Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

One of the key messages emphasized by the interviews in the film (sometimes directly, other times indirectly) is that there's a need for more education, and specifically for educating travelers about being responsible travelers. 

My guess is that the answer to the question "who should do the educating of travelers?" is "everyone" (businesses, destinations, media, and everyone involved), but who/which sectors of the industry do you think should be doing more to educate travelers about responsible behaviors but not doing enough? What's preventing them from doing more/better? 

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

Regarding the destinations for whom more responsible and sustainable planning and management practices are "too late" (as described in the film), do you think that there's anything that can/should be done by the international tourism community, given the hindsight we collectively have now, to try and re-transform those places into more sustainable, community-driven destinations? Or should we just say "it's too late for them but we should apply the lessons in other places where it's not yet too late", and move on?
Could sustainable tourism organizations restore, rebuild, and transform destinations, as well as helping develop new ones? Could travel media, in partnership with national/regional tourism boards and governments, help rebrand formerly unsustainable mass destinations? Is there any such example of transforming destinations that were once considered "too late"? 

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

I think that one of the most important messages regarding travelers' negative impact is that when one blindly seeks out deals (to brag out living as cheaply as possible, or for whatever other reason) and demands to see and do certain things they want just because it's in the guidebook or just because it's cool (or "because I can", as I remember one traveler who touched wild animal in the film said), the consequences of many people traveling that way is creating a "race to the bottom" in the local economy, and of course the environment suffers, and so does the local culture.

This, as noted above, is not necessarily a "backpacker issue", but I think it's true that the term backpacking has come to be associated with certain attitude similar to the one depicted in the film. As Pegi suggested, I think that there's a need to re-establish the image and identity of the backpacker, in a way that many passionate travelers (many participating here) can relate to: independent, flexible, open-minded, hungry to learn and experience new things, off-the-beaten-path in a responsible manner. 

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

This comment by Kaji is heartbreaking - "But we need the money. I want my kids to get a proper education so they don't have to work as porters and guides."

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

"You don't have to be a diplomat to know that good food can bring people together"

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

I'm a passionate supporter of the view that the author represents, and I consider myself to be aware of most of these issues. But I still appreciate - and learn much from - the questions that the author addresses and the answers and scientific perspectives provided.

It's hard to change things that have been around for a long time, but I hope that our society will come to see that they shouldn't be continued just because some people enjoy them and some people make money from them, and that we live in a world where decisions - however hard - can be made based on reason and evidence.

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

I think the point in Nomadic Mat's post about TBEX's comment (not wanting to "give in to a vocal minority") is important. If that's what the organizers are afraid of, assuring that those among the organizers who are "personally against" using marine mammals in captivity for entertainment are not a minority but are in fact passionately supported by a large number of bloggers and travelers. In that sense, I wonder whether a message (coming from those who are the key target audience of TBEX) that focuses on supporting TBEX if they stop the inclusion of dolphin tours might be more effective, i.e. rather than saying "I won't join unless __", saying "I WILL join if __"? Or better yet, "We will sponsor if __"?!

I do agree that the "why I'm not attending" and "boycott" messages have been very effective in bringing attention to this issue and starting discussions, but I also think that any pressure that an online community like this can make to try to encourage TBEX to make (what seems to be) a hard choice can be more effective if it helps make it easier for them to make a business (financial? strategic?) case for it. If they believe that the conference would be more successful if they dropped the dolphin tours, would they be more likely to want to do so?

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

Related to the topic of giving, (although I haven't done this yet myself) I'm a big fan of the ideas and ideals of Pack for a Purpose, which engages accommodation providers, travelers who are staying with them, and local community organizations/projects by encouraging travelers to pack items that are specified by community organizations that need them. I think that this is a great way to facilitate more conscious giving; donations of things that are actually needed, not spontaneously chosen by travelers based on what they have or think is needed. Also, involving the local hotels/lodges that work with those community projects is great because those businesses can arrange the storing/transporting of the donated goods in an organized manner, rather than individual travelers dropping by and giving a few items here and there. 

