By MARK OKRANT, NH Travel Guru
Each year, tourism specialists from numerous countries devise a list of key topics influencing the global travel industry. The list is compiled by David Edgell, professor at East Carolina University’s Center for Sustainable Tourism, The significance of this list extends far beyond travel and tourism, as it is a barometer of contemporary international political, social, economic, and technological actions.
Among the issues that received the attention of this group during the past year are sustainability, safety and security, tourism’s place in the world economy, climate change, and the important role played by leadership.
- Sustainability is an issue we have examined in this column previously. To sustain a phenomenon like travel and the communities that host it necessitates a “you, too-me, too” philosophy. Tourism can be an important source of income and positive growth. However, it must be conducted in a manner that provides positive experiences for visitors, while protecting the long-term welfare of their hosts.
- Most travelers are risk-avoiders. Even those who engage in high levels of adventure travel do so with the intention of returning home to share their experiences. The importance of protecting the health and safety of travelers has never been more apparent. Exotic diseases, gang actions, and terrorist cells are among a number of very real concerns for today’s travelers.
- Tourism has become a leading element of the world’s economy. Spending—by travelers, and by the businesses that serve them—ranks no lower than fifth in most of the world’s nations. One cannot overstate its importance in generating jobs and revenue within New Hampshire. With this in mind, government officials must be cognizant that their actions are much more than rhetoric. The travel world is watching; thus, draconian policies, even the occasional careless turn of phrase in the media, can have far-reaching, negative consequences.
- Climate change has become a political hot potato, particularly during the last decade. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the role played by human actions, the fact remains that engaging in acts that contribute—even slightly—to heating our planet must not be dismissed as being meaningless. Whether or not one accepts the idea that melting of the polar ice caps will lead to a dramatic increase in sea level, there are other concerns. We have already identified the economic importance of tourism. Now consider what climate change will mean to activities such as winter and summer sports that depend on a finite range of temperature and precipitation conditions. A change of several degrees will have a long lasting impact on these activities, as well as the spending and joy they engender.
- With the aforementioned in mind, one cannot possibly overstate the need for local, regional, national, and global leaders who understand the importance of tourism, and are prepared to respond in a manner that is consistent with the dynamic nature of our world. This is not the time to fall back upon old prejudices and policies just because “things should have/always have been this way.” We need leadership which realizes the inevitability of change, while recognizing that inertia is not sound government.
In next week’s NH Travel Guru column, we will look at five additional world tourism issues.
After forty years as an educator, researcher, and consultant, Mark Okrant joined IndepthNH.org to offer concise, informative insight into New Hampshire’s travel and tourism industry as a business, while showcasing the people and places you want to know. This guy’s really been around. And, he’s funny, too.
For more about Mark’s compelling tourism-based murder mystery series, visit www.markokrant.com.
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