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Beyond Sustainable Tourism: the case for a Progressive Tourism!

220527-eb-mx Sign welcoming visitors to Caracol 10, a Zapatista village in Chiapas
The case for a new, Progressive Tourism is both practical and conceptual.  As the status quo first infiltrates and then hijacks our terms, structures, networks and initiatives, we have to create new ones, otherwise we simply cannot be heard in the internet cacophony!  Progressive Tourism goes beyond Sustainable Tourism. It includes the "System Change" part of the motto "System Change not Climate Change). It prioritizes individual, collective and political action, including tourism policy and advocacy, to correct inequality and injustice, preserve human rights and labour rights, and promote direct, genuine and economic democracy, within the tourism and hospitality sectors but also in the host communities, destinations and broadly, the societies. Sustainable Tourism nowadays is so de-politicized, that it is readily endorsed (in the form of national sustainable tourism initiatives and labels) by repressive regimes imprisoning journalists and dissidents and multinationals eager to greenwash their exploitative, oligopolistic models alike. It is more about generating new tourism markets, channels and revenue streams, rather than changing the existing ones. It adds half-positive/half-baked theories rather than subtracts negative practices.

If we consider Mobility, Leisure, Travel and Tourism as basic Human Rights, we should advocate a better, Tourism for All, as an indispensable tool and element of the transition to a better World where "All belongs to All"! Tourism can play a unique role as it is a truly globalized industry. Genuine Ecolodges, eco-communities, worker and community-owned tourism initiatives and other progressive tourism infrastructure and services are laboratories for a new, fairer and happier World. 

Who would and should be the agent of progressive tourism change? Clearly, it cannot and should not be impersonal corporations and their foundations and think-tanks, but employees and the self-employed (in accommodations, attractions, facilities, tours and services) with the support of employee unions, host communities and progressive trade unions and political movements and, last and least, political parties. Ideally, the agents of progressive change should decide its content and direction, rather than apolitical (i.e. conservative) industry associations and investors that are using the Climate Crisis as a pretext to greenwash and socialwash everyone and everything, with the sad assistance of many over-eager certification bodies full of conflicts of interest. The last thing all these good, well-fed, folks want, is a system change! "Capitalism" and "Socialism" are taboo words to them. (In the not too distant future, one can expect mainstream social networks to ban them both). But while employees are preoccupied with making ends meet, the top dollar paying interests attract the able and ambitious who assist them to hijack whatever is new and valuable and twist it for their purposes. Just think how couch-surfing evolved into a multinational vacation rental model.

For this reason, as a self-employed tourism practitioner, I offer my two pennies' worth of what the key elements of a Progressive Tourism could include, some are overlapping: 

Local, Decolonised, Ownership: Means of Tourism production owned by the employees (part-owners) plus small-family businesses.

Fair Remuneration: Employees and the self-employed receive living wages, enjoy good working conditions and receive full health & insurance coverage.

Workplace Democracy: Employees participate in organizational decision-making and have the right to join and form unions.

Equity: Help Reduce Poverty and Inequality. Meets Real, Local Needs and Aspirations.

Inclusiveness: Is Accessible, Affordable, Non-discriminatory, with the Consent and Participation of the Local Community in Decision-making. 

Education: Increase Knowledge & Intercultural Understanding. Supports and Participates in Scientific Research and Cultural Activities. 

Conservation: Minimize its Environmental Impact through, among others, renewable energy, recycling, upcycling, reusing, reducing, conservation.

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