“Tourism is like fire, it can cook your food or burn your house down” Robbin Fox..
I know how converted you all are to the need to promote quality crafts in your respective countries. I am also aware of the difficulties you often encounter to obtain the proper support and funding for your activities and projects. Rather than going into an endless debate on the pros and cons of tourism, I submit that it is more urgent and useful to examine the deeper implications of the relationships between crafts development policies and tourism.
After a brief presentation of some current and future trends in these relationships, I will signal some experiences in crafts promotion for tourists which can serve as inspirations or models. Finally, I will introduce the UNESCO Crafts/Tourism Index as one possible tool for planning and funding crafts development programs.
I. FAVOURABLE TRENDS FOR TOURISM AND CRAFTS
New motivations for tourists
The combination of these two trends is being fuelled by technology, through the proliferation of online services and tools, making it easier for the traveller to choose destinations and customize their itineraries based on their interests.
These trends represent a significant shift in the motivations of tourists: tourism has moved from the 3S (sun, sex and sea) to the 3E (entertainment, emotion and education). Tourism today is a powerful factor in the mixing of peoples and in mutual knowledge just as yesterday traditional commerce favoured exchanges between cultures.
While the WTO adopted in 1999 a “Charter of ethical tourism”, the concept of “fair trips” is becoming widely accepted, for example in Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire or in the Ganges Delta in India. The tourist guide acts more and more as a facilitator, an intermediary between two cultures. In this same spirit, we can evoke the “Tourism for Development” (TFD) Association initiated by an Egyptian ship-owner: in exchange for the TFD label, tourism professionals donate part of their profits (1% of the price of a night stay) for development projects, such as building wells in Madagascar, installing hydraulic pumps in Peru or fighting malnutrition in Mauritania.
Eco-tourism and cultural tourism constitute another trend that takes account of other people’s cultures. This represents an appealing market which, according to WTO, is projected to grow globally at an annual rate of 15% through 2010. It is noted more and more that tourism changes perspectives and is motivated much by the discovery of nature as by the tangible culture (monuments, historic sites) and the intangible (art, performing arts and crafts) manifestations of the cultural heritage of the country visited. The profile of these eco and cultural tourists can be summed up as follows:
As regards the relevance of this new trend for craftspeople, it is interesting to note here a direct result of globalization: since all sorts of crafts are now available on all markets, tourists are looking for original authentic items and their place of origin. Hence the need for a greater distinction in tourist purchases between gifts without authenticity to be given away (t-shirts, coffee mugs, key chain) and souvenir items which help to recall a trip over and over again. They are looking for something to see, taste, experience and take home with them. They want “souvenirs” that reflect the essence of the place they have visited. Craftspeople are uniquely suited to provide that essence.
Increasing awareness of the role of crafts
Sustainable development and poverty eradication
In parallel with this evolution of the tourism industry, we have been witnessing a greater awareness of the role of the crafts sector in the struggle against poverty and for sustainable development. The use of local renewable resources and of techniques transmitted from generation to generation constitute the added value and distinctive element of crafted objects. The cultural, social and economic dimension of crafts is gradually being more recognized by the authorities, cooperation agencies and funding sources. Thus, within UNESCO we have observed over the years an increasing number of requests by Member States for assistance towards the development of their crafts sector.
The new approach to development, a greater concern for the environment and the need for cultural diversity are among the global factors that can explain this evolution. There are signs that the trend towards greater awareness of the impact of crafts will be on the increase and the sector will benefit from some of the contradictory situations inherent to the globalization process described by John Naisbitt, American Trend forecaster, in his book “The Global Paradox”. I will briefly indicate how two of these statements apparently contradictory are actually valid when applied to crafts:
“The more choices, the more discrimination in choice”: the more we integrate the world, the more we differentiate our experiences. This explodes markets and market niches. The term “glocalization” has been ascribed to this coincidence of global economy with a localization of production. The global market offers, indeed, a rare opportunity for the promotion of authentic local products using natural, sustainable materials. The Crafts Sector is ideally situated to respond to these needs and demands.
However, this bright presentation calls for two strong reservations. First, we must admit that the awareness of the potential strength of this sector has, generally, not given way to well defined policies for crafts development. Craftspeople still lack the deserved support whether for their skills upgrading and product adaptation or for the promotion and protection of their works. This is due, to a large extent, to the absence of data on the direct and induced effects of the craft sector on the national economy, namely through direct sales to tourists. Secondly, the tourism industry and the crafts sector are both developing in parallel and we know that parallels do not meet! This can be explained by the absence of coordination and cooperation between the ministries/departments in charge of crafts and tourism.
There is therefore an urgent need to develop and illustrate the vertical, cross-cutting links between these two sectors both in quantitative and qualitative terms.
II. QUALITATIVE EXPERIMENTS IN CRAFTS PROMOTION FOR TOURISTS
The extension of these initiatives, and some others such as that of the village of Metsovo (Greece), to other countries and regions can no doubt contribute to highlight the mutually beneficial links between crafts and tourism. However, to ensure the relevant support of the crafts sector, this type of demonstration must absolutely be backed by quantitative data.
III. QUANTITATIVE REFERENCE FOR DECISION MAKERS: THE UNESCO CRAFTS/TOURISM INDEX
An interesting development took place in 1997 when the participants to the UNESCO/ITC International Symposium on “Crafts and the International Market” (Manila, Philippines – 6-8 October 1997) highlighted the importance of statistical information showing the specific links between tourism (local and foreign) and craft development. This Symposium recommended to UNESCO to formulate a standard questionnaire on tourists’ expenses in crafts which would allow for advocacy at the national level and analytic comparisons at international level.
As a follow-up to this recommendation and in the light of the evaluation of the Ten-Year Plan of Action in 2001, UNESCO took the following initiatives:
A synthesis of data collected as a result of the two above-mentioned questionnaires has been prepared in April 2004 by Mr Dominique Bouchart, UNESCO Consultant, and will be broadly disseminated in all the Member States and at all regional and international meetings related to crafts.
Among these interesting conclusions, the following three can be highlighted:
However, there are still some obstacles to be overcome in the way towards the desired Index of Crafts and tourism Expenditures. Among these, mention should be made of (a) the lack of coordination between the Ministries in charge of tourism and crafts; (b) the absence of a representative sample of replies proportionate to the number of tourists in each country and (c) the lack of a clear methodology applicable to all countries as regards interviews and interviewers, analysis and processing of survey results.
Pilot project in five geographical regions
In order to overcome these obstacles and to ensure the multiple effect of the expected results, a pilot project has been prepared for implementation in five countries (one country for each geographical region). A detailed description of the different phases of the project over a period of 16 months can be found in the final part of the Report by Dominique Bouchart.
I wish to lay emphasis on the following components of the project:
The overall cost of the project (about US$ 40,000 per country) is more than modest compared to the estimated income derived from craft sales to tourists and exports. Consequently, the identified countries, as well others interested, should not find it difficult to obtain funding from national or international sources.
There is, indeed, no reason why craftspeople should continue to be service providers and not beneficiaries in the foreseen, spectacular growth of the tourism sector in general, of cultural tourism in particular. Now is the time for all of you, believers in the cultural and socio-economic role of crafts, to preach to the non-converted policy makers in your respective countries !