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#PataSustain interviewed Dr. Andrew McLean, co-founder of the Human Elephant Learning Programs (H-ELP) foundation, an Australian organisation aiming to improve the welfare of working elephants in Asia. Since its foundation in 2010, H-ELP has grown significantly as Andrew’s systematic approach to elephant training is recognised as a viable and safe alternative to traditional submission-based methods. The following interview has been edited for clarity, flow, and length.

Dr. Andrew McLean – Credit: Ben Fulton-Gillon

Q: Thank you for your time today. To let the reader get familiar with who you are and what you do, can you tell us a little bit about your background and the road to H-ELP Foundation?  

A: How it all began for me was that I have been a horse trainer pretty much all my life as well as an academic and, in my PhD, I designed a more ethical way of training horses. I was working in Finland and a woman in Finland by the name Helena Telkanranta had been working on a WWF project in Nepal and inquired with various people to help her improve the foundation of elephant training. Eventually, she came to me when I was doing a clinic in Helsinki and it all started from there. She asked me if I’d like to come along and I said I’d love to be involved in elephant training, but I don’t know much about elephants. And it just happened that one of my wife’s pupils in dressage, Laurie Pond, was the elephant handler and trainer at the Melbourne Zoo so he said to me, come down, I’ll give you some hands-on experience – I did that and then I set off in 2007 for my first work in Nepal. There was also Tuire Kaimio involved in the project who was a very good positive reinforcement trainer and we combined forces.

The Department of Conservation in Nepal awarded us a forestry camp called Bardia in the southwest of Nepal as a pilot study. We asked for a pilot elephant and they ended up giving us a whole camp which had five young elephants to train. It was meant to be a five-year plan where we would demonstrate what we could do. By year four, they (the Department of Conservation) were so happy with it, that they decided to give us the go-ahead to roll it out in Nepal. We were still young and didn’t have enough in our group and didn’t have enough funding and India was asking for me as well, so I started the project off in India and I couldn’t really manage Nepal and India at the same time. Helena then formed her own group to manage the Nepalese side and I continued in the north and the south of India. From there, we had workshops for trainers and from many different neighbouring states in the north and south which allowed us to cover most of India.

These trainers implemented these programs after the workshops and were all monitored by the Wildlife Trust of India and so far as it’s been very successful. Of course, a few things slide because we’re not there all the time to help them but I ended up writing a book, like a manual, about elephant training and I think that’s been a bit of a deal breaker because people could then read the book and continue on and that book has been published in six different languages. So, we’ve also moved into Thailand, at the National Elephant Institute, and then Myanmar, with the Myanmar Timber Enterprises, because they are the biggest private owners of elephants in the world, they have over 3000, and then this year Laos. So, that’s how it all started.

  

Credit: Ben Fulton-Gillon

Q: Your background is in horse training, what are the similarities between horse and elephant training?

A: They’re very similar because when you train horses, or I should say elephants, you use operant conditioning which is a very ancient form of animal learning that doesn’t require great cognitive skills. Reinforcement can happen even subconsciously, so the similarities between the two species are enormous. All I really did when I went to Nepal for the first time was using the academic blueprint I’ve developed for horse training was to cross out the word horse and write elephant. Of course, there are different places on the elephant’s body where you stimulate the animal, but these signals are still tactile signals like they are with horses. The main difference is, of course, elephants have a trunk and so they can pick things up and use it effectively in so many ways and on top of that, elephants are more able to reason then horses. They show some high mental abilities. Although that doesn’t affect the operant conditioning very much, it does affect their reactions to many things. So, for example, what surprised me was, one time I was asking an elephant to sit, because we had already taught him to sit, but he wasn’t in a very comfortable place and just walked off and sat some distance away. So that’s what’s interesting about elephants, they have more insight into their behaviours than horses. I think it is because of the trunk. When you have a trunk, you need to be able to plan ahead and think back and have more retrieval mechanisms to memory than animals with no dexterity.

Credit: Ben Fulton-Gillon

Q: In your opinion, what are the common misconceptions about activities with elephants in tourism?

