"It is vital that we take the example of Ecology and realise that strength lies in diversity and not in the "one size fits all" model we seem to now adhere to. Workers cooperatives and alternative models are a part of the diverse options we need to create better and more sustainable futures."
Dr Freya Higgins-Desbiolles is currently a Senior Lecturer in Tourism, in the School of Management at the University of South Australia, in Adelaide; Before joining the University of South Australia, she worked in development, development education and university teaching in international relations. Her 2006 Ph.D Thesis at Flinders University of South Australia was entitled "Another world is possible: Tourism, globalisation & the responsible alternative". She has published widely on tourism related issues including tourism sustainability, politics of tourism, tourism and human rights, indigenous tourism, justice, solidarity and reconcilliation tourism. Higgins-Desbiolles is the 2009 Winner of the Australian Learning and Teaching Council Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning (Inidgenous tourism field) and holds many other academic awards. She is an active Member/ board Member of various organisations including the Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism, the Responsible Tourism Network, the International Institute for Peace through Tourism, the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary Advisory Board and the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.
ECOCLUB.com: You recently conducted research and published a paper on Hotel Bauen, the Buenos Aires (Argentina) landmark that went from a junta & neoliberalism symbol to a workers self-management symbol. In a time of capitalist crisis, with many hotels closing down around the world, can this example (to the extent that it is a best practice) be emulated elsewhere or is this unique to Argentina?Freya Higgins-Desbiolles: Yes, I was fortunate to be able to do a research project which interviewed employees of the Hotel Bauen in 2009. Their case is inspirational as a response to the economic crisis experienced in Argentina in 2001. The hotel had closed down and its employees found themselves without employment in very desperate times and so in 2003 some of them decided to do what was called a takeover by occupying the hotel, restoring it for use and reopening it.
It is a key question whether the workers' cooperative model is unique to the circumstances in Argentina and Latin America or whether others can emulate it elsewhere. Certainly the desperation experienced in Argentina led workers to brave and innovative action. This movement of recuperated enterprises is recognized around the world as a challenge to neoliberal hegemony and has entered the consciousness of social justice movements around the world as exemplified in Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis' film "The Take".
However, as my article notes, there are not as many examples of hotels being run on a workers' self-management model as there are other enterprises such as manufacturing industries. I have not reflected deeply on the meaning of this until your question now because I am personally satisfied in accepting unique cases such as the Hotel Bauen on their own terms.
But now that you've asked me this question, I think running upmarket hotels is seen to be more complicated to realign on a workers' management model than manufacturing enterprises because of the direct interface between the customer and the hotel staff. Perhaps hotels are icons of an ideological consumerism propounded by neoliberal globalization as hotel staff become servants to meet the every whim of their hotel clients. Hotels that operate as cooperatives run by the hotel staff shifts that power equation and may make some consumers uncomfortable.
Perhaps hotels are icons of an ideological consumerism propounded by neoliberal globalization as hotel staff become servants to meet the every whim of their hotel clients.
One of the things I found interesting in my research was the repeated statement by interviewees that they could go anywhere they liked in the hotel whereas before they were constrained in their movements to the departments they were assigned to. There is a sense of freedom and empowerment which runs counter to the service (read subservient) culture that is the norm of contemporary hospitality in multi-star hotels.
Workers cooperatives and alternative models are a part of the diverse options we need to create better and more sustainable futures
Can it be done elsewhere? Of course it can. The hegemony of neoliberalism only continues because its proponents have convinced us that "There Is No Alternative". This is called the TINA syndrome and examples such as the Hotel Bauen help us see the lie in this. It is vital that we take the example of Ecology and realise that strength lies in diversity and not in the "one size fits all" model we seem to now adhere to. Workers cooperatives and alternative models are a part of the diverse options we need to create better and more sustainable futures. But for them to succeed we also need education of the "market" or "consumers" so that they support such alternative models. This is difficult as is well recognised in the current criticism of corporate media and corporatized education in educational institutions which no longer promote diverse views and thinking and instead reinforce the neoliberal message that there is no alternative.