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

When we worry about our carbon footprints and our impact on the world, we should not limit ourselves to only thinking about traveling responsibly; I think we should focus on living responsibly and making low-carbon positive-impact choices every day. All these questions about carbon emissions are not unique to what we do when traveling internationally, but are closely related to everything that we do in our day-to-day activities that rely on resources such as energy and water.

It's great to travel slow (both in terms of environmental impact and local experience) and try to minimize carbon footprint as a responsible traveler, but we should also be responsible when choosing which company to buy energy from, how much water to use at home, when to/not to drive, and what to buy - e.g. food items that have intensive energy and water requirements for production, and extra things we get when we shop such as packaging that also has environmental cost.  

I think, therefore, that if not traveling to long-haul destinations is to be considered a more responsible choice given the carbon footprint of flying, then those who are doing the not-traveling must also make sure that staying at home (regardless of whether that's instead of traveling, or just what we do when we're not traveling) is as low-impact and environmentally responsible as possible.

This aspect of what we do when we choose to stay home is often missing from the discussions around "should we stay home if we want to be responsible travelers". We can't consider ourselves responsible just for avoiding to fly.

I do think, though, that there are some situations where choosing to stay home instead of flying long distance is the more responsible thing to do; for instance, reducing the number of meetings with your client which you need to fly to by planning and coordinating via video meetings so that you can make the most of the face to face time you do have.

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

What a great question and really insightful lessons! I really appreciate the author's experience of putting down the camera instead of taking photos (to "share online later"). When we're being mindful of the world around us, and enjoying being present, indeed, Instagram can wait!

And her illustrations are beautiful! I've always thought that drawing and painting would be a great way to enrich our travel experiences, and I so wish I could sketch like her. Such a beautiful and engaging way of sharing travel stories.

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

I agree, like you said Andy in your earlier comments, that it's unlikely that "pressure" from outside would change attitudes, no matter how logical the environmental/ethical arguments against the hunt may be. The example of whaling to responsible whale watching tourism sounds like a no-brainer to me, but most whalers, I think, would consider such a suggestion irrelevant.  

I would like to think, though, that in the countries where whaling is considered acceptable those who support whaling because it's part of their cultural identity and tradition will also accept the view that change does not have to mean losing their identity.

I think and I hope that if the people of the Faroe Islands decide (for health or other reasons) to discontinue whale hunting, that would not mean the end of their sense of community and their shared social values. All societies and cultures evolve over time, and all our lives - urban or rural, modern or traditional - are constantly dealing with changes, but that does not mean our cultural identity is lost.

A bit off-topic, but this is what I hope will happen in my home country, Japan: that we as a people, while continuing to respect our history and tradition and valuing the unique stories of our island nation, come to accept that we can embrace change based on the knowledge and insights we have today and still maintain our cultural identity (and hopefully focus more on responsible marine wildlife tourism to empower coastal communities).

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

Thank you for sharing this! The example related to the rehabilitation and releasing of formerly-captive dolphins is very helpful to know, as well as the more natural, ethical and healthy alternative for those that cannot be released back into the ocean. 

It seems that we have the knowledge of what needs to happen and how to make it happen (rehabilitation programs and/or sea pens + responsible marine tourism programs focused on watching from safe distance in a way that does not disturbe their natural habitats), but we - both the industry and the consumer - need more awareness and action. 

I sincerely hope this is the direction we're headed, and that these articles and discussions will in the long term lead to positive change.

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

I just read this article on The Guardian - "Travel bloggers call for conference to cancel dolphin tours", which is mostly about the TBEX discussions and also includes comments from Nomadic Matt, Philip Mansbridge (Care for the Wild International), and Rick Calvert (TBEX).

