Publications & Reviews

Review of State of the World 2014 - Governing for Sustainability

State of the World 2014 - Governing for SustainabilityState of the World 2014 - Governing for Sustainability

The Worldwatch Institute 

Island Press, ISBN 978-1-61091541-0, April 2014 –  320 pages 

This annual report, which anyone even remotely interested in the future of this planet should read, marks the 30th anniversary of the series and the 40th anniversary of the Worldwatch Institute. This year the focus is on "Governance", or what and whom it will take to put on the break and steer the world to the opposite direction so as to avoid catastrophic climate change: warmer more acidic oceans, massive storms, rising seas thal disrupt food production, and force millions to relocate from sea coasts and arid regions.

Review of Managing Ethical Consumption in Tourism

Managing Ethical Consumption in Tourism

Edited by Clare Weeden and Karla Boluk

Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-71676-5, January 2014 – 260 pages 

Managing Ethical Consumption in TourismA path-breaking volume which succeeds in filling a void in the literature, largely avoids productivist, neoliberal, moralistic and neo-puritan pitfalls, discusses ethics mostly in relation to alternative forms of tourism and, despite its economistic-sounding title, and refreshingly for an academic book which has to meet 'neutrality' standards, it discusses ethics from a largely ecological and socially progressive angle.

Review of Peace Through Tourism

Peace Through Tourism - Promoting human security through international citizenship

Edited by Lynda-ann Blanchard and Freya Higgins-Desbiolles

Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-82463-7, April 2013 – 276 pages

Peace Through TourismThere are some fundamental contradictions in the definition and perception of Tourism (and consequently “Peace Tourism”) and this important book sets out to investigate them. Is it an industry or a phenomenon (or both)? Is it about personal recreation and satisfaction or about collectively reshaping the world (or both)? On the one hand the international community seems to treat it as a light topic along with recreation and on the other, perhaps as a reaction, international tourism bodies frequently use hyperbole and self-praise about the peace-building, job-creating, conservation-supporting and the other innumerable abilities of “Tourism”, their constituency. (All industries & sectors do that of course, not just the Tourism industry, they massage statistics and exaggerate their importance so as to receive priority in an era of diminishing funding).

Review of Transfrontier Conservation Areas

Transfrontier Conservation Areas -  People Living on the EdgeTransfrontier Conservation Areas - People Living on the Edge

Edited by Jens A. Andersson, Michel de Garine-Wichatitsky, David H.M. Cumming, Vupenyu Dzingirai and Ken E. Giller.

Routledge, ISBN 978-1-84971-208-8, August 2012 – 216 pages

The book, a product of collaboration between Wageningen University (Netherlands), CIRAD (France) and the Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS) of the University of Zimbabwe, sets out to criticize the new and rapidly growing trend of Transfrontier conservation areas in Southern Africa by focusing on the ‘forgotten people displaced by, or living on the edge’ of Transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs) mainly in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and dispute the “dream of eco-tourism-fuelled development supporting nature conservation” or the “development of rural communities through cross-border collaboration”.

Review of Tourism, Climate Change and Sustainability

Tourism, Climate Change & SustainabilityTourism, Climate Change & Sustainability

Edited by Maharaj Vijay Reddy and Keith Wilkes.

Routledge, ISBN: 978-1-84971-422-8, September 2012 - 284 pages 

This volume, edited by Bournemouth University’s Maharaj Vijay Reddy and Keith Wilkes, was written in the run up to Rio +20 (United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development - 20-22 June 2012) and almost a year later remains a valuable contribution. Its main strength, and at the same time a weakness, is that it inardventedly reflects and records the non-binding attitudes towards Climate Change (CC) in global and tourism governance as well as the indifferent (or perhaps hypocritical) stance of big tourism and the inertia of many small businesses.

Review of Green Growth and Travelism - Letters from Leaders

Green Growth And TravelismGreen Growth and Travelism: letters from leaders

Edited by Geoffrey Lipman, Terry DeLacy, Shaun Vorster, Rebecca Hawkins and Min Jiang.

