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Actors in sustainable tourism: Businss, Institutions and NGOs

For over 30 years I have been involved in the debate on sustainable tourism (tourism that contributes to a
sustainable future) from different stakeholder perspectives: as a tourist, a student, a trainer, an activist, a politician,
a consultant, a negotiator, a bridge-builder, a conflict-mediator, a lecturer, an independent expert, a small scale
entrepreneur, an economic-crisis-victim and finally as an academic; carrying out activities at grassroots level
(working with local communities and small scale hotels and owning a surfshop and restaurant), intermediary level
(negotiating with large touroperators on sustainability issues in their procedures and advising regional
governments on sustainable tourism policies) and international level as elected NGO representative in the UN-
Ad-Hoc-Working-Group-On-Tourism and in the UNCSD NGO steering committee, in the UNWTO/UNEP
preparatory committee for the International Year of Ecotourism and as the independent member of the Steering
Committee of the Tourism Child Protection Code (thecode.org).

These 30 years have seen an enormous growth of tourism arrivals 1. But the potential of tourism to contribute to
Sustainable Development has not been realized. Although
- there seem to be good intentions and a lot of talk on sustainability within the tourism industry,
- many national and international governments have policies for Sustainable tourism,
- Sustainable Tourism strategies have been developed in many countries,
- and long lists of best practices exist,
my conclusion, based on participation, observation and research, tends to be that tourism has not become more
sustainable, and its contribution to sustainable development in destinations is marginal, even if there is an obvious
(and often mentioned) relation between the resources for tourism development (cultures and nature) and the
resources central to sustainable development (people and environment).

In this article I want to elaborate this personal conclusion and explore the reasons for it. My special interest is in
the social component of sustainable development, in other words the effects of tourism development on people
and the responsibilities stakeholders such as Business and NGOs take for them.

2.History of Sustainable Development

The presentation of the Brundtland report by the WCED in 1987 2 is a defining moment in the history of
sustainable development. Building on the work of the Club of Rome 3 and the Brandt commission 4, the
Brundtland commission defined the sustainability concept for the first time in a seemingly coherent way. Before
the Brundtland report the discourse/debate on development was more or less separated in a Green and a Red
debate. Although both would deal with the quality of economic growth, the Red debate focussed more on
questions redistribution of wealth and the Green debate more on forests, seas and biodiversity. It was the mission
of the WCED to bring these debates into a congruent development model for the new century and the
millennium to come.
When the WCED presented its report in 1987 it was clear that the UN General Assembly would have to take a
stand on it and come up with a common agenda. Although the Brundtland report was only partly supported by
some of the right-wing liberal administrations of that time 5, the idea of organising a global UN conference on
sustainable development was accepted: the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development which
took place from June 3-14 in Rio de Janeiro.
The report was moulded into a n agenda acceptable for the UN and in 1992 the UNCED conference was
organized. Obviously, the outcomes of this conference were less ambitious than the recommendations in the
Brundtland report 6. As a follow up some new institutions 7 were put in place to further elaborate the ideas and
concepts coming out of the conference such as the The Rio Declaration 8, The United Nations Framework
From 277 mil arrivals in 1982 to 1035 mil in 2012 (source UNWTO)
2 Brundtland 1987
3 Report of the Club of Rome, Meadows 1972
4 Brandt, W. 1983
5 Shabecoff 1987
6 Doucmented in many articles for example Khor 2012, Daveport 2005 etc
Institutions in the sense of the New Institutional Economics wich we will come back to further on in the article
8 UN General Assembly 1992, a set of 27 principles designed to commit government to ensure environmental protection and
responsible development

Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, including the Kyoto protocol) 9, The United Nations Convention on
Biological Diversity ( including the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety) 10, and the Earth Charter 11. The institutional
result of the UNCED was the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), created to ensure
effective follow-up of UNCED and further the process of constituting sustainable development. The UNCSD
was also meant to be the international body to monitor the implementation of another institution, Agenda 21 12.

3.Key concepts: Planet, People and Profit

The main thrust of sustainable development is not to waste resources which our future generations are entitled to.
As Brundtland defined it more precisely and elaborately:
"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to
meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet
present and future needs. 13
In the following international debate on how to achieve this, the concept of the three Ps: Planet, People, Profit
was developed constituting the so-called Triple Bottom Line.

In the 70s and 80s when, following the Club of Romes report, there were big environmental concerns (P of
Planet) 14. As a response, the industrialized countries called upon Southern countries to save their natural
resources which they had preserved better than many in the North. They however replied to the industrialized
world (where the environmental concern was voiced most loudly) that their first priority was to fight poverty and
feed their People (the other P). The developing countries refused to put limits to growth and would not let their
agenda be dictated by the old economies 15.

So alongside the concern for the Planet, the concern for People was introduced. It was assumed as a fact that for
Southern countries to feed their people, economic growth was necessary. And since Northern countries did not
want to give up their growing prosperity, the principle of economic growth (and the P of Profit) was considered
the third pillar under sustainable development at the Rio Earth Summit (UNCED). Where the Club of Rome
played with concepts of limits to growth, zero growth, a steady state economy 16 or even degrowth 17, the Brandt
report (originating from respectable institutes as the Worldbank ), was critical to unlimited and unqualified growth
18 and the Brundtland report specifically addressed the changes necessary in the quality of growth 19, in the

preparations leading up to the Rio Earth Summit, the search for quality of growth fell victim to the individual
countrys need for growth. None of the developed countries intended to give up the growth of its national
industry, the developing countries did not want to give up the right to grow by cutting forests to feed their people,
and the Arabs wanted all of us to use more oil. Too many nations concentrated on their own self-interests
without looking adequately at the collective interest of all nations-which is, after all, the heart of the global
environmental problem. 20.

History repeated itself at many of the big international conferences following UNCED: every time important
decisions had to be taken, the tensions between the developing and developed countries and the fights over their

9 United Nations 2002, an international agreement aimed at the stabilisation of atmospheric concentrations of global greenhouse gases
10 United Nations 1992 (2), an international agreement to conserve biological species, genetic resources, habitats and ecosystems; to
ensure the sustainable use of biological materials; and to provide for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from genetic
11 Earth Charter 2000, a declaration of fundamental ethical principles for building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society in the
21st century. It seeks to inspire in all people a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the
whole human family, the greater community of life, and future generations
12 United Nations 1992 (3), a blueprint for sustainability and forms the basis for sustainable development strategies. Its
recommendations range from news ways to educate, to new ways to care for natural resources and new ways to participate in shaping a
sustainable economy
13 Brundtland 1987 page 37
14 Meadows 1972
15 Khor 2012, page 4
16 Daly 1991
17 Schumacher 1973
18 Brandt, W. 1983
19 Brundtland1987 pages 43 -45
20 Palmer 1992, page 1015

share of the economic growth, prevented breakthroughs in Kyoto, Johannesburg, Copenhagen 21.

While countries were struggling over their share of economic growth, another thing became clear. Aiming for
sustainability of one P, does not automatically lead to sustainability for the other P. Although in some cases win-
win situations seem possible between People, planet and Profit, more often there seems to be a need for a trade-
off between them 22. In other cases there seem to be unbridgeable conflicts of interest between ecological and
social issues and the interests of economic growth 23.

As a result, considering the P of Planet, the big threats, energy and pollution, are not tackled and issues dealt with
are limited to technical issues and easy trade-offs. The P of Profit, open to a wide range of interpretations and/or
expectations, which originally addressed economies on a global, macro-economic scale came to stand for (middle
term) profit goals and growth of individual companies, fundamentally a different issue than the qualified
economic growth the pro-Rio92 process was dealing with.

