Beyond Tourism: Towards an Intercultural Concord
Author: Chris Tou
A short manifesto asking ourselves and each other, as tourists, tour guides, travellers, humans, how we can go beyond tourism, its hidden and damaging consequences, and towards the intercultural.
TIME – PLACE – BEINGS – MONEY – AWARENESS
TIME – HISTORY
Tourism and the tourist is influenced not just culturally, but historically. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, for over 200 years, tourist industries have grown almost exponentially. The many, however increasingly homogenizing forms of tourism and the tourist are historically bound – that is, iconic tourism such as “eurotrips” and “all-inclusive resorts” have a deep history that go well beyond the obvious. If it is true that tourism and tourists are quietly influenced by and even inherit centuries-old ideas of what tourism is and what tourists do, then it is also the responsibility of tourism and tourists to acknowledge such history. As both tourists and tour guides/agents, we are responsible not only to ourselves and clients, but to this history, its consequences, and what those consequences might look like as a result of each step and action we take as travellers. We do, hereby declare our responsibility in feeding a time that is worthy of being inherited, from descendents seven generations from now, and beyond. We also hereby declare our responsibility in feeding a time that is ours, so that those who might have sought out natural or religious pilgrimages, secured weekend retreats, converted lush lands into tourist attractions or had their ancestral lands plagued by such untethered ambition – we do hereby offer our time to our travels, that they remember those who came before us, wrecked, wrought, and revered by this thing we call travel.
– Regenerative Content & Style (Basing content & style in the critical lens of the history of tourism, whether or not its directly included as such, i.e. can be subtle/indirect)
– Inclusive Content & Style (Offering content & style that not only respects the ancestors of a place, but embodies local culture whereby younger generations and the as of yet unborn have strengthened traditions to inherit)
PLACE – LOCALISM
Travel has this immense capacity to teach us about the nature of place and places. That is, the technologically-driven panoramas of train and air travel, the ease and efficiency with which to experience diverse, extreme, and unforgettable landscapes, and the seemingly inevitable shock of being at the gates of a culture, language, and set of traditions that are uniquely not ours puts 21st century travellers in the unique position of being both the torch-bearers of what regenerative and intercultural tourism could be, and those who might inadvertently or otherwise set fire to such a dream. The latter of course, has been the path well trodden, and thus it is up to us to bear witness to the consequences of hundreds of years of spectacle-based travel that has taken no responsibility for paving over, if not masking the genius loci of our “destinations,” because a truth is, we might be the only ones left proceed in such a way that breathes life back into the genius of these places. As tourists and tour guides/agents, we do hereby declare our grieving for the footprints of an industry that which we represent, our deep longing for the regeneration of what has been lost and forgotten be fully immersed in our work, so that in turn, the native seeds of the many places we visit might offer us a glimpse of how we may plant and seed, in our own native ways, the places we return home to. May these seeds be planted by what we learn from the genius of our places.
– Leave No Trace (Zero waste tour, with the same principle encouraged with our vendors)
– Showcase Local Products/Services (Oaxacan-based chocolate & chocolate drinks)
– Language (Tours offered in the local language)
BEINGS – INTERCULTURALISM
The meeting of various peoples, cultures, and languages are often lost in translation. Mass tourism has realized this to such an extent that English is today the official language of tourism. This neo-colonial consequence of “cheap travel” has not only brought the English language to all parts of the Earth, but its dominant culture as well. Multiculturalism through travel or tourism is often touted as a boon to non-western cultures, but multiculturalism is the voice that puts us side by side amicably without needing or even wanting to understand the depth of the other. Multiculturalism is tolerance, which only makes claims of accepting the other. Instead it inhibits interculturalism. If it is true what the scientists say and we are living in an extinction period not only caused by humans, but industrial western cultures, then travel, especially to places unlike our own, can offer us vast windows into other ways of living, other ways – perhaps even better ways of being culturally ‘at home,’ of being Earthling. We acknowledge that such relationships, may they be afforded to us, not only recognize human cultures, but non-human cultures as well. We do hereby declare that, as travellers and tour guides alike we acknowledge our responsibility to strengthen interbeing and interculturalism by resisting the global homogenization and westernization of peoples through travel by respecting the myriad ways in which cultures that are not ours and honouring the agency and autonomy of those whom we come to know.
– Local Vendors (local Oaxacan companies, employees, and products; to what extent does vendors supply chains embrace direct, equitable, and long-term/intergenerational relationships)
– Local Guides (local guides that offer a personal/familial/ancestral perspective on the content; female, elder, minority guides)
– Interculturalism (active promotion of local language, history, customs – rules/etiquette about photography, eating)
MONEY – TRANSPARENCY/RESPECT
Modern wanderings and vacations have often been said to be of a privileged nature. That is, travel is often expensive and often flights and hotels are occupied by residents of the Global North. On some level, travel is available to mostly everyone in some manner, but certainly relative to their economic standing. Like the equal weight of a coin, privilege must be countered by responsibility for balance to emerge. In almost all tourism, money is exchanged, and those with the privilege to exchange more of it also have much more responsibility to where that money goes and to whom it goes. We do hereby declare that money exchange between tourists and tour guides/companies be not only transparent, but fund and feed the above mentioned pillars of travel – time, place, and beings.
Paper Trails (Evidence of where the money goes, if its re-invested)
Fair Prices (Staggered pricing for locals vs visitors)
Such a manifesto is not created lightly, nor is it offered without urgency. In laying the groundwork for regenerative tourism, a vision that spans the broadstroked future but also the patchworked past, the offerings we make here attempt to approach a world on fire that very likely needed these words and inclinations decades ago. That being said, we acknowledge that for the same reasons, much of what is written and proffered, as pertinent and overdue as it may be, might still be decades behind where the genus loci begs for us to be. In both our travels and our guid-ance, may this always be packed into our luggage with us.
– Research (Local & global contact to communicate and integrate ideas/practices that go beyond the current models)
– Privacy/Respect (Understanding that not everything is or should be for sale, that aspects of cultures worthy of sharing, might also be more worthy of a kind of privacy that respects the nature of tradition)
– Approach (Our approach to all of the above aspects of life is self-aware and actively embraces honesty, respect, justice, and care)