Back in 1623 the poet and Church of England cleric John Donne wrote in his Devotions upon Emergent Occasions “No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.” In Africa, Ubuntu comes from the Nguni languages of Zulu and Xhosa, generally meaning “I am because we are”. An affirmation of our interdependence and common humanity. Nelson Mandella described it in 2009 as an African concept that means “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others”.
The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us of the importance of government. As the virus spread and took hold, we looked to governments to contain the virus, and to compensate the travel and tourism sector for loss of trade. The travel and tourism industry has been very reluctant to recognise the contribution it made to the spread of the virus. Businesses, trade associations and international organisations have called for travel restrictions to be eased and for financial support from governments.
It remains to be seen whether the experience of Covid-19 will change our attitude to government regulation. Many have pointed out that you can isolate yourself from Covid-19 and that there will be a vaccine. But, you cannot self isolate from the impact of climate change and there will be no vaccine. Covid-19 and climate change are major challenges, threats, that require a collective response which only government can determine and implement. The freeloaders who leave it to others and refuse to make the sacrifices necessary to meet the challenge need to be coerced through regulation and policing to do so. Covid-19 has brought government regulation deep into the ways families and friends socialise over Christmas and New Year. The role of government has changed. Climate Change too is a real and present danger. However, governments have, so far, been slow to act.
The IPPC has warned that the single biggest impact of climate change could be on human migration, in 2018 the World Bank forecast that the worsening impacts of climate change in three densely populated regions of the world could see over 140 million people move within their countries’ borders by 2050 and in July the New York Times ran a well-illustrated feature: The Great Climate Migration pointing out that it has already begun.
The efforts of those taking action to counter greenhouse gas emissions cannot continue to undermine these initiatives. In the end the laggards and free loaders denying their responsibility and failing to take action will need to be forced to do the right things through taxation and regulation.
At the heart of Responsible Tourism is this question for local communities and their governments, Will you use tourism for sustainable development or will you allow your place to be used by it? Increasingly governments are recognising that tourism needs to be managed and that funding needs to shift from marketing to management.
India is now leading in the development of Responsible Tourism, not least because of the way in which a new national tourism policy and strategy is nearing implementation. It will support and promote Responsible Tourism across the nation, building on the work of the individual states in empowering local government through the panchayats to work with communities and businesses at the local level to make tourism better for communities, businesses and tourists. The introduction of Responsible Tourism in Kerala in 2008, the learning from the initial experiments which has enabled the Responsible Tourism Mission to roll out the approach across the state and achieve impact at scale, has encouraged replication. India’s success with implementing Responsible Tourism and demonstrating the efficiency and efficacy of the approach has demonstrated the important role of national, state and local government in making tourism better for all stakeholders.
The panel discussion at WTM, London in November explored the development of Responsible Tourism policy and action in India.
Governance will be a key issue for destinations and businesses over the next decade.