This article will focus on the P of People, social issues in sustainable development and the role of NGOs in
addressing these. First I will give an overview of the development of sustainable tourism

4.Sustainable Tourism
Sustainable (international) tourism is often confused with the existence of responsible tourists. There has always
been a niche group of responsible tourists. Travelling to other countries in times that travelling was not as easy as
it is now, presupposed a certain interest in nature and/or people visited. Those interested tourists/travelers often
were willing to take responsibility for the fates of nature and of the people visited and their cultures, and could be
considered responsible tourists 24. The study of Sustainable Tourism however should be less about tourists and
more about the process of organizing the value chain to offer tourists a touristic product and how that process
contributes to sustainable development. I will focus on international tourism to so-called southern, developing or
Third World destinations. This phenomenon has only been around since the sixties 25.

The first signs that tourism development was not as harmonious as most travelers would like to think it is, came
from South East Asia. The first manifestations of mass tourism were the R&R trips of American Vietnam soldiers
in the late sixties. They would go to Bangkok for a leave because: it was the cheapest place to go and there was rental
female companionship 26. This led to a powerful sex industry for foreigners that did not disappear when the war
ended. This industry went out to find new target groups and found them in the fast growing tourism market.

Many Thai groups opposed this type of exploitative tourism which many saw as a new form of colonialism. One
of the causes driving the exploitation was poverty in the rural areas and it became clear that tourism development
did not resolve this. Contrary to the claim, there was hardly any trickle-down effect of this tourism. Adding insult
to injury, when tourism development moved to the beaches, fishermen and farmers were evicted from their lands.
These effects gave rise to the growth of a movement, supported by the World Council of Churches, that put
tourism critique on the agenda, called the Ecumenical Coalition on Third World Tourism (ECTWT) 27. Through
the network of the churches, this movement spread worldwide and found supporters in tourism sending
countries. In 1986 a first international conference was organized in Bad Boll, Germany, tabling the issue of
Responsible Tourism by inviting the victims of tourism to an audience of European tourism developers. There,
tourism was put within the Churches agenda of justice, peace and the integrity of creation. Relating it to the
integrity of creation, the social issues of sustainable tourism debate were linked into the Green Agenda 28.

In the nineties there were sporadic references by politicians and NGOs to tourism and sustainable development.
On a political level the World Tourism Organisation (the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, since

21 http://ieet.org/index.php/ieet/more/dvorsky20100110/ and many others

22 European Commission 2009
23 Explained in more detail in Guo 2009
24 For instance the Grand Tour and tourist organisations like the International Naturefriends
25 Sezgin Page 73
26 http://www.tourofdutyinfo.com/Notebook/Essay4-R&R.htm
27 Montgomery 2001 page 30-31
28 ECTWT 1988, page 155-156

2003) published declarations on sustainable tourism 29, often in collaboration with UNEP, and some donor
NGOs reluctantly funded a number of projects putting responsible tourism in practice 30. The tourism
development policies of the international destinations however hardly addressed the issues of sustainability and
only referred to tourism in terms of economic growth and world peace. For NGOs however, criticizing or
opposing tourism development, it was difficult to participate in the international debate 31.

It was undeniable that international tourism grew very rapidly and more and more people became affected by it.
In poor destination countries, where short term income is as good as any, some groups would start benefitting
from tourism. Where initially hardly any civil group would support tourism development, from the mid 90s
onward a more pro-tourism stand developed within the NGOs 32.

It was not until 1999, when the UNCSD put tourism on its agenda 33, that interest became more widespread.
Industry had already been more or less co-opted into the sustainability debate over the issue of child prostitution
in 1996, when the arrest of a number of paedophiles in South East Asia (and the arrest of Marc Dutroux) had led
to a successful international conference in Sweden where all stakeholders agreed on common measures to prevent
child sex tourism. Industrys involvement in Sweden was followed up by an active participation in the 7th UNCSD
conference in 1999. At this conference sustainable tourism was linked to Agenda 21 and became a serious issue
which was taken up more often in conventions and declarations by all stakeholders.

Governments kept tourism on the agenda of the UNCSD meetings in Johannesburg 2002 34and Rio 2012 35 . Also
the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) paid tribute to the opportunities and threats of tourism 36. The
UNWTO and UNEP organized the first World Ecotourism Summit in Quebec in 2002 and regional meetings
leading up to it. Industry took up the challenge through declarations of their business associations and in yearly
tourism fairs such as FITUR (Madrid), ITB (Berlin) and WTM (London), which all have sustainable tourism or
CSR events. And they organized quality brands for sustainability such as GreenGlobe, Travelife, The Tourism
Child Protection Code. NGOs (led by the German GTZ and the Dutch SNV) employed tourism experts and
deployed them in developing destinations, giving a huge impulse to bottom up initiatives and to the legitimacy of
tourism as a tool for development. But also more critical approaches such as the World Social Forum organized
tourism events 37. In Europe TEN (Tourism European Network) in collaboration with the Ecumenical Coalition
on Tourism (ECOT, the former ECTWT), funded by German NGOs fed the critique, voicing the interests of the
South. In the spirit of sustainable development many multi-stakeholder initiatives were taken such as: Multi
Stakeholder working groups by UNEP and UNWTO and the ST-EP programme 38.

The 3 Ps in Tourism
There is an obvious (and often mentioned) relation between the resources for tourism development (people and
nature) and the resources central to sustainable development (People, Planet, Profit) 39. Nevertheless, as stated
before, the well-known effects of tourism development on ecology and culture, have not led to a more sustainable
development of the tourism destinations. The relation between commercial activities and social and
ecological/natural issues is a bit more complex in tourism than in other economic sectors. One of the most
important distinguishing aspects of tourism is the fact that the distribution chain does not bring the product to the
customer but brings the customer to the product. The client travels to the site where the touristic service/product
is delivered/created. Apart from resulting complexities for the value chain, the direct contact between visitors and

29 The Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, http://ethics.unwto.org/content/global-code-ethics-tourism

30 Notably the German GTZ and the Dutch SNV
31 Allthough formally, participation was welcomed, it was often not facilitated: invitations were not directed at the right groups of
conferences were organized in places where it was hard to expensive for groups lacking funds.
32 NGOs that started out criticizing tourism development would invite tourists to generate funds, for themselves and for the
communities they worked in, effectively leaving the principle No to tourism stand they had before.
of annual meetings to evaluate the progress made since Rio92
34 UN 2002 (2) Paragraph 43
35 UN 2012, Paragraph 130-131
36 http://www.cbd.int/tourism/
37 From Mumbai to Porto Alegre, Statement of Concern of the Tourism Interventions Group at the 4th World Social Forum,
38 http://step.unwto.org/content/background-and-objectives
39 The industrys core products are substantially linked to the preservation of natural resources, cultural heritage, and people. Helen
Marano, WTTCs VP of Government and Industry Affairs in Balancing people, planet and profits, E-turbonews Jun 18, 2012

people and nature visited, creates effects for sustainable development which are different from other sectors.

Where Planet issues are concerned, tourism has to deal with the effects of pollution (cf the CO2 emissions of
Airtransport vs the promotion of biofuels), with the effects on natural resources by creating tourism infrastructure
(cf the destruction of mangroves vs income generation for nature parks) and with the effects of tourist behaviour
(cf divers endangering coral reefs vs voluntary actions to clean beaches). The influence tourism has on Profit
issues may vary from effects on local economies (creating employment vs the rise of prices of commodities),
linkages with foreign markets (dependency vs opening up new markets) and ownership structures. In this article I
will limit myself to the influence on People issues, the social and cultural effects. To put these in perspective I
will develop a framework to interpret the social effects of tourism and the role of NGOs, based on the key
concepts Institutions, Stakeholders and Transparency.

5. Institutions, Stakeholders and Transparency

Parallel with the debate on Sustainable Development, a process of liberalization and deregulation took place, put
in motion by the liberal-right wing administrations of the eighties and pushed by institutions like WTO, IMF,
Worldbank, GATTS etc. In neo-liberal free market theory, rational decisions will guide the markets through
allocative efficiency 40 and the good and desirable (and sustainable for that matter) will result.
Most economists however agree that a free market only exists and only can function under certain conditions or
as Knippenberg puts it market economy only flourishes in certain cultural, institutional or political contexts. 41.
On top of that the market has some built in principles that, from a perspective of sustainable development, are
irrational and counterproductive 42. Institutions have been created to deal with these imperfections of the market.
In this study I will deal with NGOs that work within the limits these institutions. Therefor I will start with a
description of the relevant institutions and then with two core concepts that are important for the functioning
of market and its institutions: stakeholders and transparency.

