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This year's best articles offer a contemplative look at where the tourism industry has been and what lies ahead. | Photo by Danka & Peter on Unsplash

December 19, 2022

Is it presumptuous to say that 2022 is the year that changed tourism?

International tourism has come roaring back, but it’s different than it was just a few years ago. A variety of research indicates people are increasingly interested in more meaningful travel experiences, and anecdotally this seems to be the case as well. I was recently in touch with a colleague who told me that at a large industry event, “the community is definitely focused on better business and that means focusing on PEOPLE and also large looming questions around continuing sustainability improvements and climate action.”

To say it’s a refreshing shift — and long overdue — is an understatement.

But the work is just getting started, and we can’t let up on the accelerator.

Mitigating the climate crisis has never been more urgent in the tourism industry and beyond. With borders now open and travelers roaming rampantly around the globe, we need to keep care for local communities top of mind. And in a push to get their finances back on track, travel service providers need to remember that supporting regeneration means that tourism isn’t at the center of all things.

Always the optimist, I’m hopeful that the tourism industry can continue to chip away at the challenges it faces internally and become a supportive partner in addressing global challenges as well.

As we step foot into the new year, here’s a reminder of where we’ve been … and a glimpse of where we’re headed.

Where We Came From

Why the Tourism Industry Should Care About Ukraine — But It’s Not For the Reasons You Think (Rooted) - “So, yes, those working in the tourism industry absolutely should care about the war in Ukraine, but not because it will interrupt itineraries, supply chains, and marketing strategies.”

Sustainability needs a new narrative (Green Biz) - “Since the 1970s, an environmental sustainability narrative has shaped a global agenda as embodied in a suite of global treaties, negotiations and declarations.”

Retrofit Tourism Better (Tourism Geographic) - “Building new zero-carbon hotels and resorts is an important part of the solution, but it won’t be enough to accomplish that ambitious carbon-reduction goal — not when 80% of the world’s existing buildings are still expected to be in use three decades from now.”

Ecotours aimed at saving monkeys are likely stressing them out, study finds (Mongabay) - “Wildlife tourism is increasingly seen as a way to raise awareness around conservation issues and provide local communities with a source of income that’s contingent on the protection of ecosystems.”

The Days of Neutrality are Over (Rooted) - “Travel brands, like all brands, should be held accountable for their actions (or inactions) as it relates to all aspects of corporate social responsibility.”

Do Your City’s Parks Need a ‘Colonial Audit’? (Reasons to be Cheerful) - “But few of these changes get to the heart of the problem: how do you go about confronting the fact that your institution is responsible for making publically accessible for recreation land that was stolen in the first place?”

The Problem with “Giving a Voice to the Voiceless” (Rooted) - “The common phrase of “giving a voice to the voiceless” ignores the fact that people who have been marginalized (and therefore silenced) by dominant, more powerful people have voices — and that they’ve always had voices.”

How centuries-old whaling logs are filling gaps in our climate knowledge (Grist) - “Stored within the pages of the 18th and 19th-century whaling logbooks is a cache of ancient weather records, meticulously logged by crews traversing the world’s oceans.”

Where We Are At

Is the New Era of Travel Elitist? (Rooted) - “And yet, there’s a bit of dissonance that needs to be reconciled here: Travel is a privilege, but it shouldn't be reserved for those with privilege.”

How Destinations are Using Geolocation Data to Manage Tourism Growth (Phocus Wire) - “Salt Lake City is just one of many destinations that is now fine-tuning marketing and destination management strategies with the assistance of visitor movement data acquired from mobile devices as well as anonymized spending data reported by more than 5,000 financial institutions.”

The Thorny Ethics of Historic Preservation in the Age of Climate Change (The New Republic) - “It’s difficult to see the goal of cultural preservation as anything but enlightened. Yet in practice, it often reflects imperialist, Western, and capitalist biases.”

Destinations Funding Sustainability Through Tourist Taxes (Travel Pulse) - “Although these taxes aim to support destinations with their sustainable development, transparency is needed to gain consumer (and industry) trust so that destinations continue to adopt them.”

What if the Best Solution is Not to Travel at All? (Rooted) - “And while there have been changes in the way travel is being delivered, and conscious travelers may slowly be changing their habits as well, travel is steadily rebounding to pre-pandemic levels in a world where the climate crisis and biodiversity loss are in more precarious positions than ever.”

In Kenya, a community regrew its forest — and redefined reforestation success (Mongabay) - “Compared to similar efforts across Kenya, the Mirema initiative is ranked among the best community-led reforestation initiatives due to the high survival rate of the trees planted, an outcome that caught the attention of the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).”

These Groups Are Helping Refugees Rediscover Nature (Outside) - “Welcoming more displaced people is important, particularly after tragedies like the August 2021 Afghanistan crisis. But simply opening our country’s borders doesn’t always cut it.”

Where We Are Going

Travel Influence(rs) and the Need to Rethink Measurement and Value (Rooted) - “So the question is: As the outlook across the tourism industry takes these perspectives into consideration and begins to shift its focus from quantity to quality, why are “successful” influencers still held to quantifiable standards?”

'Youth Councils' Are Playing a Big Role In Saving Cities From Climate Change (Good Good Good) - “Youth councils harness the energy — and anxiety — that make young people particularly inclined to take climate change seriously.”

MapLab: A People’s Guide Maps the Hidden History of Orange County (Bloomberg) - “To many minds, Orange County, California, is a place defined by Disneyland, beaches and an air of wealthy conservatism. But it is far more diverse and discordant than that prim reputation suggests, and a new atlas reveals a complex history that is in some cases literally buried beneath the amusement parks and citrus groves.”

Can Planting a Trillion New Trees Save the World? (New York Times) - “The tree planters have at times overstated just how simple their task is, but in nearly all cases their claims seem to be motivated not by ill intent but by a conviction that planting trees is indeed an effective solution to all manner of problems — that the cause is so worthy and urgent as to excuse small exaggerations and mischaracterizations and the frequent conflation of the word “trees” with less-impressive words like “seeds” and “seedlings.””

Travelers are a Solution to the Tourism Problem (Rooted) - “They may be individuals in a global (but highly localized), complex, and evolving ecosystem, but their actions — and the ripple effects from their actions — should not be overlooked.”

Citizen future: Why we need a new story of self and society (BBC Future) - “As citizens, we look around, identify the domains where we have some influence, find our collaborators, and engage.”

Our Environmental Crisis Requires Political Fixes, Not Technological Ones (Scientific American) - “Recognizing that climate change is simply just one facet of a larger multicrisis might feel paralyzing or even hopeless; but it is, in fact, freeing.”

Could Bears Ears National Monument be a model for Indigenous co-management across the globe? (Adventure.com) - “It’s not land back, but the agreement gives the area’s original inhabitants more say over what happens on culturally-significant public lands than any existing arrangement with the US government.”

Did you miss previous year-end round-up articles? Catch up on them here!

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