Chapter 3 Travel in the twenty-first century.
At the conclusion of this chapter, you will be able to
* communicate the importance of, and the government's role in, safe travel.
* recognize security precautions, such as biometrics, and know why there is controversy surrounding their use.
* understand common travel scams and how to deal with them.
* express the philosophy of ecotourism, and understand its importance in travel and tourism.
Department of Homeland
United States Transportation Security
U.S. State Department
INCREASING GLOBAL AWARENESS
In recent years, the travel industry has been buffeted by significant international events such as terrorist attacks, the expanding war on terrorism, outbreaks of contagious diseases such as "Bird Flu" and SARS, hurricanes, floods, and tsunamis. In addition to these issues, travelers have concerns about airport security, security at hotels, security on cruise ships and trains, travel scams, thieves, pickpockets, and identity theft. The ease of global communications and greater media focus on global issues have given consumers a heightened awareness of all health and safety issues, and an increased need to protect themselves while traveling both at home and abroad.
Not only do global events affect tourism, but tourists also interact with the destinations to which they travel. With increased global awareness has come more emphasis on how travel and tourism affect the world's environment. Since the United Nations designated 2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism, "ecotours" have become much more prevalent. Ecotours are one of the fastest growing segments of the industry with millions of tourists seeking out such products.
It is imperative that travel professionals be knowledgeable about global phenomena. In this chapter, we will examine some twenty-first century travel issues: how health and safety issues affect the business of travel, and how the traveler interacts with the world in which he travels.
Attitudes and practices surrounding travel safety changed drastically with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Until September 11, 2001, travel in the United States and internationally had grown steadily for many years. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon stopped us in our tracks. Travel fell by more than 40 percent for several weeks after the attacks. In 2001 travel agency sales fell 16 percent from 2000 levels--only the second time since 1985 that total annual sales did not increase.
Industry experts predicted a full recovery for the travel industry, and, as predicted, the numbers began to slowly rise. Increased security precautions at airports, along with great travel bargains, encouraged people to start traveling again. Since that catastrophic incident, the world has experienced others. Yet, except for brief downturns, travel has continued on a fairly steady course. To Americans, and many others in the world, travel is a value we cherish. We simply cannot imagine giving it up.
Travelers have, however, become much more sensitive to concerns about their health and safety. The governments of the United States and other countries have implemented stringent security measures at airports, borders, national monuments, hotels, cruise ships, and train stations. It has been, and continues to be, a daunting task.
While these new measures have given us added security, they have also meant that travelers must adapt to some degree of inconvenience. Travelers have had to develop an increased awareness plus a few new coping skills. Often the best coping strategy is preparation. The more we know and the better we prepare, the less we will be affected by circumstance. Travel professionals can play an important role in seeing that their clients are well prepared for any travel experience.
The Government and Our Security
Immediately following a terrorist attack, security naturally tops the list of traveler concerns. Travelers may choose to avoid large metropolitan areas, air travel, cruise ships, major sporting events, or anything perceived as likely terrorist targets. Often, the most immediate effect is the fear of flying. A number of people will avoid air travel for some time after a major catastrophe. The United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created in response to the terrorist attacks of September 2001 as part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act signed into law by President George W. Bush on November 19, 2001. TSA was originally in the Department of Transportation but was moved to the Department of Homeland Security (see next page) in March 2003.
TSA's mission is to protect the nation's transportation systems by ensuring the freedom of movement for people and commerce. In February 2002, TSA assumed responsibility for security at the nation's airports and by the end of the year had deployed a federal workforce to meet challenging Congressional deadlines for screening all passengers and baggage.
TSA's Pledge to Travelers consists of seven points:
* We pledge to do everything we can to ensure that your flight is secure.
* We pledge to treat you with courtesy, dignity, and respect during the screening process.
* We pledge that if additional screening is required, we will communicate and explain each step of the additional screening process.
* We pledge to honor your request for a private screening at any time during the screening process.
* We pledge that if additional screening of your person is required, it will be provided by a screener of the same gender.
* We pledge to accept all feedback and to consider your input as a vital part of our effort to continually enhance the screening experience.
