Chiang Mai (Thailand) – February 13, 2018 (travelindex.com) – Thomas Cook formed his tour company in Britain in the 1800’s. The commission- based supply chain he established became the template for the development of mainstream tourism worldwide.
Unfortunately as the industry grew, to remain competitive tour companies were pressured to earn more revenue (commission) per customer to satisfy shareholder demand. The tourism industry responded by developing ‘destinations’ in areas often ‘discovered’ by backpackers. The infrastructure for growth was funded by the local taxpayer, and the often contrivedattractions and activities in and around them, were established, to showcase a sanitised versions of local culture, customs and lifestyle, aimed at maximising profits – at the expense of authenticity.
Land prices and increased living costs forced the locals to move out of the cities from areas they had for generations called home, as the influx of foreign tourists into these enclaves brought problems for the many and profits for the few.
The advent of the internet allowed the introduction of the OTA’s (Online Travel Agents) who, by eliminating some of the links in the traditional supply chain,engaging in tax avoidance, increased their own share of profits, and used their windfall to fund their SEO (Search Engine Optimisation.)
It created market monopolies that further disenfranchised the small local tourism business operator who although offering authentic products could not accommodate the volume of trade or provide the excessive commissions and quotas the big operators required to make selling them worthwhile.
Numerous studies have shown that where the development of mainstream or mass tourism goes unchecked, it destroys the appeal of a destination, and then, locust-like, it moves on to destroy the next new place, leaving a devastated society, economy and environment in its wake.
The cycle of development predicted for most tourism destinations has four phases:
1. Discovery by early travellers.
2. Basic tourism infrastructure development and word of mouth (or mouse) promotion.
3. Development & marketing of the destination for mainstream or mass tourism.
4. Visitor overload leading to an exodus of quality visitors.
“Tourism is like a fire. It can warm your house, or burn it to the ground.”
Current solutions offered for destinations suffering ‘Over-tourism’ (See 4 above) propose (a) limiting visitor numbers, and (b) increasing pricing. But these are only part solutions.
The drop in visitor numbers resulting from these measures would adversely impact the many small businesses (guest houses, restaurants, retail outlets) established to serve the exiting visitor volume. Prices would drop in a race to the bottom, standards would fall, lower budget visitors would be attracted, crime would rise, and before long the destination would lose its appeal to the more desirable markets.
For as long as we can remember, governments and tourism industry representative bodies have preached the need for sustainability, and spoken of the potential of tourism as a tool to address inequality and increase the understanding of others around the world. Billions must have been spent over the last 50 years on talk-fests, white papers, compliance certification schemes, marketing campaigns and more.
Despite the rapid rise in global tourism numbers and huge revenue generated, the local people in the host countries and destinations, who provide the unique and rewarding travel experiences real travellers seek, have yet to enjoy a fair share of the rewards, or ensure control over the management of their tourism assets.
Travel4Good argues that the basic problem, (the elephant in the room), is the traditional commission based tourism model. It disenfranchises the micro and small tourism businesses that have the potential to create sustainable employment, opportunity in and success of their LVBEs (Local Visitor Based Economies.)
The development of LVBEs, done well, includes the introduction of 2nd revenue streams, to offset any short of long-term risk from disruptions to their main revenue generator.
Whilst the ‘profit over people and the planet model’ has prevailed so far, progressive tourism businesses and other stakeholders, are now realising (regardless of which phase they are at in the development of their tourism destinations), that their long termsustainability relies on their ability to build more equitably operated and owned LVBEs. The seeds of a rebellion against greed have been sown.
Travel4Good is a social enterprise based business model,( a collaboration between a for profit & a non profit partner), operating a VORTAL that combines vertical search, research, enquiries, and bookings along with a set of customer service/responsible tourism best practice compliance and reporting tools.
It focuses on providing customer designed itineraries (where attractions/activities etc., are selected from a map and menu), along tourist routes radiating out from and between tourism destinations. It has the potential to:
– Spread the impact and rewards of tourism more equitably.
– Take the pressure off destinations impacted by, or wanting to avoid over-tourism – breathing more life into them.
– Strengthen the fabric, and preserve the authenticity of the customs and culture in the communities outside of the destinations themselves.
– Provides the opportunity for 2nd revenue stream generation – a valuable risk management strategy.
T4G does not seek to displace the traditional commission based market (suited to mass/mainstream tourism) but will work as an alternative to it, providing access to and promotion of the smaller businesses (accommodation, attractions, activities, courses, workshops.) These businesses make up the vast majority of the world’s tourism product, current and potential (given new market access) that mainstream tourism does not support, and is therefore actively sought out by the special interest travel market.
The T4G business model IP rights are reserved under’Creative Barcode’, and are designed for use on a global platform. Its mission is to address inequality through tourism, and as such it must keep operating costs/profits to a minimum. To that end it is not seeking investors, but looks for collaboration from universities, NGOs, and local tourism groups to participate in its development.
T4G invites interest from progressive tour operators, willing to abide by its transparent fee based, and volume discounted model, when putting together special interest travel itineraries designed along the tourist routes, for small groups of like-minded travellers.
Shane K Beary
CEO – Track of the Tiger T.R.D
(Tourism Resources Development)