In New Institutional Economy (NIE) it is acknowledged that legal, political, social, and economic institutions
(institutions) have important effects on economic performance43. Institutions might lead to the creation of other
institutions and they will relate and refer to other institutions. To make insititutions work it is important that they
are carried by organisations, institutions cannot function without their stakeholders . Dealing with social issues in
tourism I will focus on two of these institutions: The declaration on Human Rights (and closely related the

Human Rights/UNCSD
A generally accepted institution relevant for the social issues of sustainable development is the United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These rights are elaborated in further institutional arrangements and
although they are often addressed as a coherent concept, actually it is a complex set of declarations, convenants,
treaties and jurisprudence 44. A related institution is the UNCSD (which we dealt with before), which actually
combines sustainable development with Human Rights, creating a set of Millenium Development Goals 45,
specifying social issues such as eradicating poverty and hunger, giving everybody primary education, striving for
gender equality and empowerment of women, improving health, and creating global partnerships. Two other
related institutions are Agenda 21 46, which creates a further specified actionplan under the UNCSD and the so-

Under perfect competition free markets are allocatively efficient, but monopoly, monopsony, externalities, and public goods will
lead to disruption, For more see Markovits 2008
Knippenberg 2010, pag 19
Nobelprice winner Akerlof uses the market for used cars as an example of how the "the bad are driving out the good" and that
owners of good cars have disadvantages placing their cars on the used car market while those of bad cars have advantages.
Joskow page 5
For implementing the Universal Declaration, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were put in force in 1976 and have been ratified by over 160 countries. Related agreements
are the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Charter of the United
Nations, etc
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals established following the Millennium
Summit of the United Nations in 2000. http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/55/2. In the meantime they have
been replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals, http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?menu=1300
United Nations 1992 (3)

called Ruggy principles for Due Diligence 47, which elaborate the Human rights into responsibilities for the

Since the 90s it has been accepted that the development of society is not only a matter for government but that
business should also take a responsibility. Corporate Social Responsibility is an institution defining these
responsibilities and thus creating (and limiting) the scope of (legal) action for NGOs. Although one will encounter
many different definitions and descriptions they all have some issues in common. CSR is relevant for how a
company deals with social, economic and ecological effects of its actions, how it relates to stakeholders,
government, customers and owners and how it deals with regulations 48. CSR is seen as a selfregulatory and voluntary
activity of firms or corporations. It continues where the involvement of government ends, and it encompasses more than just economic
responsibility: societal and, where relevant, environmental issues should also be addressed, an approach often labelled as Triple-P
(People, Planet, Profit).49
CSR is elaborated in and applied through other institutions of which the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and
Global Compact (GC) are the most important and universally accepted. They were developed to support business
in defining these social responsibilities and creating the criteria, indicators and mechanisms to account for them.
Most of the content, developed for GRI and GC, deals with environmental (or Planet) issues and is formulated in
a way as to be in line with the financial interests (or Profit) of the company. For this study it is important to note
that the criteria and indicators are less specific on social issues (P of Planet) 50.

As mentioned before institutions will relate and refer to each other. The UNCSD refers to CSR in its Rio+20
declaration: the Future we want 51 and Ruggy Principles (due diligence) have fed into an update of GRIs third
generation of Sustainability Reporting Guidelines.

The importance of involving stakeholders is recognized by these institutions. The importance is derived from the
idea that in many areas of international sustainability policy, the international community has a common interest,
but the individual states involved have no interest in providing a contribution to the problem solution on its own.
In these cases it has proven valuable to include not only governments and other public institutions, but also
explicitly civil society organizations such as industry, NGOs, interest groups and social groups.

HR/UNCSD and stakeholders

Until the UNCED in 1992, sustainable development was mainly an issue for nations. Based on the argumentation
above, the UNCSD process acknowledged that sustainable development should provide stakeholders with
participation in decision making processes (and in turn take their responsibilities in the implementation of
policies). They are called Major Groups and identified as: Business and industry, Children and Youth, Farmers,
Indigenous Peoples, Local Authorities, NGOs, Scientific & Technological Community, Women, Workers and
Trade Unions 52. The role of NGOs was specifically addressed 53. The realization that participative institutional
procedures for implementing the sustainability concept were needed, also found its way into the Agenda 21 54.

Csr and stakeholders

UN 2011
See Dahlsrud, 2006
Knippenberg, 2010, pag 21
See Moneva 2006
UN 2012, Paragraph 47: We acknowledge the importance of corporate sustainability reporting and encourage companies, where
appropriate, especially publicly listed and large companies, to consider integrating sustainability information into their reporting
cycle. We encourage industry, interested governments as well as relevant stakeholders with the support of the UN system, as
appropriate, to develop models for best practice and facilitate action for the integration of sustainability reporting, taking into account
the experiences of already existing frameworks, and paying particular attention to the needs of developing countries, including for
capacity building.
52 http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/majorgroups.html, although One stakeholder group is missing here: the consumers, which
remarkably are mentioned often as stakeholder in the processes of the UNCSD but are not included in the concept of major groups.
UN 2012 paragraph 53. We note the valuable contributions that non-governmental organizations could and do make in promoting
sustainable development through their well-established and diverse experience, expertise and capacity, especially in the area of
analysis, sharing of information and knowledge, promotion of dialogue and support of implementation of sustainable development.
54 UN 2012 Chapter 2 of Agenda 21 is set to " good governance " and encouraging participation.

When dealing with the social issues of sustainable development, CSR stresses the importance of stakeholder
engagement 55, through which the industry relates to people who may be affected by its decisions and its influence.
This engagement is an important means for CSR to achieve the triple bottom line (the 3 Ps) 56. A basic principle
of stakeholder involvement is that the parties are taken into account in the process of decision-making. In the case
of CSR, stakeholders can be defined as those people, groups or organisations that are affected by the activities of a
company. Stakeholders can be directly or indirectly involved. Since CSR is about chain responsibility all groups
with interests or affected by the process throughout the chain would be stakeholders 57. But the circles of
stakeholders cannot be extended indefinitely and somewhere a line has to be drawn. Each company will draw the
line differently, including more or less stakeholders in their CSR policies. Therefor the actual definition of
stakeholders being used in CSR diverges considerably.

Ideally for the market to function, all information to make choices should be freely available. This transparency
will lead to greater efficiency (and sustainability). But there is also a common agreement that perfect information
does not exist in the real world market. Many markets suffer from asymmetric information between sellers and buyers and
many other pricing or output decisions are made on the basis of incomplete information (). This inherent issue may result in private
choices that do not then represent the best interests of individuals or society as a whole 58. To encourage or mandate transparency
of as much information as possible, institutions (laws, regulations convenants and CSR), exist. And both institutes
and businesses need stakeholders to support and challenge them in creating this transparency. However, even with
CSR policies accepted, industry often does not provide enough transparency: The need for CSR-transparency contrasts
sharply with the present level of transparency in contemporary markets. Empirical evidence sufficiently shows that the present level of
transparency still is largely insufficient. 59. Nevertheless there are very good reasons for transparency, not only based in
CSR but also in economic motivations. Dubbink points out that not only are stakeholders entitled to know what
affects them and is transparency necessary for CSR accountability, but transparency enhances allocative efficiency, at
least if consumers attach value to the social and ecological consequences of the products that they buy. 60. So it helps providing for
a more efficient market. On top of that the market and its institutions should be enabled to learn and improve
through transparency 61. NGOs play an important role in supporting and challenging these institutions. Before I
deal with this role we will first look at the social issues in tourism.