It may be because I'm paying more attention to this topic and thus tend to notice coverage related to it, but I do feel that there has been a lot of articles, blog posts and discussions on related topics, which, as has been recognized, is a step in the right direction.

On the Guardian article, I thought it was unfortunate that the organizers consider the number of "people who are passionate about" this issue to be large enough to add new workshops in the conference (which, of course, is a great development - one that many here have also suggested), but they continue to claim that the number of bloggers and travel professionals who are against dolphin shows is "a minority" and "a small pressure group".

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

I've been to the Yamanakako-lake area and the entrance of the Yoshida Trail (in the springtime), but I haven't yet had the chance to climb Mt. Fuji. So these tips were helpful for me too, and they also gave me a better sense of what the experience is like. Watching the sunrise at the summit may be a bit of a Mt. Fuji cliche, but I'd love to do an overnight trip and try to summit in time for sunrise.

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

I don't have personal experience with it, but MatadorU comes to mind. I've heard good feedback on their courses. http://matadoru.com/

Also, I just saw that Julie Falconer of "A Lady in London" teaches online courses on General Assembly, and they include some related to blogging, which may be relevant. https://generalassemb.ly/instructors/julie-falconer/951

Similarly maybe there are other bloggers and travel writers who teach online courses on various academic and professional learning platforms? I'd also be interested in learning more about what's out there and what learners think about them.

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

I enjoy travel, nature, food, etc. photography very much, more as a viewer than as a photographer myself, but I find Mr. Akash's advice about finding "your own kind of photography" and "discovering yourself in your work". I think you can say this about a lot of things we do in work - writing, designing, and creating anything that reflects our own perspectives and ideas. 

If I ever have the pleasure of visiting Bangladesh, I would love to try one of the First Light Institute's workshops that are available to foreigners. It seems like a great way to experience and explore the local areas and at the same time learn photography in a hands-on and not-so-intimidating way :)

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

I think custom interface and new design will be great for Outbounding, and look forward to the new site!

In terms of tools/features, I think the feed view (e.g. Trending, Latest, articles with a tag, etc.) could be made a bit more attractive (for example, with a thumbnail photo) and include some more information (snippet of the post content?) without taking up too much space of the feed page.

I haven't really explored the "Groups" function yet, but my impression so far is I'm not sure if it really feels like a "group", because I don't think there's much more to a Group page than articles and discussions that are grouped together based on a common theme. Instead of Groups, perhaps there could be theme-based threads that you could "follow" (maybe you see updates from the themes you select on your custom 'home' feed) may be a good idea?

In terms of "what else?", have you considered a mobile or tablet app? Desktop version is of course great because there are a lot of discussions, but I'd love to be able to read some articles that are trending or being recommended on Outbounding on the go (which you can of course still do by just going to the website on a mobile/tablet browser but a dedicated app may make the user experience smoother).  

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

Here are some suggestions on books about, from, and/or related to Japan.

Kenji Miyazawa
One of my favorite authors of all time. Kenji Miyazawa has produced many works of poetry and children's books that are memorable and timeless. ¶èûòÞ±º Ame ni mo makezu)" ("Strong in the Rain") is probably one of his most known works of poetry. º¨Î Î Kaze no MatasabusM" is also one of his most well-known works and this short story offers a great insight into Miyazawa's world and the deep respect he had for nature. It was also made into a movie in 1940.

Hayao Miyazaki

As I'm a big fan of his movies (many of which are also available in translated/subtitled versions), I've also enjoyed illustrated books, photo stories and essays by him, as well as comic books based on his movies - if we accept manga as a form of literature (personally, quality mangas like Miyazaki's definitely qualify). Some of my favorites: Nausicaä (original story, including some parts not included in the movie. I read the whole volume as a teenager and was blown away. English version), Porco Rosso (also the original, with Miyazaki's sketches), My Neighbor Totoro - film comic (I grew up with this film and watched it so many times that I memorized much of the lines and the title song. As with many of Miyazaki's works, Totoro has a very strong environmental message embedded in a really charming story told through Miyazaki's magical and masterful storytelling approaches. Many of the scenes - like the old house in the countryside that the family moves to, the forest in the back of the house, the old wooden school building, the rice paddies.... - represent what many of us think of as the quintessential charm of rural living in Japan, and to me, it reminds me of the feelings that I had as a kid spending summer breaks with my grandparents in the countryside).

