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Tourism Linking Cultures

The word culture means a lot of things. It ranges from the culture a child learns at home to the culture of an era. Many civilizations have risen and gone down the sand of times. Only a few have managed to stand the test of time and get elevated to the status of greatness. Tourism is an international phenomenon. This has become an industry only in recent times thanks to man’s never ending thirst for travel. Be it for business or pleasure, travel and tourism are here to stay and has achieved the status of the largest job provider.

Kerala is a unique destination which has gained international repute thanks to it rich diversity in places of natural beauty. The depth of Kerala’s cultural heritage has significantly strengthened tourism in the state. The theme for this year’s Tourism Day which is celebrated every year on September 27th is ‘Tourism linking Cultures’. This theme is particularly true in the Kerala scenario.

There is no doubt that the super brand Kerala -‘God’s own country’ has received recognition far and wide as a much sought after’ must see place in a life time’. Cultural tourism will further add to these achievements by linking people across the globe. With the term global village becoming a reality, cultural exchanges have resulted in sharing of ideas, feeling and creating camaraderie among nations. In this sense the concept of linking cultures through tourism is of immense importance

It can be seen that Kashmir is slowly recovering from the menace of terrorism through its tourism based campaign. Even people who were terrorists have thrown away their association with terrorism and have shifted to tourism to earn a livelihood. The fact that Rajasthan has joined hands with Kerala in promoting tourism through a win-win situation is shining example. This is evident in the catch word which Rajasthan is using to promote tourism – “Kerala is God’s own country but God holidays in Rajasthan”. Thus in both the national and international scenario, Kerala stands to benefit through tourism, using cultural interactions.

In this era of technology based exchanges, understanding other cultures is of immense importance. This will help in spreading the message of brotherhood and concern for our fellow beings. Tourism being international in nature is an ideal medium to understand other cultures. It is understood that cultural tourism is one of the largest global tourism markets. This is also the one of the fastest growing branch in global tourism scenario. Even in this era of technology, culture and other creative forms are finding global acceptance. They are being used in a large scale to promote destinations by increasing their attraction and competitive value. Even though there is a line of though which alleges that tourism is destroying culture, it goes without saying that many art forms in Kerala like Kathakali and even ritual art forms such as theyaam have been given a shot in the arm through tourism affiliations.

It can be seen that many locations are developing their tangible and intangible cultural assets. This is being used to develop a marketing edge in face of cut throat competition. It also lends a local flavour to tourism products in these times when globalization is threatening to engulf everything. We can hope that this year’s world tourism day message will give the right impetus in breaking down barriers among nations and cultures and foster tolerance, respect and mutual understanding. In these troubled times and times when the world peace is at stake and often at the verge of war and divide, these values represent the stepping stones towards a more peaceful future. The year 2010 saw 940 million tourists crossing international borders. There has never been so much flow of tourist in recent times when so many people been to so many places, nor been so exposed to other cultures. It goes without saying that this has to continue. This interaction between individuals, communities, and their diverse cultures, leads to tolerance, respect and mutual understanding – the building blocks for a more peaceful world.

Information, Technology and Tourism

Introduction

Information technology has influenced all walks of our lives over the last few decades in a tremendous manner with the Tourism and Travel sector being one of the chief beneficiaries. The introduction of computers can be traced back to the early 60’s when the vacuum tube was the primary component of computer systems. This was largely inefficient and error prone and soon gave way to transistors which were replaced by Integrated Circuits. Now the technological advances have allowed advanced graphics integrated with moving images and sound to be incorporated into the modern computers.

The Tourism product being largely intangible stands to gain a lot from technology. Travel was considered a risk in the early days mainly due to the fact that the knowledge about the terrain, climate, culture etc of the destination was limited or unknown. Only the adventurous and men in quest for newer pastures ventured into such journeys. With the advent of IT into the travel sector, things have changed. Travel has become much more enjoyable and comfortable. The modern day traveller has a plethora of options to choose from, with Internet being the favourite haunt for the potential traveller. Places of tourist interest and scenic beauty often do not catch the attention of the customer largely due to the fact that they are not marketed well. Internet in the early days did not support graphics, video, sound etc. Hence the tourism products could not be marketed over the net effectively. Now things have drastically changed with the introduction of protocols like the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). This has led to easier transmission of graphical images, music, videos etc over the net with speed and clarity. Thus tourism has been effectively marketed over the Internet. This has led to the mushrooming of Tourism and Travel sites.

There are number of software which cater to the needs of the tourism and hospitality sectors. Travel agencies, tour operators, hotels etc use modern systems equipped with powerful applications that work on huge databases. Computerised front office has lent elegance to the modern offices which are largely paperless. Office automation has led to efficient and accurate information processing. A person armed with the right information is the most powerful in the modern era. Computerised systems are used to extract information out of the voluminous quantities of data store in databases. Querying a database, be it for reservation enquiry or booking a ticket is in the hands of the end user. The customer is the king and rightly so has a number of options to choose from when embarking on a journey or getting information about a tourist spot.