6. Social issues in sustainable tourism

Institutions create room, for NGOs to work on the social issues involved in tourism. What are these issues? I will
focus on the social issues of communities in southern destinations and of workers and firstly deal with the issue of
transparency, which is an important factor to understand and address an industry that is essentially dealing in
dreams. Then I will deal with the Social issues from the perspectives of the institutions (HR/UNCSD and CSR)
followed by an analysis of stakeholder engagement.

6a.Social issues in tourism and transparency.

Transparency on social issues in tourism is influenced by two factors. One is the complexity of social issues in the
process of sustainable development in general. The other is the way myths are created and manipulated by the
masters of make believe, the tourism industry.

Complexity of the People concept in general

For several reasons the People concept is complex. The 3Ps are very much interrelated, and trying to separate one
from the other seems to pose an artificial distinction. Leading up to the Brundtland report, there was a relatively

Participation of stakeholders however is not limited to CSR, it is also a tool to determine solutions to complex questions facing the
company, providing opportunities to find creative solutions to compete in an increasingly complex and ever- changing environment.
The idea behind the 3BL paradigm is that a corporations ultimate success or health can and should be measured not just by the
traditional financial bottom line, but also by its social/ethical and environmental performance Norman 2003, page 1.
Knippenberg, 2010, pag 21
Begg D, 1978 in Mendes pag 7
Dubbink, G.W. 2008 pag 391-392
Dubbink, G.W. 2008 pag 392
North, D. 1994, But how do the players know the correct way to achieve their objectives? The instrumental rationality answer is
that even though the actors may initially have diverse and erroneous models, the informational feedback process and arbitraging
actors will correct initially incorrect models, punish deviant behavior, and lead surviving players to the correct models.

clear distinction between the Red debate (a Peoples debate) and the Green debate (a Planets) 62. It was the
achievement of the Brundtland commission that it interlinked these debates and established the interests of future
generations as the ultimate reference of sustainable development. By implication , the final indicator of success for
all Ps is assessed in is its implications for one: People.

Besides the artificial separation between the Ps, complexity also results from using different concepts in relation to
the interests of People: society, social, community, stakeholders all differ from each other but are used
interchangeably. This is mystified a bit more when the contributions of stakeholders to sustainable development
are referred to as a social responsibility (like in CSR). In a pure approach to the 3 Ps, the concept social
would be reserved for the People, and it is hard to explain to stakeholders why taking care of the environment
would be their social responsibility.

A further complicating factor is the fact that development in essence is a process. The indicators for measuring
the progress in sustainable development can be defined in different ways, for instance in terms of the steps and
intermediary goals in the process or in terms of the final results of the process. They also can be defined (and
often are) as standards for this process, as is in the case of participation (one of the main concerns for Peoples
issues) 63. This ambiguity on whether it is about results or about a process and its characteristics is being used by
stakeholders to explain the slow process. 64

In the Rio process it was recognized that sustainable development is not only the responsibility of nations (which
represent a certain common interest) but also of stakeholders, such as business, local communities and NGOs.
The complex relation between interests of planet, profit and people, gained another dimension of complexity
when various stakeholders, influenced by political, economic and philosophical interests, with varying
interpretations of the issues, became involved. Where transparency suffers under the complexity of social issues in
general, there is a danger that concepts are willingly mystified 65. In the framework of this article I will not deal
with the general issues of mystification. I will however deal with the myths that are tourism specific.

Myths in tourism
In tourism we are dealing with an industry whose core business is to create and sell dreams: it will sell you a
Maasai Warrior in the Serengeti with the same ease as it is selling Mickey Mouse in Disneyland 66. So far, this is
harmless and actually not unsustainable.
However, being story tellers and myth creators the tourism industry has always been able to interpret complex
social issues in a way that fits their interests, adopting trends in political development strategies as part of their
marketing strategies (and thus neutralizing them). E.g. when in the sixties/seventies hippies were looking for an
alternative to the existing societies and were looking for refuge in faraway paradises, the tourism sector adopted
this thought and developed alternative tourism. When in the eighties the environment became top of the agenda
(witnessed by the growing importance of e.g. Greenpeace and WWF), alternative tourism changed to eco-
tourism. In the nineties sustainable development replaced the ecological agenda, and it did not take long for the
tourism industry to follow suit and go for sustainable tourism. The ProPoor strategies of NGOs in the
beginning of the new millennium led to ProPoor tourism etc. The problem is that changing the labels attached
to tourism was hardly ever matched by real changes in tourism and it structures. A look at the rise of low cost
carriers and a quick visit to an average travel agent will cast doubts on the question if there is any change towards
sustainable tourism. Core business seems to be sea, sun, sand and sex for a non-realistic (let alone sustainable)
price. To get a clear grip on what tourism is about, the following mystifying issues have to be clarified a bit.

The traveller: Since the inception of mass tourism, there has always been a counter movement of travellers who

62 The history of the Dutch Naturefriends Organisation (NIVON) is an interesting case, where socialist unions, early in the 20 th
century, teamed up with elitist mountain tourists to create a mix of affordable and environmentally conscious vacations. www.nivon.nl
63 Although participation is necessary it is not sufficient to guarantee good results of the process. Therefor degree, quality and effect
of participation should be taken into account.
64 Impatient NGOs are often told to wait: the results will come with the next steps or the effects have to trickle down.
For my next research I will applying theories of semiotics, using concepts as signifiers and framing, to deal with the lack of progress
in the sustainable development of tourism
Even the first tourists, the pilgrims, were cheated by the religious tourism entrepreneurs of the church, who sold them animal bones
for the popes.

want to distinguish themselves from the tourists and create their own niche markets 67. Depending on how the
challenges to the establishment were called, these travellers would be labelled alternative, eco-, responsible,
sustainable, pro-poor etc, tourists. However, it is doubtful whether the motivations of a tourist make him/her an
agent of sustainable change as is pretended by the labels they adopt. We tend to think that alternative travellers
are better capable of understanding the cultures visited than mass tourists. But understanding is a complex and
many-sided process. The residents may not understand alternative tourists better than they do mass tourists and
vice versa (if anyone wants to really understand anything at all 68). Taking this a step further: if the goal is to create
more awareness of the problems of the people visited, the question is why focus on alternative tourists, who
already have this understanding. It would be more efficient to focus on people that lack this awareness: mass
tourists 69.

Understanding and peace: From the misleading idea that tourism automatically creates understanding, a mystifying
claim follows that tourism would contribute to world peace. Since an important part of tourism is about the
encounters between people, and since this also feeds into the idea of sustainable development as a harmonious
development model, joining people all around the world, the tourism business has focussed on bringing peace
and understanding 70. Although it is assumed that peace is a precondition for tourism, this is only true in the
conception of peace as the absence of war (negative peace 71). That tourism does not necessary need peace in its
wider notion (as in positive peace), is clear in the countries where flourishing tourism goes hand in hand with
oppression of people.72

Cultures: One of the claims of tourism is that it supports local communities in respecting and preserving their
culture. Culture mostly is interpreted as a very static concept: as if windmills and tulips define my country, when in
fact they do not relate to any cultural aspect of my real life. When I was assisting (well educated) Maasai in
Tanzania developing walking safaris, in her complaint form, a (well educated) Dutch tourist questioned the
authenticity of the young Maasai leader because he was wearing underwear. This false romance, or noble savage
idea, is cosely linked to discriminatory behaviour and supports the tourism critiques which see tourism as the
newest form of colonialism 73.

