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Barrett's Organizational Consciousness without description 300
The VolunTourist™ is a premium Newsletter for the Travel Trade. For those interested in discovering what is happening in the world of VolunTourism™ and seeking emerging practices, general information, and case studies, this is your Source.

Volume 7 Issue 3 Highlights

 
Holy Land Designs Worker

3Q's

VolunTourism and Making the Business of Travel More Conscious

It has been a number of years since we first interjected the word "conscious" into the definition of VolunTourism. At the time, the vision was simply to emphasize that the decision to embark on journeys that integrated service and travel was, in fact, a conscious choice. Now, there is a growing emphasis on consciousness, particularly the evolution of it. We see it in such things as Conscious Capitalism, for example; but for this issue of The VolunTourist Newsletter, we turn to another example - Conscious.Travel - and Founder Anna Pollock to answer our 3Qs.

1) What was the inspiration behind the Conscious.Travel Blog?

"A consistent theme and focus of my work and thinking over the past 40 years has been deep change in the way we humans understand how the world works and our place, role and purpose in it. In my twenties, I was privileged and fortunate enough to enjoy many of what we now call “authentic, immersive, experiences” by travelling overland from New Zealand to Europe on a budget of a dollar a day. The distinct cultures of the countries en route hadn’t yet been affected by westernization. Bali, for example, had not yet got electricity in 1972 and offered itself up as the most magical, mysterious, complex, and amazing place a young English woman could ever have imagined. Over the subsequent four decades, many destinations like Bali have lost their magic and the mystery; are subject to the vagaries of external economic forces; and are experiencing a degradation and dilution of precious cultures and landscapes that took thousands of years to evolve. Current travelers may have a wonderful time there but have no idea what has been lost and destroyed in the mindless process of converting from a subsistence to cash economy. Tourism has been good for the economy but the social and biophysical costs have often been ignored or discounted.

"I am not one for wagging the finger and establishing complex codes of conduct and action checklists that demand compliance. The best growth and change happens when people are ready for it. But it does make sense to me to attract those providers, who are motivated to be the best they can be, and by working with them to achieve the positive results that other members of the community envy and then try to emulate."

Anna Pollock

The rapid and extensive growth of tourism has been made possible by the application of an industrial model of production and consumption borrowed from manufacturing that is inappropriate for a sector that is all about hosts welcoming guests and enabling their guests to be transformed by the experience. By focusing on “products” and price and using discounting to cope with sudden drops in demand we are in danger of turning unique experiences into replaceable commodities and the opportunity cost is unacceptable. Only $5 out of every $100 spent in developing countries stays in the destination.

Conscious Travel is a movement, an e-learning platform and a community of tourism operators who are themselves awake, alert and aware of these issues and want to envision and co-create a better model for tourism that doesn’t cost the earth and that revives local cultures.   We believe that there are a growing number of travelers who are making mindful, deliberate choices, who want to engage and participate with hosts whose view of the world is very different to theirs;  who want to act responsibly, meet the locals, slow down, savour more and give something back.  Our intent is to help destinations attract, engage and support more of these kinds of travelers so that less emphasis is placed on volume growth and more on increases in positive net impact. The first step to achieving that goal is to help operators shift their mindsets from the industrial model to an ecologically, socially sound systems model.

2) How do you see conscious travel fitting within the context of the 'Transformation Economy' and the rise of conscious consumers?

"The notion of the Transformation Economy was introduced by Pine and Gilmore in the last chapter of the bestselling book called The Experience Economy. They chronicled the movement from economies based on material products to services and showed that by wrapping an emotive experience around the provision of a service the tendency towards commoditization could be slowed. The only way to avoid an experience being commoditised, however, was to let the customer co-create an experience in which they were transformed personally and subjectively. The psychologist Abraham Maslow introduced a hierarchy of human need in the 1930s and showed how people’s values and priorities shifted with age and circumstance from deficiency needs (i.e., the need for food, shelter, security then later for a sense of belonging, love and self esteem) to growth needs – the search for knowledge, aesthetics and then to self-actualisation….

Richard Barrett of the Values Centre is one of the pioneers in mapping this personal development path into the corporate world by showing how companies (as collections of people) can also shift their consciousness as they climb Maslow’s hierarchy.

Barrett's Organizational Consciousness Diagram

To shift from satisfying deficiency needs to growth needs is a transformative stage in a person’s or a companies’ development and foreign travel – especially if it involves some form of immersion in a different culture – can be the trigger.

In this context, Conscious Travel is all about helping both guest and host to become awake, alert and aware – in other words conscious of their experiences, aware of the context and setting of their experiences, and conscious of the impact of choices they make.

Our focus is on developing Conscious Hosts who can wake up to the opportunity for tourism to be a healing agent in terms of both cultural and environmental renewal as well as providing the trigger and setting for personal transformation.

