Tourism and Media: Taking Responsibility

Today I watched the live-streaming coverage of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Tourism and Media Conference live from Marsa Alam, Egypt.

Hashtag: #tourismmedia
Storify: #tourismmedia

Video streaming by Ustream

Kudos to the event organizers for making this conference public. I’ve long pestered tourism event organizers to provide real-time coverage so this a long-awaited step forward.

That said, there was no way that those online could really participate. There was no good way to determine who was speaking during the roundtable discussion and no way to ask questions. These glitches aside, the conversation was candid and polite and quite informative about how different stakeholders view things differently. I wish there had been a ‘Who’s Who’ to figure out which voices were from the journalists and which were from the contracted public relations agencies.

The major talking point from the event was that of responsibility and the participants returned to this point time and again. We saw how easy it was for participants to interpret ‘responsibility’ in different manners. Taking responsibility, therefore, will be a challenge.

I found it curious that in no instance did anyone talk about ‘responsible tourism’ – fodder for another discussion!

There was one particular comment I disagreed with. During the online streaming one of the blurry participants said with great authority, “The objetive of the media is ….” which I disapproved solely because the statement was singular. Media – perhaps journalism – is in a state of flux as the digital renaissance has offered transformational change. There are as many objectives as there are many expectations. My question is how do we manifest these aspirational goals as a practical action plan?

I also read a tweet quoting or paraphrasing one of the participants who said that “Storytelling is about building personal relationships, trust. Immediate and long lasting engagement.” This is certainly the goal, but there have been some stones in the road. One of the obstacles for tourism and media pros alike is that there the high job turnover in professional sectors. Without continuity, it’s all but impossible to build relationships and trust. Again, I would love to explore this in depth as we learn how to build long-lasting engagement. The future will be decided on the basis of whether we cultivate high trust environments.

In fact, there were quite a few terms that riled the conference participants. From the journalists who simply did not want to “partner” with tourism officials and those who questioned what constitutes contemporary journalism or simply ‘media.’ Huffington Posts’s @andrewburmon knocked the very concept: “The media as a concept is useful for discussions but beyond that it doesn’t exist.” What did the event organizers make of that?!

What’s needed is a construct that looks at contemporary coverage. Borrowing from Jay Rosen’s ideas of how political coverage is broken, the same could be said about travel journalism. To figure out what’s being reported, let’s use his model divided into four quadrants:

Bottom left: Appearances rendered as fact. Example: the media stunt.

Top left: Phony arguments. Manufactured controversies. Sideshows.

Bottom right: Today’s new realities: get the facts. The actual news.

Top right. Real arguments: Debates, legitimate controversies, important speeches.

Appearances-Realities / Arguments-Facts

Your thoughts? Post as a comment below. The conference continues tomorrow. The conversation lasts our lifetime.

Special kudos to On Fooooot for her blog: Is it media’s responsibility to raise awareness of the importance of tourism? and to TravelMole for reblogging this post (with permission!).

This entry was posted in 2012, events, journalism, tourism, Videos, Web 2.0 in Action and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Tourism and Media: Taking Responsibility

  1. It will be interesting to read the outcome of the debate. The media plays a powerful role.

  2. I consider it a great first step that UNWTO set up a #tourismmedia hashtag and facilitated the livestreaming. Next step will be to actively engage audience around the world in the conference via online channels. And I am confident that UNWTO will go ahead on that path. The links between tourism and the media are too obvious, it just takes some fine tuning to bring them closer together. I put some thoughts together how to unite the two.

  3. ronmader says:

    Agreed! It’s a good step forward. It would be good to come up with some tips for government officials, tourism providers and media as we learn to collaborate. Your Slideshare presentation is a fine start!

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