Goodfellow Publishers, ISBN: 978-1-908999-17-7, June 2012

 

As useful grassroots case studies are, sometimes you need the big picture, the whole forest and not just the trees, ideally from informed detached and objective observers and opinionated actors/participants alike, who genuinely share your aims for a better, ecological and socially just world. This book is about the big picture and includes the views, presented in the forms of “letters”, of 46 leading tourism practitioners, entrepreneurs, heads of international bodies, politicians, civil servants and academics. The letter length and depth (including depth of environmental convictions) varies significantly, as do opinions and agendas although nearly all are in the centre-right of the political spectrum: pro new-green-economy, pro-big-industry/multinationals, pro-growth, pro self-regulation, anti-tax. There is also a certain promotional / self-congratulatory approach in some of the letters by heads of companies and tourism officials which is fortunately offset by the chapters (letters) contributed by leading tourism academics. It is not a big surprise not being able to find radical green or anti-systemic views in this volume, yet one would have expected the editors to include some environmental, social and travel grassroots and tourism employee representatives among the ‘leaders’ and more representation from the global south.

 

The book opens with a rather optimistic preface by Maurice Strong, to whom the book is dedicated, who served as the first executive director of UNEP and was instrumental in making the historic 1992 Rio Earth Summit happen also serving as its Secretary General. Strong recognises that green tourism is no longer a fringe idea but a necessity for the whole (mainstream) industry and consequently calls for regulatory, voluntary and market-based mechanisms to achieve this. He makes a special reference to China and its immense potential and responsibilities for a greener global tourism.

 

Among many interesting thoughts and proposals by the contributors, more memorable ones include the use of aviation taxes and market-based emission management mechanisms to fund fleet emission cuts through research and fleet renewal so that aviation’s carbon burden is not ‘disproportionate’ ; the revamping of tourism education to integrate green ideas; the recognition of Ecotourism as a ‘specific green growth element and an important beacon for the sector’; the importance of ‘eliminating’ greenwashing and encouraging certification programs and the ‘smart’ development of national parks so as to stimulate green growth.

 

Among the best contributions is the one by Professor Harold Goodwin who reveals some inconvenient (for the gradual reform approach) truths: there has been too much ‘talk of sustainability and too little taking of responsibility’, tourism remains a privilege of the relatively wealthy, tourism reveals inequality, the consumer will not pay a premium for sustainable tourism, communities have not benefited from community-based tourism - favourite of donors and NGOs, while the elephant in the room remains travel, particularly aviation, pollution. Other valuable and inspiring accounts include Vanessa Scotts’, who shares her experience running a small environmental award-winning hotel in Norfolk UK and by Tony Charters who discusses the ongoing relevance of Ecotourism as a spear carrier for green progress. Less inspiring, but revealing of systemic dead ends, are a number of contributions discussing the current impasse between EU and many other countries over the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and its ‘unfair’ impact on non-EU airlines.

 

The book, which is published to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rio Summit and officially launched during the recent Rio+20 Summit in June 2012 concludes with a useful index of acronyms and abbreviations to help you get through the enviro-jargon. An index and bibliographical references would have been useful in supporting the many interesting facts and figures presented.

 

Overall the editors and contributors make a convincing case for establishing ‘Travelism’ (travel - including aviation - and tourism) as a unified policy field, so ‘Green Growth and Travelism’ will hopefully find a place on quality travel(ist) company and decision-maker libraries, perhaps not as an academic reference but certainly as a snapshot of mainstream green travel(ist) wisdom of the early 21st century. 

 

Review of "Crete: The Roots of the Mediterranean Diet"

Crete: The Roots of the Mediterranean DietCrete: The Roots of the Mediterranean Diet - Enjoying the benefits of one of the world's healthiest cuisines wherever you live.

by Nikki Rose with contributions by Panayiotis Moldovanidis and Patricia " Scout" Hazouri. 

Blurb, August 2012, 120 pgs.