Tourism as development Aid: The same line of thinking also supports the idea of tourism as Development Aid in a
triple win situation: while tourists enjoy, they do good and the poor destinations profit. But the contribution of a
tourist can only be instrumental to sustainable development in a certain context and if the conditions are right.
Although Development Aid can take many forms, there is some agreement that it should be long term, helping
the most needy, structurally improving living conditions etc. Whether the individual action of a tourist can
contribute in this sense is very questionable. The myth that tourists can act as development workers has found its
epitome in one of the fastest growing niches in tourism: voluntourism. The industry has picked up the altruistic
motivations of tourists and offers them relatively expensive trips during which the volunteers help the local
population. It has led to fake orphanages in Cambodia, where actually there is a lack of sufficient orphans and the
children taken care of have either been bought or kidnapped from their families 74.
Approached from a more structural point of view, in the sense of development projects and programs, I have
seen many best practises in tourism and development come. And disappear. The ones that survived for a longer
period, mostly were incorporated in mainstream tourism, often loosing the sustainability perspective. Thus
Development Aid more than once subsidized the innovation costs of the tourism industry. And many regions that
started out as examples of sustainable tourism funded by development funds, grew into mass tourism disasters,75.

Boorstin (1972) distinguishes travelers and tourists.
In the early 70s L. Nettekoven did interesting research on this issue in Tunis, Nettekoven 1972
69 In many of our projects our NGO informs tourists. Where often it is less rewarding to communicate with alternative travellers, since
they are often already aware, it is often amazing how showing other perspectives can really change the mind of mass tourists, who had
never thought about the effects of tourism before.
70 The flagship for this idea is the International Institute for Peace through Tourism whose ideas are based on a vision of the world's
largest industry, travel and tourism - becoming the world's first global peace industry; and the belief that every traveler is potentially
an "Ambassador for Peace.http://www.iipt.org/
For the concepst of negative an positive peace see Galtung, J. 1996
72 There is a permanent debate on the question what challenges oppressive regimes more: a boycott or critical tourists Radio interview
and the debates on Birma between Tourism Concern and Lonely Planet see Mowforth, M. 2008, pag 291-292
74 http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/taking-aim-%E2%80%98voluntourism%E2%80%99
Nusa Dua, Cancun etc, and more recently some of the projects under the Tsunami relief funds, Rice 2005

Another counterproductive effect of matchmaking between tourism and Development Aid, can be the exclusion
of the most needy from the benefits of tourism development: a result of government subsidized responsible
sourcing in Costa Rica by TUI-NL 76 was that, while best practice SMEs were included, th most needy
entrepreneurs and associations were excluded from its tours 77. In a comparable way young men were put out of
business by Bumster regulation projects in the Gambia, funded by Development Aid 78.

The importance of tourism: Tourism is consequently presented as one of the largest economic sectors in the world
economy 79 and th largest employer worldwide 80. However, the complexity of the tourism sector creates room
for interpretations and calculations of the importance of tourism can be quite complex and misleading 81. NGOs
have criticized the way the numbers underlying these claims, are created. There is an ongoing debate on the
definition of a tourist, in which the UNWTO, in order to pump up the numbers will use the broadest description,
basically including everybody who travels 82. And the way states assemble numbers through the Tourism Satellite
Accounting System (pushed by UNWTO), according to many experts, helps exaggerating the importance of
tourism 83.
Another example is a special website 1billiontourists on which the UNWTO indicates that there are one billion
tourists yearly 84. The way they count however, is dubious. The number referred to is the number of arrivals
worldwide: one billion. If one tourist visits two or three different countries, this means three arrival, so he is
counted as as many tourists. Many of these travellers (especially business travellers but increasingly also tourists)
travel a few times a year. By suggesting that 1/7th of all world population is a tourist the UNWTO seems to
underline its claim that all world citizens have an interest in tourism. Besides being an exaggeration, it also is an
elitist claim since many in this world still have to fight for the right of leave from work, let alone have a right to
holidays and tourism.

Tourism as a Human Right: From the rights to holidays or leaves, tourism proponents also created a myth of a
Human Right to tourism. The declarations on Human Rights include rights to freedom of movement (Art 13)
rights to flee from and return to countries (Art 13.2), workers rights like the ones to freedom from slavery (Art 4)
and to rest and leisure (Art 24). Where, as a matter of fact, tourists do have a claim to having their Human Rights
respected when travelling, there is no such thing as a Human Right to holidays or to vacation. Nevertheless,
bodies like the UNWTO are using this supposed Right to claim rights for tourists and tourism 85. Apart from the
elitist element explained above, it would be a real problem if, because of this supposed Human Right to tourism,
tourists (and tourism) would also claim a right to resources in the destinations they visit, where these resources are
scarce goods. This is actually the case in the debate on Water and Human Rights (see further on in the article)
where tourism companies claim their fair share of water for their operations in regions where there is hardly
enough water for local people.

6b.Social issues in tourism and the institutions

The institutions we deal with here, all pay attention to the 3 Ps of the triple bottom line, including the P of People.
This is reflected in the way these institutions are relevant for tourism and its social issues.

Although the tourism industry is a late adopter 86, nowadays most businesses have a CSR policy. Instruments have
TUI is one of the worlds biggest tour operating conglomerates
77 Interviews wirh SMEs and women cooperations in Costa Rica in the framework of the Sustainable Development Treaty between
Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Bhutan and Benin
78 Own interviews with Gambian bumsters and tourism experts between 2004 and 2013. The same is true for the Bumsters, young
men trying to service, mainly female tourists in Gambia. Bumster Rehabilitation Programs to improve the sustainable quality of
tourism in the Gambia, include actions to regulate them, giving the good ones permits to work and banning the bad ones. Again,
the selection criteria favour the ones with capacities, who would survive without support, excluding the poorest and neediest
The weakness on numbers on employment was addressed in a the 5th UNWTO international Conference on Tourism Statistics
from30/3 to 2/4, 2009.
A very interesting blog on the issue is http://tourismplace.blogspot.it/2008/04/tourism-is-not-worlds-largest-industry.html
82 In a 2013 study on childsextourism in the Gambia, commissioned by the EU, we dealt with this issue. It will be published in 2014.
83 An interesting blog on this issues is: http://tourismplace.blogspot.it/2008/05/on-use-and-abuse-of-tourism-satellite.html
84 http://1billiontourists.unwto.org/
85 Kamp, C. 2011, pag, 20/22, Babu,2007, page 43
86 Until the nineties when NGOs challenged big touroperators on the responsibilities of their operations for stakeholders in developing
countries, they would refer to the fact that they operate within the laws of these countries and that it is the responsibility of these

been developed and implemented by the tourism industry, and every tour operator and hotel that respects itself,
has brochures and webpages explaining how it takes responsibility for society 87. In these pages one will find a lot
of attention for people and planet, and the way tourism can develop in harmony with them, all in full color and
convincing texts. However, like in other economic sectors, CSR policies in tourism might contain some goals and
indicators where environmental issues are concerned, but often lack clear and measurable indicators and
procedures to deal with the problems related to social issues. And, as in the case with GRI, not many companies
have their social goals elaborated in as much details, criteria and indicators as they have on progress on
environmental issues.

Human Rights/UNCSD
The signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human rights have determined to promote social progress and
better standards of life in larger freedom 88. The declaration offers a tool to work on social issues, and in the
process of the UNCSD, and through the Due Diligence of the Ruggy Principles, this has been reinforced. The
following are the most relevant social issues related to Human Rights in tourism 89.

Tourism and the Rights of communities visited

The development of tourism has the potential to promote social progress and better standards of life. It has a
huge impact on the social, cultural, ecological and economic conditions of the communities visited. Developing a
touristic infrastructure will change traditional structures, the confrontation with other cultures will affect their
own, the development of new economic activities and the influx of big amounts of (foreign) money will change
incentives and ownership structures and the local nature and environment will be affected by touristic activities.
Many of these complex tourism-related changes have affected the Human Rights of the visited communities and
its people, some of whom will not be involved in or benefiting from tourism. Not only is their privacy invaded as
a result of the touristic gaze, but tourism is often developed without the consent of local communities, thereby
neglecting the right to self-determination of farmers, fishermen and indigenous people like the Adavasi, Maasai,
and Bushmen. In a number if cases these groups were discriminated against. By taking away their land to
construct tourism facilities and by using scarce goods like water and food their livelihood and food security has
been threatened. In some areas the development of mass tourism has shown no respect for diversity and
sensitivity to differences with as a result a monoculture of standard tourism facilities. Some groups are especially
vulnerable and affected like women, indigenous peoples, people living in disputed areas and children. On top of
that tourists will mingle in the daily lives of the locals, looking at them as attractions and trying to experience their
daily lives. Some of them are culturally insensitive and show a lack of Tolerance and understanding of traditions
and religion. Because of this complex relation with development tourism affects a large number of related to
Human rights, listed in tab 1.

