My four least favourite phrases that tourism should stop using

My four least favourite phrases that tourism should stop using

Last Friday, the Guardian newspaper announced that it was updating its style guide “to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world.” The paper’s editor Katherine Viner wrote that instead of “climate change” the paper would now prefer the terms “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown.” She added that other updated terms included “wildlife” rather than “biodiversity”, “fish populations” instead of “fish stocks”, and “climate science denier” rather than “climate sceptic.”

Language frames the way we see the world, and as an industry whose entire remit is to enable people to see the world, tourism needs to think carefully about how it does so.

This is about more than avoiding lazy travel cliches, where neighbourhoods are relentlessly ‘vibrant’ and markets always ‘bustle’. People are becoming more aware of our impacts on the world and its people.

Likewise, business is (to differing degrees) responding. And business being business, it’s talking about it too. My inbox + twitter feeds + rss readers all track what is going on in these issues. And they have never been busier.

The following are four terms and phrases that crop up with increasing regularity, we need to either stop using or be a lot more careful about how we do.

1. “Plastic Free Hotel”

Removing plastic from the supply chain is an important (and very on trend) activity. But what would it actually mean to be a plastic-free hotel (or flight, tour company or whatever else)? It’s certainly about a lot more than the very visible actions like removing plastic water bottles from the bedrooms, or miniature cosmetics from the bathrooms.

Are your staff’s uniforms made from natural materials? What about your pillows? Are your teabags? Have you demanded that all your suppliers remove plastic packaging from the products that arrive in your building, or swapped to suppliers that do?

2. “Zero Waste Flight”

Recently there have been campaigns to remove single-use packaging from airline meals. And there have begun to be flights that say they have done so.

These are not Zero Waste Flights. A Zero Waste Flight would have to also create no emissions. All the CO2 and other gases coming out the back of the plane are waste energy. And it has a far greater impact on the environment than serving my lunch with a biodegradable fork.

3. “Authentic”

A personal bugbear. I wrote an article for this site three years ago about why I object to the lazy overuse of the words ‘authentic’ and ‘experiential’. If reading two blogs by me in one day is TL;DR, then the summary is this: “You do not talk about being authentic. At least not if you actually are.”

4. “1 in 10 jobs are in tourism”

I did an online news search for the phrase “1 in 10 jobs tourism” and got the following in the first page of results: “one in every 10 jobs are in travel and tourism”; “representing 1 in 10 jobs”; “one in every 10 jobs are in the travel and tourism sector.”

This is not accurate. The statistic comes from WTTC and includes the Direct, Indirect and Induced impacts of this industry. As the infographic linked from the previous sentence explains:

  • “DIRECT includes only direct transactions by tourists for tourism services and products such as accommodation, recreation, transportation, and other related sectors.”
  • “INDIRECT measures the supply chain impact.”
  • “INDUCED measures the impact of money spent in the local economy by employees working in jobs supported by tourism both directly and indirectly.”

The word WTTC therefore uses is “supports”, as in “tourism supports 1 in 10 jobs”. I work in tourism. I get paid. I spend my money in my local shop. My local shopkeeper is therefore supported by tourism. He does not work in tourism. He works in a newsagent.

The categories for the WTM World Responsible Tourism Awards are:

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Jeremy Smith is a writer, speaker and sustainable tourism consultant. He is co-founder of Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, an initiative that supports tourism organisations in declaring a climate emergency and working together to reduce their carbon emissions in line with the Science Based Targets. He is the author of Transforming Travel - realising the potential of sustainable tourism (2018), and co-founder of, the travel industry sustainable tourism website news site. He consults widely on sustainable tourism strategy and communication, with recent clients including Bruges Ommeland, GSTC, English National Parks, Tripadvisor, the Travel Foundation, and the European Travel Commission. He is a member of Travalyst’s Independent Advisory Board and was a member of Rotterdam’s International Advisory Board in 2019, helping develop a new vision for the city’s tourism.

One comment

  1. Binu Philip says:

    If i may get to add one more phrase we in tourism should avoid using, and that’s ‘luxury’. Especially in India, every tiny hotel, motel, lodge, camp etc. are all “luxurious”!! Some of them don’t even have proper locks behind room doors, and others don’t necessarily have a neat access!! Perhaps, its time to educate the industry about ‘luxury’.

    Equally difficult to digest is the new supplement, sort of, to the L word is Boutique! Suddenly, every shop, restaurant, service apartment and the like are also “boutiques”.

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