There are hundreds of guidebooks for the island of Crete, as it is a developed tourism destination brimming with famous ancient sights, as the cradle of the Minoan Civilisation, one of the oldest anywhere, at the crossroads between Europe, Africa and the Middle East, with a mild climate and a melting pot, with Minoans, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Venetians and Turkish having left their mark over the past 4,000 years. At the same time, there are many cook books on offer as Cretan Cuisine (Cretan Diet) has caught the eye of scientists since the 1950s and today is acknowledged as one of the healthiest. However this book is the suitable choice for savvy eco-travellers and aspiring chefs alike since the author is both an award-winning organiser of culinary agro-tours in Crete and a professional Chef.

It is not always easy to objectively review environmental or other contentious issues in a tourism destination and still convince the reader that it is worth visiting it (or at least buy the book), however this cookbook-guidebook, a joint product of enthusiasm and first-hand knowledge succeeds both in making you want to visit (or revisit) the finest bits of Crete, safely hidden away - so far - from the mostly boozing clients of the mass-tourism-developed northern coast and to hone your organic cooking skills with unusual but healthy Cretan dishes and mezes. But even if you have zero skills, you will be pleasantly surprised with the many traditional rinse-and-eat options . Along the way, readers, especially young ones will be convinced, through a series of delightful personal accounts, about the merits of a healthy diet and hopefully abandon processed food, fast-food and their life-style equivalents and consequences.

A useful and balanced content structure, a fresh, opinionated and humorous writing style, appealing and informative pictures, invaluable general cooking tips, many detailed recipes (with Index) and equally digestible doses of Cretan history and traditions await the reader, interspersed with more sobering but accurate references to some ongoing threats to the traditional way of life and the local environment of Crete, which is facing, along with, but much less than, the rest of Greece, an acute economic and social crisis. In fact there is a growing current of young people who leave large cities like Athens and Thessaloniki and move back to the villages of their ancestors in the countryside to engage in organic agriculture, and in a way this book is part of this trend. If your visit to Crete (and other places) is well-researched and planned, and this takes place also by reading quality books such as this, it can support a lot of real village-based people doing great work against the odds and in return you get back an authentic experience.

In terms of expanding its use as a travel book this volume could be perhaps further improved in future editions, either by the addition of an ecotravel chapter, or by linking key recipes to specific locations and including related travel info about agrotourism and ecotourism options in these locations (such as contacts and websites). The author is a Greek-American professional chef, writer, and cultural-culinary seminar director who founded the award-winning Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries Eco-Agritourism Network (CCS) in 1997. The proceeds from the book support CCS programs.

Review of 'Best Practice in Accessible Tourism'

Best Practice in Accessible TourismBest Practice in Accessible Tourism - Inclusion, Disability, Ageing Population and Tourism
Edited by Dimitrios Buhalis, Simon Darcy and Ivor Ambrose
Channel View Publications, ISBN: 978-1-84541-252-4, February 2012

This is a timely publication as thousands of paralympians prepare to travel to London, some of them, along with many others among the estimated 500 million disabled travellers, will have experienced unjustified refusals and other unfair demands when attempting to board planes, especially low-cost-carriers, when trying to locate and book affordable accommodation or simply enjoy a day or a night out. Accessible Tourism covers tourists with special, temporary or permanent, mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive access requirements and as such also includes obese, senior and very young travellers but also employees - for example hotel employees having to carry bulky guest luggages through narrow paths and steep stairs. 

Nearly all of the 33 contributing authors offering case studies from 12 countries have a direct specialisation in Accessible Tourism (AT), in the provision and/or study of the provision of tourism and other services to people with disabilities and diverse backgrounds in academia, consultancy, destination management, tourism businesses, NGOs and disability advocacy groups. An insider, no-nonsense perspective is also present throughout as many of the contributors are people with disability themselves.

This is only the second academic book written in English which is wholly dedicated to accessible tourism, following the companion volume 'Accessible Tourism: Concepts and Issues" (Buhalis & Darcy, 2011) which mainly covered theoretical aspects. Both books originated in an EU project called "One-Stop-Shop for Accessible Tourism in Europe (OSSATE) which aimed to improve the delivery of accessible travel information.