Tab 1. Tourism and the Rights of communities visited

Universal declaration
Art 1 All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Art 2 Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any
kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property,
birth or other status
Art 7 All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
Art 12 No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to
attacks upon his honour and reputation.
Art 25.1 Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his
family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services

Other declarations and conventions (including special groups)

Declaration on the Right to Development, UN General Assembly 97th plenary meeting (4 December 1986)
Declaration on Social Progress and Development, UN General Assembly, (1969) res. 2542 (XXIV), 24 U.N.
GAOR Supp. (No. 30) at 49, U.N. Doc. A/7630.

countries to control them. Some would go as far as accusing NGOs of a neo-colonial mentality. At that time companies like Shell and
Unilever had already adopted CSR policies.
87 www.tui.nl/duurzaamtoerisme , http://www.kuoni.com/corp-responsibility, http://www.accor.com/en/sustainable-
Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN 1948
The potential negative effects of tourism for Human Rights are affected by the general state of respect for Human Rights in the
region. Some rights are affected directly, others indirectly (for instance in the case of the effects of tourism on climate change).

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, UN General Assembly, 18
December 1979, A/RES/34/180, 34th session
Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN General Assembly, 25 of 20 November 1989
resolution 44.
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
UN General Assembly 21 December 1965resolution 2106 (XX)
(Artikel 1), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, UN General Assembly, 16 December 1966
resolution 2200A (XXI)
Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions The General
Conference of the UNICEF 33rd session , Paris, 20 October 2005
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UN General Assembly, 13 September 2007,
A/RES/61/295 Sixty-first session
Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, C169 ILC, 27 Jun 1989

Tourism and Labour rights

According to the WTTC 100 million people are employed directly in tourism 90. Labour rights and the quality of
jobs have always been a contended issue because of its seasonality, the lack of career options, gender
discrimination, unequal pay, higher jobs for foreigners and lower positions for locals, the right to organize in
unions etc, and improvements seemed to have been made. Any improvement of the past decades however has
been severely undermined by developments in the way the tourism industry is organized. Increasingly labour in
the hotel industry is being outsourced, leaving the workers without the protection which would characterize a
responsible tourism industry 91. Childlabour, according to the ILO, is a persisting problem in tourism 92. Other
examples of lack of protection of jobs is the way the tourism industry deals with tour guides (lack of adequate
contracts), workers on cruise ships (working hours) and porters (working conditions). The relevant articles on
Human Rights are listed in tab 2.

Tab 2 Tourism and Labour rights

Universal declaration
Art 4 No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
Art 5 No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Art 23.1 Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and
to protection against unemployment
Art 23.2 Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work
Art 23.3 Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an
existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
Art 23.4 Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests
Art 24 Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic
holidays with pay
Other declarations and conventions
Art 8 (3a) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, UN General Assembly, 16 December 1966,
resolution 2200A (XXI)

Tourism and the right to land

Land is one of the most important and scarce resources needed by communities for their livelihood: for food,
housing, hunting, natural resources and often for cultural and religious reasons 93. The development of tourism
always involves new uses of land for its infrastructure and activities and it will therefor compete with the needs for
land by local communities, farmers and fishermen. Some the fashionable forms of tourism are particularly land
intensive, like All Inclusive resorts or golftourism. Some land issues show the potential conflict between peoples
and planets interest, like the agricultural land needed for biofuels to clean the airline industry, or the evictions
of indigenous people from their land to create national parks for conservation. The resulting land grabbing and
forced evictions are at the top of the social concerns regarding tourism 94. The Human Rights that are affected are
shown in tab 3 95.

91 According to the ILO the workingconditions in tourism in general are bad. The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel,
Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) has documented many cases.
Bliss, S. 2006
A complicated issue here is ownership, In many cultures landownership is not private but communal and title deeds are complicated.
Among the many examples, we have worked with the Maasai in Loliondo Tanzania, and Praia de Canta Verde in Ceara Brasil
For more on land-grabbing and human rights see De Schutter 2011

Tab 3 Tourism and the right to land
Universal declaration
25 (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his
family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services
Other declarations and conventions
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights UN General Assembly 16 December 1966,
resolution 2200A (XXI)
Art. 1.2, Art 11 and 12

Tourism and the right to water

In many tourism destinations water is scarce. Tourists expect to have showers, baths, water closets, and drinking
water. Hotels offer them swimming pools, green gardens and golfcourses, all in need of lots of water. A tourist
can use up to 40 times the amount a local inhabitant will use 96. And all this water has to be disposed of through
sewage systems that hardly have any cleaning facilities, so that the water that is available to the colcal communities
ends up being polluted. The pollution can lead to diseases as in the case of the Mapuche in Patagonia 97. Women
are especially affected since often they have to walk further for clean water. Although the original Universal
Declaration has no specific Human Right on water, this right was established by the General Assembly of the UN
in 2010, based on articles from several other Human Rights declarations 98. (See tab 4).

Tab 4 Tourism and the right to water

Universal declaration
ART 25 Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his
family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services
Other declarations and conventions
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights UN General Assembly 16 December 1966,
resolution 2200A (XXI)
Art. 1.2, Art 11 and 12
AND CULTURAL RIGHTS, Geneva, 11-29 November 2002, E/C.12/2002/11
UN General Assembly Human Rights Council (2010): Human rights and access to safe drinking water and
sanitation, 15th session, A/HRC/15/L.14. Resolutions, decisions and Presidents statements, Adopted on 30
September 2010

6c.Social issues in tourism, stakeholders and NGOs

The institutions mentioned (HR/UNCSD, CSR) all open the way for stakeholders to be more involved than just
as consumers or groups affected by industry. Many different stakeholders represent as many different interests,
NGOs are seen as the vehicles to organize these interests. Reducing uncertainty and insecurity to secure a bottom line for
poor peoples livelihoods is a necessary condition for their seeking their own developmental gains with respect to both state and market
institutions. This may prove to be a vital goal for NGOs in the face of global processes that threaten many peoples ability to sustain
themselves. 99 In this study I assume that NGOs represent the interests 100 that have difficulties defending
themselves in a free market setting, the most disadvantaged groups affected by tourism, identified by Human
Rights initiatives as workers, women, children and indigenous peoples. The means that NGOs have to work
within the playing field set by the institutions can be ordered in three categories:

Use opportunities of the institutions: The institutions are created to improve equal access for all to the markets. NGOs
can monitor the market for being an equal level playing field in which the poor and disadvantaged are able to
express themselves loud enough to have influence. They can counter the agenda of the other stakeholders with an
agenda of the poor, based on Human Rights. They should also represent stakeholder interest within CSR
especially where sustainable innovation and stakeholder involvement are concerned. The institutions offer ways to
put pressure on the industry and to (eventually) bring them to court on sustainability issues, through CSR,
UNWTO and Human rights complaint mechanisms.

Promote the participation of stakeholders: Through representing stakeholders in institutions and in the market, NGOs

Gssling 2012
Described in Mowforth 2008
Gleick 1999
99 Cameron, page 635
100 Not only social but also ecological and economic interest in the wider interpretation of Profit, namely small economies and
companies that should be protected against liberalization and corporate take overs

can promote their participation in development. This participation can be effective by empowering communities
and target groups to make themselves heard. And the simple fact of showing solidarity can contribute to more
confidence and more effective participation. The creation of a critical mass of consumers, which is lacking in
tourism, can also be their task. For all this it is important to build networks and contacts with new partners.

