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Prozess Dokumentation: Tourism Interventions 2003 / 2004

Tourism @ WSF: From Porto Alegre to Mumbai

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FernWeh - Tourism Review
Postfach 5328
D - 79020 FREIBURG, Germany

Introduction: TOURISM @ WSF

Whereas tourism had not featured very prominently on the agenda at the 3rd World Social Forum (WSF) in Porto Alegre 2003, the 4th WSF in Mumbai 2004 experienced a change in this regard. Tourism was the thematic focus of three workshops and one of 31 WSF-Plenary-discussions and thereby occupied a prominent space in the WSF programme.

The WSF generally provides a space for strengthening alliances between social movements, non-governmental organisations, local communities and workers’ unions from South and North. For this reason the WSF was seen as a good opportunity to demonstrate the relevance of the tourism issue and seek dialogue and linkages with other NGOs and activist groups.

Thematic Overview

The idea to bring tourism issues into the WSF is motivated by the obvious lack of participation of local communities in tourism development plans. The interventions attempt to denounce bad practices and capitalise on encouraging examples. Tourism development has generated many conflicts around the world, which have been intensified by neo-liberal policies. Liberalisation of international trade, privatisation and tourism development are mutually dependent and accelerate each other. In consequence communities and local people lose access to and control over local resources. Thus, tourism has endangered livelihoods while policy making institutions have kept local communities out of decision making. As a result struggles are emerging on working conditions, land use and resource allocation.

Liberalised trade in tourism services substantially intervenes with domestic regulations, which could ideally enhance people's rights. Under the neo-liberal regime it becomes virtually impossible to impose regulations for social and ecological standards on foreign suppliers. Unrestricted investment rights for foreign companies reduce the possibilities for the host countries to profit from tourism. At the same time they weaken the scope for action for people's movements and NGOs to call their governments to action. However, governments have often too willingly adopted the neo-liberal agenda to attract foreign investment catering to the needs of state finances and local elites.

The tourism industry takes advantage of the weak position of many people in the travel destinations of the South, although hardly any other term in development jargon have enjoyed such a boom as participation. "Participation" is used particularly in international agreements on tourism. The programme for the International Year of Ecotourism (IYE), designed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Tourism Organisation (WTO-OMT), is full of "participation phrases". In the "International guidelines for activities related to sustainable tourism development and biological diversity" in the frame of the Convention on Biological Diversity "involvement" and "participation" are equally emphasised. Yet declarations of intentions fail. If there is no funding for the participation of interested representatives from southern NGOs and no appropriate time frame for preparation, consultation and a participatory formation of opinion at local level and within local communities, the actual effect will be exclusion rather than participation.

On the other hand, indigenous communities and NGOs have been actively campaigning for a people-centred approach in tourism development. They have taken the initiative in analysing the implications of new economic frameworks such as the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and in exploring theoretically and empirically the potential of fair trade in tourism. Others have created new small-scale tourism products within democratic structures. Community-based experiences increasingly come into focus as well as the role of development cooperation in tourism projects.

Tourism interventions: Fortaleza - Hanover - Mumbai

Two events in 2003, the first Conference on Sustainable Tourism in Fortaleza and the DANTE International Seminar "Tourism: Unfair Practices - Equitable Options" in Hanover helped to shape the strategy and thematic focus of the WSF tourism interventions.

This brochure documents the leading questions and debates of this process. At the same time it gives an overview of the current discussion on tourism and presents the major concerns as well as the outcomes and demands that came up. We put an emphasis on the process. First, because many issues would not be expressed as clearly by presenting only the final statements and second, because the discussions during the preparatory workshops and at WSF reflect various aspects and a wide range of views according to local experiences. Our aim is to inform groups and individuals in order to facilitate the task of taking tourism into account within their work with marginalized communities or political decision makers. Consequently, this documentation will be useful for those who want to join the debate on tourism.

The first chapter of this document presents the major results of the First Conference on Sustainable Tourism held in Fortaleza, Brazil from May 12 to 15, 2003 which was centred around strategies for the construction of a model for sustainable tourism development and put a strong emphasis on the topic of Community Based Tourism (CBT).

The second chapter presents the discussions at the Seminar "Tourism: Unfair Practices - Equitable Options" from December 7 to 10, 2003 in Hanover, Germany. The seminar was organised to structure the debate and to prepare the tourism interventions at WSF. The major topics were "Labour rights and working conditions", "privatisation / liberalisation in tourism" and "community-based tourism". The issue of "poverty reduction through tourism" was debated at a panel discussion "Tourism: From all inclusive to inclusive for all?" together with representatives of the travel industry (TUI), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ).

The third chapter documents the Tourism Interventions at WSF in Mumbai from January 16 to 21, 2004. Under the umbrella of the question "Who really benefits from tourism?" three workshops and one panel discussion were organised. The topics of the workshops were "Sustainable tourism", "Community involvement in decision-making in tourism", "Vulnerable and marginalized groups in tourism". The panel "An intercontinental dialogue on tourism" brought together testimonies of people's struggles in tourism and responses from representatives of Indian mass organisations.

The outcome of the two days "Activists Strategy Meeting" from January 22 to 23, 2004 in Mumbai is documented in the conclusive chapter. It presents the next steps of action the newly created "Global Interventions Group on Tourism" agreed to take. It serves as conclusion of the 2003/2004 "Tourism at WSF" - process and as an outlook toward the next WSF in Porto Alegre in 2005.

Equations - FernWeh - Instituto Terramar, March 2004


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