The volume categorises the 24 chapters around five themes as follows: Policies and Strategies, Networks and Partnerships, The Accessible Tourism Value Chain, Destination Development and finally Accessible Tourism Experiences, presented in an order which reflects the necessary and interlinked stages for producing accessible tourism. Using an international, multidisciplinary perspective It highlights state-of-the art-practices but also reveals policy and practice shortcomings in a wide thematic and geographic range of topics including European Union tourism policy, national and regional AT policies (UK, Australia, Germany, United States among others), architectural design, marketing, training and accessible destination management (VisitOSLO & VisitBritain being good cases - Chapters 20 & 22 as well as Tourism Flanders which introduced its own accessible AT label in 2008) as well as pioneering products such as accessible dive tourism.

Among the many good chapters, the best and most detailed chapters are those analysing policies at the European Union Level (Ch. 2), in Australia (Ch.7), in Vienna (Ch. 16) and certainly Chapter 17 on designing Accessible Hotels, by Katerina Papamichail who draws on her practical experience with the 2004 Paralympic Village in Athens. This chapter should be of particular interest to readers who are heritage tourism, adventure and nature tourism practitioners, owners and developers of new Lodges, small Hotels and Inns, few of whom, regrettably, are disabled-friendly usually under an excuse of remoteness, dangerous terrain or pre-existing historic / traditional buildings. The last chapter, as is frequently the case, is very important as it deals with staff training and how it is paramount for delivering a quality accessible tourism experience - no matter how good the infrastructure or legislation is, an inconsiderate or indifferent service will destroy all prior efforts, however it is rather short and deals only with Spain. The book would have been even better if it also included a chapter or two on economic accessibility (affordability), how easy it is for disabled tourists and senior tourists to afford the extra cost of luxury accommodation and tours that offer the necessary infrastructure, and exploring the linkages between accessible tourism with social tourism. There is unfortunately no keyword-Index, while a few chapters do not seem to cover developments after 2008-2009. The concluding chapter at the end is too short (perhaps understandably so as it is a companion book), as are bibliographical references provided in some of the chapters, although this is expected given the relative general absence of AT academic bibliography.

Most of the authors provide evidence which directly or indirectly acknowledges that accessible tourism is not practiced, recognised as a mainstream segment, statistically measured, marketed or even known as a concept in the vast majority of destinations, even in global north countries which take pride in their high standard of living, although progress is finally being made in the past decade, especially in Germany, the UK and Australia, as technology has become cheaper and through new laws. At the same time, the book argues that even small changes would have made a big difference in developing a more inclusive and accessible tourism product. Readers should ponder what are the deeper causes of this supply-side inertia. Is there a deliberate exclusion of a "tourism for all" by a socioeconomic & cultural system which on the one hand glorifies 'able', 'beautiful', 'successful' people and produces tourism packages for the rest of us which mimic (but certainly do not reproduce) their lifestyles for 1 week, but at the same time wishes to avoid 'costly' infrastructure and time-consuming services and individualised attention opting for glorified mass tourism products. How realistic will it be to move forward without binding international, national and local legislation and regulations, simply by relying on market forces and their voluntary 'self-regulation - response to advocacy group pressure (or demand). After all is accessibility (just) a question of 'a real (?) economic opportunity' for tourism businesses, an issue to be taken care of by charitable organisations, or rather, one hopes, a key human rights issue to be seriously addressed by governments (and bodies such as the UNWTO) with the active participation and consultation of disabled travellers, as Andrew Wright points out in Chapter 14. Does a ferry elevator for the disabled or an adapted hotel bathroom have to "pay off" through a cynic cost-benefit analysis before a decision can be made to install them? And worse, is there a muted industry move towards discrimination-segregation, similar to how most of the tourism industry treats Social Tourism? Consider why disabled information is almost a taboo in most hotel brochures, even when the infrastructure is more or less in place.

Overall this pioneering, interesting collection and detailed discussion of Accessible Tourism best-cases and shortcomings in many destinations is a must-read for tourism policy makers and consultants at the international, national and local levels, and, one hopes, that quality tourism practitioners in the ecotourism sector will also take an interest.