* We pledge to respond to your comments in a timely manner. (1)
[FIGURE 3-1 OMITTED]
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (see Figure 3-1) was created in 2002 as an executive department of the United States. Its mission is stated as follows:
a. Prevent terrorist attacks within the United States.
b. Reduce the vulnerability of the United States to terrorism.
c. Minimize the damage, and assist in the recovery, from terrorist attacks that do occur within the United States.
DHS inherited the professional workforce, programs, and infrastructure of the Coast Guard, Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Transportation Security Administration. Collectively these public servants are responsible for protecting our nation's transportation systems and supervising the entry of people and goods into the United States. This is no easy task given that 730 million people travel on commercial aircraft each year and that there are now more than 700 million pieces of baggage being screened for explosives each year. Additionally, there are 11.2 million trucks and 2.2 million railcars that cross into the United States each year. Also, 7,500 foreign flagships make 51,000 calls in U.S. ports annually.
DHS is responsible for protecting the movement of international trade across U.S. borders, maximizing the security of the international supply chain, and engaging foreign governments and trading partners in programs designed to identify and eliminate security threats before these arrive at U.S. ports and borders. (2)
The Transportation Security Administration has published these guidelines for air travelers. Following these tips will help you reduce your wait time at the security checkpoint. Before the Airport * Do not pack or bring prohibited items to the airport. Read the Permitted and Prohibited Items list at the TSA Web site. * Place valuables such as jewelry, cash, and laptop computers in carry-on baggage only. Tape your business card to the bottom of your laptop. * Avoid wearing clothing, jewelry, and accessories that contain metal. Metal items, sometimes even small ones like hair clips or belt buckles, may set off the alarm on the metal detector. * Avoid wearing shoes that contain metal or have thick soles or heels. Many types of footwear will require additional screening even if the metal detector does not alarm. * Put all undeveloped film and cameras with film in your carry-on baggage. Checked baggage screening equipment will damage undeveloped film. * Declare firearms and ammunition to your airline and place them in your checked baggage. * If you wish to lock your baggage, use a TSA-recognized lock. * Do not bring lighters or prohibited matches to the airport. * Do not pack wrapped gifts and do not bring wrapped gifts to the checkpoint. Wrap on arrival or ship your gifts prior to your departure. TSA may have to unwrap packages for security reasons. At the Airport * Each adult traveler needs to keep available his or her airline boarding pass and government-issued photo ID until exiting the security checkpoint. Due to different airport configurations, at many airports you will be required to display these documents more than once. * Place the following items in your carry-on baggage or in a plastic bag prior to entering the screening checkpoint: * Mobile phones * Keys * Loose change * Money clips * PDAs (personal data assistants) * Large amounts of jewelry * Metal hair decorations * Large belt buckles * Take your laptop and video cameras with cassettes out of their cases and place them in a bin provided at the checkpoint. * Take off all outer coats, suit coats, jackets, and blazers. (3)
Airport and Airline Security
Security measures of one type or another are here to stay. The exact methods of examining airline passengers to determine whether they carry dangerous materials will no doubt change many times as technology catches up with the demand for better and faster methods. Airlines and airports are considering several options for business travelers, frequent fliers, and others who wish to speed their progress through security checkpoints. Privacy advocates, on the other hand, warn that we must scrutinize security methods for their degree of personal invasiveness. The Federal Aviation Administration, International Air Transport Association (IATA), airlines, and other industry groups are searching for the best compromise. Meanwhile, businesses are rushing to develop the best and quickest screening devices.
Although the amount of time varies widely among airports, anyone who flies will, at some point, have to wait at an airport security checkpoint (Figure 3-2). To speed the security process, new technology is being explored for use in airport security applications to provide faster and more reliable screening. "Puffer" machines can be used to detect trace amounts of explosives with a brief puff of air directed at a passenger during a security screening. "Image interpretation" software is used at security checkpoints to spot dangerous objects that passengers may attempt to carry on the aircraft. The software, taken from the medical field, provides three-dimensional color images that can be rotated 360 degrees.
A promising science is called biometrics. This is the digital analysis of biological characteristics such as facial structure, fingerprints, iris patterns, or voice recognition using cameras or scanners. These characteristics are then matched to profiles contained in large databases. Some experts say face recognition may be the most promising biometric technique for crowded airports.
