Tourism is known for bringing employment, increasing economy and creating a learning curve for everyone, but it is also known for negative things such as destroying the natural habitat, bringing unwanted behaviours (e.g. drugs) and creation of overcrowding. Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the world, but it faces a lot of issues with the ethics of the operations in this industry. This is why it is important to raise awareness of the issues that the local communities around the world have to face, so the future developments can be sustainable.
Different Ethical Dilemmas in the Travel and Tourism
The travel and tourism industry brings a lot of ethical issues including leakage of income, green issues ethics, false advertisement ethics, unethical consumer issues and ethics of employment. There is a big range of types of tourism, but the most damaging types of tourism include the tourism which is catered for the mass market. In other words there are two models which attract people with less disposable income, which has it’s ethical side effects. The two models of holidays include all-inclusive holidays and enclave tourism resorts.
All-Inclusive holidays are one of the most trendy types of holidays in the last couple of decades and the biggest tour operators such as TUI are keen on this holiday model. First Choice is a tour company owned by TUI, which markets all their holidays as all-inclusive and a lot of people are attracted to the idea of fixed budget holidays, especially now in the economic struggle times. What do they actually mean to the destinations that we visit?
Leakage is one of the most common issues with the all-inclusive packaged holidays, which means that the money which meant to improve the quality of life for local people is going back out of their economy. Only a small percentage of the money that we as consumers pay for the holiday is actually staying in the local community.
On Tourism concern (2014), ‘All Inclusives’ we can find the following examples of the issues related to the all-inclusive packages:
“Turkey – research found only 10% of tourist spend from all-inclusive holidays found its way into the regional economy, with even less reaching the immediate local area”
“Kenya – 87% of tourists go on all-inclusive holidays and yet over half of local people live on less than $1 a day”
“Dominican Republic – all-inclusive holidays blamed for restaurant closures and increased negative attitude towards tourists”
Due to the fact that tourists pay for everything in advance and the tour operators take advantage of it, means that the local people are going out of business. Is it fair to have all these people visiting the destination, using the supply of finite resources such as water, polluting the area with waste and big hotels to get so little in return? This type of tourism only give little opportunities to the businesses that supply the hotel with food, drinks, toiletries and to the staff who is employed.
All-inclusive holidays force some local entrepreneurs to go out of business, especially hospitality businesses such as bars and restaurants. This is because the tourists can get food and drinks in their hotel at a much lower cost.
Big ‘enclave tourism’ establishments are another ethical and moral debate topics for the same reason why all-inclusive is unethical. Enclave tourism resorts are usually operated by big foreign corporations, where the tourist can experience and fulfil the entire travel intentions in one resort without the need of going away from it.
Firstly the enclave tourism resorts are usually big developments that take a lot of space and land, sometimes a land that is used by local farmers. Those resorts can also take a big chunk of the seaside where the local people fish for living, which is all transferred into a tourism resort. This, straight from the start is unethical as the industry is taking away the only source of income or food from the people who live there, alongside with finite resources such as water that people drink or use to grow crops.
Taking water away from people who need it to survive to create a nice holiday resort with green grass and swimming pools is unethical if it is not well planned. There always will be some green issues with travel and tourism operations such as the emissions from jets, using the finite resources from the local area or pollution created by the visitors, but it can be minimised if people are aware of it.
Secondly the tourists usually do not go out from the resorts, spending the money within the resort which goes back to the foreign corporations. This in effect is a problem, as there is many unethical consumers. Some of them may not be aware of where their money is going, but others may not have sufficient funds to buy the local products. In other cases it can even include trust issues to branding, where consumers are too loyal to the brand and do not trust the local products. This consumer behaviour do not benefit local people and is unethical. The enclave tourism resorts in a lot of instances also commercialise the local culture to suit the expectations of tourists, which gives the wrong perception to people of what the actual destination is, which is a false advertisement of the local life.
In some situations the local resources are limited, and using them up by enclave tourism resorts is unethical to the local people. Especially when taking into consideration the fact that this resort is not beneficial to the local community. Taking the land and limiting the resources of water for locals to only give back a low income employment is not moral. This leads to exploitation of local people and it brings issues with the ethics of employment. In many different organisations around the world, the staff is not actually paid enough to fulfil the living standards.
Some tourism developments take the homes and livelihoods from the people who live in the destination. Those issues in effect break the international human rights and make such a positive industry a nightmare for some people.
