Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sustainable Tourism Chapter 10 Relational Summary

 Sustainable Tourism Chapter 10
Textbook by David Weaver
Relational Summary by T.H.Culhane

Chapter 10:
Visitor management strategies for destinations

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

  • Assess the circumstances under which visitation capping strategies such as quotas, entry fees and infrastructure limitations are warranted in a destination to prevent negative tourism impacts
  • Describe how spatial and temporal channeling strategies can be employed to obtain sustainable tourism outcomes
  • Apply the recreation opportunity spectrum (ROS) as a framework for matching visitor expectations with available tourism resources
  • Evaluate the strategies by which visitor behavior can be positively modified through effective education, including persuasion and interpretation and
  • Explain how destination managers can use target marketing and demarketing to attract desired visitors and discourage those that are unwanted.

These are all laudable goals and I hope to cover most of them here. Let’s start at the end though, shall we?
Demarketing strategies. That’s a good one. How about a sign that says “Trespassers will be eaten”.  I could  make jokes about theme park castles putting alligators in their moats but…  we don’t want to go there…  Still, you gotta ask yourself, when is it appropriate for a tour operator to say, “hey, DON’T COME”?   When I was doing my senior thesis at Harvard way back in 1984, I spent a semester and a summer videotaping the behavior of the world’s only talking marine mammal – a harbor seal named Hoover. He was the New England Aquarium’s star attraction, bringing in tourists from all over the world to admire his talents.  And what did this amazing talking seal actually say? “Ge-ge-ge – get outta here!”  Get outta here! Talk about demarketing.
It didn’t work though – the more the seal yelled at people to leave and insulted them in a bluster of agonistic male dominance behavior, the more came to see him. Kinda like certain politicians…
But first, why would a tourist destination want to make itself unpopular?
Well, it seems there are two pricing strategies in most markets  -- low price high volume and high price low volume.  Exclusive resorts go for the latter, and to maintain the price premium they have to guarantee a certain level of exclusivity.  Weaver tells us that “the concept of demarketing was introduced in the early 1970s as ‘that aspect of marketing that deals with discouraging customers in general or a certain class of customers in particular on a temporary or permanent basis… Demarketing is evident in the tourism strategies of Bermuda and other ‘high end’ destinations.. wherein mass tourists are actively discouraged at the same time as high spending visitors are encouraged.  Hence, demarketing can be regarded as the opposite of target marketing. Indirect demarketing strategies include reductions in overall promotion, price increases and the elimination of products that attract the undesirable markets” (p. 187)
Other examples of such demarketing are the exclusive Scottish golf courses, like those belonging to , er… certain politicians… In some of these cases there is no need to set a “quota” per se, rather one can restrict visitorship to manageable levels by setting the prices so high that very few can afford it but just low enough that it guarantees the number of visitors at the right rate to maintain the desired profit margins of the resort.
In private businesses offering the differentiated luxury services Weaver talked about in the previous chapters this isn’t so hard to achieve, it is in the worlds of higher volume/lower price mass tourism and in public tourism, such as national parks, that the acts of demarketing must be more carefully thought through.  Weaver, on page 175, talks about the iconic Galapagos National Park, describing it as “a high order protected area off the coast of Ecuador that was declared a World Heritage site in 1978” where “its managers have employed a strategy wherein visitor caps are established and periodically raised, thus indicating a fluctuation between fixed and flexible carrying capacity approaches. The 1973 Master Plan established a ceiling of 12000 annual visitors, which was subsequently raised  to 25,000 in 1981 and 50,000 in the early 1990s There is evidence to suggest that these ceilings have been frequently and deliberately violated, although it is unclear in the first instance whether such exponential increases were viable from a sustainability perspective.”
From where I sit I believe that the profit motive makes people walk a tightrope of ever greater danger,  because  humans tend not to apply the cautionary principle very well. One is reminded of the advice people give for cooking in a Wok: “Cook it until just before it burns.” Of course you have to have experience burning things to get a feel for how far you can push the envelope before things are ruined.  The problem is that many parks are running uncontrolled experiments, hoping that if they mess up, things will recover. The temporal considerations given on page 180 give some hope if we understand recovery cycles in natural and sensitive cultural environments, but it does take a deep level of commitment to applying the proper science since many natural systems can go into collapse. This is usually the case where ecological systems have not been exposed to human impacts and where mechanisms aren’t in place to preserve cultural artifacts and this is particularly the case on public lands. So quotas need to be enforced.
Weaver says that “visitor caps are …  becoming increasingly prevalent at high demand linear recreational resources such as the West Coast Trail in British Columbia, Canada and the Wilderness trails of Yosemite National Park in California, where numbers are regulated through a free permit system. In the former case, no more than 60 hikers are permitted to begin the hike each day and an annual quota of 8000 users has been imposed.” (P. 175).
The carrying capacity is of course somewhat subjective.  I had the unpleasant experience of trying to impress a girlfriend from Germany in the year 2002 by renting a hybrid car from Los Angeles (yes, I was that eco-conscious back then – there was only one rental agency in the whole city that had them and it cost a premium) and driving all the way up to San Francisco on the coastal highway to show her the redwood trees of Muir Woods National Monument near the Golden Gate bridge.  Though the giant sequoias were still there, surrounded by the moss and the mist that make viewing spectacular, there were so many tourists on the trail lined up for the hike that she actually cried and said furiously, “America is ruined, ruined! This isn’t a wilderness, it is a theme park. If I wanted to wait in line to see attractions we could go back to Disneyland.”
In fact, hanging out in the false wilderness of Tom Sawyer Island  one would actually see less people. If you want to see the kind of traffic around trees that you see at John Muir state park you need to hop over to Universal studios to the ET ride where the same  huge sequoias are made of polymerized concrete and create the mood for the beginning of the ride.

