Every traveller needs a compass to keep them on course.
Our compass points in six directions or pathways – simply different paths or pointers that can be explored to help your community realise greater net benefit from tourism and enable the visitor economy to generate greater good for everyone.
The centre acts like an axle on a wheel or hub in a community pulling the points into a coherent whole. The axle is named Perspective because it contains the assumptions or perceptual filters on which the model is based.
The compass is depicted against the organic background of a rain forest to reflect the fact that tourism is subject to the laws of nature.
Most tourism providers grew up on Philip Kotler’s famous 5 “Ps”
These elements were deliberately placed against the background of a six-sided box or doorless corridor to remind us that the industrial model references neat mechanical metaphors in which the linear connections and edges can be precisely delineated and measured.
To hardcore capitalists and neo-classical economists the only P that matters is the P for Profit.
Compass Points or Pathways
The axle and six key compass points or pathways are listed and described briefly here. Over time, more details and ideas will be added.
Whether stated or not, every operating model, organisation and initiative is based on a set of assumptions and beliefs about how the world works, what values matter, what’s happening “out there,” what needs fixing and how things might be done differently. They form a bundle of thoughts and concepts described variously as a paradigm or worldview and, over time, become invisible and often go unquestioned. But in periods of huge external change, their capacity to predict or make sense diminishes and questioning begins.
We’re living in such a period of human history. Furthermore, because of our number as a species and our technological capacity to both destroy and create, our situation necessitates more than cultural adjustments but an evolutionary transformation in what it means to be human.
To make it clear why we created Conscious Travel, what we stand for and our basic assumptions, we’ve created the Conscious Travel Credo
The Purpose pathway provides the primary point of orientation, identifying due north and pulling the other five points together into one coherent whole. The concept affects tourism at two levels –
- the purpose assigned to business in general; and
- the purpose associated with the act of attracting and serving guests.
The dominant business purpose and raison d’être for an enterprise has, traditionally, been to make money. For many micro and small businesses “making a living” and handing on a sustainable business to descendants has been sufficient. For others, growth in terms of number of units and profits is also a key motivator. Similarly, most destinations have sought growth in terms of visitor numbers with the delivery of social benefits like employment, tax income, foreign exchange and, more recently, as a contributions to conservation, and even peace offered as attractive side effects.
One of the outcomes of the paradigm shift that’s taking place across all spectra is that it’s changing the kind of questions we humans ask of ourselves and life in general. Up until recently, the most common question was “how do I get ahead, get a better job, make a better living”? Now a frequent refrain is “how do I/ we make the world a better place”? The role of purpose in differentiating companies, creating value and enhancing personal and corporate reputation has increased to such an extent that some suggest that the so-called Information Economy is morphing into the Purpose-driven Economy.
The implications of this shift in purpose are huge, complex and still unclear. They are very important to tourism. At Conscious Travel we believe that tourism has become too dependent on the pursuit of growth – seeing its need and role to simply get bigger – albeit it in a more sustainable way when so many employees and guests are expecting and wanting more than that. Doing more of the same with a few sustainable or philanthropic practices attached is neither sufficient or inspiring. There’s a real opportunity to both up and change the game by showing that tourism can be a regenerative force that enables all life to thrive instead of just survive
In addition, some are suggesting that purpose is the new branding positioning. Companies can attract clients not by what they seek but by what they stand for. A guest who returns home deeply moved emotionally or touched spiritually is far more likely to speak warmly about their trip than one who just had a few nights comfortable sleep, some great meals and views by the pool. In our workshops we help hosts dig deep into what higher purpose hosts can relate to and share authentically with their guests.
Inspired by the thinking going on outside tourism (in both positive psychology and ecology), we think the real game changer for tourism is to shift from simply getting better to and being part of the old Extractive Economy to becoming a major player in the emerging Regenerative Economy and ensuring that all stakeholders involved do indeed “flourish.” We’ve done some serious thinking about what flourishing might look like for a person, a business and a community and how it might be achieved and will share these thoughts over the coming weeks.
The Purpose Economy is a quest by people for more purpose in their lives. It is an economy where value lies in establishing purpose for employees and customers – through serving needs greater than their own, enabling personal growth and building community. Aaron Hurst.
THINK ON THIS
How likely is it that, if you asked your best friend how his relationship was going, he would answer, “Sustainable!” And if he did, wouldn’t you feel somewhat concerned? When you hear the word, does it lift your spirits? Do you feel lighter, more energetic, or simply flat?
Despite the frequency with which the cliche “tourism is all about people” is repeated, the travel and hospitality sector has a poor record when it comes to its human resource practices and has invested very little in developing human capacity. The International Labor Organisation (ILO) has described many of the working conditions for employees in the tourism and hospitality sector as “outrageous” due to low wages, long, unsocial working hours, poor working conditions, high levels of labour turnover, seasonality and lack of job security.