A: I think some activities with elephants are highly questionable and deceptive such as elephant painting. It is presented as if the elephants are painting these masterpieces, you know, painting trees, flowers and even other elephants, I mean, you can train an elephant to hold a paintbrush and tap it onto paper through reward, but they’re not the ones doing the painting, it’s the mahouts directing their trunks by holding the elephant‘s ears or skin.  What they do with the elephants is train them to hold the paintbrush in their trunk. They hold the paint brush out stiffly and the mahout moves their head and gives them little pressures up, down, left and right. So it’s really the mahout who does the painting. You never see an elephant just standing there painting a tree all by itself. With elephants holding flowers and things like that, my suspicion, and I have seen elephants do that in training, is that it’s quite coercively trained, and I can’t imagine that it is all done only with positive reinforcement. I was told by somebody quite reputable in Chiang Mai a few years ago that they sometimes use nails and other painful objects to make sure the elephant really moves his head in the correct way in order to make a painting. I would not buy such paintings.

Q: If you were to say something to those animal activists wanting to ban elephant riding, what would it be?

A: Elephant riding is certainly not any great benchmark of welfare because you can train an elephant to be ridden in the most ethical way. I see no problem with that, and that’s what our program does we improve training methods. Most of our work in India is focused on training forestry elephants that catch poachers in national parks and it has been enormously successful for the parks, in apprehending poachers and also making poachers very wary about going poaching. There’s a huge benefit in using elephants in that way. They are quiet in the forest, they go everywhere, they’re a great vehicle and you can even teach elephants to sniff out poachers because they’ve got the most amazing sense of smell. 

 

Credit: Ben Fulton-Gillon

My feeling about the riding is that if elephants were given limited hours and a limited payload, maybe only two people, limited numbers of days a week and weeks in a year, etc. and they are managed well and looked after the best way possible, including improving their saddlery (our H-ELP project is also investing in that) , I see no problem with riding elephants and I say it’s no different riding horses. Certainly, we can train the elephants to be ridden, in some parts of Asia we work with elephants in the middle of the jungle and they’re not restrained by ropes or chains, and yet the elephants are there voluntarily, and they will come back for each session over the course of our workshops. They don’t have a problem with a human on their back directing them, provided it is done ethically. When we’re having a break a for a cup of tea, they hang around or move off into the forest, and then they come back. It’s certainly not a horrible experience for them, but a violent foundation training as we still see in many parts of Asia, where the elephants are very coercively restrained and hurt until they don’t react anymore, that has got to stop. And if it doesn’t stop then elephant riding ought to be banned.

But if we are serious about welfare, I think we should be much more intelligent, in the way we look at elephant camps that are proud to say we don’t ride elephants and yet in many cases, the elephants have very bad diets and suffer internally because of that. Animals like elephants should be eating a lot of roughage, so feeding sugar cane and bananas to excess is very bad for their digestive system. If elephants don’t get enough exercise – they need between seven and 13 kilometres a day – that’s also bad for welfare. If they don’t have the ability to socialize with other elephants that’s bad for welfare too. We have done studies on this with horses where we’ve actually isolated all the elements of human interactions with horses and what we’ve shown is that it is the same thing. A well trained ridden animal with all the other things attended to, such as the proper diet, not overfeeding sugar, plenty of exercise and plenty of ability to socialize is a much better, happier animal.

Q: Earlier this year, jungle tour operators in Nepal demanded that the government come up with regulations with minimum conditions to be fulfilled for using elephants for tourism and wildlife conservation. From your scientific perspective, what are the minimum things that should be included in such?

A: There are basically four points – some of these are very minimal things for all animals. The absolute minimum things for welfare are the ability to move according to the species’ needs, foraging according to the species’ needs (and not just limited to sugar) and socialization. Being a social animal, being able to touch and handle other animals with their trunk is vital. The fourth one is the training that needs to be ethical and controllable from the animal’s point of view. We only use voice commands, positive reinforcement and very light touch signals and no punishment and that produces much happier elephants. It produces elephants that really want to be with you too. They are the benchmarks for welfare, those four things.

Q: Do you use any kind of tools in your training that mahouts would need to use later as well? Is it possible to train an elephant without using a hook, knife or any other sharp tools like nails?

A: Absolutely. There is no need for the hook. They should be put on walls like swords are now echoes of the past. I use a stick, because my arms are not long enough, and a stick gives you an extra meter. You can just tap the elephant on the bottom of the foot and say the word ‘back’ in whatever language and very quickly it learns that the word ‘back’ comes when it gets taped and then it learns to go back from the word back. We teach them the mobility from that and then we use positive reinforcement to reward the movements. So, when the elephant goes back, the chain of events we use in our training are – that we say the word and then we tap the part of the body. When their part of the body, e.g. the leg, moves, we immediately stop tapping and then we immediately also say ‘good boy’ in whatever language we’re using and then we deliver food after that. It follows this simple process and we will also give him some tactile reinforcement in between because I’m sure that it is as important for elephants as it is for horses. So there is absolutely no need for hooks, however you can’t simply take away mahouts hooks and not replace it with some form of training, we have seen that doing that simply introduces smaller concealed “hooks” like nails and sharp objects that get used in the same way.