However, it can be said that that level of foot traffic is precisely what is allowing those peri-urban giants in the real forest and the wildlife they support survive so close to a major metropolitan city.  It’s the place the newly uplifted hominoids in Planet of the apes escape to in the latest movies and very accessible by the Golden Gate Bridge, just 15 km north.  The tourists did stick to the trails and follow the advice of the signs and game wardens and it didn’t seem that erosion was high; I imagine the trees and the squirrels and owls have long since adapted to the presence of bipedal hominids milling about gawking and taking selfies and don’t let it interfere with their breeding opportunities in the least.
So we can’t really say that the carrying capacity of the forest has been reached from an ecological point of view.  At one time it may have been herds of Tule Elk, a rare species of native San Francisco ungulates that once numbered over 500,000, that the other wildlife watched slowly file by on the trails, and they munch on the vegetation, while the people just leave candy wrappers.
No, the limits here are more psychological than anything else, and since tour operators and park revenue collectors know there is a latent demand to see the trees that is never satisfied, no matter how many people get in the long line that weaves through the trees and how much my then-girlfriend swears she will never go back and will discourage all her friends, this wildlife park will stay open for business, making lots of money off of parking and entrance fees.
In fact, the way most of these parks are run, when it comes to public parks, is that well intentioned NGOs and governmental organizations do the famous WTP or “Willingness to Pay” Survey and figure out a population pressure point and a price point that will keep the tourists coming. And they will keep coming. 
Good examples of how long they will keep coming came to my consciousness when I joined a group of National Science Teacher’s Association members on the the hike to El Yunque Rain Forest in Puerto Rico one day, and the downhill coral reefs beneath it the next.  We paid good money to hike around and swim around looking at the devastation from one of the major hurricanes.  Much of the forest was flattened, there were gouges of depression erosion, and the silt that had come down had all but killed the reef, making the dive one of the worst I had ever been on with horrendous visibility, hardly any fish and coral that was silt grey and brown rather than vibrant hues of red, yellow and blue. But we paid for the experience.  It was only topped by the dive I did in Bahrain, an island nation in the Gulf of Arabia whose name means “the two seas” and who once had one of the few “ribbon reefs” in the world, a reef where the ancient pearl divers got the best most precious oysters with the largest pearls, a reef so spectacular in species diversity that Jacques Cousteau filmed one of his first television specials there in the 1950s.  By the time I got there in 2005 it was so dead that our best dive was on a shipwreck, a massive hunk of an oil barge that had been sunk deliberately to try to bring the reef back by providing shelter for fish and surface area for new coral to cling to.  It was like diving in a ghost town, and I was fortunate to have done it at night because at least that way there was some mystery to exploring the graveyard of what was once a reef, where now only spiny black sea urchins scour the dying sea bottom while the ubiquitious striped yellow tails and jelly fish patrolled the upper waters, scavengers all. When I asked the boat captain what was going on he said, “it is Bahrain’s great tragedy – they have been experiencing a construction boom for tourism, for all these high end shopping malls and  hotels and casinos and nightclubs – it is the other Mecca for wealthy Saudis who drive across the causeway that connects Bahrain to oppressive Saudia Arabia in their Mercedes to come and party, to drink alcohol and hire Russian prostitutes and ride jet skis and lounge by the pool and shop til they drop.  Meanwhile most of the sand from that construction is dredged from the coastal areas of Bahrain and that has either directly killed the reefs or silted up the water to kill them.  This wreck is a cheap way to provide something to do on a dive, just sink ships you don’t want anymore and call them tourist attractions.”