Review of Social Media in Travel, Tourism and Hospitality

Social Media in Travel, Tourism & HospitalitySocial Media in Travel, Tourism and Hospitality, Theory, Practice and Cases
Edited by Marianna Sigala, University of the Aegean, Greece, Evangelos Christou, Alexander TEI of Thessaloniki, Greece and Ulrike Gretzel, University of Wollongong, Australia
Ashgate, ISBN: 978-1-4094-2091-0, February 2012

In more ways than one, the Web itself has gone all the way from a boring collection of hyperlinks to one giant, vibrant, revolutionary perhaps, social medium. Although everyone talks about the growing importance of social media in most economic sectors and particularly in Tourism, a labour-intensive sector, and there have been a number of journal articles, no one had taken the initiative before to assemble theoretical wisdom and practical knowledge in an academic book, indeed a one constituting a high-quality, collective effort. This edited collection was produced by a small army of contributors, academics and practitioners (34) from over 10 countries. The three editors and most of the contributors are leading academic experts in tourism ICT and marketing, while there are also contributions from a number of leading marketing & e-business practitioners and other social media 'evangelists'.

It is split in 4 parts: strategic and operational business models, applications for marketing, travellers' behaviour, knowledge management and market research. The underlying ideology is a marketing one, so the focus is on evaluating the range of available tools and their adoption by different organisations as well as consumers or pro-sumers. Broader political issues such as Web 2.0 ownership, concentration and control or why did it develop are not tackled by the contributors, understandably so as it would take another volume. There are many useful tables and figures but, surprisingly perhaps, no photos of websites applying social media.

Although this is clearly an academic book which dedicates plenty of space on definitions, literature reviews and theoretical concepts and authors honestly acknowledge the limitations of their research and the interim, patchy and ambivalent nature of many findings, it should also be attractive to leading practitioners as it contains characteristic and informative case studies such as those on the use of Web 2.0 by Wine Tourism networks, the Glasgow's Merchant City Tourism & Marketing Cooperative, by Europe's National DMOs and the MICE industry. Other interesting research chapters include ch. 11 which explores the impact of Web 2.0 in increasing transparency about Hotel prices, ch. 18 which tries to measure the effect of e-reviews on prospective agro-tourists in Germany, chapter 21 which reviews automatic ways of analysing blog content for competitive advantage and ch. 22 which investigates how city destinations monitor social media.

Reading the book also generates many interesting questions. The mantra of Web 2.0 evangelists is that users trust other users rather than marketing departments. They then set out to teach marketing departments ways on how to encourage users or to behave or pose like users. All this contains many delightful ironies. There is no doubt that social media is increasing in importance and impact in the tourism industry, however, how important is it really and can its contribution be measured or quantified? Will Web 2.0 perhaps be a distant memory a few years from now due to further technological advances, or due to excessive noise or even saturation? Are "friends" friends, do "likers" really "like"? Are you really "linked" to 5 million professionals when you cannot get a job for 2 years? How many customer reviews are genuine and not encouraged or malevolent (by a competitor)? Is there something orwellian or perhaps ionescian about this situation? Does it make people and organisations more sociable / responsible or quite the opposite? Why is there no (official at least) "dislike" button - the equivalent of giving a bad review at a tourism-review website? Use of Web 2.0 is not an end in itself, it is just a tool, suitable for some, and for some uses. And is it all based on a sound (presumably advertisement-based) business model or does it slowly cannibalise all the media, communication and online sectors and it will someday come tumbling down as a huge pyramid scheme? What is the socioeconomic and political impact of the rise of a handful of, corporately-owned, social media giants? has Web 2.0 made the playing field more level for small (by providing free promotion tools) independent players, or the opposite?

Even though the Web and Web 2.0 in particular is a fast moving world, this volume is suitable as a textbook reference for academic students of tourism marketing; it is also useful for tourism marketing & promotion professionals and web professionals. Suitably, an ebook version of the book is available. Due to its very topic a (social media!) edition accompanied with multimedia containing (or hyperlinks to) interactive case studies would further increase its usefulness, as would a fifth part critically evaluating deeper, big-picture issues and ideally - but this would be very difficult due to competition & privacyissues - perhaps a chapter dealing with measuring economic sustainability and performance - which Web 2.0 strategy works best for whom, backed with the ever-elusive hard data.

