As Comhlámh’s new Information and Support officer, Ruth Powell was barely in the door of 12 Parliament Street before she headed off to Cambodia to a conference entitled “Journeys of sustainability”. Here’s her report.
The conference brought together 32 people from 15 different organisations based in 7 European and 5 south east Asian countries. Practitioners from volunteer sending and hosting organisations, tourism agencies, colleges and higher education groups came together to discuss the issues surrounding responsible tourism, sustainable livelihoods and development. Essentially, there are more tourists now than ever before, and many travel to countries in the so-called global south in search of fun, adventure and exoticism. Yet, many of us leave our ethics in the departure lounge of our airport of origin, and commit tourism sins we wouldn’t dream of doing at home.
Many of us would scream in horror at this accusation and say “No, not I! I would never commit an illegal activity or disrespect the local culture and traditions” and perhaps we wouldn’t engage in the commercial sex industry, drug trafficking or the purchasing of endangered animal goods.
But how many of us make accidental errors when the sun is hot and the humidity is high? How many of us have drunk alcohol with a local guide to the extent that he or she couldn’t work properly the day afterwards?
How many of us have taken photographs of children without asking permission, been rude or abrupt when negotiating prices or dressed inappropriately when visiting a temple of sacred site? The list of small sins is endless.
The conference ended with all 32 participants being more aware of the precariousness of sustainable tourism and development.
The next stage is for us to develop a resource package and training sessions for youth workers and young people, so that they too, might be more aware the delicate relationship between holiday makers, and those people who make our holidays.