Corporate Social Responsibility – CSR
The only way to be ethical in the world of business is to have a CSR policy, which is based on the question of “good business, for a good society” in today’s world and for tomorrow. CSR is not about spending the profits on charities but on how the companies earn their profits. The way to do this is to employ people of integrity and create an appropriate organisational structure.
TUI group holds a sustainable policy which comply with the idea of CSR. This is because the company tries to take care of the environmental impacts, and also they put pressure on their suppliers such as hotels, to make sure that they give business and job opportunities in the local community. Although the company is still offering packages that may be seen as unethical (i.e. all-inclusive), their overall aim is to provide sustainable growth. The reason for keeping those packages can include the business’s profitability, but the company seems to be making sure that the maximum benefits are given to the local authority.
This can be seen in the following abstract from Sustainable Holidays Report 2014 (TUI Group, 2014):
“We are conscious of the pressures that tourism can place on local populations and resources. We work in partnership with communities, governments and others to support the sustainable management of destinations.”
TUI’s plan to deliver 10 million ‘greener and fairer’ holidays by 2015 was exceeded and in the reality TUI actually delivered 11.5 million holidays of this type. What TUI means by this term is that they want to make sure their holidays benefit local people and protect the environment. This should create a quality product for many years to come.
TUI claimed that 5,900 featured hotels had sustainability certifications in 2014. Those certifications are usually third-party assessed on the terms of how fair is the company to the environment, society and how ethical is the company. TUI increased the number of sustainable hotels from 17% to 66% in 2014, since the implementation of the sustainable holidays plan. This is an indication that the company is going in the right way, to minimise the negative effects of tourism developments.
The company’s aim is to create an ethical company, which can be seen by the published words from TUI’s group:
“Our challenge is to maximise the positive social and economic impacts of tourism in all our destinations, and to minimise environmental impacts.”
(TUI Group, 2014)
TUI as the world’s leading organisation in the travel and tourism sector, leads by example which can help in the creation and development of the ethical trend. By pushing the suppliers to be ethical, TUI can change the whole industry to be sustainable. The company wants to make sure that the local people see the benefits of this industry in their local community.
Moreover TUI effectively fights the CO2 emissions by upgrading their airline and coach fleet to the most modern and fuel efficient. This will help to make sure that the global warming will slow down and to help to make the environment cleaner.
It is of course certain that TUI is not fully ethical, as they still offer packages for people on budget, which creates and encourages an unethical consumer behaviour. Although the company is trying to maximise the benefits in the local communities by putting pressure on their suppliers, it is still not as beneficial as getting rid of all-inclusive packages.
Getting away from the all-inclusive holiday model, would encourage tourists to go out from the hotel and spend money in the local shops, bars and restaurants. This would allow the businesses to benefit from higher volume of customers, which would turn into more revenue and an improved quality of life for locals. The local businesses would also pay taxes in the local authority and the money from taxes could have been spent on public services and infrastructural improvements.
In addition, TUI still employs a lot of staff in the UK (e.g. Holiday Representatives), instead of the local people from the destinations that the tour operator offers in their product range. These job opportunities could have been taken by the local people, who could support the local economy and their families instead of the people from the UK, who look for rich range of experiences. It would be more ethical to support the people who really need a job to survive, with a job opportunity from TUI in the local community.
The CSR policy from TUI has a good start, but it could be improved. It is showing that the company is going in the right direction, but it is not quite there yet. It needs improvements to give more benefits to locals, such as the improvements which were mentioned above. If those improvements were adapted, the company could be truly ethical to the local people. This is because the local people could benefit to the maximum from tourism developments, without trying to compete in unfavourable market for them.
Travel and tourism industry can be very beneficial to the people and to the GDP of any country in the world, but only if it is well planned. Unethical practices which turn the benefits of this industry into problems should be criticised, so the operators take necessary steps to improve their businesses. A very good example is given by TUI, where the company realises what issues come with the developments in travel and tourism. TUI is an example to follow, with ambitions that can change the world. Those ambitions should also be taken by other big and small tour operators, who would put pressure on their suppliers such as hotels, to be ethical and sustainable.
TUI Group (2014) Sustainable Holidays Report 2014. Available at: https://www.tuigroup.com/en-en/sustainability/reporting-downloads (Accessed: 9 March 2016).
Tourism concern (2014) All Inclusives. Available at: https://www.tourismconcern.org.uk/all-inclusives/ (Accessed: 9 March 2016).