The Hotel Bauen sources clients from the left-wing social justice movements who form part of what it calls its solidarity clientele and also taps other workers cooperatives as a source of business, which is important to it in terms of both financial and moral support. But for the Hotel Bauen's example to thrive in other parts of the world, we need tourists who seek out such accommodation providers and this will take efforts to build this "consumer base". I am hopeful, in light of the positive example set by the slow food movement and the fair trade movement which have their counterparts in tourism, that such a base could be built. It would be helpful to have a group of tourism and hospitality researchers who are interested in advancing awareness of such possibilities through their teaching and research.
ECOCLUB.com: Through and beyond your academic work, you are active and outspoken on issues such as Tourism & Human Rights, Social Justice and Palestine. Does this go down well in tourism academic circles or is your research sometimes frowned upon (or even hindered) for not being detached, "objective" or neutral enough?
Freya Higgins-Desbiolles: To understand my work, it is necessary to know a little bit of my background. I did not intend to become an academic and certainly not in tourism. My degrees are in politics and international relations and I came to tourism by accident after volunteering for an NGO in Adelaide called Community Aid Abroad (now called Oxfam Australia) which ran a tours unit and the Responsible Tourism Network. These origins coloured my views of tourism and I think I came to academia with this more NGO and activist mentality and naïvely did not know the customs of tourism academia in the beginning and did not observe its strictures on "scientific", "objective" and "neutral" research. I was in fact a critical researcher without knowing it at that time!
How has my work been received? I cannot say it's been easy as some of my work has received considerable negative and even hostile responses and I sometimes feel isolated and unsupported as a result. But that is only momentarily because in fact I have been very fortunate that there are not many analysts pursuing the topics of interest that I focus on and in fact many opportunities have been given to me and many of my projects have received good support.
I have to say how grateful I am for some of the positive supporters of my work over the years. I also temper the negative experiences with an understanding that the people whose stories I sometimes tell - those who of experienced oppression, marginalization and dispossession because of tourism - experience far worse than any of my petty academic travails and this puts things in simple perspective.
There is one exception to this though; and that is my article on tourism and Palestine. Admittedly this work had a controversial title - "Living stones and dead children: the politics of tourism in Palestine" - but the content of the paper itself essentially could not be faulted in its factual accounting of the use of tourism as a tool of political influence in the struggles over the lands of Israel/Palestine. The problem on this topic is if you present your work from a Palestinian perspective, as I did based upon my work with the Alternative Tourism Group of Palestine, you are often accused of holding an anti-Israeli position. I do not see myself as anti-Israeli but rather pro-human rights and justice; I firmly believe an honest accounting of current injustices of Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands is one of the best ways to help Israel secure its long-term interests. My work cited numerous Israeli human rights activists, authors and organisations demonstrating that these views are in fact not anti-Israel.
I will cut a long story short here; I submitted this paper for presentation at a conference and also subsequently to a journal and experienced roadblock after roadblock. Particularly for the journal, I received one of the most unprofessional reviews I've ever had the opportunity to see as well as another review which said "I enjoyed reading this....Wow.....a powerful, interesting paper, quite well written" however it recommended to not publish it because of a lack of "balance and context". I will let you read the paper for yourself to see if you agree- you can access it at http://www.scottishpalestinianforum.org.uk/SPF/Visit_Palestine.html
I will say that I was deeply disappointed in the editor deciding to follow these reviews which were patently as biased as the bias I was accused of demonstrating through my writing. The editor rejected the paper and to date it remains unpublished in academic outlets (the only work I haven't been able to publish). I am happy that the Scottish group put it on the web so people can access it.
Other disciplines are much more open and enquiring and we should be encouraging this in our discipline too.
I would have to say that I have other stories behind my research that I would love to tell: the messy, the moving, the outrageous, but that is also very self-indulgent and egocentric. There is already enough ego in academia. What I would really like to close on is the importance of encouraging younger scholars to push the envelope further. Other disciplines are much more open and enquiring and we should be encouraging this in our discipline too.
