiting an orphanage:

The first issue that should
be taken into consideration is that children do not belong in orphanages; they
are highly damaging and dangerous institutions. Children belong with their
family or another family-like situation. 75% of the children in Cambodian
orphanages are not actually orphans, as they have at least one living parent. In
most cases there are numerous other options for marginalized children, such as
living with extended family members, people in the community or foster care
options. The act of removing a child from his or her family is extreme; it is
at the absolute pointy-end of child protection services, the drastic last
resort when everything else has failed. It’s certainly nothing to be taken
lightly (Gracie, 2018).

Despite
the fact that orphanages are highly damaging and dangerous institutions, orphanage tourism is big
business in Cambodia. Tourists who spend a few hours walking or travelling via
a tuktuk in Cambodia’s tourist hubs will be invited to visit numerous
orphanages or see orphanage tourism flyers posted up on boards in travel
agencies and guesthouses. Tourists even come across the children themselves
handing out flyers spiking their ‘home’ or performing dances. There are
unfortunately a lot of orphanages that are run purely as a business, they are
malicious institutions where children are used for profit and conditions are
kept in a pretty dilapidated state to warrant pity and eventual donations from
well-meaning donors. The orphanages that look for tourist visitors and allow
outsiders in without any child protection checks generally fall into the latter
category. Visitors giving money to these centres (which the children rarely see
any of) is perpetuating this system; they simply would not operate if they
could not make money out of it (Gracie,
2018).

At first sight, the tourists
will not even notice that the children living in orphanages are having a hard
time. The children seem happy when tourists arrive, they hug them and they will
not stop holding the tourists hand. Often that is a blatant sign that the
children are experiencing attachment disorder. Forming attachments with
care-givers is an integral part of early childhood development; it contributes
greatly to cognitive and emotional development. Children growing up in group
residential centres often don’t form these attachments because they are removed
from their families and house parents in an orphanage simply can’t replicate
the high levels of love and attention children truly need. The reason the
children are so eager to touch and hold the tourists is that they are starved
for attention; and then in two hours, or two weeks, the visitor leaves again (Gracie, 2018).

According to Luke Gracie, Alternative Care Manager from
Friends International (2018), most people would never consider visiting
orphanages to be acceptable behavior in their home country. In my opinion, if people should still decide
to visit or volunteer in orphanages, they should know they could be contributing
to a broken and dangerous system that places significant risks and harm on
children.

On the
other 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 where
volunteering takes place, minimise the negative impacts, and to ensure
volunteers have a worthwhile experience (Tourism
Concern , 2014). But in my
opinion, it
is worth taking a step back and thinking about the situation actually occurring
here. These are highly vulnerable kids, irrespective of whether they are
actually orphans, and some people see no problem visiting their place of
residence, hugging them, taking photos of them, and playing with them. It is
literally treating a child as a tourist attraction, a commodity that is viewed
and enjoyed like a temple, market, or zoo animal.

Another dilemma
that I came to know this module was about indigenous peoples and tourism. All
over the world, different terms are used with reference to indigenous peoples:
Aboriginals, Native, First Nations etcetera. These names stand for groups of
people who originally populated certain parts of the world, now often
marginalised by nation states (Das, 2001). According to Zeppel
(2006), ‘Indigenous Tourism’ is a term that has gained currency in recent
years. The ‘off the beaten path’ trails once reserved for specialists have
now become a ‘well-worn path’ for millions of tourists searching for an
‘authentic’ experience. This can be positive: it can assist cultural
revitalisation and be a force for empowerment. On the other hand, it may see the marginalised
people and their villages becoming mere showcases for tourists, their culture
reduced to souvenirs for sale, an environment to be photographed and left
without real engagement (Zeppel, 2006).  

According
to the organisation Tourism Concern (2017), there is a whole spectrum of ways
in which people can be involved in indigenous tourism: from being part of a
‘human zoo’, performing for the benefit of visitors, to something more
creditable where they are in greater control of what is on offer. A dilemma in
indigenous tourism is the question “should
you take photographs?”. Travelling nowadays presents an opportunity to
photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes
there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the
camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who
do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone
access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no
idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Photography and
its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think
a little about the ethics of photography (Tourism Concern, 2017).

In some
places 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 of
the African state of Ethiopia for instance. The women of this tribe are placing
large pates in their lower lips and are wearing enormous, richly decorated
earrings. Every year hundreds of tourists visit the tribe to see the unusually
adorned natives. Posing for camera toting visitors has become the main income
for the Mursi people. To make more money they embellish
their costumes and finery so that less of their original culture remains. They
have different set price for pictures of women wearing plates in their lower
lips and for children (Kok & Timmers, 2011).

In my
opinion, it is not right to visit a village and encourage people to give
inappropriate demonstrations for photographs, clicking away with little thought
to people about their daily lives is not ethical, tourists would not behave the
same at home. Sticking a camera in front of someone and take their photograph,
is not being considerate in attitude and approach, but is rather being
voyeuristic, thoughtless or even selfish. But if the indigenous people
genuinely make a living through having their photograph taken and agree with
this kind of living, it is not better to decline and not take the photograph. I
would like to see Indigenous peoples being in a position to have a free, prior
and informed choice regarding their involvement in the industry and for tour
operators and travellers alike to make choices of who to visit based on this
premise.