[FIGURE 3-2 OMITTED]
Another technique involves securing an individual's biometric data and then comparing the data to existing databases of known or suspected terrorists. The prescreened information is placed on a chip on a thin card, which can then be used by the cardholder to pass through security checkpoints without further screening. A few private companies are offering programs of this type for a fee of about $80 annually.
Although promising, biometrics has been the subject of much controversy among privacy advocates who claim there are not enough safeguards to keep information private and prevent mistakes. The question that remains for travelers is one of priority: Will we trade personal privacy for personal security?
Security for Ships, Trains, and Hotels
Cruise lines, railroads, and hotels have also tightened security. The changes may not be as apparent as those at airports, but here are some things you may notice.
* On cruise ships. Cruise lines are working closely with law-enforcement officials and federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Cruise ship personnel train for all kinds of emergencies, including hijacking and terrorist attack. A change in itinerary is always a possibility to avoid danger areas. In most cases, passengers must show a passport or a birth certificate plus government-issued photo ID prior to embarkation. Luggage and carry-on articles are much more likely to be searched, and security personnel are more visible on board. The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has seen significant increases in its funding from the Department of Homeland Security for port security.
* At hotels. Working with local authorities, some U.S.-based hotel chains have heightened security at their properties in the United States and abroad. According to hotel officials, most of the changes are "behind the scenes," meaning that hotel guests are not likely to see many overt security measures. Some high-profile locations have added bomb sniffing dogs to their security patrols, and some utilize biometric data for hotel safes.
* On the train. Amtrak now requires passengers to show a photo ID when purchasing tickets from station ticket agents or when checking baggage or sending packages. There are more uniformed officers in stations and aboard trains, and increased security inspections and patrols around bridges and tunnels.
Security at Parks and Monuments
The National Park Service has heightened security at a number of parks and monuments, particularly in the New York City and Washington, D.C., areas. Theme parks have also stepped up security. At Walt Disney parks and resorts, for example, visitors will see more patrols and can expect to have their bags searched at entry points. Parking structures may be closed early or access may be limited after hours.
Travel between the United States and Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean has become more complicated and time consuming. U.S. Customs officers are searching everyone and everything entering the United States. This means delays, sometimes long ones, when crossing borders. Canada, Mexico, and most of the Caribbean require U.S. travelers to carry a U.S. passport. Information and estimated waiting time at key crossings are available on a government Web site, http://www.cbp.gov.
As private industry and government scramble to find better ways to thwart terrorism and more reliable ways to make travelers secure, passengers will be faced with an increased level of inconvenience. Minimizing the inconvenience may be a simple matter of being prepared. There are some things that a traveler can do.
* Plan to arrive early. Most airlines are suggesting that travelers arrive at least two hours before a scheduled domestic departure, and three hours prior to an international flight. Call the airline in advance to find out how much time should be allowed.
* Carry proper identification. IDs are closely scrutinized, so carry a photo ID (such as a passport or driver's license), or two forms of ID, one of which must be government issued.
* Pack smart. The TSA publishes an extensive list of permitted and prohibited items on their Web site. Don't take questionable materials; buy hairspray or a disposable razor at your destination.
* Pack light. The trip through security will go more quickly if everyone carries less stuff. Be especially aware of cameras, DVDs, radios, laptop computers, and cell phones as these items are being closely scrutinized.
It is always smart to do some research on general travel information and on the destination to which you will be traveling. The United States Bureau of Consular Affairs offers several publications to assist travelers. Some publications are more general in nature, such as "A Safe Trip Abroad," or "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad." Others offer specific information for travel to various parts of the world, such as "Tips for Travelers to Canada," "Tips for Business Travelers to Nigeria," or "Tips for Travelers to China." A complete list of Consular Affairs publications can found be on the Government Printing Office Web site (http://bookstore.gpo.gov).