Therefore I would like to emphasise the positives of my work. I am very fortunate that my personal interests, teaching, research and community engagement is fully intertwined and that has meant that I have been very productive in terms of what my managers want from me as outputs. Some might see my list of publications over the last decade and read it as a sign of my cloaked ambition and my submission to the imperative to publish. I would like to tell you that this is not a correct reading of my productivity. My productivity comes from a combination of my curiousity and passion being useful to tourism stakeholders who are seeking collaborative opportunities with researchers such as myself and opportunities that are given to such unusual work by certain leaders in the discipline. Although it would seem to be a "dead end" to pursue such "controversial" work to the career-minded entering academia, I think my own experience shows that that isn't necessarily the case. But what we need is a critical mass of scholars pursing such research agendas and supporting each other to get them greater acceptance. It is clear to anyone reading the future in any critical way, that "business as usual" cannot stand for much longer and there is a crying need for scholarship that challenges the status quo and prepares all stakeholders in tourism for a transformed future.
ECOCLUB.com: What key changes would you like to see in tourism academia and research in this decade?
Freya Higgins-Desbiolles: This discussion of the experiences with my paper on Palestine takes me to the newer development of the critical studies segment of tourism. I think this is an important change in tourism and I would hope as we enter a time of social, economic and environmental challenges, it will gain a greater presence in this decade and beyond. I hope it means social justice-focused work such as mine will be seen as appropriate, valuable and innovative and should help to overturn these difficulties currently evident in the tourism discipline. I also hope it will make contributions to the transformations we need to a more just, equitable and sustainable world.
However, I do have some concerns with the critical tourism move to "create an academy of hope" and I have co-written a commentary voicing these concerns which I hope will be published in due course. Our world cries out for critical thinking in all disciplines, including tourism, but it must be engaged with communities and in the "dirt" of the struggle for social justice and not sitting in the air-conditioned ivory towers of academia. I would love to see young scholars challenging the older scholars to be engaged on a solidarity basis and not on a patronising basis of "do-gooders" doing good for others - which I suspect underlines some politically-correct versions of alternative tourism such as volunteer tourism, pro-poor tourism, etc. I was inspired by a statement made by Indigenous Australian activist Lilla Watson who said "If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together". That is an ethos for critically engaged research, action and teaching!
Too much of tourism research is focused on being a practical service to the tourism industry which is a self-serving and narrow agenda which really curtails the possibilities of tourism
I would like to see a transformation to move away from the narrow focus on tourism industry issues. Too much of tourism research is focused on being a practical service to the tourism industry which is a self-serving and narrow agenda which really curtails the possibilities of tourism. In my opinion in a world of dwindling resources, rising populations and human-induced global climate change every human activity will have to be justifiable and tourism will not be immune to this. The industry needs to be educated to the transformation and we should be encouraging transformations in thinking such as the "locavore" movement, slow food, social tourism, etc.
But it must be critical - too many recent interventions for more "responsible" and "sustainable" tourism such as the sustainable tourism movement, pro-poor tourism, CSR in tourism, etc. are really just a whitewash for industry and governments who really want to keep things going as they are because it serves powerful interests to do this. Unless we are getting to the heart of unsustainable resource use which is a key outcome of the growth fetish that our globalised neoliberal market ideology relies on, we really are just prettying things up around the edges.
ECOCLUB.com: During the past 20 years, there have been wave after wave of adjectival tourisms, from ecotourism to responsible tourism to ...couchsurfing (which recently turned for-profit). But would you say Human Rights awareness or even environmental awareness in the average tourist have improved at all? Do we need the equivalent of a Wikileaks for Tourism to achieve that or something else?
Freya Higgins-Desbiolles: I like the way you think! A Wikileaks for tourism is a great idea. We in fact do have grassroots organizations such as Equations in India working to expose the human rights issues in tourism. However, the question is: are we interested in accessing the valuable work that they're doing. Coming from the NGO sector I am quite perplexed at the divide between academics and those people working in the NGOs doing the hard work at the local levels were tourism impacts occur. Additionally it is seldom that you hear the voices of the people who were impacted negatively by tourism, those who are excluded from tourism and those in the so-called 'host' community who in many cases have tourism imposed on them.
