Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Rebellious Tourist on S Africa: FAIL

[Note: ResponsibleTravel.com has changed their page since I posted this piece - perhaps they did so in response to this posting, but I can't confirm that. However, they have removed the off-target photos, the reference to the Serengeti, and the reference to orangutans. Here is a cached version of the original page (which won't be around forever), but the Internet Archive will have a copy of it online in around 6 months' time and I will link to it then. However, there remains nothing responsible or rebellious about their recommendations. -- Kurt, 21 June 2010]


So, following my recent kerfuffle with ResponsibleTravel.com over their 'rebellious tourist manifesto' and the harm I believe it does to responsible tourism, the issue has now moved from the theoretical into the practical realm. Following on their weak tea manifesto about what comprises 'rebellion' for travellers (in the spirit of Jost Krippendorf), they have now launched a "brand new column" written by their 'rebellious tourist' (the one who supposedly hacked their site, but was in fact a hoax done for publicity).

Honestly, after a few thousand words on this and many hours spent, my intention had been to let this issue go - I've given up on RT.com being more than another travel agency, albeit a clever one that was out ahead of the pack in seeing the RT movement growing and positioned themselves to profit by it. However, the focus of their first column hits me right where I live and work - Responsible Tourism in South Africa - and they have embarrassed themselves with the content of this supposedly 'rebellious' take on visiting the country as a responsible traveller. It's neither rebellious nor responsible in any remotely meaningful sense of either word.

Firstly, the images on the page include a blue and yellow macaw, which is a South American bird, and a mountain gorilla, which is found only in Rwanda, Uganda and the DR Congo - thousands of km's from South Africa.

Secondly, they recommend a visit to the Serengeti, which is in Tanzania and Kenya, also thousands of km's from South Africa.They also include the following line, which is a non-sequitur:
Or you may be thinking about booking a volunteering holiday to an orangutan conservation project only to read that your regular chocolate treat contains unsustainable palm oil and is in fact contributing to the destruction of your favourite animal’s habitat.
Orangutans are in Borneo and Sumatra - Indonesia, thousands of km's away. Cacao and palm oil are also in Indonesia, but both are produced in West Africa too, which is at least a few thousand km's closer - but still a few thousand from South Africa.

Thirdly, they recommend 'rebellious' travellers visit Kruger Park, Camps Bay beaches, Boulders Beach for the penguins, Robben Island, the V&A Waterfront, the Cape Winelands - these are the most mainstream travel experiences in South Africa, with nothing RT or rebellious about them. NOTHING.

They do recommend some local food, advise using the train, and mention volunteering (the orangutan non-sequitur aside) - each good suggestions.

However, they also advise against shark cage diving, even though this is a hugely popular activity that brings in a substantial amount of money for marine conservation and there is at present no credible evidence that it has affected the behaviour or environment of the great white sharks. There are even two shark diving operators who are Fair Trade in Tourism accredited, which is bona fide RT. (See the shark cage diving industry analysis done by Responsible Tourism maven, Helen Turnbull, here). Personally, I'm ambivalent about shark cage diving, but there's no justification in slating the entire industry - in fact, there is evidence to the contrary, if anything.

All in all, the RT.com column reflects such overt ignorance of the destination they recommend, and a fundamental lack of credible responsible experiences, that I just couldn't let it pass without comment.

This 'Rebellious Tourist' thing just continues to makes RT.com look bad, and this new column is further support for my argument that RT.com is watering down the general understanding of what RT is and doing harm to the RT movement.

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Afrika T

2 comments:

  1. Even the upholders of 'moral virtue' should be scrutinised. Keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I couldn't agree more with your comments! They seem to have made some changes to the blog as a result of your article.

    I am totally outraged by their comments on shark cage diving. They obviously have no idea on the research going on in both False Bay and Gansbaai areas and the excellent work the FTTSA accredited operators do. The travel ideas given are boring, mainstream and have very little to do with responsible travel. The person who wrote the blog has not even bothered to check out the trips available on their own site!

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Blogging Hiatus

Gentle Reader,

Some five years into the life of Afrika T, I now find myself unable to keep up with contributions at a level that I and you have come to expect from this blog. Partly this is because of other activities in responsible tourism (see example here, and another here), partly from other projects in sustainability (see examples here and here), and partly for reasons that are more personal.

I am certainly still active online and in responsible travel, so feel free to comment on existing posts here, to follow me on Twitter, and to note what I've been reading online via Delicious. I also hope to return to Afrika T, so am not bringing the blog to a halt, just declaring a hiatus of indefinite duration...

Thank you for your support over the years, and, if you're a newcomer to the site, may it still prove valuable.

Kind regards

Kurt

5 December 2011