Critiquing eco/ego/sustainable tourism: Broadening horizons
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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In the early 1990's, I argued that the real issues, those at the crux of tourism impact problems, were not being addressed - pertinent questions ignored amidst the blossoming euphoria of green rhetoric. A process emerged in tourism development whereby ego-enhancing, politically correct sound bites drowned out the voice of reason, namely common sense. Wonderfully self-satisfying, this proved a smug and timely convenience as politicians, planners, 'travellers' and increasingly (even) many tourism academics appeared to see problems without answers as an anathema. There must either be 'answers' irrespective of their practical effectiveness or a process be enthusiastically embraced whereby difficult questions are eliminated, or dismissed to the realms of the nihilistic fringe. Enter eco/ego/sustainable tourism. Scoring heavily on both counts, dovetailing nicely into the milieu of deceit while simultaneously reinforcing the required veneer of respectable positivism, it enabled the mundane, but crucial (and I argue intractable) questions to be systematically and deliberately sidestepped. Fifteen years on, little has changed. The futility of sustainable tourism is around us for all to see - should we choose, or care, to look. But, even now, we cannot face up to seeing it for what it is. Or, actually, what it isn't. The canard continues. Focussing on eco/ego/sustainable tourism, the thesis presents selected published works reflecting the nexus of my thinking on - and contribution to - the body of learning. It is a subjective, emotive perspective, with the emphasis on 'the personal'. And the eclectic. Concomitantly, the author advocates the use of 'visual' imagery, much in evidence in the publications, to fire imagination. The works seek to illustrate the manner in which empirical observation, experience and theory are all interwoven. Consequently, it is not just a matter of content, but of process: the means of illuminating and conveying ideas, and of teaching, are also explored. The essence of the argument presented in the thesis is that the void, the chasm between theory and practice, between what (perhaps) 'should be' and what actually 'is', cannot be bridged. The sheer number of tourists travelling, the absolute volume involved, combined with widespread corruption and the increasing adoption (universally?) of a 'what's in it for me, now' mentality, together negate any 'sustainable' efforts of redemption. My cynical views of eco/ego/sustainable tourism have not mellowed over the years. On the contrary, they have hardened as, alarmed, I have become increasingly pessimistic in (the dismal) light of the burgeoning optimism of others as to the potential, always potential, of sustainability. Dream on. The counter plea here, then - in ever more stringent tones - is that of the necessity to contextualise eco/ego/sustainable tourism within reality - to exit fantasy land. I, too, can dream, can't I?
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