Tourism problems, challenges and solutions - Problems

Last / Next  2010-03-12 05:25:21

While the world faces many problems, most of
which affect tourism and hospitality to a greater
or lesser degree, there are four significant general
problems that emerge from the articles to be of
particular relevance to tourism and hospitality.

The problem of definitions
Despite the fact that the terms ‘tourism’ and ‘hospitality’ are widely used, there
continues to be a lack of agreement as to exactly what each of these encompasses
and as to the relationship between them. In this discussion, we take tourism to
be an all-encompassing term covering every aspect of people staying away from
home, and hospitality to be a specific aspect of this, dealing with accommodation
and feeding tourists. One difficulty, of course, is that the hospitality industry
also feeds and accommodates many people who are not tourists.
In reality ‘tourism’ is often interpreted quite narrowly, i.e. as the flow of
visitors from one country to another. This is because, like many of the authors
of articles, academics and researchers generally rely heavily
on the World Tourism Organization (WTO) as their principal source of data.
Yet in many parts of the world, particularly the United States and China,
there are very high levels of domestic tourism. Even today only about 10%
of the US population has a passport.
This problem of differentiating between international and domestic tourism
is likely to become even more severe. If the European Union should become
the United States of Europe, intra-regional travel within the Union will cease
to be international tourism regardless of its purpose. (Travel between Hong
Kong and PRC has already ceased to be international tourist travel, although
the volume of traffic has increased and the purpose changed little.)
It is clear there is also a great deal of inconsistency between data, which
is largely due to the problems of definition. Purpose of visit is one such definitional
problem. When tourism is not defined it generally means pleasure
tourism, people on holidays, but formal definitions (like that of the WTO)
tend to include anyone travelling. Witt and Song state in this volume that
70% of worldwide trips were holidays, 15% were business and 10% were
related to visiting friends and relatives (VFR). Yet the most recent Horwath
International global hotel study (1999) identifies only 50% of occupancy
deriving from the leisure traveller and 46% from business guests. From the
hospitality and airline industries’ point of view the business traveller is
extremely important and often the major focus of attention and effort.
The apparent inconsistency in figures is partly because so many pleasure
tourists stay in less conventional accommodation. In Scotland, for example,
Scottish Tourist Board figures published in 1999 show that hotel accommodation
makes up only about 40% of total tourist accommodation, excluding
VFR beds. Rather too many surveys concentrate solely on hotel guests, thus
much less is known about other staying visitors. Domestic tourists are more
likely than international tourists to use accommodation other than hotels as
they are better placed to know about alternatives. Until the problems relating
to the definitions of tourism and hospitality are resolved and the definitions
become all-encompassing, applying with equal validity to all regions, there
are likely to be continued difficulties and inconsistencies in understanding
tourism and travel data and statistics.

The problem of forecasting and predicting growth and change
A feature of this text has been the forecasts about tourism’s future. Witt and
Song are clear about which methods work, and Frechtling (also in this volume)
makes some telling points about which factors will influence tourism in the
next decade. But most econometric and statistical trend projections are based
on the principle of ceteris paribus – all things remaining equal. What if they
do not? A feature of the 20th century, especially the second half of the century,
was relative stability in many aspects of tourism, but this may not be true
for the 21st century.
Global tourism is forecast to grow, but overall growth forecasts hide tremendous
differences between regions and countries. According to Teye (this
volume) Africa receives only 4% of all international tourists and only 2%
of total international tourism receipts. He shows that many African countries
are economically worse off now than they were 40 years ago, still over-reliant
on agricultural and/or mineral production, with tourism presenting both
cultural and environmental challenges. He concludes that there have been
and still are a myriad of obstacles to tourism development, such as political
instability, economic restructuring, human resource constraints, lack of
regional co-operation and a lack of basic infrastructure.
An optimistic view of Europe and North America is that at best their
tourism industries are stable. In their respective chapters, Cook states that
short-term growth in US arrivals will be slow, whilst Cleverdon suggests
tourism in Europe is growing at a rate of 3% compared with a global rate
of 4%, and its market share is forecast to decline from 59% (1995) to 47%
by 2020. On the other hand South America looks set for a period of sustained
tourism growth. Arrivals have been growing at an annual rate of 9% and
receipts at 12%. It has some tremendous advantages, including its relative
proximity to lucrative North American markets, historic and language links
with Europe, and excellent natural resources (rainforest/Andes/beaches).
Asia Pacific also seems to be on an upturn. Chamberlain (this volume)
quotes the WTO as forecasting that this region will ‘grow faster than any
other’ and will pass the Americas to become second to Europe in the number
of visitor arrivals. This means five times as many visitors in 2020 as in 1998
– admittedly a low year – although there may be some difficulty in accommodating
that number of visitors and it might pose strains on the infrastructure
in the region. Asia Pacific illustrates perfectly how vulnerable these industries
are to unexpected events. The recent financial crisis in this region led
to dramatic falls in arrivals, hotel rates and hotel occupancies, not only in
the Pacific region but globally . This kind of event makes forecasting tourism
performance in some regions almost impossible. No one can predict what
might happen in the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent and the Russian
Federation. Political instability, economic turbulence and religious differences
could all have negative effects on potential tourism development and growth.
Overall there is evidence of extremely rapid growth in some regions, that
this growth will continue, and that other regions will begin to attain a greater
share of tourism in the years ahead. But there is really no such thing as a
‘fair share’ despite what ministers and NTOs say. Not everywhere needs or
can expect to attract large numbers of tourists. Those places that have not
grown significantly or do not have major tourism industries generally are in
that position for good reasons. Cetron (this volume) identified some of these
reasons – a lack of perceived attractions compared to other areas, relative or
absolute inaccessibility, unsuitable climate, political regimes which discourage
tourism, problems of security, health and safety, relatively high cost and often
a combination of several of these.
What is needed is an examination of which, if any, of these elements are
likely to change significantly in the short- to medium-term future, to understand
if those regions are likely to see major increases in tourism. Even then,
should such a change in situation come about, we need to see whether the
region is appropriately equipped to handle such an increase effectively. Rapid
percentage growth is rather easy from a low base, but long-term sustained
growth is what is important, if indeed it is growth that is desired. If the
world is serious about sustainable development and living within the limits
of the resources available, then growth, especially rapid growth, may not be
the pattern desired or acceptable in all regions. This aspect is rarely tackled
in forecasts, where the focus is normally on growth.

