Leo Hickman on the WTM Hotseat

Official spin from the World Travel Market: “Hot Seat: Writer Leo Hickman talks to Stephen Sackur following the release of his controversial new book The Final Call.”

Leo Hickman on the Hot Seat 11.2011

Some background: this is the first year that those not attending the London-based World Travel Market could see some of the happenings in real-time and I was particularly pleased to see a conversation with Leo Hickman, a UK journalist with whom I’ve been in contact for many years.

So I tuned into the live webcast delivered via Facebook.com and watched the hour-long conversation that covered a wide range of topics: golf courses, all-inclusives, trickle-down benefits. #Buzzwordbingo players, have a listen!

In this conversation, Leo comes across as the sane and sensible voice, capable of examining travel’s pros and cons, particularly the impacts on local communities. This warts and all examination is a welcome addition to travel events and WTM deserves special kudos for creating an atmosphere welcoming substantive debate and discussion. Let’s call this a benchmark and ask that other trade events match this effort in bringing critical voices to the forefront of such gatherings.

Reflecting … I found it a bit odd for BBC’s Stephen_Sackur to call Leo’s a ‘lone voice’ … odder still that the WTM event talked up  the ‘release’ of the book four years after publication. Leo’s voice is not alone in critiquing the abuses of the tourism sector, but rarely are these problems communicated by travel journalists. He (and later Cathy Mack) point out that one of the culprits is travel journalism. This is a topic near and dear to my heart. We need to focus some attention on the story of how we generate the stories about travel.

The only portion in which the ‘hot seat’ delivered a searing question was at the very end when Stephen asked if the WTTC and UNWTO were useless. Leo’s response was on the mark.

The conversation ends with Q&A, including cringe-worthy expositions from the audience that weren’t questions. Cathy Mack wins points for being the first to ask a question, something one enjoys in a Q&A session.

Kudos to Greentravelguides.tv for putting this online www.greentravelguides.tv/news/leo_hickman_interview_at_wt…

If there’s a video on YouTube, let me know so I can embed this properly.


Frankly, I was also pleased as punch to ‘scoop’ the WTM, having previously interviewed Leo. He’s one of my favorite writers (and twitter-ers).

The Final Call

This entry was posted in 2011, tourism, Web 2.0 in Action and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Leo Hickman on the WTM Hotseat

  1. Steve McCool says:

    So what did Leo say in response to the question about UNWTO and WTTC? I’d like to know.

  2. ronmader says:

    Steve, you’d love this conversation. See if you can watch this.

    I wish we could get a transcript of the whole progra.! Let me watch this again and transcribe the response. It’s brilliant.

  3. Steve McCool says:

    I did watch Leo Hickman’s (author of The Final Cut—a critique of tourism development) as you suggested. I agree that tourism development has been too much focused on happy talk, building better brochures and spin control, with not enough discussion and debate on critical, substantive issues about its role in economic development and environmental management. For years, I tried to engage our state’s (Montana) tourism industry in such a dialogue and failed. At this point, I am not sure how to seriously engage the tourism industry on a long term basis on such questions as poverty alleviation, climate change, capacity building, economic development and so on.
    The Final Cut is one of a series of critique’s in the “popular” literature about tourism development, including Martha Honey’s “Who Owns Paradise?” Academia has also offered critiques as well as several ways forward, but the industry itself has not really engaged these. Of particular significance is management of tourism and visitation in protected areas—a cornerstone of both conservation and economic development.
    Now when we look at Target 11 of the Aichi agreement from last year’s Conference of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity, we see an enormous task ahead of us. Target 11 raises the proportion of the terrestrial surface in nationally designated terrestrial protected areas from 12.7% to 17% by 2020. This is, if my math is correct, an area nearly the size of Australia to be added to the globe’s protected area network. Think of it this way, using the average size of protected areas in the World Database on Protected Areas, this requires adding over 55,000 new areas in eight years. Think of the institutional and political commitment to this. Think of the number of managers and rangers that will be needed to be educated and trained. Think of the stress on current educational institutions to provide the courses and offerings needed for the thousands of people working there. Think of the tourism development challenges and opportunities that tens of thousands of new protected areas offer.
    The tourism industry needs to not just engage a discussion here, but also how to lead an authentic critical discussion, which will not only strengthen their industry and its capabilities to be a socially progressive one, but also greatly assist in making it a more desirable working place.

  4. ronmader says:

    Good points, Steve

    What I see is that the sectors continue to operate in silos, isolated from one another. Not enough genuine communication and collaboration! For years such isolation worked well enough to foster autonomy. Academics could publish unreadable work and governments could hold meetings that raised expectations without long-term accountability (and by long-term, I mean more than 18 months). Tourism pros likewise have had the luxury of promoting short-term projects because the money is now, never mind the future.

    Could there be an alternative? Could we use 2012 as the launchpad for a new spirit of collaboration? Let’s use the example of Target 11 of the Aichi agreement from last year’s Conference of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity. You point out that Target 11 raises the proportion of the terrestrial surface in nationally designated terrestrial protected areas from 12.7% to 17% by 2020. My question: where to read about this, see news about this? I welcome any links to add to the Planeta Wiki — http://planeta.wikispaces.com/biodiversity — and suggest that we brainstorm about some collaborative strategies in bringing the task of managing tourism in parks and protected areas to greater prominence in academic meetings and trade events alike.

    For this to occur, we need more ‘hotseat’ events like the one held at WTM. Let’s open the floor to critical questions and conversation. We need more transparency and in this age of livestreaming video and questions received via Twitter hashtags, we can do so much with limited resources. We just need to create or contribute to those opportunities in which we can share our knowledge and experiences with others as we seek common ground. Protecting life on earth is a great motivational goal.

    Personally, I’d like Planeta.com and the Planeta Wiki to serve as focal points for examples of good practice **in terms of collaboration. ** Let’s use Montana as an example — is there a way in which the wiki can inventory who’s doing what in tourism and conservation circles? Could we hold a 1-day Montana 101 webinar? Can I invite you and your colleagues to join us for February’s Responsible Tourism Week — http://planeta.wikispaces.com/rtweek2012

    We can move away from the silo model of the past only when there are incentives for working together. We could hold contests or awards at a global or national level. Imagine an award for best efforts in the USA that connect tourism and protected area conservation and we include on the nomination form: show us how you collaborate with others who share different skillsets? Mind you, I’m spitballing here but what’s important is figuring out how to do things in a different manner, something we’re all more keen to try as we enter a new year.

    A note of disclosure — while I have not met Steve in person, we both work with the Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group — http://planeta.wikispaces.com/tapas

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