Earlier users of computer systems were required to be experts. Even starting up the system required a computer operator. Only then the application could be run. Now systems with Graphical User Interface (GUI) and the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) technologies, even a layman or a child is able to operate a computer or access internet. A person who doesn’t know the local language at a place has information at his finger tips with the advent of touch screen facilities. Almost all banks have now introduced ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) facilities at their premises so as to allow the customers to access their accounts any time of the day.

In the Kerala scenario the advent of IT has been restricted to travel agencies using reservation systems and development of websites by Governmental and non-Governmental agencies. Also office automation is in place in with the accounting process also being computerized. The official website of Kerala Tourism has won many national and international accolades as being one of the best sites in tourism worldwide. In the education sector institutes such as the Kerala Institute of Tourism and Travel Studies (KITTS) has imparted IT education in Tourism sector by giving hands on training to students in GDSs (Global Distribution Systems) and computerized applications. Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) has also fully computerized their reservations and a tourist can easily book a room through the net. Hotels have linked their systems to other global systems so as to establish a link worldwide. Let us examine in brief the applications of IT in Tourism.

Global Distribution Systems

Global Distribution Systems (GDS) have evolved over the years and has played a major role in making online travel possible. A Computer Reservation System (CRS) is used to store and retrieve information and conduct transactions related to travel. They were originally developed by airlines, but it was later extended to travel agents as a sales channel. A functionality of CRS has been extended and what is known as the Global Distribution Systems came into existence. The major CRS operations that book and sell tickets to multiple airlines are known as GDS. Many airlines have opted to divest most of their holdings to Global Distribution Systems due to which many systems are now accessible to consumers through Internet gateways for hotels, car rental agencies, and other services as well as airline tickets. A traveller or a travel agent can chalk out an itinerary using a GDS which is a global system interconnecting airlines, hotels, travel agents, car rental companies, cruise liners etc. The four major Global Distribution Systems are AMADEUS, GALILEO, SABRE and WORLDSPAN. AMADEUS boasts of a market share of 31% and is followed by SABRE with 30% of the market, GALILEO with 26% and WORLDSPAN which has captured 12% of the market.

Today’s GDS systems have the following capabilities

  • Available and accessible 99.9% of the time
  • Process up to 17,000 messages per second during peak time
  • Operates on cutting edge enterprise systems architecture
  • Enjoys response times of a fraction of a second
  • Is capable of booking a multitude of transactions
  • Can make itinerary changes up to the last minute and complete complex international routings to every country in the world
  • Automates the time consuming and complex process of re-pricing airline tickets when itineraries change
  • Permits customers to send e-mail and faxes without exiting from the system
  • Allows customers to compare fares and availability in order to shop for the most convenient travel at the lowest cost
  • Stores all data related to the tens of millions of travellers securely so that the customers receive the travel preferences they desire

On a given day a GDS can access

  • Over a billion fare combinations
  • More than 95% of the available seats worldwide
  • More than 750 airlines
  • More than 50,000 hotel properties
  • Over 400 tour operators
  • Nearly 30,000 car rental locations

GDS systems are capable of booking

  • One way and roundtrip airline seats
  • Hotel rooms
  • Rental cars
  • Tours
  • Cruises
  • Bus and rail tickets
  • Insurance
  • Limousines
  • Event and theatre attractions
  • Dining Reservations
  • Itinerary Changes
  • Complex international routings

E-Ticketing

An electronic ticket or e-ticket is a means by which a passenger or a group of passengers can ensure their seat in a commercial airline by booking over the internet. This greatly reduces the procedures associated with issusing a paper ticket, which consists of a number of copies. Both the airlines and the passenger are benefited by this form of ticketing. An image of the ticket is stored in the computer from which the customer can take a print out and board the plane directly if he or she is carrying no luggage. If there is luggage after obtaining the clearance the passenger can board the aircraft. The customer can request that a hardcopy confirmation be sent by postal mail, but it is not needed at the check-in desk. A confirmation number is assigned to the passenger, along with the flight number, date, departure location, and destination location. When checking in at the airport, the passenger simply presents positive identification. Then necessary boarding passes are issued, and the passenger can check luggage and proceed through security to the gate area.

The main advantage of e-ticketing is the fact that it reduces booking expense by eliminating the need for printing and mailing paper documents. Another advantage is that it eliminates the possibility of critical documents getting lost in the mail or being sent to the wrong address. It is estimated that globally about 25% of the passengers book their tickets online which has resulted in the booming of low cost fliers.

The Internet has provided a new economic environment to conduct business. E-commerce is a growing sector and many tourism businesses are involved in developing their internet services including traditional travel agents, tour operators, national tourist offices, airlines, hotels and other accommodation providers and car hire firms. This means of doing business is known as ‘e-tourism’, or ‘tourism e-business’. The key differences from traditional markets are the speed at which information can be communicated, global accessibility and the minimal costs of establishing a business online.

Property Management Systems

As the term indicates, property management systems refer to systems which have been used world wide to manage and effectively control the various day to day and other procedures related to managing large properties. Even in Kerala, these systems are used in large scale.

