Tag Archives: tourism

Response Blog # 3: Sustainability: A Matter of Perception

I kept reading Anna Pollock’s posts and I wanted to share an interesting story that one of them told. It’s a true story and it happened last winter in Washington DC. Perhaps it is quite well-known, but I just found out about it and was quite amased. It is a story about a street musician (well, at least for an hour) and the power of perception.

The blog describes how on a cold winter morning a street musician played his violin at one of the Washington DC metro stations. It was a morning rush hour – people were on their way to work. The musician played 6 pieces by Bach for about 45 minutes. By the time he finished only 6 people had stopped to listen for a short while, the other 20 had only a dollar or two without stopping.

This musician happened to be Joshua Bell, one of the world’s best musicians who played a violin worth 3.5 million dollars and whose concert tickets were for an average of $100.00.

I was stunned by this social experiment about perception and people’s priorities. It is interesting to see how people’s recognition of this man was completely different with the existing circumstances – a metro station and a morning rush hour – than it would be in the concert hall.

This, I think, is an example o f how we tend to miss and leave beauty unrecognized when it is delivered in an unexpected context. It is also interesting to see how we determine value depending on the circumstances. We would value Bell’s talent a thousand times more if the place and time suggested it. But we tend to miss so many little things that could bring us joy in our daily lives, our minds engaged with other priorities and daily tasks.

Behavior change is about changing perceptions, and it was interesting to read how Pollock applied perception to sustainable tourism. She said “Until we are prepared to slow down, stop and drink in the magical tones of Joshua Bell’s violin when the music emerges unexpectedly from the pavement of an underpass on a drizzly November day, we will continue to gallop towards sustainability and it will recede further to the horizon. Until we have switched our perception of earth as lumberyard or ever giving ATM machine to earth as our sacred home that nurtures us; until we have mastered Wonder 101 and can articulate how a place pulses to its own unique beat; until we can feel “her”, the rest is pointless… “

I completely agree with her, until we change our perception about the Earth and stop thinking that these natural resources are self-recovering, we will not achieve much. This is quite of a challenge. I hope we don’t wait until the circumstances change.

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Response Blog 2: “On Homecoming and Wayfinding – Re-thinking Sustainable Tourism”

In her blog “On Homecoming and Wayfinding – Re-thinking Sustainable Tourism” Anna Pollock introduces the “Art of Wayfinding”, an idea which originated back during the times of  early Polynesian development, and how it can be applied by indigenous societies in order for them to preserve their unique settings and practice sustainable tourism .

Pollock talks about her “love-hate” relationship with tourism. The “love” side is easier to guess. The “hate” side is related to mass tourism and how it destroys valuable natural recourses, wipes out the cultural identities of unique destinations and becomes a reflection of pure commercialism.  Yes, tourism is a commercial industry but it can be developed and practiced in a way that does not harm the natural settings of the local communities.

She also mentions the “sickening” feeling she experienced when she visited the island of Bali after 16 years. The “sacredness” of the island had disappeared under the pressure of big investments and shiny resorts, gradually continuing to erase every sign of the Balinese culture and distinctiveness.

Unfortunately, this is the case with many other destinations where tourism the main source of income. Bulgaria, where I am originally from, is not an exception. I get the same sickening feeling when I think about, for example the Black Sea coast which is now teeming with large-scale developments and luxury hotels being built on previously existing greens areas, acres of marshlands have been destroyed. Almost every house is a hotel. And if there is no house, it is being built to become a hotel.

No wonder that the holiday season there has shrunk resulting in less revenues and lowering standards for hiring employees. No wonder that this landscape is turning tourists away. It makes me sad that nobody seems to care in a country, otherwise abundant in natural, historic, and architectural resources which could be promoted and exploited wisely.

What is the “Art of Wayfinding” and how can it be applied to promote sustainable tourism?

Just like Anna Pollock, I became very intrigued by the idea, and the skill of Polynesians to sail vast distances against the prevailing winds and find their ways with no navigational instruments. They learned how to read the sky, stars, currents, clouds and behavior of marine life to determine their position and direction. The “wayfinding” evolved into a metaphor, representing a way of thinking and how it can help each one of us and our communities to navigate throughout the duration our lives:

“You only know where you are by knowing precisely where you have been and how you got to where you are. One’s position at any one time is determined solely on the basis of distance and direction traveled since leaving the last known point. You don’t look up at the stars and know where you are, you need to know where you have come from by memorizing from where you have sailed. And, just as importantly, you need to see your destination clearly in your mind, if you ever wish to find it in an ocean as vast as the Pacific.”

A very powerful idea! In tourism it can be materialized if people found their way of developing new ways of practicing tourism, by having a clear idea of who they are, what  their values are and what they want tourists to value them for. This is sustainable tourism.

I wish I could tell whoever is responsible for this endless construction of the Black Sea coast  “Wake up! They don’t want to see your hotels and luxury. They want to see your way of life and your culture, they want to know you.”

On another hand, the idea of “wayfinding” made me think about how sometimes we think that we  haven’t achieved anything. And  it’s because we only look at the present without having a starting point. Now when I look back, for example two years ago, I realize the distance I have traveled, although sometimes it feels that I have gotten nowhere.