TAKE PRECAUTIONS AGAINST TRAVEL SCAMS
The security precautions we are most often faced with are those designed to prevent terrorism. The governments of most countries have many programs in effect to minimize the threats of terrorism to travelers. However, an individual traveler is much less likely to be a victim of terrorism than a victim of a crime or a scam. Travel scams consistently rank near the top of the list of complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). By mail, e-mail, fax, phone solicitation, or your own Internet research, the promise is the same: a marvelous travel experience for very little money. Being a victim of a scam can just as easily occur while traveling. Understanding common scams can be a helpful tool for tourist and travel professionals alike. It is important to take precautions, and to make some conscious decisions about behavior while traveling. Some basic precautions may well be the difference between being a victim of a scam or a crime or not.
* First, be informed about the destination. Check the U.S. State Department's travel Web site to make sure there aren't warnings, advisories, or announcements that might affect travel plans.
* Purchase travel insurance. Travel insurance can protect a traveler from many types of calamities, but not all policies are created equal. Look for coverage of such events as medical emergencies, including medical evacuation, trip cancellation/interruption, baggage damage, and identity theft. Identity theft has been identified by the Federal Trade Commission as American's fastest growing consumer crime. It affects thousands of travelers annually with an average loss of $11,000.
* Photocopy all documentation, including passport, flight tickets, hotel reservation confirmation, medical insurance policies--anything with your name on it. Make two copies, one set to leave at home, in case your family needs to come to your rescue, one set to take with you. An added precaution is to e-mail yourself any information you may need in case of an emergency, such as contact information TAKE PRECAUTIONS AGAINST for consular offices where you are staying, emergency numbers for lost or stolen credit cards, insurance help lines, and so on. If you have a Web-based e-mail account (e.g., Hotmail or Yahoo!), you can access your e-mail from any computer in any cybercafe worldwide.
* Be smart about money. Carry a minimal amount of cash. Use debit and/or credit cards instead of cash. Keep some of your money in a separate place, so if your wallet or purse is stolen, you'll still have some money. Don't advertise the fact that you have money (or jewelry or possessions). That's an open invitation to criminals.
* Be alert. Criminals and scam artists look for people who are not paying attention to their surroundings. Make it a habit to be aware of people around you--a pickpocket can be anyone from a child to a woman holding a baby. Use simple precautions like carrying your money next to your skin and in front of you, not in back.
* Carry a cell phone. If you are unable to communicate emergency contact information, a quick check of your cell phone directory can product a wealth of information--if a stranger knows what to look for. Enter your emergency contact under "I.C.E." (In Case of Emergency) so that a stranger could easily locate it.
* Be aware of health concerns. If traveling internationally, call the International Travelers Hot Line at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia at 404-3324559. Information includes vaccination requirements, food and water precautions and reports on current disease outbreaks worldwide. Pack your prescription medications with care and include information on the prescription. Some doctors suggest packing a back-up supply and storing it separately in case your original is lost or stolen. Include your favorite nonprescription pain relievers, cold medicines, antidiarrheal medications, and so on. Consider what you will do if you become sick traveling abroad. If an American citizen becomes seriously ill or injured abroad, a U.S. consular officer can assist in locating appropriate medical services and informing family or friends. If necessary, a consular officer can also assist in the transfer of funds from the United States. However, payment of hospital and other expenses is the responsibility of the traveler. Before going abroad, learn what medical services your personal health insurance will cover overseas. If your health insurance policy provides coverage outside the United States, carry both your insurance policy identity card as proof of such insurance and a claim form. Although many health insurance companies will pay "customary and reasonable" hospital costs abroad, very few will pay for your medical evacuation back to the United States. Medical evacuation can easily cost $10,000 and up, depending on your location. Travel insurance may cover some or all of these costs for as little as $3 or $4 per day. An extensive listing of over 50 medical evacuation and travel insurance companies can be found at the U.S. State Department Web site. A traveler going abroad with any preexisting medical problems should carry a letter from the attending physician, describing the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic name of prescribed drugs. Any medications being carried overseas should be left in their original containers and be clearly labeled. Travelers should check with the foreign embassy of the country they are visiting to make sure any required medications are not considered to be illegal narcotics.
Travel Purchase Scams
A few of the more common scams involved in selling travel follow.