I would like to see more partnerships between academics and people at the "coal face" of tourism.
I don't want to denigrate those people doing valuable work because they are there (and you know who you are!), however we need more and we need these to be more critical, more reflexive in their positioning and more engaged in the travesties of our ever-increasingly challenged world. I would like to see more partnerships between academics and people at the "coal face" of tourism. Just to give you an example from my research, I fund small research projects from my professional development funds which are accumulated from small awards I get. This is how I did the Hotel Bauen project and my recent work on Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island for example. I pursue such projects as an obligation I feel to use the privilege of being in the academy to serve community interests and needs through my work. The best thing about this approach is I have freedom in this work that I might not otherwise have if I was funded by industry- linked bodies or particular organisations. It is amazing what can be accomplished with very little sums of money and resources.
But you asked me about my assessment of current awareness of average tourists and I would have to say to you that I don't know. One source of insight that I have is my own students; sometimes they thrill me with their level of consciousness and I think we are evolving positively through the generations and at other times I see that they have succumbed to the temptations of the consumer culture that is ubiquitous. What I feel fairly certain of is with ever greater communications and connectedness, people are increasingly aware of human rights issues and environmental concerns. The problem is more about getting them to change their choices and actions when doing so may seem uncomfortable to their enjoyment of all the perks of being a consumer in a materialistic, individualistic and selfish society which is fostered by the ideology of current neoliberalism.
Would you curtail your decision to fly to all the world's exotic destinations when they are like a smorgasbord before you through low cost airfares, all-inclusive packages and cheap deals? We get told by analysts such as Jim Butcher to stop the moralising and let people get on with the fun of travel and holidays and he even warns that if tourists are guilted into such decisions it might actually be unethical as they stop developing countries from tapping tourism for development. However, what is hidden in Butcher's discourse is the structural violence that has proceeded these current circumstances; I mean the measures taken to forcefully integrate developing countries into the global trading system which can force them to become hosts to privileged tourists through structural adjustment programs and poverty reduction strategy papers which are part of the IMF methodology of enslaving developing economies to the neoliberal system.
This is why in my work in tourism, I am drawn to highlight the politics of tourism which gets at these structural issues which support exploitation and human rights abuses. It is a real challenge to overcome the common perception that tourism is 1) about holidays and hedonism and therefore isn't of any great significance and 2) it is really just an industry that generates economic opportunities and isn't political.
ECOCLUB.com: Assumed that there could be instant Travel Boycotts for Human Rights violations, would there be any country left to visit?
Freya Higgins-Desbiolles: Fair question but I would argue the issue is about systematic violation of human rights by official agencies of government or connected to government. Also the question needs to be nuanced distinguishing personal consumer choices and more organised campaigns. Consumers are free to spend their money where and how they want and they make choices based on many things including values. Personally, as an Australian I think visitors should think about our refugee policy which treats boat arrivals seeking asylum appallingly while those who arrive by plane are processed much more humanely. I find it uncomfortable knowing tourists (and in fact skilled migrants such as myself) are so easily facilitated in coming to Australia while people who really need access are denied it.
I find it uncomfortable knowing tourists (and in fact skilled migrants such as myself) are so easily facilitated in coming to Australia while people who really need access are denied it.
On the more organised boycotts, the famous one is that called for Burma decades ago. Much debate and consideration went into that, which I think all tourism students should learn about. My personal stance with Burma is when the elected leader who was prevented from going into power called for tourists to stay away, there was a moral compulsion to heed this call. Boycotts need to be well considered, discussed and debated and then re-considered again over time. My understanding is that Aung San Suu Kyi has now said the tourism boycott isn't required.
I also will raise the call for a boycott of Israel which has been judged as one effective way to pressure Israel to end the its forty year occupation. I think this is a legitimate tool of pressure and it communicates participants' concerns with human rights violations when done in an appropriate way. Considering the attraction to visit the "Holy Land" and the value this gives to the Israeli economy I think it can be argued as a possible tactic. However, these things are never unambiguous as Palestinian businesses and tour operators might be accidentally impacted. Like Burma, I think the decision should be based on what Palestinians say as they are the ones who need to be considered, consulted and followed on this.