I asked whether anything could be done about it.  He shook his head sadly and said, “Recently I gave the diving certification course to the nephew of one of the top ministers.  He was very enthusiastic about diving but  then became very disillusioned by the devastation he saw. He went to his uncle and said “Uncle, why do we continue to dredge the sand in our waters and kill our national heritage? Why aren’t we simply trucking in sand over the causeway from the deserts of Saudi Arabia?” His uncle said to him, “Nephew, we are having a business boom and a tourist boom and we have contracts in place with our suppliers. It saves us money it makes us money. And as for your precious reefs, don’t worry, we will be so rich that when the time comes we will simply rebuild them.” This is the level of ecological awareness of the ruling elites in these countries – they see the living reef pavilion in Epcot and think they can fix nature by throwing money at it. In fact, my next dive on that tour was in the artificial reef tank in Kuwait City next to the Imax theater, diving with sharks and rays and magnificent fish from the oil spoiled Arabian Gulf. I paid good money for the experience too, and it was climate controlled, like the desert ski runs and ice skating rinks in the malls.  For adventurers like me, firmly on the Allocentric side of the tourism scale, there is always the chance to pay to dive on the dying reefs outside, and I did so, just as I used to pay as a kid to dive in the Quarries of New Jersey where I could get inside a underwater magic schoolbus and pretend to drive.
In other words, in case you haven’t noticed,  I’m not convinced that Visitation Caps and quotas will actually do much, though because I can afford to pay and am willing to pay for more exotic and less populated experiences, I do appreciate them – diving Oman was incredible because it is much more expensive to get to and is thus much less spoiled. Also, I understand why quotas may not be appropriate. As Weaver says, “In a democratic society, formal visitor quotas are only rarely applied to municipality level political units due to issues such as freedom of access rights, political opposition and enforceability (e.g. easy physical access, cost). At the national level countries with border controls in place are in a better position to levy quotas on foreign visitors, though they seldom do so because of the desire to increase revenue from international tourism.” (p. 176.)
This is an important issue for equity and social and environmental justice as well as business sustainability, which are pillars of our sustainable tourism concept.  For example, when I visited the Sultanate of Brunei, two of the things that kept the primary rainforests intact where eco-tourism and offshore oil revenue. Unlike neighboring Malaysia the government of Brunei and its business elite had no reason to cut down the forests for timber or African Oil Palm plantations, and the local people had no reason to poach or mine. The rainforest I did my research in even had Clivus Multrum composting toilets so the more tourists who visited, the more soil they created.  A simple technological fix like this ensured that the rivers were not spoiled by fecal material, while nearbye in Sumatera at a rainforest lodge I had gotten desperately sick from swimming in the local river because of human sewage. And because Brunei can afford to maintain its forest cover, it can concentrate the activity in certain eco-lodge areas.
As Weaver points out on page 178, “Unregulated tourism development, as depicted in the destination life cycle model, tends toward spatial and temporal concentration, which in turn is commonly regarded as both a cause and symptom of unsustainability… Yet, with appropriate regulation and management, spatial concentration can actually serve as an effective strategy contributing to the attainment of sustainable tourism within the destination as a whole. This contention is based in part on the premise that concentrated tourism activity serves to confine negative impacts such as congestion to a small portion of the destination, thereby leaving most of the latter as a backstage relatively unscathed by these direct negative impacts, while still receiving benefits from employment and revenue disbursments.” He tells us, “The Gold Coast of Australia illustrates this phenomenon, wherein the vast majority of tourism activity occurs along a narrow coastal strip occupying less than 2 percent of the City Council area… strategies focused on concentration are also justified by the economies of scale they generate that allow otherwise uneconomical site hardening and visitor management measures to be pursued within confined frontstage spaces. For example, the sophisticated and environmentally friendly  facility development that is being carried out at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is only feasible because of the expectation of four million or more visitors per year at the site. Central to this development is the introduction of mass transit shuttle options that will largely eliminate the need for private vehicles and parking lots in the South Rim area…. Seen in this light, the confined frontstages that are generated through concentration strategies can be described as nodes of sustainable mass tourism rather than ‘sacrificial spaces” in which negative environmental or sociocultural impacts are assumed.” P. 179.

