The last installment of “Paradigms” touched on Eco-tourism. The mere hearing of this term makes me think of a Dirty Harry movie, in which Clint Eastwood aims his magnum at a crook and threatens him to “make my day”. So much meaningless banter runs rampant on this subject, so I think it prudent to list some official definitions.
The hospitality industry – this includes design and construction – should combine not only the theoretical but also the practical application of the concepts of ecotourism with sustainable tourism. According to Zoe Chafe (2000): “Sustainable tourism is the form of tourism that meets the needs of present tourist and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future.”
The key points in which the hospitality industry must focus on are stated below:
A. Protection of cultural heritage: In this way the natural heritage adds value to the cultural heritage. This mix of products creates the ideal framework for the hotels in order to become the pole of attraction for travelers.
B. Provision of incentives for the reconstruction of cultural heritage monuments and structures; some used for retail or over-night stay experiences, some used for the preservation of the natural environment. These aspects specifically support the prospect of Leisure Destinations in the real estate and travel industries.
C. Promotion of authentic souvenirs; the hospitality industry should promote local, authentic souvenirs made by locals. And I would add; also promote local customs, food products, festivals, song and dance.
D. Co-operation with the public sector in order to ensure that the hotels keep the high standards that they have set for their travelers. I also would add; a strong operational relationship with the local government – at the grass roots level – to assure that a work force would be drawn in large percentage from the local population. This requires training the populace, which at least in China has been a severe sticking point.
E. More and more hotels at resort locations should pursue and obtain titles that promote their eco-friendly profile, by being ‘’eco-labeled’’. One example of this is the *Green Key.
By taking into consideration these points and employing them to various degrees – based on emerging trends; the hospitality industrycan be poised to achieve maximum profits.
*What is Green Key?
The Green Key is a voluntary eco-label for tourism facilities. It promotes sustainable tourism and aims to contribute to the prevention of environmental deterioration by awarding and advocating facilities with good initiatives. The program began in Denmark in 1994 and was adopted by FEE in 2002 to become its fifth international program. It has since spread to 28 countries and continues to grow.
- Educates and empowers tourism actors including enterprises, authorities, guests, and local communities.
- Awarded tourism facilities adhere to national and international Green Key criteria.
- Reflect the various fields of tourism facilities (hotels, hostels, camp sites, conference and holiday centers). And it is my sincere belief, theme parks should also be on this list.
- Focus on environmental management, technical demands, and initiatives for the involvement of guests, staff and suppliers.
Green Key establishments report many benefits in increasing activity and sales:
- Noticeably better environment for guests and staff.
- A better environmental image.
- Marketing advantages.
For more information on Green Key please visit their website:
More on Tourism
With continuing growth in China’s domestic travel, there is still not a lot of recognition among both travel professionals and consumers of the importance of responsible travel. This is travel that minimizes negative environmental impact, brings economic benefits to host communities; and most importantly, preserves the cultural and natural resources of the destinations. Fortunately there is strong evidence internationally that responsible travel is also good for the economic bottom line.
While the definitions differ slightly in emphasis, their core message is the same: That tourism when combined with responsible travel brings positive benefits to host communities. It is both educational and enjoyable for the traveler. Later I apply these same principles toward the development of theme parks. By the way, these terms (to follow) differ from conventional tourism terms like nature tourism, adventure tourism, and cultural tourism which describe market segments, but not a definitive paradigm shift.
Generally, responsible travel is to visit natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of the local people. (The International Ecotourism Society, TIES, www.ecotourism.org)
Below are variations of these terms:
- Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place – its environment, heritage, aesthetics, and culture and the well-being of its residents.
(National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations, http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/sustainable/about_geotourism.html)
- Tourism that results in increased net benefits for poor people. (Pro-Poor Tourism, http://www.propoortourism.org.uk/what_is_ppt.html)
- Tourism that maximizes the benefits to local communities, minimizes negative social or environmental impacts, and helps local people conserve fragile cultures and habitats or species.
(Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism, www.capetown.gov.za/…/tourism/)
- Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities. Sustainable tourism development guidelines and management practices are applicable to all forms of tourism in all types of destinations, including mass tourism and the various niche tourism segments. www.responsibletravel.org
A Study from Berlin
Eco-tourism in China’s nature reserves has been a focus of domestic scholarship for over two decades. Our review detailed the most pressing themes and gaps in the existing literature. The extant research had six key themes:
Description of ecological values; ecotourism development planning; evaluation of resources and sustainability; management and operation; general notes on ecotourism; and integration of local communities into reserve management.
We found a lack of research on how best to integrate communities into decision making processes. There was little effort to increase public awareness on the needs for environmental protection or build capacity among communities to create more effective institutional and legal systems in order to deal with nature reserves.
This study concludes that the development of China’s eco-tourism needs a robust scientific grounding that will create a foundation which can consider economic development but is ultimately based on environmental protection and biodiversity conservation objectives.
The 2013 ITB Berlin: Nature Tourism, Ecotourism, Adventure Tourism Trends
Albeit this study is over 6 years old, it still paints a fairly horrific picture of eco-tourism’s future in China. However, all is not lost. There is a Shining Light.
One representative of the new paradigm is found with a Chinese Landscape Architect named Yu Kongjian. He grew up in a small village in Zhejian Province characterized by grassy plains. He studied garden planning at Peking Forestry University. It is the largest and oldest school of landscaping in the country. Later he earned his doctorate at Harvard. After returning to China is 1998, he established Turenscape in Beijing. The office with a staff of approximately 150 designers is one of the largest private landscape architects’ offices in China. Yu described China as having an identity crisis as well as an ecological one. Therefore he seeks to develop approaches to design which stem from a particular place with the content of its natural and cultural heritage included. This is a new concept for China.
For the sake of brevity, this quest for location content, can be termed as the search for Genius Loci.
So, what is Genius Loci?
In classical Roman religion a genius loci was the protective spirit of a place. It was often depicted in religious iconography as a figure holding attributes such as a cornucopia, patera (libation bowl) or snake. Many Roman altars found throughout the Western Roman Empire were dedicated to particular genius loci.
The numerous spirits of places in Asia are still honored today in city pillar shrines such as the neighborhoods in Shenzhen where I live, which have giant rocks at their gates. There are also outdoor spirit houses and many indoor households and businesses with shrines.
In contemporary usage, genius loci usually refer to a location’s distinctive atmosphere, or the “spirit of a place”, rather than necessarily a guardian spirit. (Though, this handle could easily apply to Mickey Mouse).
An example of contemporary usage might be along the lines of a poem where “Light reveals the genius loci of a place”, written by Alexander Pope who made the Genius Loci an important principle in garden and landscape design with the following lines from Epistle IV, to Richard Boyle, the then Earl of Burlington:
Consult the genius of the place in all;
That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;
Or helps the’ ambitious hill the heav’ns to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades,
Now breaks, or now directs, th’ intending lines;
Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.
To be continued;
The conclusion and final part in this series.