  

Credit: Ben Fulton-Gillon

Q: In your opinion, what are the major challenges for elephant camps in Asia?

A: The major challenges are caused by the world’s reaction of people who don’t know enough of what they’re talking about, but they just love animals. They are saying we should not have any captive elephants and they should all be in the wild. Or they say they shouldn’t be ridden but its ok to feed them bad diets with little exercise and no socialization. What we need to do is, recognize that the Asian elephant now exists largely in captivity (unlike its African counterpart) and so we need to take care of these captive elephants better whilst protecting the ones left in the wild as their habitats have been decimated – they’re highly endangered in the wild. Their habitat is shrinking so rapidly because of human expansion and where they do exist in the wild, there is growing conflict with humans to say nothing of the increasing scourge of poaching. Also the profile of the wild population is unnatural. For example, we see unnatural numbers for various age cohorts and the male elephant is gradually disappearing altogether. In Myanmar, for example, which has a large number of elephants in the wild – there used to be 10,000, but now that is estimated to be less than 1800. These 1800 elephants only occupy the edge of their potential habitat because they are too afraid to go to the deep jungle because that’s when they get poached. The elephants move to the edges of the forest where there are human populations because they are a little bit safer there. It is a myth to think that we can just put all the captive elephants back into the forest. If we do that, we’re essentially exterminating them. We should look after the Asian elephants, recognize that many of them will remain in captivity, and we need to do the captivity as best as we possibly can.

Q: What can the tourism industry, in particular, do to help the Asian elephants?

A: The tourism industry needs to be really well audited and it should be accountable and sponsor audit programs because they make money out of elephants. If the elephant numbers are shrinking and people are still against elephants altogether, having bad welfare through feeding programs that are all wrong, is not in anyone’s interest. A proper audit would shake up the industry throughout Asia and that would be a great hope. The tourists’ dollars are important for the economy of many of these countries. It’s easy for the Westerners to say, just boycott it all, but that’s not fair in those countries. So, support the good industry and positive stamping elephant welfare.

Credit: Ben Fulton-Gillon

Q: Is there anything else you would like us to know, about yourself or the H-ELP Foundation?

A:  If anyone is interested in learning more, they should visit our website h-elp.org. In Australia, we have Deductible Gift Recipient Status that means that people can claim tax deductions if they donate to us. We are purely a not for profit charity, so all donations allow us to help more elephants in Asia. One other thing is, that, in Laos, we recently went to the Elephant Conservation Center. There, Michael Vogler and Prasop Tipprasert had a great motivation to do things right and I think that will be a future key centre for this type of approach. The elephants walk to where they get bathed which is seven kilometres away, which is good welfare. They are very careful about diet and now even more careful about how much tourist can feed these animals. They’re building a giant enclosure to house the elephants at night, so they’ll all be with each and properly socialize without being on chains. They are doing their absolute best to implement the training we gave them. It’s one of the few places we have seen that are striving to truly tick all boxes.

 

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The Rialto bridge in Venice, a city with more than 20 million visitors a year. Photograph: Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images

Tourism, like all globalised trends, can be a force for good, but can also wreak immense localised damage.

 

In Barcelona this summer, I was shown a protest sign written in English that said: “Why call it tourism season if we can’t kill them?” Anger over unhampered tourism is getting ugly, even in Barcelona, where the mayor, Ada Colau, is one of the few politicians dedicated to reining in the industry. Residents told me they have had it with skyrocketing rents, thousands of tourists from cruise ships swamping the city’s historic centre and partygoers keeping families up into the night. And they are increasingly sceptical about the economic benefits for the average citizen.

Only governments can handle runaway tourism. Why? Read the full article here.

 

By Elizabeth Becker for The Guardian. 