Makoto Shiina As well as being a prolific and successful writer (and director, photographer, among other things), Makoto Shiina is an explorer and has written a lot of stories based on his adventures both in Japan and abroad. His writing style is simple and approachable, honest, and sometimes a bit quirky. I read his books about India and Patagonia as a student, and they were among the first inspirations for international travel that I had in my life. One of his novels (Gaku Monogatari - "Gaku Stories") is available in English, translated as "My Boy: A Father's Memories". 

Alex Kerr
Alex Kerr is one of those experts who know more about Japan and Japanese culture and tradition than most Japanese people. "Lost Japan" is a great read that shares his passion for Japan but at the same time offers a critical look at the impact of economic development that may be driving many of our natural and cultural treasures to destruction. He's also the founder of Chiiori, a rural community revitalization project and a mountain lodge in Tokushima, and he's involved in a lot of rural/community/eco tourism initiatives in Japan.

Yasunari Kawabata
From many of our classic literary giants (whose works are fortunately also available in many other languages), I particularly admire Yasunari Kawabata (Snow Country, The Dancing Girls of Izu, and much, much more), for the beautiful complexity of his world views and for the simple, artful and powerful way he works with his words, which I hope is also expressed effectively through translation (which I'm sure is challenging).

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

I've been often surprised to see marketing claims by some of the sharing economy-type businesses that their ways of sharing/renting are greener or more sustainable. Consumers nowadays, I'd like to think, are becoming smarter and picker, and more demanding when it comes to the credibility of sustainability claims by brands (we don't just accept and believe what brands say; we've learned to ask questions and to see corporate sustainability claims more critically). Many of the "we're greener" headlines and marketing claims made by travel sharing/P2P businesses are vague at best, and some are very misleading.

The "What is the Sharing Economy?" talk by Professor Juliet Schor mentions that consumers are motivated by the idea that their choice of supporting sharing and P2P options reduces their environmental footprint. Given this, and the general popularity of the green and sustainable consumption trends, maybe it's no surprise that many businesses want to promote themselves as greener and more sustainable. But the increasing interest and awareness among consumers/travelers should be seen as all the more reason for P2P travel service providers to be extra rigorous in researching and gathering proof before making the "we're greener" claims.

I'd love to learn about good examples - maybe our discussion leaders have examples from their own - of responsible sustainability communications that are data-based, not exaggerated, not sensationalized, not just for marketing purposes but are a genuine part of the business model? Any examples that can be recommended as good models for how environmental benefits of the sharing economy should be promoted?

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

Thank you for sharing this! I really appreciate what Colin said in the beginning, which I think gives a great big-picture introduction to challenges facing wildlife tourism: "Tourism industry [by being so efficient in taking people anywhere in the world] has numbed us to the real effects of what's happening out there". I do hope that being part of the success, rather than contributing to and worsening the problem ("best protector of wildlife, not the worst destroyer"), will be the way forward for the tourism industry. As he noted, celebrating community success stories and business best practices, I think, will be one of the important ways to achieving this. 

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

I've been reading a bit on Lyft (a car-share program in the US), and learned about their effort to encourage car-pooling: http://mashable.com/2014/11/25/lyft-driver-destination/. As pointed out in the article by Marc Gunther and in other comments here, it's hard to say whether the mere fact of having car-sharing options means lower footprint, but I think that encouraging car-pooling is a specific solutions that address a specific problem (more cars on the road with only 1-2 people each > more pollution, more congestion, etc.), and can make a difference if it's adopted widely. 

