ECOCLUB hosts on-line
Conference for Community-based
Ecotourism in SE Asia
At the request of Ecolodge Member The
Boat Landing, ECOCLUB has allocated a forum at the ECOCLUB Community for
this important topic. A few postings include points of view very hostile to
ecotourism, but we display them as ECOCLUB dislikes censorship. However we also
have the right to make a comment: It appears from the postings that there is
ill-sentiment against allegedly rapid and unplanned, government-induced
development of "lite" versions of ecotourism throughout SE Asia. Some
of this criticism is genuine criticism from indigenous people, ignored by this
development drive, who are either in favour of more community-managed/owned
forms of tourism or, in fewer cases, who are against all tourism development in
their areas - we respect both points of view. Some criticism however appears to
be from individuals who are anti-tourism by vocation, who have never worked in
the tourism sector or had any sort of responsibility, but make a lucrative
living by writing articles in and travelling to give lectures against tourism
exploitation. They thus wish to drown all ecotourism efforts, everywhere, in the
more common boogie soup of "mass tourism", "the west",
"western experts" and "globalisation". It is their prerogative,
and we respect their right to a different view than ours, but we find the tone
of some of their criticism offensive, racist, and nationalistic. We dispute
their claim to have an exclusive right to represent indigenous communities, they
often represent just their self, they are often members of the local elite and a
product of the international aid system they pretend to hate. They perhaps find
in the ecotourism movement a soft convenient target, when their real target is
(or should have been if they dared) corrupt and despotic local and central
authorities and leaders who do not listen to the indigenous communities in the
first place. These self-appointed "representatives" wish to discredit,
revise and block every genuine ecotourism effort so that they will have an
interesting subject, a little niche for their articles in, as it happens the
journals they despise, "western" journals. One wonders who is
benefiting from and possibly funding all this selective obsession against
& Tourism Conference by Planeta.com in March 2002.
This was one of our postings:
Ecology defines a "community" as any grouping of different organisms
found living together in a particular environment. The organisms interact,
either by competition, predation, mutualism, and in so doing give the community
its structure. In Human Geography, "community", defines a group of
people living in the same village or town, also interacting by the same
"positive" or "negative" means.
Community Tourism usually denotes (a) community-owned or
community-managed tourism, or, in my view erroneously, (b) tourism that focuses
on local customs and involves the "locals" as targets or unwilling /
passive participants. In Community Tourism, "community" usually
denotes an indigenous community, be it in the "developing" or the
As a result, Community Tourism, is a politically charged
concept. It is influenced by conflicts such as "the communal vs. the
individual", "socialism vs. capitalism", "locals vs.
foreigners", "indigenous people vs. descendants of "conquistadores"
and gringos", "decentralisation vs. centralisation". In tourism
terms the conflict often translates as the village guesthouse program vs. the
lodge of the only english-speaking person of the village who started out as a
guide. Or the community owned lodge vs. the environmentally sensitive lodge of
an expat or of a returning migrant, the small village inn vs. the international
hotel chain, the
village on-foot toor vs. the adventure 4 x 4 overland expedition and so on.
Once in our (pro-ecotourism) website we once posed the
following poll: Given a choice, I would chose to stay at (a) a community-owned
hotel (b) An expatriate owned ecolodge (c) Undecided. . The implied question
behind the poll, was that sometimes a community operation does not have the
means / luxury to apply environmental standards, would you still patronise it
over an environmentally friendlier "intruder"? Although it was not a
scientific poll, the results were tight: 38%, 37% and 25% respectively.
There is no way that anyone can theorise on a general level
about community tourism without his or her general worldview entering the
picture and distorting it. Unless one is endlessly talking on a case by case
basis, with the danger of missing the forest for the tree.
Beyond politics, a community is only as good, strong, united,
educated, progressive, conservative, enlightened, rich, corrupt as its members
and its elected, hereditary, or imposed leaders. Equally community tourism is
only as good etc, as the (f)actors and sections (employees, lodges, tours,
funding, promotion, environmental effects, social effects) that comprise it,
both in the short run and the long run.
Community Tourism, is not by definition "good" or
"bad" for all, because we can not all agree on a unique model of
social development for all countries, all regions and all communities. Tourism
covers many industries, not just a single one. If we could claim that community
ownership and management in all these industries, even at the micro-level, and
even in countries were indigenous communities were wronged for centuries, was
the way for the future, ours would be a very simple and peaceful world, and it
is currently not.
A practical goal / question for this conference to tackle,
could be to focus on a few successful examples of Community (-owned / managed)
Tourism, to understand why each of us considers them successful - if at all, and
see whether it is possible / necessary to agree on some non-political yardsticks
of this success.
All postings can be seen at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/community_tourism
(Yahoo registration required)
ECOCLUB attends European Eco-label Working
The second meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group for the "Development of a draft Commission Decision establishing the ecological criteria for the award of the
European Community Eco-label for tourist accommodation" was held on the 14th of March in Athens, Greece. The meeting was organised by ANPA
the Italian Environment Protection Agency in cooperation with ASAOS (the Greek Competent body for the
European ECO-LABEL programme).
The co-director of ECOCLUB was invited to participate in this meeting. Over 40 participants from European Competent bodies, environmental agencies and representatives of the tourist industry attended and had the chance to participate in the round table discussion,
including ECOCLUB Expert Member Mr. Mr.Artemios
Chatziathanassiou from the Greek Center for Renewable Energy Sources (KAPE /
CRES). The meeting was chaired by Ms. Nicola Breier, Expert to the European
Commission and Mr. Herbert Hamele from ECOTRANS, an NGO.
The meeting aimed to discuss the first draft of criteria for the award of the
European community Eco-label to Hotels. Three types of criteria for the
Eco-label were proposed: Management, Measure and Limit criteria. The key
criteria involve reducing energy and water consumption, avoiding chemical substances, reducing waste, air
and noise pollution and protecting biodiversity. ECOCLUB proposed that a
criterion relating to the contribution of a hotel to the local community and
economy should be added. ECOCLUB also raised the issues of high certification
costs for small hotels and lodges, and the frequent conflicts of interest for
certifiers. It became clear to us that the majority of members
in the working group want to apply this Eco-label to the whole
range of the hospitality industry and to include large hotels and hotel chains.
ECOCLUB believes that eco-labels should have teeth, be meaningful for tourists,
be not too
expensive for small, genuine, sustainable providers to implement and renew, and
less easy and lucrative for consultants to apply.