Keynote speaker Professor Regina Scheyvens addressed the role of corporate social responsibility in the tourism industry, as the annual Council for Australasian University Tourism and Hospitality Education (CAUTHE) conference entered its second day (Wednesday 13 February) at Lincoln University last week.
Now in its 23rd year, the CAUTHE conference has attracted over 200 experts from all over the world to discuss issues around tourism and global change.
Lincoln University Adjunct Associate Professor of Sustainable Tourism Susanne Becken says with increasing globalisation, the role and responsibility of the corporation has become a key issue in the sector.
“Corporate social responsibility is becoming an increasingly important topic in tourism,” says Professor Becken.
“As more and more tourists are holidaying in developing countries, we are finding that these countries are becoming dependent on tourism. Tourism becomes everything – the key economic driver. But there are concerns around environmental impacts and social inequalities. The question is what role do corporations play – should they be responsible for the communities they operate in?”
As a Professor of Development Studies at Massey University, the focus for Regina Scheyvens’ keynote address was ‘Sun, Sand and Social Responsibility: Can Tourism Corporations Save the World?’ Her discussion drew on her interest in sustainable, equity-enhancing development strategies that can enhance the livelihoods and wellbeing of people in developing countries – and in particular, the Pacific Islands.
“There are increasing calls globally for the private sector to play a role in international development,” says Professor Scheyvens. “Pressures of global change can lead governments and the industry to make exaggerated claims about what they can achieve – economic growth, environmental protection, and alleviating poverty. But is it realistic to expect the industry to significantly change their practices so that they put people before profits?
Professor Scheyvens says degrees of corporate social responsibility can be structured into four approaches – minimalist, philanthropic, encompassing, and social activist – and more can be done to move the majority along the spectrum.
“Resorts should aim for a partnership, rather than a charitable or paternalistic approach to working with local communities. Hotels and resorts could become more socially responsible by improving linkages with suppliers of local tourism products and services, improving working conditions and labour rights, offering job security and training, and mentoring local enterprises.
“Industry associations could encourage responsible practices by asking members to regularly share examples at their meetings, contracting international chefs to run workshops on incorporating local produce into menus, and developing responsible tourism awards for best use of local produce, and best collaboration with a community.
“If Pacific Island countries are to remain attractive destinations, careful management of the socio-cultural and environmental impacts of tourism is needed, along with effective strategies for spreading the economic benefits of tourism more widely.”
Established in 1992, the annual CAUTHE conference represents universities in Australia and New Zealand that teach and research tourism and hospitality. The conference will continue through to Friday, and will include a varied programme focusing on tourism, risk and resilience; global change and the environment; tourism, productivity and innovation; transforming people and places through tourism; and indigenous tourism in a changing world – among many other themes.