Transparency: The opportunities the institutions offer should be used by NGOs to create more transparency on
social issues that surround tourism. In this way they should balance the marketing and PR info offered by
companies. To create more transparency activities are necessary like research, informing target groups, education,
critical dialogue, debate, campaigning etc.

If all this fails there is of course also the opportunity to lobby for better institutions or fight the existing ones
(preferably with legal means). And NGOs should look at the alternatives for the existing and old markets that are
being experimented with and which are proving themselves stronger in times of crises 101.

7.NGOs in tourism
The tourism industry is a fairly new phenomenon and the NGOs challenging it also. As described before, initially
NGOs did not pay a lot of attention to tourism one argument being that tourism is a complex phenomenon, cross
cutting through several sectors. Since tourism is seen as a luxury item, many NGOs considered it a threat to
sustainable development, because it only benefits rich tourists and other rich stakeholders. If NGOs got involved
it was as a fundraising activity by having tourists visit projects, not as a sector with potential for sustainable
development. From the nineties onward, NGOs from destination countries started asking for support for tourism
projects and attention shifted. Western NGOs started funding tourism projects and in the first decade of this
millennium this led to a considerable amount of attention and money spent. Lately however, under pressure of
budget cuts, funding has been brought back substantially 102

Some of the NGO stakeholders that have been involved in defending the social interest of communities in
southern destinations and workers are.

A selection of NGOs active in sustainable tourism 103

Global Regional National Receiving National Sending (only for Europe)
ECTWT/ECOT TEN 104 ASSET (Gambia) Akte - Arbeitskreis fr Tourismus und
TIES (small NANET FTTSA (South Africa) Entwicklung (CH)
entrepreneurs) WWF Campfire Associazione RAM (I)
NGOCSD Naturefriends Equations (India) Foro de Turismo Responsable (ES)
ECPAT Rainforest Alliance Kabani (India) Karavaan (B)
ATG (Palestine) Informatie Verre
Base Casamance (Senegal) Reizen (NL)
Praia de Canto Verde (Brasil) Naturefriends International (A)
And many more Schyst Resande (S)
Studienkreis fr Tourismus
und Entwicklung (D)
Stichting Retour
Foundation (NL)
Tourism Concern (UK)
Tourism Watch/EED (D)
Foro de Turismo Responsible (S)

Some of the issues that got the most attention from these NGOs were the following

Sustainable development
People Planet Profit
Tourism and development Climate neutrality CSR
World Social Forum Water GATTS
Peace and understanding Racism Fair Trade

In many cities small self sustaining economies are on the rise, and the internet facilitates monetary alternatives like Bitcoin.
102 For example the Dutch SNV, who was one of the main NGOs investing in tourism (among other through the ST-EP program)
cancelled their tourism programme entirely.
This is not an inclusive list. E.g. It has a focus on European sending countries and NGOs that also have an important interest in
organizing tours have been left out.
In Europe there are several coalitions mainly subdivided (except for TEN) along language lines.

Participation Climate justice Branding/certification
Forced evictions Biological diversity Greenwashing
Indigenous Peoples Air traffic/Climate change Promotion of best practises
Farmers and fishermen Sinking isles Community based tourism
Women and children Tsunami Pro poor tourism
Eco tourism

NGOs critised and took action against some specific forms of tourism: Cruise ships, Golf tourism, All inclusives,
Voluntourism and some forms of Ecotourism. Some countries and regions received special and critical attention:
Birma, Palestina, Kerala/Goa, South Africa, Western Sahara, Tibet, Sri Lanka. Some defining meetings for NGOs
were: Bad Boll (1986), The Cyprus activist meeting (1991), UN-CSD7 (1999), World Ecotourism Summit (2002).

8.The lack of progress

In spite of all these players and all these issues dealt with, not enough has happened to claim that there is a lot of
progress in the development of sustainable tourism. Where some might attribute this to failing institutions, it also
implies that NGOs have not been successful in the role they have to play.
This is at least partly due to:
- Successful strategies of the tourism industry
- Weaknesses of NGOs

8a.Succesful Business strategies

The industry has been quite successful in fighting off the challenges the NGOs try to pose them. Based on my
experiences in bridging the gaps between NGOs and business in tourism I can distinguish the following strategies,
which often are combined.

Manipulating concepts (mystification)

I already referred to the myths inherent to tourism, which are partly maintained by industry. When talking about
sustainable development in general industry will use grand designs, without much attention for detail. But when it
comes to implementation of a concrete case every word is weighed on a gold platter. E.g. the progress in the fight
against childsextourism was halted because the industry vehemently opposed the term itself. Over the concept
of a binding clause in a contract, years of debate followed.
When addressing stakeholders in their CSR policies, industry will try to limit the scope as much as possible and
refuse to include groups that from a sustainable development point of view, should be included 105.
An often manipulated concept is that of ecotourism. Huge trendy hotels catering for a very select group of
travellers that depend on air traffic are labelled eco, without taking the consequences on the scarce resources into
account 106. And by describing normal operations as best practises and handing out awards and prizes in
contests (mainly to each other) an idea of a responsible industry is created 107. Unfortunately Social and
environmental disclosures are to a large extent self-laudatory ()What is more, various studies show that voluntary environmental
disclosure is not a reliable indicator of a firms environmental performancetoo ( ) too often, companies attempt to change
perceptions without changing facts 108.

Working on the implementation of The Tourism Child Protection Code, I was confronted with many delaying
mechanisms. Delay is a very common strategy used by the industry in adopting CSR. Initially, after the formal and
publicly announced acceptance of their social responsibility for sustainable development, industry would break
this concept down into many smaller issues. They would then carefully select niche topics like child sextourism
and small scale initiatives as their battlefields (effectively drawing energy and resources from NGOs), while hardly
addressing the bigger issues of Air Traffic and All Inclusives. Industry would claim that no solutions work unless

105 From the side of neo-liberal free market economists such as Friedman, it was welcomed as a step towards their more principal
approach, to take into account only the stakes of one stakeholder group, namely shareholders.
106 For example the Tircaol Fort project in Goa, The Times of India, dec 1 2013 and
http://www.serenahotels.com/serenaserengeti/ecotourism-en.html, but there are many more examples
107 An example is the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards 2014, where prizes and mystification of concepts are combined:
Balancing future growth with the ability of the planet to accommodate that growth is at the heart of sustainable tourism. Around the
world there are examples of how our industry is meeting this challenge head on with innovative ideas driving creative solutions to
ensure that Travel & Tourism can be sustainable in the future. The Innovation Award will showcase the best of these examples.
108 Dubbink, 2008, pag 392.

taken up through the association, after which the association will reply that it can only be done in an international
context. Although the CEO might commit, he would start warning that implementation through the whole
organisation would take a while. In the process of implementation he would discover the amount of work
involved and set priorities, after which other priorities would (unfortunately) come first. For lack of resources they
would only be able to deal with these issues partially and finally they might realise that their initial promises were
impossible to implement and ask NGOs to negotiate the whole process over again.

Create complexity
The transparency, needed for stakeholders to enhance the sustainability of markets, is hindered by the fact that
businesses create complex structures 109. Not only do they speak with several voices (CEO and PR vs business
units) but through the break-up of one business in many different operations, with a lot of outsourcing of
services, the structure of ownership, financial interests and workrelations are made untransparent. As a result,
training the personnel of one All Inclusive hotel in the Dominican Republic would require negotiations with at
least 7 different owners and subcontractors. Another example of blocking transparency by creating complexity, is
a favourite Dutch medium-sized alternative/responsible tour operator, which, when taken over by a giant
multinational, became part of the English branche, in order to prevent Dutch customers to find out about its loss
of independency.

