Why tourism needs to adopt fairtrade practices?
What is Fairtrade?
Today, as well-informed human beings, we are increasingly aware of the effects of our actions on society, the environment, and the economy. For e.g. someone conscious about health is more likely to shop for a product with an 'organic' tag and someone who cares more for the environment would seek out the 'recycle' tag. In addition, people are becoming conscious of the impact of their consumption, which is not just limited to the environment or health concerns, but also extends to social concerns. They seek information such as where is the product sourced from? and how does the compensation for the product benefit the original producers?
The concept of fairtrade ensures that preference is given to locally sourced products and that the producers of the product get fair compensation for their contribution to production. This is also important in the tourism scenario, where destination being the key element of tourism, the practice of fair trade is important to ensure that the benefits of revenue from tourism are rightly distributed to the stakeholders and producers in the destination. This will help the destination in achieving better economic and social status.
Need for Fairtrade practices in tourism
Conventional tourism is based on meeting the demands of tourists which shapes the destinations and communities to cater to these demands. Often this leads to increasing disparity in the distribution of income. The benefits arising from such a model usually go to the larger travel operators and sometimes very little or no income is available for the locally struggling communities. Sometimes high competition during sales leads to over discounting of the product value. This triggers price negotiations with suppliers often resulting in a reduction in compensation of wages for the labour involved.
As a solution to reduce this disproportionate distribution of income and for ensuring fair wages and better working conditions for the labour, alternative forms of tourism practices have emerged that focus on benefits to host communities, good governance, and participation of many stakeholders. Ecotourism, responsible tourism, and sustainable tourism are some concepts that attempt to solve issues through the implementation of fair trade practices.
Practicing a policy of Fair Trade in tourism can address the achievement of social and environmental standards through fair pricing, local purchasing, and payment of fair compensation for products and labour. Fairtrade provides improved market access, strengthens the producer organisation, paying a better price, and forming long-lasting trade relationships. This improves the livelihood opportunities and well-being of producers and labours involved in supplying to the tourism trade. We can encourage the participation of and promote livelihood opportunities to all the segments of the society such as women, indigenous communities, marginalised producers, etc. On the other hand, we need to make travelers aware of the concept and how it benefits each producer and labour involved in the making of that product or experience for them.
Tourism administration and destination management organisations can encourage the practice of fair trade within the supply chain of tourism. From their position, they can facilitate and support local enterprises such as hotels, restaurants, destination management companies to purchase goods and services locally.
An example of implementation is a women-led tourism initiative to empower them and involve them in decision making as seen in the Kudumbashree movement in Kerala. This is achieved by training them in different skills and crafts and ensuring they get paid as per fair standards. Today, the Kudumbashree movement is an active participant in the offering of various sustainable tourism experiences offered under the Responsible Tourism Mission initiative of Kerala tourism.
Travel and tourism organisations that practice fair trade focus on encouraging the skills and output of the producers and suppliers who could be farmers, artisans, local transport providers, local guides, and many others involved in providing goods and services to the sector. These suppliers can be given opportunities to participate together in trade events and exhibitions. Active participation of producers in such activities helps to develop ownership of the business and create a sense of pride. It helps in communicating to the consumer the authenticity of the destination services and the need to support such practices.
Routine meetings with local service providers /producers /labours and being transparent with them in sharing profits and compensation for their products can motivate them. Not just with the producers but it is important to share the information with buyers to show them how their tourism purchases trickle down to the various direct and indirect suppliers and benefit them.
By choosing to follow fair trade practices in tourism and communicating the same, tourists are assured that the destination and its local communities are getting justified income, respect and the business is functioning in an ethical and environmentally responsible manner.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals agenda indicates the importance of fair trade in two of its 17 goals which are goal no.8 - Decent work and economic growth and goal no.12 - Responsible growth and consumption. Tourism being a key industry involving manpower, it is high time that tourism management and businesses begin adoption of fair trade principles at the earliest. The resultant outcome will be a win-win situation for travelers, the people involved, and the planet.
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