In this context, we’re convinced that the biggest opportunities to increase yield and significantly improve both profits and net benefits to stakeholders lie in the way people are perceived and treated. This will happen naturally once the underlying pattern of thought (world view) changes.
People – be they guests or employees – don’t want to feel targeted or deployed but inspired. They have hearts and souls as well as bodies and minds. They want to feel good about themselves and the circumstances they find themselves in.
Yes, tourism IS all about people – people who feel and have dreams and aspirations. By applying the industrial model of productivity and efficiency, targets and shares, we’ve lost the heart of hospitality which always was about encountering then sharing our homes with strangers before we outsourced that to the so-called accommodation industry. Is it really surprising that Airbnb is doing so well? This company simply meets a primal need for humans to break bread together and share a fire without feeling like a statistic with an acronym for a name e.g. PAX or ADR.
The Heart of Hospitality is an encounter that ignites feelings of warmth and safety. The English word Hearth – describes the place where in the home the fire is kept.. Add the H for home to the word HEART and you get HEARTH – a word that encompasses three others so relevant to the experience of receiving and giving welcome: ART (welcome can be expressed in so many creative ways); EARTH (reminds us of nature’s essential elements of earth, air, fire and water) that make Life possible; and of course HEART because without positive feelings radiating the heart, the guest can never feel truly at ease.
We make no secret of our desire to breathe some life back into tourism and hospitality – that is, inspire and ignite some passion that will cause our guests to truly feel alive. Back to business speak, that will mean:
- Creating attractive workplaces where employees know it’s safe and possible to grow and flourish. If they don’t feel positive – to the point of passionate – about the company they work for and the place they live in, how can you expect them to infect their guests with the same enthusiasm? Yes, passion is contagious.
- Similarly, if hosts are just focussing on outwitting their competition or pouring over their spreadsheets to see how much profit they squeezed out of a unit of production, how are they going to either inspire their staff or their guests? If the focus is on ensuring all guests to a destination go back home raving, hosts might realise they have more to gain by collaborating than cooperating.
The cliche we mentioned earlier, “tourism is all about people” is actually inaccurate and misleading. This amazing phenomenon is also about places. Tourists encounter their hosts not just anywhere, but in the host’s home place.
Every place on earth expresses Nature’s beauty, power, complexity in a unique way due its location in relation to the sun, its unique geology, hydrology, history, and the culture of its peoples. As indigenous people know, each place has a unique song, signature, personality or essence that’s sacred, that can be experienced and exists to be celebrated and revered.
Our deep, most intimate connection to Nature cannot be learned through the mind (analysis) but through a whole body experience not only involving our five senses, but via the additional ways of knowing felt through our guts, hearts and souls and expressed through the many and varied aspects of human creativity – art, dance, poetry, music, architecture, gardening, cooking, theatre etc.
Because hosts tend to stay put in one place ready to receive guests, they are best able to appreciate what dwelling in (inhabiting) a specific place means. As they grow in familiarity with its rhythms, they become of that place, they fall in love with it, becoming enchanted, becoming truly indigenous. They are then in a position to share its beauty and evoke a powerful sense of wonder and awe – feelings that science has shown not only to have enormous healing power at a personal level but to be the precursor to a deep sense of caring and protection.
Instead of place branding or even place making, Conscious Hosts learn the art of place sensing using a form of cellular intelligence that connects our unique identities to the vast mystery of the universe and the intelligence that underpins it. Developing a sense of place “offers a unifying story that weaves together our relationship with nature, art and community and inspires us to re-imagine not only how we live and lead but the nature of the universe itself.”
By coming together as a true community aligned around a common purpose of helping their guest experience wonder and awe or be touched by an experience of deep connection with a person from a very different culture, you will tap into one our deepest yearnings – to feel deeply connected and acknowledged.
Another P that we originally used for this point on the compass was P for Protection of the Living system that is our Planet.
Our focus on flourishing goes beyond sustainability, reducing one’s footprint and doing less harm. We support all sustainable practices but believe we must fundamentally change our relationship with nature – fall in love with her so that we experience a visceral need to both protect when she is in danger, to dance to her rhythm, and to allow her beauty and power to inspire and shape our own personal creativity. Mainstream thinking, that ignored nature for so long, now conceives the environment as an “it,” a factor that must be considered, used or priced, or a problem to the solved. Even some conservationists – who think that wild areas must be preserved in a so called natural state and evict its traditional human guardian – may care passionately for nature but still view wildness as something “other”. Indigenous cultures have long understand that we humans exist to maintain life and participate actively in its evolution. We are nature and she is us.