* E-mails, faxes, or mail announcing that you have been "chosen" to win a free vacation, free airfare, or a hotel stay--especially when you know you haven't entered anything. Recently, the FTC has noted an increase in fraudulent travel promotions advertised through unsolicited faxes--sometimes disguised to look as if they're from a travel company the consumer may recognize.
* Advertisements for bargain basement prices or "discount travel certificates" available if you agree to a presentation from a "time-share" company. These presentations are usually extremely high-pressure sales pitches designed to sell a few weeks of "ownership" in a vacation property.
* Travel clubs that require you to pay a fee for participation and in return promise travel discounts for all cardholders. While there are many legitimate travel clubs, this is a very common scam.
* Two-for-one or "companion" scams that offer you two tickets for the price of one when in reality the cost of one ticket is as much, if not more, than you would have paid for two separately.
* Telemarketers who promise great travel packages if you agree to pay now, over the phone. These are often skilled salespeople who know how to put the pressure on and avoid answering specific questions about the offer until after you fork over a credit card number.
* Fraudulent Web sites are often quite elaborate, making it difficult to differentiate between a quality vendor and a travel scam artist. The Internet has given travelers incredible access to travel information, but with that has come the necessity to constantly be on guard against the possibility of being scammed.
The American Society of Travel Agents provides the following suggestions when evaluating travel offers:
* "Be extremely skeptical about postcard and phone solicitations that say you've been selected to receive a fabulous vacation."
* "Never give out your credit card number unless you initiate the transaction and you are confident about the company with which you are doing business."
* "You should receive complete details in writing about any trip prior to payment. These details should include the total price; cancellation and change penalties, if any; and specific information about all components of the package."
* "If you insist on calling a 900 number in response to a travel solicitation, understand the charges and know the risks."
* "Walk away from high-pressure sales presentations that don't allow you time to evaluate the offer, or that require that you disclose your income."
* "Be suspicious of companies that require that you wait at least 60 days to take your trip." (4)
There is another scam that travel professionals and travelers should be especially aware of. Consumers can fall victim to "instant travel agent" offers. Some companies may offer to sell identification that will "guarantee" discounted rates from cruise lines, hotel companies, rental car companies, or airlines. In reality, the companies that sell this identification have no control over discounts. Only the actual supplier of the services can extend professional courtesies such as discounted rates to true travel professionals.
Scams while Traveling
Awareness of possible scams and staying alert are often the best preventative, but even those who are frequent travelers can fall victim to a well-orchestrated scam. Scammers are very inventive and are constantly developing new ways to part a traveler from his money. It pays to be alert to a few common themes.
LOCAL TRANSPORTATION Travelers are dependent upon local transportation. Nearly everyone has heard about the scenic tour by taxi. In this scam a taxi driver takes advantage of the fact that you don't know the city and drives the long way to the hotel or other destination, thus running up a large fare. You can't learn every city in advance, but it might pay to ask the hotel what the usual taxi fare is to your destination.
Drivers may be paid "commissions" by hotels and attractions to deliver tourists. Don't rely upon information given by local drivers, and if you are concerned, insist upon your original destination.
Another common scam is being cheated for the price of a journey. Often this is done by people who hang around the bus or train pretending to be drivers or conductors. They ask for the fare and then disappear. Avoiding this one is as simple as asking for a ticket. If they won't give you a ticket, don't give them any money.
TRANSACTIONS INVOLVING MONEY, CREDIT CARDS, AND VALUABLES Don't rely on anyone who changes currency to do it accurately and honestly. It's important to have at least a reasonable idea of how much money you expect to get back. And count your change. This means you must know how much an item costs, and how much you should get back.
Overcharging for goods and services is institutionalized in some countries. A traveler should have at least a general idea of hotel prices and the like. You may be expected to bargain for a better price, but not always. The best way to avoid being overcharged is to walk away if you think the price is out of line.
Credit card transactions are usually the safest way to make purchases, but even so, card numbers can be stolen, or the card itself can be stolen. Keep receipts and check them against the card statement after you return home. Report any discrepancies to the credit card issuer.