I’ve seen the dispersal/concentration based hybrid strategies in places like the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, where the investment of huge numbers of tourists enabled the Egyptian tourism authority to replace all the usual smoky diesel and gasoline buses with electric trams – Weaver also talks on page 180  about a time limit on group visits to Nefertitie’s tomb, so as to disperse or concentrate visitors through time, allowing natural recovery through a temporal component to a redistribution strategy, and I saw this in Lebanon at the famous Jeita Grotto caves where they  provide silent clean electric boats during limited hours to move large volumes of tourists through to explore the caves. It felt a little like being in Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyworld and it was fun.  These high value experiences, which have been hardened to protect the primary sites, subsidize other more vulnerable  protected areas as part of what Weaver calls the “Recreation Opportunity Spectrum” or ROS – an organizational framework that facilitates concentration and dispersal strategies by matching various types of recreational expectations and desired experiences with areas where these experiences are compatible and where satisfying as well as environmentally sustainable experiences can be subsequently undertaken. Hence it is closely related to the concepts of carrying capacity and LAC as discussed in Section 9.2.3.” For example, says Weaver on page 180, As employed by the US Forest Service, the ROS allows for six categories of ‘opportunity classes’ ranging from ‘primitive spaces that emphasize isolation and close contact with nature, to ‘urban’ spaces that are heavily  serviced to accommodate large numbers of visitors pursuing a wide range of activities. Intermediate categories include ‘semi-primitive non-motorized’, “semi-primitive motorized’, ‘roaded natural’ and ‘rural’”… a novel critique is offered by R. Manning, 1999, who criticizes the ROS for adhering to rigid linear alignments of environmental, social and managerial criteria (i.e. ‘natural’ environmental conditions are aligned with ‘low-density’ social conditions and ‘undeveloped’ managerial conditions) when there is no inherent basis for precluding the possibility, for example of high density use in natural areas under intensely managed circumstances”, end quote page 180… and that is what I experienced in the Muir Monument Forest. I think perhaps the difference between me and my then German girlfriend and our enjoyment of the redwood trees is that I saw the concentration of people there as a positive thing precisely because I knew at least something about the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum and appreciated it. I felt by spending our money to see the trees and staying on the trail with the other tourists, we were doing our part to preserve wildlife, and came away feeling like a good citizen. And after all isn’t coming away feeling good the common denominator for the whole tourism experience?
Fundamentally, whether tourists are an asset or a liability, and whether or not they come away from their travels and visits feeling good and doing good is a matter of perception and most importantly EDUCATION.  In his section on Education and Persuasion, 10.4, Weaver has two charts that we should look at before we wrap up this relational summary of the chapter.  On page 181, Figure 10.1 shows the “Effectiveness of intervention strategies by type of action” depicting when and how indirect and soft intervention can work and when and how direct and hard intervention can work to discourage illegal, careless, unskilled, uninformed and unavoidable bad behaviors.  As you might surmise, illegal and careless actions require higher levels of direct intervention (such as physical barriers and policing) , but for the most part soft, indirect action, such as persuasion and education that is “not to pedantic or heavy handed”  tracks the numbers of tourists and does quite well.  After all, as McKercher, 1993 remind us in his exposition of the ‘fundamental truths’ about tourism, “tourists are not anthropologists but consumers who are primarily concerned with being entertained.” But Weaver in tern reminds us that this assertion “fails to recognize that tourists motivations are extremely diverse, but does suggest that desired sustainability outcomes are unlikely to be achieved in a destination if mass tourists are exposed to education that is too pedantic or heavy handed…”  One of the  things we learn from theme parks and even from restaurants like McDonalds, is how little careless behavior people engage in when the normative culture persuades and emphasizes good practices – after all, who would have suspected that a fast food restaurant could get so many people, who normally expect to be waited on,  to politely do the clearing of a table themselves, carrying their trays and trash to the designated areas.  People in mass tourism have been described as sheep pejoratively, but in the hands of a good shepherd or normative structure they tend to fall in line quite nicely.