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Tourism, Transportation and Security Part 1

Categories: Tourism Resilience
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Tourism, Transportation and Security: Tourism and more June 2016 – The connection between tourism and transportation is so close that often people use “travel” as a synonym for tourism. In fact, in many languages, tourism is another way to express travel. Even in English it is hard to miss the connection between the words “tour” and “tourism”. Transportation methods allow us to travel. Unfortunately, in an age in which elegance has given way to a form of pedestrian practicality, and terrorism is psychologically connected to transportation systems, the tourism industry cannot avoid transportation issues. With the exception of hiking, transportation companies are linked to tourism in four major areas. These are aviation security, maritime security including cruise security, railroad security, and road-/highway security including buses, private cars and vans. Furthermore, there are those in the green movement who seek to limit travel due to climate change. No one know the full impact of limiting travel, especially air travel, on tourism, but we may guess that both long-haul destinations and international travel will be impacted if there are less travel opportunities. Below Tourism Tidbits presents and overview of these four areas and how they impact tourism along with suggestions for improvements.

Aviation

Flying has gone from an integral and pleasurable part of the tourism experience to something that must be suffered through. In today’s world flying has not only lost its elegance. Although in relation to cost of living and current wages, flying is not expensive, it is perceived to be expensive. All too often smiles have been replaced with frowns, and airplane seats have become exercises in endurance. We cannot blame all of aviation’s problems on the airlines. They too are captives to government regulations, and often must implement policies, which they would prefer not to enforce. Despite this fact, the public has a tendency, as is true in all forms of tourism, to bundle its frustrations and find the airline industry guilty. This frustration is especially high due to the à la carte manner in which airlines now charge and to the low cost of fuel. The result has been a difference between a perceived price and a true price. To add to the frustration airline passengers must undergo a number of other difficulties. Among these are:

  • Poorly designed terminals that result in long lines
  • Great distances between gates or difficulties from transiting from one terminal to another
  • High costs of basic services at terminals coupled with poor quality
  • The high cost of parking
  • Slow baggage delivery and/or lost baggage
  • A great deal of interconnected bureaucratic layers that tend to undercut each other rather than aid each other.

On the other side of the ledger there have been several improvements. Among these are:

  • Many terminals now offer free internet service
  • Children’s play areas
  • Higher quality shops and restaurants
  • A greater number of executive clubs or work areas

In the background is the continual trauma of terrorist attacks against the airline industry. Although air travel is the safest form of transportation, the media’s emphasis on the air travel industry coupled with the some people’s fear of flying produces higher levels of anxiety than it does in other forms of transportation. It cannot be stated too strongly that should the tourism industry not deal with air travel’s real and perceived problems, it puts itself a great risk.

Air transportation security has so far been reactive rather than proactive

Until recently most security measures have been adapted to stop a repeat of an attack. Thus, one person had a shoe bomb, and millions had to remove their shoes. On the other hand all too little has been done to check those who are checking passengers and luggage nor is it clear how those who are working on the airplane prior to departure or upon landing are investigated and cleared.

The airline industry also must now have to deal with the issue of “climate change”

Pro-ecology tourism groups are asking people to fly less. Such a policy would not only destroy numerous travel destinations, for example, the Caribbean and Hawaii are to a great extent air travel dependent, but also make business travel either a great deal more expensive or almost impossible.

Issues Of Maritime Security

Maritime tourism or aquatic tourism covers a broad range of topics. The term includes everything from cruises to boating, from beach vacations to white water rafting. Each of these aspects has its own challenges and issues. In reality we can separate maritime travel and tourism from aquatic tourism. Aquatic tourism is anything that deals with travel or recreation and water. Maritime tourism is a subset and deals with travel versus pure recreation and by means of a commercial carrier, be that a ferry or a cruise ship.

Maritime tourism, especially in the cruise industry, has had a number of challenges

These include, shipboard fires, issues of piracy, issues of terrorism, issues of assault of all kinds from robbery to sexual assault, people falling or being pushed overboard and health issues such as the Nordau virus. To add to this extensive list, cruise companies must often deal with off-ship problems, such as crimes against their passengers while on shore, boarding issues and issues of passport control.

Aquatic tourism involves a number of other safety and security issues

These include issues of boat safety, water purity, swimming pool usage and vigilance, safety of equipment. When dealing with the ocean there are numerous problems of visitors not understanding that the ocean is both a place of enjoyment and a place to be respected and of caution. An example of how dangerous the oceans can be was the terrible tsunami that occurred in the Indian Ocean basis in 2004. In reality no one knows for sure how many people were swept out to sea and drowned but estimates are that well over 100,000 died that day in just a few minutes.

Both aquatic and maritime safety need to take into account that many people do not understand the ocean nor do they fully appreciate its force and might

What is true of the ocean is also true of rivers, lakes and even beaches. Tourism centers that use water transportation must make sure that signage is clear, that rules are not only understood but enforced, and that employees are well trained and highly professional.