The core functions which a PMS can handle are reservations, front office operations, some back office operations and some managerial functions. A PMS is commonly used for handling the accounting functions of the various departments in a Hotel. This is in addition to being the hub for all interconnectivity with other systems in the hotel. Just as a person, who is cut off from the rest of his colleagues during work a standalone computer is not of much use. Hence a networked environment is provided whereby a server can cater to the needs of the end-user who may be a manager to receptionist or a waiter. This is achieved by networking the systems and sharing of resources. Software may be developed to suit the needs of the hotel which may have a front end and a back end. A front end is user interface, through which data may be entered or information retrieved. The back end may consist of a RDBMS which acts as the storage hub. Queries and reports may be used to retrieve information. For example, if a guest wants to know details regarding tariffs during off season, a click of the mouse may be sufficient to retrieve information.

Virtual Reality Systems

Virtual reality is a relatively new area which is related to artificial intelligence and neural networks. Artificial intelligence is an area where technology has made rapid strides in recent years. Human beings have been blessed with intelligence which ranges from their ability to remember things to inventing gadgets and making life more meaningful. It goes without saying that human brain is an amazing and intricate organ which has till date not been surpassed by even the fastest super computer. It is doubtful if such thing will happen in future too. But artificial intelligence has paved pathways to new gadgets and robots which help man in potentially dangerous and intricate tasks.

Tourism has in addition to the natural attractions, theme parks, man made rides, simulations etc. Singapore, Disneyland etc house some of most fabulous man made wonders thanks to IT and its applications. Particularly theme parks and rides along with recreation of fantasies and dinosaurs have added mileage to tourist destinations.

Virtual Travel

With the ever increasing need to use the net, Tourism has entered a new era. Virtual travel has gained popularity and a tourist if he wishes can use the various tools and internet and sit at the comfort of his office or home and do a virtual travel. Earlier there used to armchair travelogue creators who used to design the show from articles and hearsays. But now travel writing has been simplified just because there is a plethora of information in CD’s, brochures and on the net.

There are even virtual travel agencies on the net which offers a tour through its gallery and offers a great deal of information. Gone are the days when a guide used to take travelers for ride narrating several cock and bull stories and feeding the customers with false information. Virtual travellers are more informed and many of them do not even need an introduction to a destination which they plan to visit.

In addition to the virtual tour of the real world, artificially created virtual worlds are there, waiting to be explored. These sites offer a free package for a week which can be downloaded. After going through this demo, the user can see the real stuff, if he registers online and pays for it. This is a trend which is fast catching on. After all globalization has shrunk the world and it wouldn’t be long time before new destinations in the cyber world comes up.

Travel Recommender Systems

Travel has become a part and parcel in the lives of human beings. Efforts from travel agencies and tour operators coupled with inputs from Governmental organizations have resulted in great changes which have eased the hardships placed on the traveller. The modern day traveller has a plethora of options to choose from when planning his trip. Travel Recommender Systems though in its infancy has established its utility value in travel planning. In the coming years, its importance as tool in aiding travel planning will be indispensable. A few recommender systems are available in the market that give the tour operator or the customer options to remove the intangibility associated with the product. Austria is one of the few countries which have introduced Recommender Systems to the travelling public and have found favourable response from the users. Recommending a travel plan consists of many aspects such as the destination type, location specific information, seasonal specific recommendations etc. All this has to be presented to the user in a customer friendly manner so that he or she can input the options to the system which in turn will suggest the most recommended travel plan. These systems use artificial intelligence and fall under the category of expert systems.

Geographic Information Systems

The usage of maps dates back to centuries. Man has been using maps for guidance and for locating places. With the advancement of computer technology and graphics, maps have been digitised and used for providing accurate and timely information to users. Databases have been combined with computer graphics in the area of GIS.

GIS is used to display and analyse spatial data which are linked to databases. This connection between spatial data and databases is the driving force behind the working of a GIS. Maps can be drawn from the database and data can be referenced from the maps. When the database is updated, the associated map also gets updated. GIS database include a wide variety of information including geographic, social, political, environmental and demographic data. GIS technology is a computer based data collection, storage and analysis tool that combines previously unrelated information into easily understood maps. A GIS can perform complicated analytical functions and present the results visually as maps, tables or graphs, allowing decision-makers to visually see the issues before them and then select the best course of action.

GIS finds wide applications in Tourism especially in mapping Tourist destinations, hotels etc. The end user can pin point a destination and even browse the hotel room in which he or she plans to stay.

Conclusion

On the whole it can be said that Information technology has left an indelible mark in the application area of Tourism and Travel. In the coming years, areas like Travel Recommender Systems, GIS, Space Tourism etc will gain popularity and will help in giving a new dimension to the travel and tourism sector. Kerala Tourism which has established its presence in the global market will bank on these applications to further propel its growth trajectory. The International market which is growing has been given a shot in the arm with introduction of IT and will stand to gain further from it.

World Tourism Day – Challenges Galore!