Review of 'Social Tourism in Europe'

Social Tourism in EuropeSocial Tourism in Europe. Theory and Practice
Edited by Scott McCabe, Lynn Minnaert and Anya Diekmann
Channel View Publications, ISBN-13:978-1-84541-232-6, Bristol UK, 2012 

This, rather concise yet very informative and inspiring - academically as well as ethically - book, is not only the first of its kind in the english language, but comes at the right time, as the dominant neoliberal paradigm is collapsing and the inadequacy and incompleteness of european frameworks has been revealed by and during the ongoing crisis.

Fourteen contributors, twelve of whom are academics and at least half have hands-on experience with developing social tourism policy and programs offer a multidisciplinary perspective, defining social tourism, the role of tourism in the emerging 'social economy', the effects of social policies on tourism and vice versa. The book successfully connects academic discussions with best practice case studies.

Eight academic chapters are intertwined with characteristic case studies profiling key international, local and sectoral social tourism organisations and which relate to the main theme of the preceding chapter. The case studies are a bit concise however some manage to discuss the problems and shortcomings of the featured social tourism organisations. Chapter 1 offers a good introduction and summary of the book, while chapter 2 provides definitions and the historical background and evolution to this day in various European countries. Chapter 3 analyses current european social tourism supply and demand and presents the major stakeholders. In Chapter 4, vocal critic of neoliberalism in tourism Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, argues that the concept and practice of social tourism can help reposition tourism as a social force which contributes to human welfare rather than to corporate profits. In Chapter 5, Giles Claire discusses the french model of social tourism in the context of the social economy. Chapter 6 analyses the link between physical mobility and social mobility and the consequences of both on social structures such as family and work. Chapter 7 deals with the former Eastern Block policies and links the development of social tourism to the political attitudes of various euopean governments towards welfare. Chapter 8 relates social class and family situations to tourism access the impact of tourism on family relationships, while Chapter 9 focuses on the policies, realities and experiences of tourism for people with disabilities. Authors Shaw and Agarwal rightly argue that disabled people should play an active role in the development and design of social tourism programmes and packages so that these become accessible and inclusive. In Chapter 10, Christian Baumgartner, head of the historic Vienna-based Naturefriends International, which started out as a 'socialist hiking organisation' in 1895 and was banned between 1933-1945, elucidates the linkages, commonalities and differences between social tourism and sustainable tourism in the context of his organisation. Baumgartner poses many difficult questions such as whether social segregation may be the unwanted result of social tourists filling the less popular accommodations and destinations in the low season. He rightly points out that social tourism, 'tourism for all', still has an obligation to somehow be ecologically sustainable. The final chapter offers another useful summary and suggestions for future research.

It is hard to pinpoint the historic origin of social tourism in Europe, as even the ancient Olympics and similar events had some social tourism elements along with political and religious motives. But the modern origin is certainly the troubled 1930s with the introduction of paid holidays for the working class in Western Europe as well as similar schemes in the Soviet Union. Currently, social tourism involves billions of euros and millions of european citizens, however it remains a largely neglected concept in tourism literature, especially in the English language, proof of the dominance the neoliberal and pro-corporate agenda in tourism academic research.

Leisure and holidays are basic human rights enshrined in article 24 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which states 'everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay', while article 13(2) of the Declaration enshrines free mobility (and therefore also travel): "everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own and to return to his country". The above have been reinforced by the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (1999) which recognises (Article 7) that tourism is a right, accessible to all. In addition, the lack of an ability to take a holiday once per year, has become embedded in social indicators of relative poverty.

Still, and although international tourism organisations waste no opportunity to remind us of the impressive global growth of tourism 'arrivals', the proportion among the population that does not travel has remained stable at around 40-45% for the past 60 years, even in Europe! Social tourism, as a 'tourism for all' concept, has not yet succeeded in changing this. Let us hope that this excellent book will contribute to this noble and just goal.