Globally tourism accounts for 10.3 per cent of GDP and some 330 million jobs. Thus, it contributes significantly to income generation and job creation and is set to grow further. Traditionally, however, it has not been eco-friendly. Apart from the carbon footprint involved in travel to tourist destinations, environmental degradation can occur as a result of increased tourist traffic, the local people do not necessarily benefit from the income generated from tourism and litter and garbage frequently contribute to pollution. Even tourism that purports to be green and “back to nature” can contribute. Accordingly, since the 1980s, ecotourism has been developing and is growing currently at 10-15 per cent per annum.
Essentially ecotourism, apart from generating wealth and jobs, has three objectives: the well-being of the environment, its local population and the tourist(s). It is small scale and usually has a strong educational component, which enables the tourist to learn about conservation and the protection of local and endangered species. Often it can involve recycling, water conservation, local crafts and limited use of motorised transport. When these conditions are met then in all probability, the venture is harmonious entrepreneurship. Basata, located in the Sinai Penninsula on the Red Sea coast, was the first ecolodge in Egypt, if not the Middle East. It comprises some 20 bamboo huts and adobe chalets and is the brainchild of Sherif El Ghamrawy, a Civil Engineer, Ashoka Fellow and a recipient of the Schwab Foundation Award for Social Entrepreneurship. He founded Basata (meaning simplicity) in 1986 to preserve the area. The tourists live in the huts and chalets, while the employees (mainly local Bedouin Arabs and their families) live in an ecovillage together with the visitors who work in the village school or on scientific projects such as sea preservation or natural heritage. The lodge operates a self-service system based on trust. Guests receive a sheet of paper on arrival and write down anything they take, and pay when they leave. They prepare their food (except during the Covid-19 pandemic) in a communal kitchen that is open 24 hours a day. During the day, everybody engages in their activities but in the evening they all come together over dinner and learn about each other’s cultures.
As there is no electricity in the area, the lodge relies on generators that are turned off during the day to conserve energy while the village utilises solar panels and windmills. Sea salt water is recycled and used to wash dishes and flush toilets, and the wastewater is used to irrigate the lodge’s palm tree plantations. Non-organic waste is sent for recycling to a plant financed by Sherif. Food waste is fed to the goats whose excrement is used either as fertiliser in the greenhouse or mixed with sand and desalinated water to make bricks for the chalets. In the village’s community centre, young people learn computer skills while the Bedouin women have their own handcraft project making products that they sell to the visitors and guests. As it says on its website (basata.com), “Basata attempts to create a simple and unique form of tourism that has a relatively low impact on the surrounding environment and native inhabitants.”
While ecotourism, with its focus on profit, people and planet, epitomises harmonious entrepreneurship, efforts are being made for mass tourism to adopt the same principles, also. For example, in the Wellness Tourism sector, outselling traditional tourism by some 53 per cent and predicted to be worth something in the order $919 million by 2022, a Harmony Kite Mark is being introduced. The Kite Mark, “The Harmony Golden Ratio” is the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Nicki Page (founder of TLC Wellness Tourism) and Executive Director, Leo Downer. It uses verified financial modelling to create a clear cost figure that can be employed to help destinations and operations become ‘impact negative’. As Leo Downer observes, it seems wrong that personal improvement resulting from wellness tourism “should be at the detriment to our climate and the biodiversity of our planet”.
It is to be hoped that the Wellness Tourism Kite Mark succeeds in its objective and spreads to other sectors of the industry. While it is important that wealth and jobs are generated, and poverty reduced, if not eliminated, as a global society we cannot, Nero-like, ignore the damage being caused by a hedonistic lifestyle through failing to recognise the inter-connectivity of the ecosystem. A more holistic approach to entrepreneurship is needed that harmonises economic, eco, humane and social enterprise, and ensures the system remains in a steady or equilibrium state.
© Professor David A. Kirby and Harmonious-Entrepreneurship.org (2020). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Professor David A. Kirby and Harmonious-Entrepreneurship.org with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.