The first half of 2009 has been sordid thanks to the invasion of the recession, terrorism and new health concerns that have left many key industries across India and the rest of the world in a lurch. The ghosts of 2008 just refuse to die down and continue to haunt the world economies! While the global tourism industry and the Indian tourism industry in particular is no exception to this, experts see this as an opportunity in crisis. The key lies in identifying the problems, fixing them and this is just the right time to do it! However, it will take a concerted effort by India, the winner of three awards of the United Nations World Tourism Organization including Asia’s favourite tourist destination in 2007, to see through this turmoil. All this makes the World Tourism Day on September 27 this year even more challenging and exciting like never before!

This is the time to clean up the system
Globally, the tourism ministries in many countries and in India are gearing up to do well out of this world economic calamity. These efforts assume significance as the global travel and tourism industry is one of the world’s largest industries, employing nearly 231 million people and generating over 10.4 per cent of world GDP. And according to the Ministry of Tourism in India, in 2007, 5 million tourists visited India and spent nearly $11.5 billion. The World Tourism Organisation 2020 vision estimates that around 5.08 million tourists will visit India by 2010 which is likely to touch 8.9 million by 2020. India and China have so far been resilient during recession and the recent World Bank report has not only endorsed this but predicts a decent growth for the two Asian giants. Thus, as far as the tourism industry is concerned, India is well poised to cash in on the global recession only if it makes up its mind to roll up its sleeves and work around a host of domestic and international tourism related issues.

The international and domestic issues that affects tourism in India
A weaker American and European economies that are already stung by recession has a spiralling effect on the global corporate world which is on a cost-cutting spree. This means lesser business and personal travels to India. The country is also facing newer challenges in health scares like the Swine flu, racism scandals, and poor protection for foreigners in certain tourists’ locations, climatic changes, inadequate manpower and the monsoon failures. Estimates have put that India would need at least 200,000 people to cater to the country’s growing tourism needs. Then there are the proverbial infrastructure problems like poor road connectivity, non-modernisation of airports, lack of world class food and accommodation facilities in hot tourism spots and the sluggish pace in identifying and developing tourist destinations and circuits. All these could have far-reaching impacts on the tourism industry in India.

Internally, India’s domestic tourism industry is on a boom. Literally a money spinner, the domestic tourism industry too faces similar issues and these will have to be sorted out simultaneously. Hence, it will take collaborative and focused efforts on the part of the Indian tourism ministry and other related ministries to tackle these issues and set up new standards.

Tackling the issues
Tourism is multi sectoral. It has to coordinate and work with other industries and ministries to remove bottlenecks in infrastructure, travel, health, food and accommodation and other facilities. The key is to offer a world class experience for tourists visiting India.

1. Creating a healthy environment, literally
On one hand, the medical tourism industry is on a roll. The country is witnessing a huge influx of tourists from all over the world for medical treatment purposes. This calls for steadying up the healthcare facilities and switching on the ‘always on the ready’ mode in terms of modernization of equipment and qualified manpower. The invasion of new health scares like the recent H1N1 scare could make a dent on the tourists’ visiting the country. These health scares will have its impact on the domestic tourism scenario as well. The health ministry will have to roll out promising measures and work with the public in creating a safer, healthier atmosphere for all tourists visiting India.

2. Infrastructure woes
Presently, the thrust remains on the construction, maintenance, and development of roads, rails and airways that connect the various tourist destinations in the country. For this the Ministry of Tourism has to coordinate with the ministry of road transport and highways, the civil aviation and the railway ministry. The source of funds for these all-important development activities could also come from the various IPOs. However, this could happen only when the present rule of not allowing banks in India to accept deposits beyond 10 years is relaxed. The finance for infrastructure is a long term plan and runs for 15-20 years. Hence only if banks are allowed to have long-term funds, this mismatch could be removed.

3. Development of world class hotels
Accommodation continues to be the central plank of the development strategy of tourism in India. This is an area where the Government will have to spruce up its coordination with not only the states and union territories but also with private players. Tourists from foreign countries not only will expect safety and world class facilities in the hotels they stay but also close proximity to the tourists’ hotspots. Hence, there is an increasing need to identify, set up and maintain world class accommodation facilities near the heritage sites, and other tourists’ destinations in the country.

On the food front, though it is a fact that tourists’ visiting India loves the spicy Indian food, the lack of stringent food laws and restrictions, however, remains an issue. In addition to the variety, there has to be quality and safety too in the food offered.

Research, plan, and perform!
Tourism is not just about visiting a country. A tourist may visit a country for various reasons. For example, many tourists from different parts of the world see India as a hub of medical tourism. So is the adventure tourism sector which offers mountaineering, skiing, ice skating, paragliding, and rock climbing opportunities in some of the country’s finest landscapes, seas and ice capped mountains. Further cruise tourism which is very popular in the Caribbean, Latin America and some South-east Asian countries is gaining foothold in India’s vast coastlines and unexplored jungles and destinations. Rural tourism, eco-tourism are also good potentials for India’s tourism sector. It is high time the Ministry of Tourism focuses more on eco-tourism as it will serve as an educative tool for domestic and foreign tourists in observing wildlife, learning about the environment and understanding and conservation of the environment. Hence, understanding and solving these issues becomes all the more important. For this, the country needs well chalked out plans, funds from different sources, adequate manpower, and updated technology, round the clock concerted coordination between the various ministries and private players and above all the urge to make India the most favoured tourist destination in the country.

