ISSN 1108-8931


Year 5, Issue 48, May 2003


On hysteria

During the last couple of months, every day it seems, somewhere around the world something happened that according to mass media would be the seventh death blow to the seven lives of tourism and tourism providers. A hotel is bombed, a plane hijacked, a war erupts, peace talks fail, tourist kidnappings take place, a tourist buses capsize, a new killer virus appears, flight controllers go on strike, an airplane door disappears on flight, flights to some countries are banned, and so on and so on. For TV journalists these events are spectacular and easy to digest, and they thus give them disproportionate coverage. None of them mentions that the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 killed 25 million. This is a hysteria multiplier which even affects professionals who should know better. An otherwise sane Minister of Health minister called on the hoteliers of his country to 'avoid' guests from infected countries, ignoring the small detail that the unlucky guests would presumably then have to sleep on the streets. Then we received an email from a major Tourist Board, assuring us that THAT country, contrary to its unlucky neighbour, was SARS-FREE! Miracle. Next thing they will offer a 30 day guarantee. Honesty, sanity and openness is far more reassuring to prospective visitors. Everyone, including tourism authorities, hotels and tour operators should have permanent, simple, practical contingency plans for all types of emergencies, and not panic or wait for help from the four elements when the expected 'unexpected' finally happens to them too. A contingency budget set aside for the hard times, is also useful. Tourists on the other hand should be alert and aware of world developments, and with a bit of luck they can benefit from some historically low prices! The days of carefree mass-packaged tourism are over, but this need not be bad, but an opportunity for a fresh start on a more cooperative and sustainable basis.

Club News

Members Renew Support

We sincerely thank our Ecolodge Members Rendez-Vous of Saba and Ranweli Holiday Village of Sri Lanka for renewing their support of ECOCLUB.

New Ecolodge Members

We warmly welcome two genuine Ecolodges into the club, Hacienda don Juan (Ecuador) and Largo Canyon School (New Mexico, USA). Both offer unique experiences and also welcome volunteers.

Rise & Shine, and help with the cows

Hacienda don Juan, Ecuador

At the Hacienda, near the coastal town of Jama, you can stay at a delightful 100-year old house, in the middle of a working cattle ranch that covers an area of 3500 acres, about a third of which has been transformed by the owners into a Dry Forest Biological Reserve. Go horse-riding with the cowboys, help out with the cattle if you wish, go birdwatching, swim in the Pacific, then return for a delicious home-cooked dinner, and relax listening to the nightly chorus of the tropical forest under the clear starlit sky.

Link

Experience & regenarate a magical canyon

Largo Canyon School, NM, U.S.A.

Filled with 1,500 recorded archaeological sites, Largo Canyon constantly reminds you of the peoples that have gone before: the ancient Anasazi, who lived in pithouses and farmed the canyon; the Navajo, who lived in hogans and built the defensive structures, known as pueblitos, to protect themselves from the Ute raiders to the north; and the sheepherders who wintered flocks here from the end of the 19th century through the first three decades of the 20th century. Stay at the once deserted, but being renovated by the Irick family, friends and volunteers, Largo Canyon School, and learn to reuse, rehabilitate and re-inhabit.

Link


We warmly welcome Professor Richard Welford, of the Centre for Urban Planning and Environmental Management at the University of Hong Kong, who has joined ECOCLUB as a new Expert Member.

Link More details at



Can you imagine a hotelier avoiding a guest from an infected country? It was in fact what the Greek Minister of Health asked of the Greek Hoteliers, who simply, and sanely, ignored him. It also prompted us to hold a topical chat on SARS, the infamous Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, at the ECOCLUB Live Chat Centre on Tuesday 13 May. We tried to discuss its effects on ecotourism and explore what can be done to protect tourism facilities and educate hosts & guests in a non-hysteric manner, in terms of this and future outbreaks. Please find some ideas gathered below:

Essential Knowledge: Viruses are simple in structure, consisting of a piece of genetic material—DNA or RNA—covered by a protein coat and sometimes an additional membrane. In contrast to bacteria viruses are not cells and do not possess the chemical components necessary to sustain life and therefore cannot propagate independently of their host.

In Perspective, Not Exceptional: Flu outbreaks occur every year, with epidemics recurring approximately every decade. Flu epidemics can cause hundreds of thousands of deaths, while pandemics, which occur more infrequently, can be absolutely devastating. These flu outbreaks occur repeatedly because the influenza virus is constantly mutating, thus bypassing immunities that would otherwise develop after one infection. The so-called Spanish flu pandemic erupted after World War I in 1918. It infected half the world’s population and killed one in 20 of those infected, or over 25 million people. The “Asian flu” of 1956 and the “Hong Kong” flu of 1968 combined killed 4.5 million.

We have very short memories. Indeed, who remembers the Coxaki virus of last year?
Or the Western Nile Virus, or the Norwalk virus.