The point on the compass exists to remind hosts that it is our duty and responsibility to live as lightly on the land as possible, restrain from depleting our natural capital and working in harmony with nature to regenerate that which has ben damaged and assist in its future flourishing and evolution. Tourism is not a clean green industry – it is resource intensive and a significant contributor of emissions. The airline sector will contribute over 27% of our annual carbon output by 2020 based on its growth plans. Consequently, every effort should be made by the grounded part of tourism to eliminate C02 emissions and switch to alternative fuels. Once you “see” tourism as a system, it will hard to ignore the responsibility.
Source: John Nelson’s illustration “Breathing Earth,” created by stitching together from NASA’s website 12 cloud-free satellite photographs taken each month over the course of a year.
There is no shortage of expertise on how to be a sustainable host, what appears lacking is the will to invest combined with the excessive price competition that exists between hosts in destinations and between nations. What’s needed first is a shift in consciousness from an ego-system to an eco-system view.
An ego-system is structured to satisfy shareholder wants and to privatise decision-making. Financial capital is valued above other contributions, costs are not fully disclosed and transactions lack transparency. In the ecosystem, all stakeholders are committed to shared wellbeing of the comity. All forms of capital are valued, all costs are considered and transactions are transparent.
We haven’t yet created the conditions that would inspire and encourage enough places to commit to becoming carbon neutral or carbon negative. Conscious Travel is designed to develop those conditions one community at a time.
At its core, Conscious Travel is a call for change and achieving the level of change, at the speed we need it, will require a host of empowered “change agents” who, following Buckminster Fuller’s advice (see sidebar), can envision a better model that renders the old obsolete.
Power defined in its literal sense as “to be able” is therefore a top tier principle in Conscious Travel and hosts will need to understand how to use it to define and shape the type and pace of tourism that can enable themselves, their communities and their guests to flourish.
The nature of power, like so many aspects of human society is already going through a huge shift of its own. On the one hand, we’re experiencing huge concentrations of traditional power i.e. power that’s obtained through force or wealth; that’s hoarded and used to impose a will on others. On the other hand, digital connectivity is enabling the democratisation of power in the marketplace, the workplace and political arena.
Change agents need to work with “new power” that “operates like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, peer driven. It uploads and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it is most powerful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.
Conscious Travel is put forward as an approach to community-driven visitor management but it depends on active participation by the resident community that cannot take place in an environmental atmosphere of social apathy, a sense of powerlessness, or indifference. If the goal of crafting a visitor economy that works for all is to be achieved, conscious hosts must engage their communities and:
- Wake up and stop waiting to be rescued
- Grow up and acknowledge our responsibilities as community members
- Find kindred spirits both within and outside tourism passionate about your community and Step Up and serve
- Develop the conditions that encourage community-based empowerment
- Master the tools for effective collaboration
- Develop the conscious leadership skills appropriate for our time.
In the natural world, relationships are generally reciprocal and species evolve to “fit.” Flowers don’t compete and attempt to harm their competitors for the bee’s attention, they simply are the best, most attractive flower they can be.
The concept of “Pull” as opposed to promotional pushing is included on the compass to remind us that if communities, like people, have a clear sense of what they stand for and the courage to uphold those values; a distinct personality that expresses the uniqueness of the community in time and space; and have engaged and inspired their local residents and employees to attract and welcome visitors in their own authentic and natural way, they will have the magnetic power to attract the kind of customer who will value the types of experience on offer. This is not to say that much hard work does not have to the done to identify niche markets, develop an array of experiences that guests will enjoy, or plan and execute various marketing programs but it can be easier and less costly if the host community, in the broadest sense are in alignment.
The key here is integration with the community as a whole. A place is a living system – you cannot artificially separate activities or purpose from all other aspects of the community. A healthy visitor economy depends on the local resident community to provide a “social licence to operate.” Not only that but in a networked world we live in, the resident community can become its most effective marketing force.
Another word that begins with P – penetration – is also relevant as it describes the extent to which the income earned from non-residents trickles down to benefit the host community as a whole. In many tourism destinations the “trickle down effect” is unacceptably low and much of the funds spent by tourists leak back to the countries in which foreign investors reside.
Going forward, the boundaries that have traditionally separated tourism from local economic and social development need to be blurred and the three functions integrated. The capacity to achieve the full benefits of tourism can’t be left to tourism professional alone. Success will depend on:
- there being a strong sense of community in the destination and a genuine interest in welcoming visitors on the part of many residents;
- shared clarity about the type, pace and scope of tourism the community wishes and is able to support;
- a unique sense of place and the people and skills needed to express that personality;
- a real sense of aliveness that emanates from the passion, pride and commitment of locals;
- strong relationships that support the flow of energy, income, enthusiasm, goodwill;
- diversity of ownership structures that maximise the flow of benefits into the community; and
- access to local sources of capital and other forms of business support.