The World Travel & Tourism Council declares that the World Tourism Day is to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values. And India, being an important member of the global tourism industry, has to make concerted efforts to understand, draft plans and ease the impact of the repercussions of the recent challenges in the social, cultural, political and economic spectrum. This will not only prove to be an antidote for its own domestic tourism troubles and unemployment concerns but also set an example for the rest of the world. Only then the real meaning of Atithi Devo Bhava, the slogan for Incredible India, will serve its full purpose!

Role of Tourism Sector in Climate Change – A Perspective

Introduction

Undeniable evidences throughout the globe indicate that global climate has changed compared to the pre-industrial era and is expected to continue the trend through 21st century and beyond. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)1 documented that global mean temperature has increased approximately 0.76°C between 1850-1899 and 2001-2005 and it has concluded that most of the observed changes in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is ‘very likely’ the result of human activities that are increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

As a consequence, we observe various manifestations of climate change including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns. Widespread decreases in glaciers and ice caps and warming ocean surface temperature have contributed to sea level rise of 1.8 mm per year from 1961 to 2003, and approximately 3.1 mm per year from 1993 to 2003.

The IPCC has projected that the pace of climate change is to accelerate with continued greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at or above the current rates. IPCC best estimate suggested that globally averaged surface temperatures will rise by 1.8°C to 4.0°C by the end of the 21st century. Even with a stabilized atmospheric concentration of GHGs at the current level, the earth would continue to warm as a result of past GHG emissions as well as the thermal inertia of the oceans.

Future changes in temperatures and other important features of climate will manifest themselves in different fashions across various regions of the globe. It is likely that the tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more severe, with greater wind speeds and heavier precipitation. This will be associated with continuing increase of tropical sea surface temperatures. Extra-tropical storm tracks are projected to shift towards the pole, with consequent changes in wind, precipitation and temperature patterns. The decreases in snow cover are also projected to continue.

The environmental and economic risks associated with predictions for climate change are considerable. The gravity of the situation has resulted in various recent international policy debates. The IPCC has come out with firm conclusions that climate change would hinder the ability of several nations to achieve sustainable development. The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change found that the present cost reducing GHG emissions is much smaller than the future costs of economic and social disruption due to unmitigated climate change. Every country as well as economic sectors will have to strive with the challenges of climate change through adaptation and mitigation.

Tourism is no exception and in the decades ahead, climate change will play a pivotal role in tourism development and management. With its close links to the environment, tourism is considered to be a highly climate-sensitive sector. The regional manifestations of climate change will be highly relevant for tourism sector that demands adaptation by all major tourism stakeholders. In fact, it is not a remote future for the tourism sector since varied impacts of a changing climate are already evident at destinations around the world.

As a flip side of the above story, tourism sector itself is a major contributor climate change through GHG emissions, especially, from the transport and accommodation of tourists. Tourism sector must play a proactive role to reduce its GHG emissions significantly in harmony with the ‘Vienna Climate Change Talks 2007’ which recognized that global emissions of GHG need to peak in the next 10-15 years and then be reduced to very low levels, well below half of levels in 2000 by mid-century. The major challenge ahead of tourism sector is to meet the international sustainable development agenda along with managing increased energy use and GHG emissions from massive growth in activities projected for the sector.

The concern of the tourism community regarding the challenge of climate change has visibly increased over the last five years. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and other partner organizations convened the First International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism in Djerba, Tunisia in 2003. The Djerba Declaration recognized the complex inter-linkages between the tourism sector and climate change and established a framework for on adaptation and mitigation. A number of individual tourism industry associations and businesses have also shown great concerns by voluntarily adopting GHG emission reduction targets, engaging in public education campaigns on climate change and supporting government climate change legislation.

Direct impacts

Climate determines seasonality in tourism demand and influences the operating costs, such as heating-cooling, snow making, irrigation, food and water supply and the likes. Thus, changes in the length and quality of climate-dependent tourism seasons (i.e., sun-and-sea or winter sports holidays) could have considerable implications for competitive relationships between destinations and, therefore, the profitability of tourism enterprises. As a result, the competitive positions of some popular holiday areas are anticipated to decline, whereas other areas are expected to improve.

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that changes in a number of weather extremes are probable as a result of projected climate change. This includes higher maximum temperature and more hot days, greater storm intensity and peak winds, more intense precipitation and longer and more severe droughts in many areas. These changes will have direct bearing on tourism industry through increased infrastructure damage, additional emergency preparedness requirements, higher operating expenses and business interruptions.