Using hotel safes may not always be safe. While all of your valuables may not be stolen from a "safe," a few notes or travelers checks may be removed, making it difficult to prove that they were ever there. Your credit cards may be removed for a short time while the thief goes on a shopping spree. The best practice is to keep money, credit cards, and travelers checks on you, and don't bring "valuables" when you travel.
TAKING ADVICE OF LOCALS In general, these scams are based on offering you free advice or assistance that may result in your paying for something you otherwise would not want, or going someplace you may not want to go. If it sounds "too good to be true," don't do it. Travelers often don't want to offend a friendly local citizen, and unfortunately scam artists prey upon that. It isn't necessary to be rude; just walk away if the conversation makes you uncomfortable. If that doesn't work, feel free to yell for help.
Tourists often have a huge impact upon the destinations they visit. That impact can be a financial blessing for the economy, but it can also cause devastating damage to fragile environments. There is a tenuous balance between the travel industry and those who want to retain the ecology and conserve resources. The travel industry on one side is seen as promoting unlimited travel of the globe, which if badly managed, can overrun and ruin a destination; conservationists, on the other hand, are seen to be promoting environmental concerns over all others. Somewhere in the middle is ecotourism or sustainable tourism. Since the United Nations designated 2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism, interest in ecotourism has developed in many directions. It is currently one of the fastest growing segments of the tour industry.
Tourism is not a passive activity. When we visit a destination, we interact with the destination and its resources. Well-managed tourism can provide an area with jobs and other financial incentives for wildlife and historic preservation and cultural enrichment. The hope is that by promoting sustainable tourism, local people will have not only income, but also a powerful incentive to conserve and protect their own resources.
The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) was founded in 1990 and they describe themselves as the oldest and largest ecotourism organization in the world. TIES has defined ecotourism as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the wellbeing of local people" (Figure 3-3). The organization further states that "those who implement and participate in ecotourism activities should follow the following principles:
* Minimize impact
* Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect
* Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts
* Provide direct financial benefits for conservation
* Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people
* Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climate
* Support international human rights and labor agreements" (5)
A related concept is geotourism, which the Travel Industry Association of America and the National Geographic Society define as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place--its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. Geotourism encompasses all tourism to the extent that residents of a location have a vested interest in protecting the resources that people are coming for, whether historic, cultural, gastronomic, environmental, or other.
[FIGURE 3-3 OMITTED]
Who's Who in Ecotourism
There are many organizations, public and private, working to further the goals of sustainable tourism. A few noteworthy organizations are the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP); United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); World Tourism Organization (WTO); World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC); the World Conservation Union; and National Geographic. Business Enterprises for Sustainable Tourism (BEST), a program of the International Tourism Partnership, is an international consortium of educators committed to furthering the development and dissemination of knowledge in the field of sustainable tourism.
It is evident from only this small list that there are many influential organizations contributing to the effort to define, promote, and certify ecotourism. There are many hundreds of less well known organizations and people who contribute their resources toward the goals of sustainable tourism.
Certifying the "Ecolabel"
Although there are possibly hundreds of ecocertification programs in existence, there are no universal standards to determine how legitimate the certification really is or on what standards it is based. This causes difficulty for a travel professional or traveler who is shopping for a destination, tour, or accommodation that adheres to the standards of ecotourism. Just having an "ecolabel" is not a guarantee of anything.
Both Green Globe 21 and the World Heritage Convention are two organizations that have developed high performance standards for ecotourism. Green Globe 21 was developed by the World Travel and Tourism Council. Since 1999, it has certified accommodations, destinations, and tour operators around the world. While not actually a certification program, the World Heritage Convention, administered by UNESCO, has chosen 700 sites worldwide based on rigorous evaluation of their standards to conservation.
There are many other groups that use responsible guidelines before applying the ecolabel. If you are unfamiliar with the certifying organization, do a bit of online research to determine its credentials before trusting its certification. Despite all the certification programs that exist (good and bad), only 1 percent of the world's tourism products carry any ecocertification. It's fairly obvious that one of the great difficulties with certification is that there is so little of it.
By some estimates there are more than five million ecotourists--the majority come from the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia. There is very little statistical data on who can be classified as an ecotourist. In general, we can probably assume that these are travelers who have made some definite choices about their travel experience: the type of travel they purchase, the destinations they choose, the tour operators they use, and the ways in which they conduct themselves while traveling.