By Dr. Peter Tarlow. You can find the original article Tourism & More, Inc.

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Tourism and Immigration: Tourism and more

May 2016 – Around the world, immigration and refugees are a hot topic. Europe is locked in a debate as to how to handle the millions of people who seek to migrate there. The US also has a similar debate running through its Presidential election process.  This article does not address the issue of immigration and refugees but it does look at how the movements of people impact the tourism industry.

Tourism is much more than merely about the movement of people from one place to another.  It is also the exchange of cultures and the appreciation of the “other”.  Tourism movements are not only about people from one place visiting another place, but often the tourist industry “imports” guest workers.  These “people from other lands” provide needed services and often also give a sense of the exotic or internationalization to their host centers of employment.  For example, the cruise industry has long sought multi-national and multi-lingual staffs.  These international employees benefit from a chance to travel the world and provide a special flare and “joie de vivre” to the cruise experience.  In other cases, people from one land have provided needed services in another nation and at the same time benefited from wages that may be higher than in their own countries plus the experience of having lived in a foreign land.

Unfortunately, due to issues of international crime and terrorism, our ability to travel freely or experience foreign employment opportunities is now being reviewed and in some places is being curtailed.  Tourism Tidbits offers ideas on how we can maintain and open and hospitable industry while at the same time maintaining safety and security standards.  Please note that every location has specific needs. The information given below is meant only for the purpose of creative dialogue and does not give place specific recommendations. Please consult with local authorities before taking any specific action.

  • Develop a knowledgeable tourism police. The key word here is knowledgeable.  Too few tourism locations have a special tourism police and many of those who do, do not have police who are trained as specialists in both the tourism side and the security side of the equation.  Tourism police need to know more than merely how to stop pick-pocketing or deal with crimes of distraction. They need to be experts in everything from cyber security to hotel security, from issues of immigration to issues of legal and illegal employment.  Tourism police must also know how to work with other forms of security professionals, especially those who work in private security. These security specialists also need to know marketing.  A decision may make security sense but if that decision destroys businesses, then in the end it will prove to be counter productive.  For example, it is essential to know when police should be undercover and when they should be in standard or special uniforms.   Tourists tend to spend more money where there is a visible police presence, thus too few police in uniform can be a costly mistake.
  • Develop a tourism immigration committee. This committee should be composed of specialists from law enforcement, from immigration and customs authorities, from the hotel industry and tourism industry, and from the local legislature or government. Make sure that laws match both security and economic needs.
  • Learn from others. Go to tourism security conferences, write to colleagues and learn what did and did not work in the world of tourism security.  Then adapt the other locale’s policies to your local needs.  Some policies may not be geographically or culturally specific while other may address problems in one locale and not be valid for another locale.  A mistake in one location may not be a mistake in another location.
  • Make immigration procedures both through but sweet.   Emigration and customs are the first line of defense of any nation.  It is essential that those working there are carefully selected, are given the prestige that they are due, and are the right personality types.  People who tend to be introverted are less suited for this job than are extroverted people. Chatting and smiling are an essential part of security reconnaissance. Questions should be direct and to the point and accompanied by biometric and psychological profiles.  These officials need to remember that they are both the protectors and greeters of tourism. These officials should be both careful and cautious, courteous and thorough.
  • Review all entry forms. All too often entry forms either ask questions that make no sense or seem to have been placed there as a form of tourism harassment.  Too many forms are hard to see, and almost impossible fill out especially while on a plane.  The result is that people provide inaccurate information.   It is better to get less information that is accurate than a great deal of inaccurate information.  Do not duplicate questions and if the information is not necessary, then eliminate it.
  • Develop protocols for a foreign guest program.  There are two parts to foreign or guest worker programs. The first part is who should be accepted into such a program and the second part is how to we work with these foreign guests once they arrive.

Step one:

  • Do not depend on your government to identify problem people. This means that it is the tourism industry’s responsibility to check everything from social media to reputation. A major task of human resources now needs to be finding the right people who are willing to uphold the guest nation’s values and also tourism values.
  • Ask potential employees direct rather than hypothetical questions. The more direct the question the better the chance to judge the person not only by his/her answers but also by the employee’s body language.
  • Do not prejudge people.  There are good and bad people in every nation, group, religion and gender. A woman is as capable as a man in being violent.  Judge each person on his or her own merits.
  • Watch for problems once the person is hired.  If something does not feel right examine and question. Use the same criteria that you would in evaluating any other form of work place violence and do not allow politically correct speech or actions color the way that you confront a potential threat.