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

In this video, it says that in Germany there were 100,000+ applications y asylum seekers last year, 200,000 projected for 2014. In the meanwhile:

  • "...over 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a country with 4 million people" (Melissa Fleming - TED Talk)
  • "...in 2013 and the number of Syrian refugees sheltered in Turkish refugee camps surpassed 210,000" (Daily Sabah)
  • "...80 percent of all refugees live in developing countries. The civil war in Syria is the foremost example of this pattern. Neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq has admitted more than 2.6 million refugees; only a relatively small number living in developed countries." (BasNews)

We do read and hear a lot about the refugee situation in Germany in the media here - both positive and negative. Sometimes, I also see major TV news covering a local volunteer organizations or just concerned individuals coming together to help refugees (e.g. setting up community centers, offering language lessons, etc.).

Here's one interesting initiative that I've learned about recently - http://ueberdentellerrandkochen.de/ - a group of young people in Berlin started this, working with people who have come to Germany as refugees to organize cooking classes featuring home cooking from their countries, as a way to encourage participants to get to know each other. When living in a new country (especially when facing social and economic challenges like many refugees do), having personal contacts with the local people from that country is very important but may be difficult to achieve at first. The goal of this initiative is to facilitate conversations, and although this and other local initiatives that focus on education and awareness-raising may only have small impact individually, I do think it's important to encourage more opportunities to connect people on a personal level, which can be a step towards countering negative stereotypes and prejudices.  

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

I've signed up for this, and have very much enjoyed the first few lessons!

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

A few years ago, I had a conversation with a founder or "Visit Sápmi", who said that the national tourism board would often use and benefit from the beautiful imagery of traditional clothing and lifestyle of the Sápmi people in their marketing materials promoting the country/ as a tourism destination, without properly acknowledging the contributions of the Sápmi people in the travel experiences not sharing the benefits of tourism fairly with the Sápmi communities. And I think that was also part of the reasons for starting Visit Sápmi.

In Scandinavia and beyond, I think that it's critical that the tourism industry support and promote Indigenous tourism in a way - as expressed in this article - that presents "images of a livingculture, which celebrates the past, rightly notes past repression, but also points to a diverse present and a positive future".  

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

Another key message of the article is how Indigenous tourism can help travelers learn about and learn from different world views, and experience diverse cultural expressions. I've been fortunate to have such travel experiences (with expert guides/storytellers) that were not just memorable but really eye-opening and mind-blowing, because they gave me the chance to imagine viewing the world differently and to experience (in my imagination) he creativity of peoples whose knowledge and wisdom are full of stories that connect with the natural world in such an imaginative and beautiful way that made me just stop and go "wow" just thinking about it.

I hope that more people will explore these experiences, and to make that possible, I hope that our travel and tourism communities around the world will continue celebrating and encouraging responsible and respectful approaches to Indigenous tourism. 

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

Yes! And the impact of feeling the world - of making it your business to care about what goes on in a different part of the world - continues long after you come home. Travel is a powerful experience that makes other countries not just a collection of names and images we sometimes see or hear about, but places with unique and diverse stories of people who are different from us but also similar in many ways.

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

@mcallisterjeff I agree with you on the above point about the focus of the article and on the balance of the specific and the general. The big-picture lessons shared in the article would be more effective if they were illustrated by local examples of the specific challenges faced by the Sápmi communities and the solutions that the people would like to seek.

So, this goes beyond the scope of discussing the original article posted here, but I wanted to share a few additional articles and links related to the theme of Sami tourism.

>> Here you can find more information about and stories behind VisitSápmi, written by Lennart Pitja. I think that the middle part describes the ongoing relationship between the Sápmi people and tourism well: "...The Sámi people recognize that we cannot stop the tourism industry, and that therefore we must get proactively involved with its development to ensure that benefits are received by the Sámi. We must demonstrate that Sámi tourism can be a positive thing for the community; it can help to spread knowledge about Sápmi the land and its people and can generate income which will help preserve traditional know-how and values."