The last two graphics we will look at (there are only three in the entire chapter after all!) are Figures 10.2 and Figure 10.3.
Figure 10.2 hows the Himalayan Tourist Code which helps tourists frame their experience and engage in best practices by appealing to their sense of decency.  It tells them how they can help protect the natural environment (for example by using as little firewood as possible and actually HELPING THE GUIDES AND PORTERS FLLOW THE CONSERVATION MEASURES,) and respecting local traditions and helping maintain local pride.  When I was trekking in the Himalayas with National Geographic’s Dr. Alton Byers Director of Research and Education at The Mountain Institute two years in a row, I learned about the endangered slow growing juniper shrub which stabilizes the vulnerable soil from erosion and catastrophic flooding but which was being used unwittingly or irresponsibly by tourists and their guides for cooking fires and heating water . Once I and the other members of the expedition knew the dangers of using juniper shrub we became champions and advocates for best practices and even went so far as to purchase and carry up to the top of the world a vacuum tube solar hot water system and install it. In this way we turned our tourist into a net positive impact on the fragile ecosystem.  Other tourist groups were coming up and installing solar cookers.  Nobody forced us… in fact it became a badge of pride and a voluntour experience in itself! 

Figure 10.3  considers “Channel Factors” or influences on persuasion, looking at how the message is delivered.
In the left column it shows a sequence from Message to Persuasion to Favourable Actions that goes from Exposure to Absorption to Reception to Interpretation to Integration to Action. It asks “How many people are exposed to the message? What proportion of those exposed read, see or hear the message?” “Does it enter the memory and make an impression on the above? Do these people make sense of it? Do they form an option about it? Does it make a long-term impact on their values and attitudes? Do they act positively on these?”

From a sociobiological point of view, humans are just other animals in the landscape, and whether we do great harm or great good really depends on whether or not we interact with the natural world in  a life enhancing or a life degrading way.  We have the technologies and techniques and mechanisms to be a force for extreme good. In my opinion courses like this, and the kinds of discussions we are having, can turn humanity into a welcome partner with the natural world and with other cultures and each of you can be the educated ambassador how can make that long-term impact on other humans values and attitudes so that we can truly create a sustainable tourism.

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