The operating model that has created a global tourism industry is dying and a new model is emerging. The rules of the game are being re-invented, right now.

Tourism is system of three elements: Places, Guests and Hosts.  As such, it’s all about PEOPLE. If people change their values and their perception of how the world works, then everything else changes.

There are multiple forces shaking up the tourism system:

  1. The key human actors in the system are shifting not only their values but their core understanding of how the world works
  2. The industrial model on which tourism is based is collapsing. As it matures, it produces diminishing net returns to all participants, and relies on volume growth to compensate for yield declines.  As visitor volume increases, so do the costs associated with resource depletion, pollution and wealth concentration.
  3. External pressures will require the tourism economy to pay significantly more for services that hitherto have been free or relatively cheap. These cost increases will occur when reduced incomes and higher demand volatility are already compromising the resilience and profitability of existing businesses.

Survival and prosperity depend not just on becoming green but waking up to a whole new way of doing business that can, in part, be summarized as follows:






Practitioners of the new, ecological model start with a higher sense of Purpose. They know that profit follows purpose – a commitment to use the business to make the world a better place. Instead of discounting their primary asset – the Place – they focus on protecting, expressing and celebrating its unique Personality to sustain and increase its value to guests.  The passion of all hosts (employees, suppliers, residents), combines with a clear sense of Purpose to PULL in (attract) the kind of guest who will most value what the provider has to offer.

Unless tourism enterprises embrace the new model they will continue to see their profit margins shrink; their resilience to external shocks weaken; and their viability diminish. Tourism entrepreneurs and their communities need to assume responsibility for changing and cannot assume that traditional institutions or agencies can supply fixes.

Conscious Travel is building an e-learning platform and on and offline communities designed to stimulate and nourish the capacity of tourism entrepreneurs – the 99% – to flourish in new market circumstances.

The goal is to build an environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling form of tourism that generates real net benefits to all stakeholders in the tourism system: guests, employees, investors, suppliers and the host community.

3 thoughts on “Conscious Travel: The What and the Why

  1. Great thought provoking article.

    One important aspect that I disagree with is the role of business. It doesn’t matter if that business is part of the travel industry or any other industry; the role of business is the same.

    The trap I see many tourism businesses getting into is believing the mystical fad that a business’s role is to provide social services and promote the latest environmental mantra.

    The act of being in business is a high ideal in itself. Business owners are the producers, innovators and contributors of society.

    The sweeping inference that business survival and prosperity is dependent upon becoming green (and providing social services) would appear to be at best overly optimistic and at worst naive.

    We live in challenging and changeable times, however some things remain constant: The first duty of a business is to its shareholders and employees is to make a profit. The old-fashioned, one-dimensional financial bottom line must always take precedence. The failure to do so has its own serious social consequences.

    Business is the wealth-creating institution of society. Its prime “social” role is to meet consumers’ needs in the most efficient manner, and this is how capitalism has raised living standards to the level we enjoy today.

    The old-school socialist view that political mechanisms, not market mechanisms, are the appropriate way to determine the allocation of scarce resources has been given a new-age trendy credence by self-serving, non-producers.

    Out of self-interest, many promoters of social responsibly doctrine are creating a cottage-industry based on rhetoric that they able to exploit by providing ancillary services.

    While in some cases it may be appropriate for businesses to donate time and effort to social and/or environmental causes out of self-interest, the assumption that social responsibility should be a template for all businesses in my opinion is flawed and belongs on a hippy commune.

  2. Thanks Motella for commenting on my post and your positive words – thought provocation is our aim! Open debate is always healthy and productive in times of rapid change.

    I concur 100% with the notion that business is the most effective wealth generation agency and also recognize that unless a business makes a profit it will cease to exist and be of no use to anybody.

    I wasn’t making a blanket assertion that survival & prosperity depend on becoming green but on recognizing and understanding that what used to be a constant is no longer.

    There is a growing recognition by the people in “thought leading” institutions:

    a.) that the purpose of business is to generate net benefits for all stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers, host communities s well as shareholders); and

    b.) those enterprises that put this objective ahead of immediate shareholder return do, in fact, generate more profit.

    These ideas are not originating from hippie communes but the boardrooms of some of the word’s most successful business. A recent post on my blog, provocatively called Screw Tourism As Usual,

    lists many of the sources of such new thinking. All kinds of assumptions are being challenged and not by a radical, left wing bunch of renegades but from the core of the establishment. An article in today’s HBR shows how rapidly the topic of Corporate Social Responsibility has changed already and how far it has to go: Why CSR’s Future Matters to Your Company

    As owner of a very small business myself, I understand that our circumstances (scale and cash flow) are a practical constraint. We haven’t yet made the millions to be able to give them away. But in tourism it’s fast becoming vital that we work more collaboratively together in our communities to increase the perceived value of what we sell. As you say in your newsletter – it IS all about quality in 2012 but in that sense, one motel is dependent on the quality of a guest’s experience in a destination so responsibility extends out beyond the driveway into your establishment.

  3. Great post and great responses.

    What impressed me 5 years ago during the Ecotourism NZ Conference — – were the linkages among tourism and other business sectors. Sustainable, responsible, eco tourism cannot be effective if other businesses are not included in the journey.

    That said, are we seeing such linkages in action? Could a ‘conscious travel as part of a conscious business’ approach be the answer? I’d like to wager that becoming fit for the future depends on putting this into action.

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