“At first I was afraid, I was petrified …”
Gloria Gaynor’s words resonate with the first impression I had after reading the wonderful invitation letter from Sara and Antonia. Participating in a project so cleverly and kindly designed to include and nurture, instead of to judge and exclude, felt delightful. But then I realised that it was me who had to judge and place the stamp of value on my work and call it “a contribution”. And that was petrifying. It still is because, growing up in a communist country, I learnt early that I’d better not have a voice unless it was for the benefit of others, and that it was the right and privilege of others (not me) to appreciate and value my work. Many wonderful years later, today, I know that my voice matters and it is important to let it be heard … And this is my tribute to this project.
I have a background in ecology and biology studies, so I am trained to observe behaviours, relationships, connections, and to ask questions about influences, relations and causality. Even before that, my parents testify to being pestered by a rarely interrupted chain of questions from me about “why things are the way they are”. Nonsensical sometimes perhaps, I remember myself being curious and amazed with patterns from very early ages. I got into biology after I failed to get into medical studies (as my family wished) and it is one of my most successful failures yet: I have never regretted it and ecocentric values suit my heart as a glove. I cannot see myself doing anything else than working with ethics, equity and ecology. Later, I did a master and a PhD in environmental management and policy, which drew my attention to tourism and gave momentum to my investigations into how sustainability principles are being applied in practice.
During my graduate studies I got the task of assisting in opening what was gingerly called by a colleague, the “black box” of tourism: the tour operating business. Vast in practice but little understood as a business at the time, tour operators preoccupied my research gaze for over a decade and the results constitute one of my most treasured contributions yet. The central role that tour operators have in the global tourism system is unique (Budeanu, 2005) and so is their potential to dramatically transform tourism practices. As intermediaries, operators practice a Fordist model of tourism production which structurally, transformed pristine beaches into strings of “sun-sea-sand” destinations and culturally, contributed to the articulation of a leisurely element onto the identity of modern mankind. The dependency of local tourism providers on the advanced marketing skills of operators keeps the later in a dominant position, while the dependency of tourists on gaining access to leisure in a safe, comfortable and worry-free mode keeps the entire system running. (Budeanu, 2007a) And with sufficient resources and long-term commitment to sustainability (Budeanu, 2009), companies such as Aurinkomatkat (Finland) lead the way showing that the mass tourism system can become more ethically and equitably sound.
Although tour operators remain a subject of interest for my intellectual gaze, my later work relate to investigating habits and barriers to sustainable behaviour of tourists. (Budeanu, 2007b) At the time when many studies proudly announced the emergence of environmental tourists, I got intrigued by how slim the evidence was in support of these claims. Together with colleagues and some of my students, we investigated tourist motivations for various holiday choices and found them only remotely interested in responsible tourism compared with corporate and governmental organisations. (Budeanu and Emtairah, 2014) While the lack of awareness or motivation are strong reasons for the absence of sustainable engagement among tourists, it is also important to acknowledge that if sustainable tourism should emerge, it would require a profound cultural transformation of the modern traveller. As tourists’ low interest in sustainable tourism correlated to a shortage of alternative options from the industry, and with timid attempts from local governments to implement sustainable tourism in practice, it became evident that the transformation of the complex tourism system is only possible through dramatic reconfiguration of the system itself (Budeanu, et al., 2016), a subject which does not cease to intrigue me.
Part of my early engagement with tourism education, for over 10 years I did applied research studies together with my students and colleagues from Lund University, Sweden, getting actively engaged with tourism businesses and local authorities involved in tourism from Greece, Lithuania, Sweden, Romania, Czech Republic, India, Cyprus, supporting their endeavours to adopt sustainable tourism. Pedagogically, I am a student of experiential learning and because throughout my academic career I opened several “black boxes”, I can confidently say that my main contribution to tourism research is continuing, relentlessly, to ask difficult and uncomfortable questions about what stops the transformation of tourism, what limits us as individuals to become better than we were yesterday and what might one day, bring about a sustainable world.
Thank you Antonia! Thank you Sara!
Thank you, reader, for giving me the richness of your time!
Written by Adriana Budeanu, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Budeanu, A. (2005). Impacts and responsibilities for sustainable tourism: A tour operator perspective. Journal for Cleaner Production. 13(2): 89-97.
Budeanu, A. (2007a). Facilitating Transitions to Sustainable Tourism – The role of tour operators. Doctoral Dissertation. Lund: 2007:4
Budeanu, A. (2007b). Sustainable tourist behaviour. International Journal of Consumer Studies. 31 (5) 2007
Budeanu, A. (2009). Environmental Supply Chain Management in tourism: the case of large tour operators. Journal for Cleaner Production 17(16): 1385-1392.
Budeanu, A., & Emtairah, T. (2014). A fresh look into tourist consumption: is there hope for sustainability? In C. Weeden, K. Boluk (eds.), Managing Ethical Consumption in Tourism, Critical Studies in Tourism, Business and Management Series. New York: Routledge (ISBN: 978-0-415-71676-5)
Budeanu, A., Miller, G., Moscardo, G., & Ooi, C-S. (2016). Sustainable Tourism, Progress, Challenges and Opportunities: An introduction, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 111, part B, s.285-294