Global Glimpse Jump
We define Conscious Hosts as those entrepreneurs, CEOs and managers responsible for shaping their companies who:
  • Demonstrate "Conscious Leadership" capacity – Conscious Hosts are, by definition, "awake, alert and aware". Their leaders have a clear sense of purpose; their decisions are values-based; and the corporate culture is designed to maximize the value to all stakeholders.
  • Design, develop and deliver Transformative Experiences for their guests either individually or in collaboration with local partners that result in high rates of referral; higher spend, longer stays in a region and or repeat visits.
  • Show that they care for all the stakeholders affected by their business by:
    1. living in harmony with the natural environment and have taken specific actions to minimize waste and conserve or, where possible, revitalize, the local natural environment;
    2. respecting, sustaining and revitalizing local cultures and contribute to developing and conveying a unique sense of place;
    3. providing a positive, flourishing work environment in which employees are appropriately rewarded and recognized; enjoy a fair wage; and have the opportunity to grow and develop.
    4. using and supporting local suppliers and suppliers who can demonstrate that they act responsibly;
    5. returning an above average and sustainable financial return to their investors
    6. being viewed as a positive force for good in their local community.
  • Understand the essentials of "Conscious Marketing" recognising that all business is now social in nature and revolves around sustaining trusted relationships with all stakeholders by listening, dialogue, give and take, collaboration and co-creation.
  • Conscious Hosts recognize and assume the responsibility for being the change agents in their communities. Through their travel-hospitality operations, they encourage connections and collaboration within the destination so that the destination becomes recognized as "a place that cares."
  • Can express a powerful, compelling unique "sense of place" such that the guest knows that their travels have, indeed, brought them to a place that, in its unique mix of people, culture, history, geography and economy and regardless of scale (be it a resort, a village, a town, region or nation) is distinctively different from the place they call "home. " At the very least this experience of another place, at a unique point in time (i.e. during the trip) will refresh, cause the recipient to reflect on their own identity and, ideally, be touched or transformed in some way.

3) What advice would you offer the voluntourism community regarding the struggle between the conscious and the unconscious, whether this is manifested in the guise of voluntourists, voluntourism providers, NGOs, or communities who have, as of yet, not become aware or 'awakened' to shifting paradigms?

"Sadly not all enterprises or agencies involved in Voluntourism have made the shift from an exploitive product-target market mindset to one that recognizes interdependencies, sensitivities, limits and the need to ensure that all stakeholders receive positive net benefits.

"In a networked community where anyone can dialogue with anyone and when traditional hierarchical, command and control-style organizations are losing control, anyone and everyone can and must become a leader who enables others to change, to innovate and develop their full potential.  The same is true of the tourism community.

“ the single best move an organization can make is to grow the leadership potential of its constituents.”

Anna Pollock

I am not one for wagging the finger and establishing complex codes of conduct and action checklists that demand compliance. The best growth and change happens when people are ready for it. But it does make sense to me to attract those providers, who are motivated to be the best they can be, and by working with them to achieve the positive results that other members of the community envy and then try to emulate.

As described in the Conscious Travel blog, there is an exciting movement developing within the business community. A number of extremely successful companies including Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Amazon, Google, LL Bean, The Container Store, and Whole Foods are calling themselves Conscious Capitalists have articulated four approaches to business that get results:

1. Have a Higher Purpose – if the voluntourism operator is simply out to exploit a growing market of people willing to work through their holiday, their results will be average and business will dry up quickly as word spreads. The underlying purpose of the business or agency if for the leaders to develop and articulate but in most cases it will be about the personal development of volunteers and the betterment fo the host community.

2. Improve the lives of all the stakeholders affected by this activity – the guest, the employee, supplier and, most importantly, the host community. Ultimately, it’s not rocket science. Surely it’s about showing you really CARE for each of these parties and are willing to do the work to ensure that the needs of each are heard and met. In our case, CARE also serves as an acronym for a number of words that convey what is associated with Conscious Travel.

Anna Pollock Conscious.Travel

3. Conscious Culture – for several contemporary observers, a corporate culture can be one of the most important sources of competitive advantage. Cultures that empower and reward employees and engage their passion in the pursuit of a mission and vision that inspires do better than those where process, compliance and old fashioned command and control directives operate. 

4. Conscious Leadership – The ability to create and sustain a culture that fosters creativity and innovation comes down to the mindset, character and personality of the leaders as expressed by their actions. Conscious leaders walk their talk.

In a networked community where anyone can dialogue with anyone and when traditional hierarchical, command and control-style organizations are losing control, anyone and everyone can and must become a leader who enables others to change, to innovate and develop their full potential.  The same is true of the tourism community.

“ the single best move an organization can make is to grow the leadership potential of its constituents”.

That’s why we have started the Conscious Travel Movement – to nourish and support any individual in tourism who wants to become a leader and support the shift from an outdated, counter-productive model to one that matches tomorrow’s emerging worldview. 

 

About Anna Pollock

Anna Pollock of Conscious.Travel

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