Using the institutions

The industry will use the institutions to fight NGOs challenging them. In a few cases NGOs have been
confronted with the classic carrot and stick (or good cop bad cop) strategy. While our NGO was negotiating with
hotels and restaurants on child protection measures, their International Association threatened to take us to court
if the measures (they themselves had just signed), would hurt their business. In the same period the Dutch tour
operators association sent us a letter that they would refuse to work with our director and suggested they would
take him to court if he did not stop pressing cases (but it would however, continue working with his colleague on
the issue of the Tourism Child Protection Code). For NGOs, with limited resources the treat to be taken to court
by big business, is a serious one.
And meanwhile, the tourism industry is lobbying governments (directly and indirectly) to change the rules of the
game and change old and create new institutions, often to support the less sustainable sides of tourism 110.
Unfortunately in the negotiations on these tourism issues, NGOs are often left out or invitations are extended
that are not realistic 111.

8b.Weaknesses NGOs
The fact that change towards sustainability in tourism is slow, is partly due to the fact that NGOs do not seem to
be able to deal with these business strategies. In other words they do not seem to be able to use the institutions
that should provide access or at least transparency to them. Based on my own experience in and with NGOs in
the Netherlands I will deal with the difficulties NGOs face 112.

+Shifting axes
The relations between the global North and South have changed. Not only did new countries (the BRIC) rise to
power but also within less developing countries, middle classes came to the rise. The traditional concepts of
development cooperation and empowerment which are at the base of many NGOs, changed and strategies had to
be adapted. Another axe that shifted was the East West axis. The analysis of many NGOs were based on a critique
of the western Capitalist system. Whether their ambitions were anti-capitalistic system, striving at a Third Way or
for (radical) changes within the system, all the analyses supporting them, had to be adapted when the Soviet
system collapsed. Many NGOs still seem to be struggling with the adaptation to new global power relations 113. At

I will not deal with the complex price structure in tourism, with as its most notable example, the pricing of air line tickets
An example is the Gatts treaty in which rights of local groups have been restricted in favour of international companies. NGOs have
been trying to fight this, but were not heard by the institution although participation was a key element in it.
As already argued in the paragraph 4 on sustainable tourism
112 Allthough the Netherlands might be special case, from my experience in working in networks of NGOs it is clear that many of our
experiences are shared with other (European) NGOs
113 In the Netherlands an interesting debate is currently under way called Reframing the debate, in which differences between
NGOs in dealing with these new realities are explicitly addressed.

the same time the red and the green debates have become intertwined in the sustainability debate 114.

+Liberalization and free Market

Partly as a result of the collapse of the Soviet empire, liberalization for a free market became the dogma, guiding
all development. When the playing field changed and new institutions were erected, solutions and strategies had to
change and new instruments had to be developed. The market conditions which now determined failure or
success however, are not the natural habitat of NGOs. For any project a "business cases" had to be developed,
based on business models with short-term market oriented results . These procedures do not necessarily
appreciate the complex nature of the processes of sustainable development and the reality of the target groups
with and for which NGOs work.
Institutions should correct the fact that the market is not an equal level playing field in which all stakeholders have
equal access. In a number of cases however, the corporate world has easy access to these institutes, where NGOs
hardly do and are even hindered in doing so 115. But when NGOs accept the popular argument that everyone can
vote as a consumer in the market, this means accepting that voting rights are limited to people that have the
resources to consume on a business led market. This de facto excludes many of the target groups of NGOs that
do not have enough buying power or operate in informal economies/markets.

NGOs are often dependent on external funding. Government funding has always played an important role and
this system of funding (in the Netherlands) has changed radically in the last 25 years of which our Retour
foundation is an example. First we had core funding: the objectives of our organization were supported by the
government: we received money to function as an organization and chose the projects we thought important, only
to be justified a posteriori. In the late eighties/nineties the system changed to project funding : we had to
formulate projects and we were funded per project. A problem was that overhead, project formulation, research
and coordination in networks were not part of the projects funded and were not covered, making life a bit more
difficult. The next limitation was that we were required to show that each project met support from other
stakeholders in society, before funding was granted, requiring us to spend time to convince others, without being
not paid for those activities. As a next step we were encouraged (and later required) to show that our projects
were supported by Dutch companies. Finding support in the corporate world limited our freedom to choose
projects. Most recently Dutch development cooperation has become part of ministry of Economic Affairs and
explicitly chooses to support the interests of Dutch business in developing countries. Combined with the fact that
budgets are cut severely, this means that for their funding, NGOs are very dependent on the cooperation, support
or approval of the private sector.

+Role of the media

Over the past 20 years the media and its role has changed. As a result, successful campaigning of NGOs had to
change also. Unfortunately the message itself became more complex, the relatively easy Red and Green agendas of
the 60s and 70s were replaced by the more complex and interpretable concepts of sustainability, hardly fit for 140
letter tweets, soundbites or elevator pitches. As a result NGOs are returning to the misleading propaganda they
abandoned twenty years ago, featuring hungry and suffering children, which only reflect a part of the problem and
its solution, but which make people draw their wallets 116.

+Changing relation with industry

Faced with a changed regime for funding and requirements to work within the existing institutions 117, many
NGOs have changed their relations with industry. Some have industry representatives on their board, work and
acquire income as consultants to industry, and/or develop instruments servicing a business/market led

114 The resulting complexity has not only led to difficulties for NGOs but also in politics where parties have become more extreme,
but less polarized along the red or green axis
115 An interesting article on strategies of business to hinder NGOs was published in the Guardian, related to the fracking debate:
116 See note 113
117 Not only the fact that the institutions offer NGOs participation within business led and free market oriented development
challenges NGOs to stay within these new limitations, but it seems that laws have become more restrictive also, ultimately defining
action outside of the law as terrorism (as happened for instance to animal welfare activists).

development of tourism 118. As a result their interests are overlapping more and more with those of the industry,
leaving less room for actions that would harm or criticize industrys interests 119.

+ Organizational changes
Operating in a market environment with resources becoming scarcer, the NGO sector has become a sector with
growing competition where the economies of scale are relevant. To deal with this, NGOs are becoming bigger
and are forging alliances 120. The orientation on the market also has had an effect on the presentation of the issues
and the framing of the debate.

+ Accountability
NGOs call upon business to be more accountable and transparent. However, partly as a result of the issues
mentioned above, the accountability and transparency of NGOs has also been an issue of concern. Often it is not
clear which interests the growing number of NGOs represent. Many of them are not membership organizations,
so the question arises how they legitimize their positions. Often there is a lack of democratic structure within the
NGO 121.

+Tourism specific challenges

As a result of the shifting axes (see above) the structures in and flows of tourism have changed over the past 20
years. In the Dominican Republic the waiters will serve you a drink saying Nazdarovje where they used to say
Cheers or Prost and prostitutes in Pattaya prefer the Indian customer over a German because the first has
more money. NGOs have not been able (yet) to adapt to these changing conditions, European groups spent 20
years educating European tourists , now they have to start anew with tourists from Russia , India and China. It
will not only be much more difficult, but also means that many existing NGOs will have to make place for new
ones. And the sheer number of Indian and Chinese tourists will lead to a new and unforeseen growth of tourism
posing completely new challenges for sustainability.
Expecting a critical mass of tourism consumers to demand changes from the industry, like happened for instance
after the BSE affaire 122 or the collapse of a textile factory in Bangla Desh 123 does not seem realistic. Moving
attitudes of consumers in tourism is more complex and difficult. The problems of unsustainable tourism
development are not directly life threatening (to local people nor to tourists). In fact the only thing that
differentiates a non- responsible holiday from a responsible one might be that it is (a lot) cheaper to consumers
(on the short term). And in the end we are talking about their right to relax, just three weeks a year. So please, give
them a break!

Frans de Man
Retour Foundation
Radboud Uiversity Nijmegen

Such as certification schemes developed by NGOs (TourCert, FTTSA, etc)
The participation of industry in the boards of NGOs is often presented as a sign of participation, democracy or legitimacy, but it
actually is counterproductive when the NGO represents the interests of other stakeholders at the negotiating table with industry and
government. The stand the NGO can take, will already have been influenced by the industry representation in its board.
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example the Dutch MFS subsidizing system).
More on the issue of democracy and NGOs in Zrn, 1998
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