Step Two:

  • Make sure that the person is well integrated into the host society and help him fight off loneliness.   It is not easy to be a stranger in a strange land.  Giving a paycheck is not enough. Make sure that the person has the opportunities to make friends and to experience the joys of his/her culture.
  • Create a mentor or buddy program. These programs not only add value to the guest workers experience but stop issues of alienation that may result in tragedies.  The better the person is integrated into a host society the lesser the chance that the guest will consider harming his/her host culture.
  • Understand cultures. Often what may seem to be violent in one culture may not be in another culture. Although the foreign guest is obliged to live in accordance with the host society’s rules, cultural norms and law, a good understanding of our guest’s culture may avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings.

By Dr. Peter Tarlow. You can find the original article Tourism & More, Inc.

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Some of the Principal Issues Facing the Travel Industry – Part 2

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Principal Issues Facing: Tourism and more

March 2016 – Last month we examined some of the challenges facing the tourism industry in 2016.  This month we examine some of the other challenges with which tourism leaders may have to contend in 2016.  It should be noted that although the material in both the February and March editions is treated as separate challenges, there is often an interaction between them and these challenges are not stand alones but rather part of a total whole.

  • Be prepared for economic instability. We are now seeing the stock market on a roller coaster and coupled with low gas prices, there is a sense of ennui and foreboding.  Last year’s feel good combination has now changed to one of wait-and-see in the United States, Latin America and Europe.  Experts indicate that there are multiple clouds on the horizon.  These include an unstable European economy, recession in countries such as Brazil and low employment rates, and a slowing down of the Chinese economy.  It is essential to remember that although unemployment is low in the US, this figure does not necessarily reflect a strong economy, but rather that millions of people have ceased looking for work. In this world of false recoveries, low unemployment does not translate into the willingness on the part of the public to travel more.
  • View the world carefully. The political world will continue to be unstable and when instability hits people are less likely to spend money on luxury items such as travel.  Political instability is now a major concern in Africa and Latin America, with the Middle East, Europe, and North America open to terrorism attacks and Latin America still suffering from high levels of crime and drug trafficking.  Furthermore, no one knows how Europe’s refugee crisis will play out and what the consequences of increased crime will be on European tourism. Brazil, along with much of Latin America, is suffering from both issues of crime and issues of health and sanitation.
  • Be aware of the lack of trained personnel. Because many tourism areas have grown rapidly there are too many location where there is a dearth of skilled labor.  Tourism needs people who are both inspired and well trained.  Yet, too few people in the tourism industry speak multiple languages, are proficient in high tech computer skills or have a good knowledge of statistics and how to utilize them.  This lack of education and training creates not only numerous financial losses but also creates lost opportunities and the inability to adapt to new challenges.
  • Low Salaries, recruitment and retention. Many on line and front line workers receive low salaries, have low levels of job loyalty, and change jobs with high level of rapidity.  This high turnover level makes training difficult and often each time a person leaves, the information is lost.  T o make matters even more challenging these are often the person with whom visitors come in contact.  The formula tends to guarantee low job satisfaction and low levels of customer satisfaction. This situation has resulted in the lack of availability of skilled manpower by the travel and tourism industry, one of the largest if not the largest employment generators in the world. If tourism is to be a sustainable product then it needs to turn part-time jobs into careers without pricing itself out of the market. If the travel and tourism industry hopes to continue to grow it will need trained personnel, and a willing and enthusiastic workforce at every level from the  managerial, to  skilled workers to the semi-skilled worker.