The problem of industry characteristics
It seems clear there is going to be continued growth of global brands such
as McDonalds and Burger King, Hilton and Holiday Inn, British Airways,
One World Alliance, Thomas Cook and American Express, Avis and Hertz.
Despite the fact that the Internet makes some people suggest the brand is
dead, big firms will continue. There are still economies of scale to be achieved
by being big, even in a world of e-commerce, as the AOL–Time Warner
merger demonstrates. But the industries will continue to have many small
operators managing unique operations on a local basis. One of the comments
frequently made about tourism is its fragmentation and the difficulty this
poses for instituting controls, particularly self-regulation by the industry. It
often results in multiple, sometimes opposing, objectives among different
players, which require different solutions in different locations. This is one
of the reasons for the frequent lack of application and success of national
master plans. Despite the globalization trends to which Chamberlain and
others refer in this volume, there is likely to remain a large element of the
tourism industry made up of very small players. The web should encourage
and assist the maintenance of some of this diversity.
The tourism workforce is typically described as having low ability and
few skills. Large numbers of young people are employed in these industries,
expected to work long, unsociable hours, paid below average wages resulting
in extremely high levels of staff turnover. This pattern may not be able to
continue, if only because in many countries in the developed world there
will be fewer young people to be employed under these or any conditions
because of changing demographics. Changes in the composition of populations,
nationally and globally, are likely to have major, if still uncertain effects
on all aspects of tourism and hospitality in the coming century.

The problem of climate change
A key problem that tourism and hospitality has to face is climate change.
This issue could have greater effects on tomorrow’s world and tourism and
hospitality in particular than anything else discussed so far. Two islands have
disappeared already because of rising sea levels, and the effects of El Nino
and weather instability throughout the world have been terrible in recent
years. The most worrying aspect is that very little is known about the full
nature or level of these effects. To all intents and purposes the tourism and
hospitality industries appear to have buried their heads in the sand and seem
intent on ignoring what could be the major problem of the century.
Some of the likely effects as well as rising sea levels, include negative
effects on ski areas with fewer days of snow-cover, increased cloud and rainfall
in some areas, and increased temperatures and greater sun exposure in
other parts of the world, with general increased turbulence and unpredictability
of weather. Lohmann (this volume) showed that many of these are serious
enough to at least threaten, if not change, the patterns of tourism and to have
significant impacts on hospitality operations.
If sea levels do rise significantly as forecast, many world cities including
London, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Washington, Sydney and Singapore would be
under water, as well as Bangladesh, the Maldives, the Seychelles, the
Netherlands and Florida among others. There would be economic, political
and social turmoil. Tourism depends on global economic well-being and this
would not exist if this scenario became reality.
At this time, however, it seems that only the insurance and banking industries
have begun to take real notice of what is likely to be a significant
problem, not just for our industries but the world as a whole. Even if serious
steps are taken to reduce the problem, it will be decades before the process
is reversed, if indeed, it can be reversed.
It is worrying that in general the problem is being ignored by forecasters
and by planners. It seems rather naive, for example, to produce a tourism
master plan for a place that might be under water by the time the plan is
ready to be implemented.


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