But highly relevant to Tourism: As humans, and ecotourists in particular reach the ends of the world, their increase their increased interaction with nature increases the chance of a virus "jumping" from an animal host to humans. Their specialised character means that viruses generally remain loyal to specific host species; however, it occasionally happens that a virus will cross from one species to another. HIV is believed to have originated in non-human primates, and an outbreak of a form of Hanta virus in the United States in 1993 had its origins in deer mice. As humans increase their interaction with nature, the risk of such exchanges is increased, especially in unsanitary or overcrowded conditions. Ecotourism, especially in its most genuine form, represents such an increased interaction with nature. In the era of long-haul Tourism and globalisation, viri can board airplanes via passengers to spread rapidly to multicultural urban centres, such as Toronto.

Our Defence: The human body protects against viruses through the immune system. In order to attack an invading virus, however, the immune system must first be able to recognize the virus as a foreign substance. This recognition can be achieved only for a certain group of viruses, including those that have previously infected the host. Thus, vaccines generally work by introducing a small amount or a less potent strain of the virus in order to build immunity within the host and prevent future infection. Flu vaccinations are available, but must be constantly updated to keep up with the mutations. The World Health Organization (WHO) coordinates an international effort to track the development of the virus and manufacture new vaccines, which are made available before each flu season.

But we are lazy: How many of you got vaccinated for the common flu last winter?

Another type of 'Defense': A great achievement in viral science and international coordination over the past half century was the eradication of the smallpox virus, one of the greatest health threats in modern human history. During the twentieth century alone, smallpox killed some 300 million people. Smallpox vaccinations, first developed in the late eighteenth century, were implemented on an international scale by the WHO beginning in 1966. Over the course of 15 years, the intensive effort led to the complete eradication of the virus by 1980. However the superpowers maintain stocks of the virus for security reasons...

Impact on Tourism, some figures:
Thailand expects a drop of around 700,000 in international visitor arrivals during 2003.
Singapore arrivals were down 67 percent in April, Australia arrivals down 20 percent in April. Japanese arrivals to Hawaii were down 23.5 percent in April, while bookings for May and June are down 36.5 percent and 33.3 percent respectively. Arrivals from Hong Kong SAR and Chinese Taipei to Malaysia are down 90 percent while there were virtually no visitors from China (PRC).

Impact on Airlines: Airlines try to delay delivery of new aircraft, park unused aircraft, see their load factors drop, cancel flights, and have to slash airfares to attract passengers.

On the Global Economy: Spending on Visa Cards has dropped by 16 percent across Pacific Asia. SARS is expected to shave 0.10 percent off global economic growth this year.

Beyond the obvious effects: Virus outbreaks and the ensuing panic, usually brings out the worse in people, such as racist stereotypes, and intolerant behaviour towards minorities of all types. It seems as if no progress has been made in this respect since the Middle Ages, when the plague was similarly blamed on minorities. Unilateralism is another example: European Union health ministers agreed that passengers arriving from affected areas should fill in questionnaires about their recent travels, but they turned down an Italian suggestion for compulsory screening across the continent. Italy then decided to suspend the Schengen Agreement which relates to free movement within the E.U.

Unexpected winners: Beyond mask purveyors, sales of antibacterial detergents have soared in the infected areas. Less obvious winners are tourist advertising, much affected Toronto for example is launching a major advertising campaign, and, you guessed, the Internet, computer viri aside, a safer alternative medium for business meetings.

12 common sense guidelines, that lodges can take:

1. Do not install air-conditioning, or disable it if already installed
2. Monitor your guests - if someone is ill, do not let any other guest into the same room
3. Wash bed linen and towels.
4. Have a thermometer and a mask available for each guest.
5. Take staff temperature checks
6. Disinfect daily rooms & common facilities. In particular disinfect phones in rooms and public ones.
7. Screen vendors & suppliers
8. Provide basic information on SARS to guests, explaining procedures followed at the Lodge.
9. If there is increased risk in your area, housekeeping and kitchen staff should wear masks
10. Keep guests on the same room, when they return after a short tour, to reassure them
and to minimise cross infection risks
11. Replace regular soap products with disinfectants. No need to start a chemical war - try to use biological disinfectants / detergents.
12. Liaise with your local authorities to be prepared in an emergency.

Give your views at the Community

SCRIPTA MANENT - ECOCLUB, printed & pdf editions !

Electronic media are dynamic, but what is printed stays, and can be read by many who do not have easy access to the Internet. Following public demand, we thus decided to print ECOCLUB, starting from the April issue. Our Ecolodge Members in over 20 countries, our Sponsors, and we hope selected public Libraries (send us recommendations), will receive the print edition for free. 

For just EUROS 15, you can receive the ECOCLUB, Adobe .pdf , printer-friendly edition, by email by signing up for our new, Supporter Membership, and also enjoy extra benefits such as a 10% discount at all (organic and energy-saving) products sold at the Shop.



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