  • Nonsensical regulations and over regulations. No one is arguing that tourism should be an unregulated industry, but often governments’ desires to regulate trumps common sense. All too often decisions are made so as to avoid a law suite or negative media coverage.  Too many regulations are reactive to problems that are minimal while refusing to be proactive regarding growing problems. Often the desire to over-regulate puts tourism businesses in jeopardy and fail to help the consumer.
  • The lack of adequate and truthful marketing. Too many locations tend to either exaggerate or simply fabricate. The lack of truth in marketing means that the public not only loses confidence in the industry but investors fear being burnt.  Marketing has to be both innovative and true.  Tourism is a highly competitive industry and requires good and innovative marketing that captures a place’s essence while making people aware of the locale’s tourism offerings.
  • The lack of amenities or the over charging for the use of amenities. In too many locations around the world there is a lack of simple amenities.  From clean and potable water at hotels to well maintained public rest rooms. In all too many locations finding simple public services is a constant challenge. Signage is often unintelligible to the foreign tourist, parking turns an outing into a nightmare, and as hard as it seems to believe there are all too many “good” quality hotels that charge for internet service.   In many locations the hotel’s in-room phone service is outrageously expensive even for local calls.  The lack of amenities or the over charging for their usage destroys the sense of hospitality and turns guests into mere customers.
  • The need to develop or update tourism infrastructure. Around the world tourism suffers from poor infrastructure. These infrastructure challenges range from substandard docks and ports of entry to modes of transport to urban infrastructure such as access roads, electricity, water supply, sewerage and telecommunication. As airplanes begin to carry more people airports will face not only the problems of handling large numbers of arriving passengers but also will need to find ways to unload luggage faster, and transit people through immigration and customs lines. The lack of infrastructure will also impact issues of security as governments attempt to ferret out potential terrorists while creating a warm and welcoming arrival experience.
  • The airline industry will continue to be the part of tourism that visitors love to hate. Air travel has gone from elegant to pedestrian. Today passengers are crowded onto planes as of they were cattle and treated as if they were criminals rather than honored guests. Airfares are so complicated that passengers need a college course to understand them and the once popular airline loyalty programs continue to degenerate. Service is often so bad that when flight attendants smile, passengers actually thank them.  Unfortunately the “getting there” has become part of the “being there”, and unless the tourism industry can work with the airline industry to change attitudes, be less mercenary and more flexible the entire industry may suffer.  When poor air service is combined with infrastructure problems the combination may in the long run be deadly and “staycations” may over take vacations.
  • Nothing works if visitors are afraid and not secure. The spread of terrorist groups throughout the world is a major threat to tourism.  Tourism must learn to create not merely security and safety but ‘surety”: the interaction between the two. That means that locations without TOPPs (tourism policing) programs will suffer and eventually decline.  Private security and public security will need to learn to interact and work well not only with each other but with the media and marketers.   The old and outdates adage that security scares visitors is more and more being replaced with the adage that the lack of security provokes fear among visitors.  Cyber crime will continue to be another major challenge the travel industry faces.  Tourism cannot merely hobble from pandemics and health crisis to the next.  Also, unless the travel and tourism industry can protect visitor privacy and lower the incidents of fraud, it will face an ever greater and daunting challenge during 2016.