Perhaps we could argue that some countries are better observers of human rights and we certainly can identify them - the Scandinavian countries and maybe New Zealand for instance. Perhaps we should give them travel preference? Consumer boycotts or consumer preferences are tools available but because they are the tool of individuals who only yield their purchasing power, they are less effective that government policies and take longer to impact. I think the older generation is enheartened by the example of the boycott of Apartheid South Africa but we need to also realise that was a long time ago. I fear that the individualism, marketisation, materialism and selfishness that has been fomented in many societies around the world since the advent of neoliberal hegemony, we may find such action more difficult to achieve in these days as we lack bonds of social solidarity as well as feelings of political efficacy.
ECOCLUB.com: We recently held online a Member poll on Green Taxes on Tourism, the options being "Yes", "No", and "Yes, only if local". How would you vote and why?
Freya Higgins-Desbiolles: I would say before talking about green taxes, the first thing we should ask is: is the full environmental costs of our tourism and travel activities actually costed into the price of our tickets and fees? For instance we might find in the low cost airfares available in some parts of the world the fact that we are free-riding on the environment and the state in enjoying these things. If Germany can legislate so that manufactured goods now have the costs incurred from cradle to grave in the lifecycle of the product passed on to the consumer so that the consumer actually feels the costs of deciding to purchase another car or washing machine, why can't tourism? Some might call this green taxes but I think that would be misleading and would be counter-productive to educating the tourist consumer.
is the full environmental costs of our tourism and travel activities actually costed into the price of our tickets and fees?
There is the case of a green tax attempted in the Balearic Islands which was a true green tax that would have assisted in getting more sustainable outcomes in these over-visited Islands. As you may know, this didn't last long as industry opposition and a change of government saw it overturned. I think that is telling and depressing. Many consumers just do not want to feel the pinch of the true costs of their consumer choices and governments of all stripes that achieve power do not want to impose these on them because if we did, the growth-addicted economies we have created would collapse. This is madness but this is where we are at the moment.
My vote would go to full costing taking into account social, political and environmental costs of all consumption accompanied by education which tells consumers to not to consume whenever possible, and then reduce, reuse and recycle. After that, I like green taxes that actually deliver benefits back to local places where the tourism consumption occurs - not to some sustainability consultant's exorbitant fees.
Lastly, I would like subsidies for staying closer to home and engaging with local people and place that might break some of the power of the globalisation process which has us making such unsustainable choices. One example I found interesting here in Australia, was a tourism platform released by the Labor party which was then out of power which proposed subsidising school children to take educational tours to regional Australia as a measure to stimulate these depressed regions. I think we could give much greater consideration to the potential of social tourism to augment other social spending government's currently undertake in terms of education, health and wellbeing and to be a great return on spending for meeting government obligations to serve their constituents. What we need is cost-benefit analysis which indicates how this may be a preventative and proactive approach which reduces the need for later, remedial spending to clean up the results of poor government policy which is indicated by greater spending on policing, incarceration, surveillance and dealing with social dysfunction.
I would like subsidies for staying closer to home and engaging with local people and place that might break some of the power of the globalisation process which has us making such unsustainable choices.
My dream would be to see Australia lead the way by subsidising school groups to experience Indigenous Australian tours and cross-cultural education. This would yield a multiplicity of benefits including: a socially-progressive education for our kids, foster reconciliation in our society, provide economic opportunities for Indigenous Australians, provide a stimulus to regional economies and create a positive vision of a future together.
ECOCLUB.com: Tons of pulp non-fiction has been used to praise the peace-building qualities of 'Tourism'. Can any sort of Tourism automatically bring about Peace, or do we need a grassroots, ecological, socially just Tourism? But even then, will anyone ever take tourism seriously, can there ever be a critical mass of progressive, pacifist tourists, tourist providers and NGOs?