Indirect impacts

Since environmental conditions are critical resources for tourism, a wide-range of environmental changes due to climate change will have severe adverse impacts on tourism. Changes in water availability, loss of biodiversity, reduced landscape aesthetic, increased natural hazards, coastal erosion and inundation, damage to infrastructure along with increasing incidence of vector-borne diseases will all impact tourism to varying degrees. Mountain regions and coastal destinations are considered particularly sensitive to climate-induced environmental change, as are nature-based tourism market segments. Climate change related security risks have been identified in a number of regions where tourism is highly important to local-national economies. Tourists, particularly international tourists, are averse to political instability and social unrest. Reduction in tourism demand will affect many economies in form of reduction in income (Gross Domestic Product). This may result into social unrest amongst the people regarding distribution of wealth which will lead to further decline in tourism demand for the destination.

Tourists have great adaptive capacity with relative freedom to avoid destinations impacted by climate change or shifting the timing of travel to avoid unfavourable climate conditions. Suppliers of tourism services and tourism operators at specific destinations have less adaptive capacity. Large tour operators, who do not own the infrastructure, are in a better position to adapt to changes at destinations because they can respond to clients demands and provide information to influence clients’ travel choices. Destination communities and tourism operators with large investment in immobile capital assets (e.g., hotel, resort complex, marina or casino) have the least adaptive capacity. However, the dynamic nature of the tourism industry and its ability to cope with a range of recent major shocks, such as SARS, terrorism attacks in a number of nations, or the Asian tsunami, suggests a relatively high adaptive capacity within the tourism industry.

Measuring Carbon Emissions from Tourism

The tourism sector is not defined by the goods and services it produces, but by the nature of the consumers of a wide range of distinctive goods and services. This suggests that tourism is defined on the basis of consumption rather than production. Given that tourism is consumer-defined, it is important to define a tourist. World Tourism Organisation defines tourism as consisting of ‘the activities of persons travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes.’ This means that business travelers and ‘visiting friends and relatives’ travelers are also considered to be tourists as well as holidaymakers.

In context of accounting for energy use and the resultant carbon dioxide emissions, it is essential to distinguish between the direct from indirect impacts of tourism activities. Direct impacts are those that result directly from tourist activities, while indirect impacts are associated with intermediate inputs from second or third (or further) round processes. Becken and Patterson measured carbon emission from tourism activities in New Zealand. The methodology they opted was primarily focused on direct impacts. Their methodology focused only on carbon dioxide emissions as the main greenhouse gas resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels and did not consider the emission of other greenhouse gases. This omission is acceptable for fuel combustion from land-born activities (e.g. transport or accommodation) where carbon dioxide constitutes the major greenhouse gas. It had been estimated that carbon dioxide accounts only for about one-third of the total emissions. Thus, a factor of 2.7 had been suggested to include effects from other emissions such as nitrous oxides etc.

Table 1: Energy Intensities and Carbon Dioxide Emission Factors

Transport Energy intensity (MJ/pkm) CO 2 factor (g/pkm)
Domestic air 2.8 188.9
Private car 1.0 68.7
Rental car/company car/ taxi 0.9 62.7
Coach 1.0 69.2
Camper van 2.1 140.9
Train (diesel) 1.4 98.9
Motorcycle 0.9 57.9
Scheduled bus 0.8 51.4
backpacker bus 0.6 39.7
Cook Strait Ferry 2.4 165.1
Accommodation Energy intensity (MJ/ visitor-night) CO 2 factor (g/ visitor-night)
Hotel 155 7895
b&b 110 4142
Motel 32 1378
Hostel / backpackers 39 1619
Campground 25 1364
Attractions/Activities Energy intensity (MJ/visit) CO 2 factor
(g/visit)
Buildings (e.g. museums) 4 172
Nature attraction 8 417
Air activity 424 27697
Motorised water activity 202 15312
Adventure recreation 43 2241
Nature recreation 70 1674
Source : Becken and Patterson (2006)

Table 2: Average travel behaviour by six international tourist

International tourists 2001 Coach tourist VFR Auto tourist Back¬packer Camper Soft comfort
Number of tourists 429,159 343,577 247,972 131,419 84,195 42,966
Transport in km
Domestic air 755 436 281 241 186 431
Rental car 153 180 1483 748 856 743
Private car 8 529 25 298 104 61
Coach 756 53 173 310 68 264
Camper van 0 6 5 4 1579 35
Scheduled bus 25 77 22 491 62 120
Train 35 17 10 40 20 215
Ferry 10 11 32 63 64 35
backpacker bus 1 16 1 471 11 8
Cruise ship 12 1 4 1 0 0
Accommodation in nights
Hotel 7.5 1.0 2.4 1.3 0.7 3.3
Motel 0.2 1.2 9.1 0.4 0.9 1.2
Home 0.2 35.7 1.4 2.1 2.5 2.5
backpacker hostel 0.2 1.2 0.2 23.3 1.6 2.2
Campgrounds 0.1 0.6 0.2 1.2 20.4 0.3
b&b 0.0 0.1 1.1 0.1 0.1 17.3
Total energy per tourist (MJ) 3538 3649 3440 3657 6306 5035
Source: Becken and Cavanagh (2003)

Table 3: Total energy use of the New Zealand tourism sector (transport, accommodation, attractions) for 2000

