How can tourism contribute to the well-being and quality of life for local communities? The BEST Education Network convened this week for Think Tank 8 in Izmir, Turkey to address the theme of Sustaining Quality of Life through Tourism. Keynote speakers, industry presenters and international tourism researchers have determined that income alone will not always sustain quality of life in tourism destinations.
Keynote speaker Dr Robert Cummins, Head of the Australian Centre for Quality of Life provided participants with evidence from longitudinal studies in Australia that as GDP rises, levels of happiness as measured by the Personal Wellbeing Index show no corresponding increase. While GDP has been growing since 2000, the trend in happiness has been flat. Why is that? Tourism can contribute through other means, such as providing a sense of achievement, connecting communities or enhancing security.
But whose quality of life are we trying to sustain? The latter question was addressed by Tricia Barnett, Director of Tourism Concern, UK. The lack of fairness in tourism trade and the treatment of employees means that some communities do not even have a satisfactory quality of life, so the option of sustaining quality of life is not available.
The issues raised by the academic and industry presentations coalesced in two workshops around the questions of how tourism should contribute to quality of life in the future. Key research questions and issues for further consideration were identified in order to bridge the gap between theory and practice in sustainable tourism.
Key challenges for all stakeholders in tourism relate to the need to address work-life balance issues, lifelong learning, supportive working environments and compliance with international labour laws. This will require intervention at the policy level informed by sound research and analysis of current working and living conditions in tourism destination globally.
Opportunities to make tourism the preferred vocation and ultimately a role model for other sectors must be immediately pursued so that quality of life for the millions of people involved in tourism can be attained and sustained. In other words, whilst money can’t buy you happiness, we need to ensure that tourism can!
For more information, contact Dr Janne Liburd, Chair BEST Education Network, University of Southern Denmark. www.besteducationnetwork.org