Because the goals and concepts of ecotourism are not widely understood, it often gets confused with "adventure" tours or any tour related to a nature experience. These do not necessarily promote the goals of sustainable tourism. In fact, some tour operators may use the terms "ecotourism" and "green-friendly" and behave in environmentally irresponsible ways.
Without rules for certifying a location or accommodation as fit to use the ecolabel, it falls in the lap of travel professionals, and ultimately the ecotourist, to make informed decisions and demand high standards. Understand the goals of ecotourism and get detailed information about any organization you intend to use. Determine whether the businesses you patronize have environmentally friendly policies with regard to water, waste disposal, energy, and so on. Know the features of the tour and judge for yourself whether the activities are such that local people and cultures are respected and will benefit from your having been there, or whether the environment has been compromised by your presence.
Tourists can make a difference by making conscientious choices. The Ecotourism Society, National Audubon Society, American Society of Travel Agents, and other concerned organizations have developed guidelines for travelers. They include in part
* Travel in the spirit of humility, showing appreciation for things you see.
* In wilderness areas remain on marked trails; keep 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) from wildlife; do not take anything (plants, rocks, shells, seeds, animals); do not introduce anything (plants, seeds, animals) to the environment.
* Never litter or leave waste in a wilderness area; when at sea, don't dump plastic or nonbiodegradable garbage overboard.
* Remember your cultural background is one among many; show respect for the way other people think and do things. Don't expect or demand special privileges because you're American.
* Study before you go, learning local customs and several phrases so you can be courteous and communicate with local people.
* Respect the privacy and dignity of local people; ask before taking photos.
* Never purchase products made from endangered plants or animals, including orchids, cacti, sea turtles, crocodiles, snakes, lizards, pangolin (anteaters), ivory, wild birds and their skins and feathers, coral, furs of spotted cats, marine mammals, and polar bears.
* Don't give local kids candy or encourage them to ask for handouts.
* Don't make promises to local people that you cannot keep.
* Do support and contribute to local conservation efforts.
The twenty-first century traveler must be more prepared and more aware than ever before. It is the responsibility of every travel professional to assist travelers in developing these skills. The governments of many countries have structured policies and practices that they believe will help to protect tourists, but ultimately it becomes the traveler's responsibility to stay safe. A traveler is much more likely to be a victim of a scam or crime than of terrorism. Being aware of scams involving travel purchases and those that can happen while traveling can be the difference between being cheated or not.
We now understand that tourism is not just a passive activity. It is an interaction with a destination and its resources. Ecotourism seeks to promote responsible travel that conserves the environment and promotes the wellbeing of people. Because ecotourism is not yet well understood, and certification is not prevalent, it is up to each of us to be familiar with the goals of sustainable tourism and make conscientious decisions about the travel experiences we choose. If unchecked, tourism can lead to the depletion of an area's resources.
For additional Travel and Tourism resources, go to www.hospitality-tourism.delmar.com.
Complete the following questions using the information in Chapter 3.
1. Do you think measures taken by the U.S. government to protect travelers are sufficient? Explain.
2. A client, who is a frequent traveler, tells you that time spent waiting in security lines at the airport is getting longer and longer. Do you have any information that might help your client?
3. Although promising, biometrics has been the subject of much controversy among privacy advocates. What is your response to this concern?
4. What is an "instant travel agent" offer?
5. What does it mean when we say, "Tourism is not a passive activity"?
6. Tourists can make a difference in promoting sustainable tourism by making conscientious choices. What are some of these choices? Is it realistic to expect tourists to travel responsibly?
7. An individual traveler is much less likely to be a victim of terrorism than a victim of a crime or a scam. Discuss precautions a traveler can take against being victimized.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||SECTION I Today's Travel Industry|
|Author:||Gorham, Ginger; Rice, Susan|
|Publication:||Travel Perspectives, A Guide to Becoming a Travel Professional|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2007|
|Previous Article:||Chapter 2 Technology and the travel professional.|
|Next Article:||Chapter 4 Basic travel geography.|