Tourists Trips 2000 Energy use 2000 (PJ) CO2 emissions (kilotonnes)
International 1,648,988 7.59 434
Domestic 16,554,006 17.76 1,115
Total 18,202,944 25.35 1,549
Source:Becken (2002)

In another recent study by an international team of experts, which was commissioned by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), in order to provide background information for the Second International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism (Davos, Switzerland, 1-3 October 2007), emissions from global tourism had been estimated. The study suggested that emissions from three main sub-sectors International and domestic tourism are estimated to represent 5.0% of total global emissions in 2005 (Table 4). The study also suggested, as evident from Table 4, that transport sectors generated about 75% of the total CO2 emissions from global tourism activities. Air travel alone accounted for 40% of the total CO2 emissions.
Table 4: Emissions from Global Tourism in 2005

Source CO2 (Mt) % to Total Emission from Tourism
Air Transport 517 39.6
Other Transport 468 35.8
Accommodation 274 21.0
Other Activities 45 3.4
TOTAL 1,307 100
Total world emission 26,400
Tourism’s Share (%) 4.95

Task ahead 
In the last UNFCCC negotiations (Vienna Climate Change Talks 2007), it was recognized that global emissions of GHG need to be reduced to well below half of the levels in 2000 by middle of this century. Therefore, mitigation of GHG emission of particular importance to tourism sector also. However, the mitigation strategies must also consider several other dimensions along with the need to stabilize the global climate. These issues are the right of people to rest and recover and leisure, attaining the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, growth of the economies and the similar ones. Along with these, the mitigation policies need to target different stakeholder groups, including tourists, tour operators, accommodation managers, airlines, manufacturers of cars and aircraft, as well as destination managers. Mitigation Instruments need to address different key issues in different regions.

There could be four major mitigation strategies to address greenhouse gas emissions from tourism- 1) reducing energy use, 2) improving energy efficiency, 3) increasing the use of renewable energy, and 4) sequestering carbon through sinks. In recent past, climate change and its impacts on various sectors have already been recognised a key area of research in India. However, till date there has not been any research on impact of tourism on climate change or measuring the GHG emission from tourism activities. In view of the growth in tourism activities in domestic as well as international market, It is important that the government, research community and other relevant organisations take initiative to understand the current status regarding tourism’s contribution to GHG emission in the country. This would enable the policy makers to opt for necessary steps towards mitigating emissions without creating hindrance to the sector’s growth which is crucial for the country’s economy.

Space Tourism – The Malaysian March

Introduction to Space Tourism

Space tourism refers mainly to the visitation of locations outside earth. Unlike other kinds of tourism, this kind of tourism is relatively still a dream for many. Space travel itself has been around for more than 40 years since man first attempted space flights and then landed on the moon.

Its technology is radically different from any other type of tourism-related technology – maybe because it’s a relatively new frontier just as when the airplane emerged – hence, it remains within the purview of government and a few agencies.

Space exploration is motivated by man’s quest to understand and harness the limitless resources of space. Governments have generally dominated space activities mainly for military, scientific and communication purposes.

Experts with many years of studying and practicing are the only recognized voice when it comes to space issues. For the past thirty years, ordinary people have watched to see when space will be opened up to the public to investigate just as any tourist investigates its destination unimpeded.

This is the birth of space tourism. Space tourism itself is not an easy venture to manage since the broad requirements for such a tourism venture involve technology and conditions vastly different from earth conditions.

Fundamentals of Space Tourism

Space tourism is an exciting venture gaining fast publicity and huge unsatisfied demand. Before this excitement can be realized, the fundamentals of space travel must be sorted.

These fundamentals include:

  1. Finance – payment for services
  2. Training – familiarity with space conditions, transportation systems and possible activities applicable to tourist
  3. Transportation – launch sites, space vehicles
  4. Accommodation – Docking stations e.g. international space station

Finance is currently a big factor in space tourism quite outside the reach of ordinary citizens who would be willing to travel to space. The first private citizen to travel to space for a week stay in the international space station (ISS) – Dennis Tito – paid a whooping US$20 million to get aboard the Russian Soyuz.

Since then, a few individuals have joined him. However, according to Virgin Galactic – one of the enterprising companies offering commercial space travel – the cost of traveling to space currently (as at 2011) stands at US$200,000 with a US$20,000 deposit. If you intend to stay for a week, the budget might as well skyrocket into the millions of dollars.

The US$200,000 might not be a huge amount compared to the millions of dollars fare paid by the pioneer space tourists but is still out of reach for most people.

Moreover, training is an important part of space tourism. The Russian Federal Space Agency provides up to six months training before a space tourist is finally approved for a space tour. This is part of the huge financial cost including physical test and fitness inspections, familiarization with the powerful G-forces during take-off and landing, zero gravity simulations and lots more.

Furthermore, transportation to space follows after successful completion of the training. Launch sites and reliable spacecrafts must be in place to provide space tours when required. So far, the Russian Soyuz has been the only space vehicle to convey space tourists to the international space station (ISS) and back but this vehicle was not specifically designed as a space tourism vehicle.

