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 ecotourism?

ECOCLUB co-sponsored the Communities & Tourism Conference by 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 "developed" world.

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: (Yahoo registration required)

ECOCLUB attends European Eco-label Working Group Meeting.
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.