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Media, Environment, and Tourism Conference

From the archives

In November 2001, Planeta hosted the Media, Environment, and Tourism Conference which brought together more than 160 media professionals from around the globe.

The conference focused on the linkages between the environmental and tourism beats. Discussion ranged from reflections on the state of travel guidebooks to the ethics of environmental journalism to suggestions for niche publishers. Most of the discussion focused on the urgent need to improve the coverage of place.

The event was co-sponsored by Guidebook Writers.com, National Geographic Traveler, Society for Environmental Journalists and Sustainable Sources.

Active participation was limited to media professionals. The result was a frank discussion and exciting proposals for follow-up work.

Outcomes
We published a summary. Also, several essays were published during the event: Herb Hiller’s Place as a determinant of travel and Holly Quan’s , Ron Mader’s Overview of the Market and Joe Cumming’s Perceptions of the Mekong Sub-Region.

In 2002, Ron Mader presented initial findings from the MET Conference to a policy meeting hosted by Stanford University: Ecotourism and Conservation in the Americas: Putting Good Intentions to Work.

Also in 2002, South Africa’s Rhodes University published its Journalism Review which included an essay culled from the MET Conference titled The Coverage of Place.

The conference is cited in Content Analysis of the UK Travel Print Media and Responsible Tourism.

Follow-up
Follow-up work includes a dialogue on Tourism, Crisis and Improving the Conversation.

Recommendations
The MET Conference and post event dialogue developed a number of innovative proposals and recommendations:

Media should focus more on place instead of destination.

Media outlets, including newspapers and magazines, should hire travel sustainability editors.

Journalists need to create a list of questions that should be standard for a review of sustainable tourism practices.

Participants recommended Internet workshops and training for local leaders working toward environmental conservation and tourism development.

Create a synergistic network of websites dedicated to Environmental travel and establish a larger advertiser base.

Encourage local roundtable discussions around the globe which bring together stakeholders.

Participants should consider developing new publishing strategies

General Advice
Media professionals need to be honest with their readers and the places they cover.

Media coverage should not be confused with criticism or cheerleading.

Tips for Publishers
A number of writers commented on the lackluster market for guidebooks that focus specifically on nature travel and ecotourism. The evolution and demise of the “Adventures in Nature” series of guidebooks was explored in depth. When asked what the publisher could have done differently, author Richard Mahler provided a thoughtful list of suggestions.

Have the book distributed more widely in-country, particularly among lodges, outfitters, stores, eco-destinations, and travel agencies that cater specifically to likely readers/purchasers.

Make more comp copies available to journalists and publications covering the environment, ecotourism, and adventure/nature/heritage travel.

Actually donate a small percentage of book income to local environmental organizations or programs that are deemed worthy and legitimate.

Hire or train a specialist in marketing to travel agents, media outlets, travel bookstores, and others who are in a position to promote the book to those with an obvious interest.

Cover the expenses of an author who is ready and willing to do a “road show” promoting his/her new book, possibly including a slide and lecture program at bookstores, environmental forums, and so on.

Develop Web materials that will interest a potential reader/buyer of a book

QUESTIONS
We launched the MET Conference by inviting participants to reflect upon a series of questions about the linkages between media coverage, tourism and the environment:

How reliable are tourism statistics?

What definitions do journalists use for ecotourism?

What do journalists covering environmental tourism want from government offices, travel agencies and their own publishers?

How reliable are eco-related certification standards?

Do journalists have an opportunity to evaluate PR companies and/or specific campaigns?

How can journalists work together to evaluate and cross-check tourism destinations and services?

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