Freya Higgins-Desbiolles: For the sake of transparency I should say that I have served on the Executive Committee of the Australian chapter of the International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT). That hasn't prevented me from being highly critical of this peace through tourism initiative in my work and writing. I suspect that PTT as it is known is possibly another of those whitewash initiatives I mentioned earlier. I have watched IIPT conferences, summits and meetings from a distance and have noted that it tends to be government leaders, big industry and certain individuals who like to promote themselves in these events - community and grassroots are seldom evident except maybe in a token way. I do know one of the Africa Summits was scathingly criticised by a Maasai activist (see my writings outlining this). I think Kyle Powys Whyte has theorised what may be behind cases where some groups such as the community-based tourism initiatives seen in Jamaica join with IIPT as they seem to have recently done - he calls such examples as "mutually beneficial exploitation"- I recommend Kyle's work on this which you can find in his article "An environmental justice framework for Indigenous tourism". That is my view of this movement but I will leave that for others to decide for themselves - go on the IIPT website and have a look.
How can we achieve peace without being critical of the structural barriers that stand in the way to achieving it?
There is now a Professor of Peace Tourism and a new journal on the subject so it is obviously trendy. I understand though that these initiatives invite "positive perspectives" which I don't find very critical. How can we achieve peace without being critical of the structural barriers that stand in the way to achieving it? For instance on discussions of Palestine, contributors may be told to always be fair and balanced but what this is code for is "do not criticise Israel and its policy of occupation". What this leaves us with is an opportunity to tell some good news stories such as when Israeli youth are brought together with Palestinian youth in some project to break down the cultural barriers between them. This is all fine, but let's not forget while this is happening, an Apartheid Wall is being built, settlements are being expanded and the land available for a viable Palestinian state is being continuously eaten away. In my opinion, peace through tourism only comes when that peace is predicated on justice.
That leads me to some work Lynda Blanchard and I have been doing. We have taught a Masters level course at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies of the University of Sydney since 2003. We have written an article on our pedagogy which challenges the peace through tourism movement to ensure peace is underpinned with an understanding of human rights, equity and justice. When we teach the course, we bring in a diversity of stakeholders so the students can see the debates, dilemmas and ambiguities of these issues and critically analyse things for themselves. We see peace through tourism not as some settled topic that is "progressive", readily agreed on and comfortable but as a topic of disagreement, dialogue, challenge and discomfort. We invite speakers from industry, community, different disciplines, NGOs and activism and we invite people who we don't necessarily agree with to open these issues to critical thought and dialogue.
In an effort to further this vision of peace through tourism, Lynda secured support from the Toda Institute for Global Peace & Policy Research and the International Peace Research Association which enabled us to invite people to Sydney in 2010 to consider forming an International Peace Tourism Commission which we hoped would be more inclusive of diverse voices on the potentials and limits of tourism to contribute to efforts to attain peace. These included representatives from NGOs, human rights advocacy, academics, travel agencies, travel journalism, community and research students conducting cutting edge research. We are currently in the process of putting an edited volume together made up of chapters written by these participants and a few others which challenges peace tourism to be meaningful in terms of human rights, ecological imperatives, justice, respect for diversity and politics.
Do I think peace through tourism is possible? The body of my work on tourism shows an odd ambivalence. I am scathingly critical of contemporary tourism and yet some of my work has almost a naivety about it arguing tourism can contribute to peace and reconciliation. I think this duality represents the irony of tourism. It is in some cases an extremely selfish, destructive and demeaning activity which really isn't all that edifying and in some cases is out right deadly. Yet we cannot deny that it is also a force of human learning, human contact and understanding and has been for a very long time. It just depends on whether we call this tourism or do we put some other label on it. For instance the Grand Tour was an educational journey of serious social significance – do we label it education or tourism? Indigenous Australians crossed borders, traded, conducted ceremonies together and carried out Dreaming obligations which could be called religious travel - is it tourism akin to what we recognise a pilgrimage tourism today? It is problematic for my work trying to convince people that tourism can have serious purposes and justice tourism that I have written about recently is the most difficult.
I am scathingly critical of contemporary tourism and yet some of my work has almost a naivety about it arguing tourism can contribute to peace and reconciliation. I think this duality represents the irony of tourism.