Many space tour agencies are lobbying the Russians to build a custom space tourism spacecraft to enable more space tourist visit the International space station (which is approximately 200 mile above earth) and beyond or perhaps help drive the tour cost down. This is a work in progress for everyone and every space loving organization and government. Cheap, reliable and safe transportation to space is the single most problematic part of the space tourism equation.

Additionally, accommodation issues must be sorted and it presents exciting possibilities in space. Currently, accommodation remains the International space station. However, the ISS was not designed for this purpose.

Therefore, the request for space hotels for tourist is the clamor and sure enough, there are answers. Bigelow Aerospace is gearing up for an independent mini space station of space tourists complete with its complex for the whole space tour. Hilton hotels is also voicing out its interest. With accommodation in space, is there any limitation for other businesses? The imagination of man holds the answer.

Furthermore, space tourism destinations can be either sub-orbital or orbital travels. Sub-orbital space travel includes traveling some kilometers outside earth but not into the orbit of another body such as another planet or moon.

On the other hand, orbital travels involve more than sub-orbital travels. This travel includes entering the orbits of other bodies in space or even other galaxies. Man has a lot of experience with sub-orbital travels for decades and this is what will be exploited in preparation for the private citizens’ space tourism industry.

Many governments including Malaysia are either increasing awareness or beginning to develop these fundamentals to prepare for the exciting future of space tourism.

Overview of Malaysian Tourism

The Malaysian tourism industry is a progressive and successful one. It aspires to be an international tourism destination. According to the 2010 United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Report, Malaysia ranked 9th in international tourist arrivals, welcoming 24.6 million visitors through its doors. The impact of these efforts resulted in international tourism receipt of RM 56.5 billion in 2010.

Foundation of Space Tourism in Malaysia

Development and oversight of space activities is championed by the Malaysian National Space Agency (ANGKASA). This government agency seeks to develop the country’s potential in the space sector. The foundation for space activities in Malaysia resides in the operation of the Malaysian space center that trains, monitors and operates space equipments, experiments and develops young talents for future space activities.

The Malaysian National Space Agency is mostly concerned practically with science and science-related activities at the moment. However, space tourism activities are gearing up to raise sufficient awareness for the public to develop interest in the sector. The government is also sponsoring various competitions to encourage interest and participation in the sector.

Considering space activity involvement from the governments’ perspective, the Malaysian government has shown a lot of interest in space activities such as developing space research infrastructure, partnerships with international space agencies, promotional activities and jointly sponsoring commercially rewarding experiments.

This includes research on micro gravity sciences, space weather and scientific payload effects as indicated on the Malaysian National Space Agency website. The foundation for space activity is set which allows the natural occurrence of space tourism activities.

Prospects of Space Tourism in Malaysia and Implications for students

Space activity is gaining momentum in Malaysia. As Malaysia approaches its vision of becoming a developed country by 2020, the space sector is bound to expand. As with other progressive sectors, private sector involvement is critical if space tourism is to find its place in Malaysia.

The space tourism sector in Malaysia is at the awareness stage leaving a whole new sector open to be harnessed by anyone. The space tourism sector will require a lot of boost to grow as with other tourism sectors. This growth begins from the national policy on space activities.

Where such policies is inclusive to Malaysians, attractive to regional and international investors and practical to the global demand for sustainable space tourism, Malaysia will be on the path to exploiting the limitless reaches of space. The prospects are huge but a lot of work needs to be done. Shall work-in-progress describe it?

Consider the implications for students. An untapped sector such as space tourism raises all kinds of opportunities for students of various disciplines but requires careful consideration. This is because the governments’ direction in the sector will affect the attractiveness of the industry at home and by extension the success of the industry.

Nevertheless, the positive potential of the worldwide space tourism industry in the future is uncontested. Students who wish to be involved in the sector as employees will need to proceed with caution but students that want to engage in the sector as pioneers, trail blazers and/or researchers are encouraged to take the leap.

As increasing private sector involvement is encouraged by governments, private companies and individuals prepared to confront the hassles of startup will be better positioned to reap the benefits of hard work in the future.

Recommendations

The following recommendations if implemented by the Malaysian authorities will accelerate the interest and development of space tourism in Malaysia;

  1. Development of a clearer, more visible and practical space policy that communicates the benefits of space tourism to all Malaysians
  2. Development of more learning facilities to train Malaysians on space related activities with a focus on future space tourism industry
  3. Providing adequate incentives for student interested in space tourism and related space activities
  4. Sustaining space related interest in secondary school students to prepare for the future space tourism industry
  5. Developing appropriate feedback mechanisms to gain insight into peoples interest in space related issues
  6. Develop plans to attract or retain young international talents to beef up development of the sector
  7. Encourage more private businesses and tertiary institutions to diversify into space related product and services
  8. Provide more visible and accessible data on space related activities to provide incentive for further research in the sector
  9. Promote space activities with the same vigor as other tourism sectors are promoted in Malaysia
  10. Improve national budget on space related activities to communicate more commitment to the sector.

Conclusion

This article investigated space tourism, its foundation in Malaysia, its future and implications for students. It was found that the space activities in Malaysia is supported and promoted by the government through the National Space Agency.

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