>> Also, here's an article about Nutti Sámi Siida by Katja Bechtloff, which talks about the local efforts to "stop the improper use of Sámi culture and to get rid of harmful stereotypes" by promoting responsible ecotourism development led by local Sami enterprises. I think it's helpful to learn about these businesses (in addition to efforts by organizations such as VisitSápmi) because they are the ones that are going to turn the vision into action by engaging and educating travelers.

>> Here are a couple of other Sami tourism enterprises that I've learned about which are part of the "Sápmi Experience" program:

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

Thanks for sharing! I've been part of "free" walking tours in a few cities in Europe, and have always been curious about the model - how it really worked and how it's perceived by travelers and by the industry. Personally, I do think that these tours can, in many cities, be a good option for those looking to spend a few hours learning about the city from a local (or from a knowledgeable guide). But I've also had some mixed feelings about a few specific aspects of those walking tours that I've been part of.

As mentioned in the article, when the free (or pay-what-you-want) tour is volunteer-run and non-profit, it's relatively easier to accept and understand the model: visitors have the opportunity to join a non-profit program run by volunteers who are passionate about sharing the stories of their own cities (which I think is great), and are encouraged to donate to the program if they can. 

But I've also once had a conversation with someone who works as a city tour guide (not free), and when I mentioned that I've done a volunteer-led tour in the same city, the person's reaction was decidedly negative, because they felt that even though such non-profit programs are done with good intention, they end up hurting the "normal" tours because many visitors simply choose the free option because of the fact that it's free.

On the question of "competition", when it comes to fee-based vs. non-profit tours, I think that the only solution is for those that are fee-based to differentiate themselves based on added value and by marketing their strengths better.  

I've also participated in "pay-what-you-want" style tours run by for-profit companies in some other cities. Most of the time, I felt that the guide explained the money situation well (tip encouraged but not required) without making it awkward. I liked how one guide described this: "I of course want to encourage you to tip if you can and give what you think this tour is worth to you, but the idea with the free tour is that we won't turn down those who can't". 

Most of the time, I've been happy with the quality of the guide on these walking tours. In some cases, though, I did feel that the group size was too big, and that because of that I missed out on the experience of really learning from a local expert. On such occasions, I felt that "pay what you think is worth" was a little bit unfair, because if I'd feel bad paying what I really thought such large group tours would be worth to me. But then I shouldn't, because the promise by the company is that the tour is free and you can choose to pay whatever you like (even nothing). 

For me, the fact that a tour is offered as "optionally free" doesn't affect my expectation in terms of the quality of the guide, because I think the whole point of spending a few hours of my time, free or not, is to learn something about the city I wouldn't otherwise, and to find different ways of connecting with the city. As with any guided tour anywhere in the world, the guide is the most important part of the experience and one that makes the whole tour and the experience of the place memorable (or not). And given that, I do see some valid and important points in the critics' argument about the guides possibly being on the losing end of the "free tour" deal that for-profit companies promote and benefit from.

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

Here are some recommendations for the sharing economy industry and participating businesses, based on a new report on "Unlocking the sharing economy" by Debbie Wosskow, founder of Love Home Swap. Collaboration and knowledge-sharing among sharing economy businesses in order to collectively strengthen the peer-to-peer sector seems like a sound suggestion - whether that's practical and realistic we'll have to wait and see, I think.

I also find the "sharing city" examples (Seoul, Amsterdam) mentioned in the article very interesting, and potentially very relevant to the tourism industry as many local sharing opportunities can benefit visitors as well as residents.

Ayako Ezaki Ayako Ezaki @ayakoezaki

A new publication on voluntourism, travel-inspired community service, what to think about before, during and after taking an action to do good while traveling - edited by Ethan Gelber (@thetravelword). This looks like a great resource for the #mendnotend efforts, and I look forward to reading it in the new year!!