By Dr. Peter Tarlow. You can find the original article Tourism & More, Inc.

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Some of the Principal Issues Facing the Travel Industry – Part 1

Categories: Tourism Resilience
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Principal Issues Facing: Tourism and more

February 2016 – Scholars of tourism know that the travel and tourism industry are far from static.  New challenges seem to arise as quickly as mushrooms sprout up after a warm rain.  Despite the constant changes, however, there have been a number of issues that have become constant problems for the industry and with which it has had to learn to live.  Here are some of these issues and a few suggestions on how to begin to handle them.  The recent stock market ups and downs are a real indication of the turbulence that may impact tourism in 2016 and present new challenges to tourism professionals around the world.

  • High Taxation on the Tourism Industry. There is a mistaken belief that visitors and tourists do not pay taxes.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead tourists are some of the highest taxed and under represented people in the world.  We only have to examine am airline ticket, rent a car, or stay at a hotel to realize how much we spend on travel.  These taxes not only add a great deal to the cost of travel, but they also have become nuisances.  For example, leaving too many places requires and exit payment and in all too many other locations visas is nothing more than an additional way to victimize tourists.  Because tourists are generally not citizens of the places that they are visiting, they have no political voice.  However, the local members of the tourism industry can act as their voice.  Tourism, just as any other product has an economic saturation limit and if taxes become overly burdensome local tourism business will see a diminution in their profits.
  • Increase of mass tourism resulting in straining the tourism infrastructure. Many places around the world have seen large numbers of tourist arrivals but are simply not prepared to handle the influx.  Tourism is much more than merely selling or marketing.  There has to be a product and the product must be composed not only of the attraction and or activity but also the personnel who deliver the product.  This means that if the number of visitors is greater than the capacity of a location to absorb these visitors, the locale will suffer numerous problems.  Often too many visitors to a place that is ill prepared for non-sustainable numbers creates a sense of tourism euphoria in the short run, but introduces long term tourism problems that may become deadly to the sustained health of a tourism industry.  An easy check on if a particular tourism product’s infrastructure is over extended is to determine the percentage of visitors wish to return.  If few visitors desire to return, then this may be an indication that the price-tourism structure continuum is reaching unsustainable limits.
  • Physical plants that are no longer adept for modern tourism. Perhaps the biggest problem exists in the realm of airports.  Many airports are simply not equipped to handle a large number of passengers arriving at the same time.  This lack of infrastructure combined with often poorly trained personnel (or personnel who simply do not care) creates long lines and unpleasant memories.  Tourism officials need to remember that first and last impressions are key components in their marketing efforts.
  • Local Infrastructure problems. Too many tourism destinations are not prepared for the visitors. They lack good sanitation facilities and water treatment plants. Likewise both roads and sidewalks are not well maintained creating hazards not only for the local population but also for the visitor population.  It is essential that local governments take into consideration that a good tourism environment also impacts the local culture and environment.  Heavy taxes with poor road and street quality are sure not only to upset citizens but are a warning sign that tourism may be headed toward future problems.
  • Customer service is the key to a healthy tourism industry. The least expensive and most important part of the tourism experience is the customer –visitor interaction.  Smiles and a friendly handshake or nod of the head cost nothing and can change a negative impression into a negative one. Unfortunately tourism personnel often forget that the visitor is their employer and that when visitations cease so do their jobs.  Too many people who work in tourism are civil servants who cannot be fired.. Job protection needs to be a reward and not a right.  When there are no consequences for bad behavior or rudeness on the part of tourism personnel not only is the product’s reputation diminished but so too the quality of the tourism offering.  Providing quality customer service is an ongoing challenge for many parts of the tourism industry.  Although it is the lease expense challenge to face, it has proven to be one of the hardest challenges to meet and overcome.

Below here are some suggestions to help face these problems:

  • Develop a tourism vision. You cannot begin to create an infrastructure if you do not know what form of tourism your locale desires. Not every form of tourism is correct for every locale, and no locale can be all things to all people.  Think through what forms of tourism best meet your community’s needs and how tourism will add to the quality of life for your community, Once you have the vision of what type of tourism you desire, you can then begin to analyze if the vision is realistic and obtainable and finally what obstacles stand in the way of creating this vision.
  • Buddle taxes. Do everything possible to ease the taxation burden and to make payments as easy as possible.  For example, include airport, bus station or seaport entrance and exit fees in the cost of a ticket.  Forcing visitors to go from one line to the next in order to depart wins the local tourism industry few friends and creates a negative final image of the locale.
  • Simplify currency exchange laws and procedures. Tourism can produce a great deal of hard currency for any particular location. However, when exchange centers such as banks and hotels overcharge for the purchase of local currency, there is a tendency to go to the black market, not to respect local laws, or put oneself in danger.  Post rates of exchange and where currency can be exchanged legally and at what times.  Post prices whenever possible in both the local currency and in an international currency such as dollars or euros, and Chinese yuan.
  • Seek out of the box solutions. The bottom line is that no matter what the problem may be do not give up. Be creative, smile and remember that tourism is all about turning challenges into new and exciting opportunities

By Dr. Peter Tarlow. You can find the original article Tourism & More, Inc.

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Support Refugees

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15-ways-tourism-can-help-refugees

Image Source: Travindy

Refugees have always been an emotional topic around the world and especially today as Europe is experiencing large movements of refugees throughout the continent. The issue, usually, is that the governments are overwhelmed with attempts to integrate those refugees properly, and sadly, many of them do not receive a warm welcome upon arrival.

Since the travel and tourism industry deals with both hospitality and the movement of people, our industry is very well suited to support refugees.

Travindy has collected “15 Ways Tourism Can Help Refugees,” which was developed by looking at good practices done by tourism enterprises, and which can be continuously developed.

View the downloadable PDF from Travindy.

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The first Pacific Asia Indigenous Tourism Conference was held in Darwin, on the traditional lands of the Larrakia people on the 28th – 30th March 2012. There were 191 delegates from 16 countries representing Indigenous communities, government agencies, the tourism industry and supporting bodies, resolved to adopt principles to guide the development of Indigenous tourism through the following declaration.

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The Larrakia Declaration on the Development of Indigenous Tourism

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This White Paper on Tourism and Water provides an overview of the key water-related challenges for the tourism industry in the Asia-Pacific region. The paper discusses the tourism industry’s water requirements, including ‘benchmarks’ for consumption, in various types of tourist accommodation. Strategies for reducing water consumption, improving efficiency and quality, and engaging in water stewardship initiatives are presented.

by EarthCheck Research Institute

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White Paper on Tourism and Water

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