Will there ever be a critical mass of progressive tourists? How do we know what is already out there? I ask because these initiatives and their participants are currently not extensively studied and enumerated. Because most tourism academics study the mainstream, commercial tourism sector, we really have no idea who is doing what in the progressive arena. We have little snapshots to tantalise us: Nancy Gard-McGehee has written about Earthwatch volunteers, I have written about the International Solidarity Movement, Stephen Wearing has written about Youth Challenge International, for instance. But no one has looked systemically at what people might be doing all around the world to build a more positive and progressive world that we might claim as tourism (because it meets criteria of travelling a certain distance from the normal place of residence, staying for a certain period of time and undertaking some associated activities we might associate with holidays such as buying souvenirs and spending money in the local economy). If one only thinks of the amazing amount of environmental work, religious service, student exchanges, volunteer work, educational travel, solidarity visits, VFR from diaspora communities, etc. you can get a sense that a lot more may be going on than what current research and statistics captures. Again, I have an idealism in me that leads to this hope. But my cynical side says to be ever critical because the last thing we need is more "do-gooders" doing the volunteer tourism junket which in many cases really is just another self-serving enterprise. We need ever greater critical awareness in our world and I would like to see a movement of critical tourism scholars leading the way on this in the tourism domain.
ECOCLUB.com: Some expats own and run 'responsible' and some more 'irresponsible' tourism operations in the global south while poor immigrants work in "menial" tourism jobs in the global north. Is this a mirror image? And something totally negative?
Freya Higgins-Desbiolles: This is a topic that is suited for the new mobilities perspectives on tourism. I have often wondered when someone would write about the beautiful Mediterranean beaches where Europeans sun bathe and where African bodies wash up after drowning in the attempt to reach those shores for asylum or migrant opportunities.
I do think you are right these are a mirror image or two sides of the coin of our world. Those from the developed world can migrate to developing countries and set up lovely tourism businesses to cater to their compatriots who want holidays in exotic locales but with all the comforts and predictability of home. Meanwhile, nationals of developing countries are drawn to the developed economies in the hope of improving their life chances (in some cases meaning their very survival) and that of their children. But the door isn't always open to them and many are forced into vulnerable and precarious circumstances which is really unacceptable.
I just think of my birth country where the retired American middle class can go down to Mexico and retire in a life of luxury as "sun birds" while Mexicans risk their lives to cross the border and live as "illegals" for years in fear and insecurity. The USA actually runs on their work and yet we have a politics of hate and fear which demonises them and periodically deports them in large numbers despite living in the country for years. People do not allow themselves to see the horror in this because governments are playing a tune of fear and insecurity so people put their humanity in check.
If we allow free movement of goods, services, capital, corporate managerial classes and tourists, we must allow free movement of ordinary workers as the next step.
Again I return to structural perspectives...If we allow free movement of goods, services, capital, corporate managerial classes and tourists, we must allow free movement of ordinary workers as the next step. People need to be able to go where the jobs and opportunities are rather than be imprisoned in underdevelopment as the providers of raw materials to feed the developed countries' economies. Additionally, we need the fulfilment of the vision of the New International Economic Order (1970s) where the wealthy countries must allocate 0.7% of GNP to development assistance which could go to rectifying the structural inequalities which has seen developing countries kept in a state of perpetual underdevelopment. I think then we would get a levelising of the playing field. Most people do not want to be forced to leave their homes and would stay at home if they had decent life chances in their home countries. We need a world of justice and greater equity as we reach a global population of 7 billion and beyond. We cannot sustain a world where gross over-consumption by the few forces the impoverishment and starvation of the many. I cannot believe more people do not see this but we really must.
ECOCLUB.com: Thank you very much! Is there anything else you would like to say?
Freya Higgins-Desbiolles: I would like to thank you for this opportunity and congratulate you on a great initiative. The resources provided through your website provide a great resource to the ecotourism and tourism community and are really helpful in stimulating thinking. This is very helpful in thinking through, discussing, debating and shaping the future we hope to create.