CABI News, Issue 2 / Sept 2007
Author Interview: Michael Lück
Hi Micha. Both of your forthcoming titles with CABI focus specifically on marine tourism, can you explain a bit about the area, and what interests you about it in particular?
Back home we say that you are either a mountain or a sea person. I have always been a sea person, although I grew up some 300 kilometers away from the coast. Both my grandparents lived at the North Sea coast, and our frequent visits triggered this interest in me. The sea is fascinating in all its facets, from the gentle beaches to rough cliffs, from sunny islands, to the open sea. As a child I was glued to the TV when Hans Haas’ and Jacques Cousteau’s documentary were screened, and I thought I want to be a marine biologist. But I was never good at biology or chemistry, and I wouldn’t have survived the first semester at university. I always loved travelling as well, and thus was happy to get into the tourism industry. Through my PhD research (and a gentle push from Mike Hall) I ended up specialising in ecotourism, and in particular marine (eco)tourism. I realised that there is still plenty of research to do, and saw it as a good opportunity to get back to my original dream of being a marine scientist. Now, I am a tourism researcher, but I work closely with marine biologists on various issues, especially the effects of tourism on the marine environment, and about the nature and values of marine tourists. My personal interest in environmental issues has widened, and now also includes the effects of, for example, large cruise ships or jet skis on marine environments, or marine mammals in captivity (i.e. marine parks).
“Ecotourism” is a term we’re hearing more and more, and the concept is still a mystery to some. What does the term mean to you?
I think the term “...a mystery to some” is somewhat of an understatement! Ecotourism is a laudable idea, but the lines between ecotourism and other forms of tourism are not always as clear cut as we would wish. That does not only apply to the ecotourism operator or activity as such, but also to the tourist. Many tourists become “ecotourists” for just a day or a couple of hours during their holidays, when booking a wildlife tour or going hiking for a day. I do believe in ecotourism, but I am also aware that not all tourism can be ecotourism. In fact, this would be a disaster for the environment. This is why I am strongly in favour of pursuing the broader concept of sustainable tourism, and see ecotourism as a driving force for this. But, places like Mallorca should endeavour for sustainability as much as an ecotourism destination such as Kaikoura in New Zealand.
The negative effects of tourism on the environment and the world’s climate have had enormous media coverage in recent years, with particular focus on the growing number of flights to popular tourist destinations. The positive impacts of tourism on local communities are sometimes bypassed. In your view, can an equilibrium be reached?
That is a difficult one. Quite honestly, I am not too sure how much of the positive impacts on the host communities that are being generated through the growing number of flights will be offset by the negative effects. The climate change issue is only part of it. Holiday destinations, such as those in the Mediterranean, experience continued growth, in particular in areas that have not traditionally been easily accessible by air, such as a number of Greek islands. Increasing tourism certainly changes a lot in these communities, both positive and negative. On the other hand, I always tell my students that we as Western tourists would like the people at the destinations to be “authentic” and unchanged, in their traditional clothes, cooking and eating their traditional food, listen to their traditional music, etc. But, who are we to tell them to stay as they are? It is easy for us to tell them to maintain their cultures and values, but don’t these people have the right to advance and develop as well? Maybe they too want to eat fast food, listen to hip hop music, and wear jeans and t-shirts. And they have the right to do so!
Transport networks in the modern world have made getting from place to place considerably simpler. Do you think that this has affected the nature of tourism as a whole, or the destinations that people choose?
Absolutely! The rapidly growing networks of no-frills/low cost airlines changes travel patterns enormously! Personally, I view this growth with great concern, and I try to avoid these carriers wherever I can. Is it really necessary that we hop over from London to Paris for a day of shopping, or to have a coffee there? Airfares now are as low as a pound or even free open air travel for a completely new market, in my opinion this is not a good development. We have already overcrowded airspaces in North America and in Europe, and cheap air travel significantly worsens this situation. When air travel becomes cheaper than travel by rail or car, then there is something wrong. Of course, there are many destinations that benefit from this trend, especially places in peripheral areas, such as Scandinavia, Iceland, Ireland and the like. Traditionally, high air fares made these places more or less accessible only for the more affluent traveller. With the cheap air fares today, these places experience a growth in tourist numbers, and subsequently in tourism revenues.
The Encyclopedia of Tourism and Recreation in Marine Environments, due to publish with us next year, is going to be a major reference work in this field of tourism. It covers a vast array of terms and theories related to tourism activities and recreations in this area. Do you involve yourself with any marine pursuits at all?
Yes, absolutely! These days not as much as I would like, but I am still keen on sea kayaking and scuba diving. When I travel to places with whale and/or dolphin watch opportunities I usually go on a trip there as well. Living in Auckland, the City of Sails, I even do have a glimpse of the water from my apartment, and I enjoy taking the ferry over to places like Devonport or Rangitoto island. I just love being close to the sea, even if it is just a backdrop when walking along a beach or having a coffee in the Viaduct basin here in Auckland.
The Encyclopedia of Tourism and Recreation in Marine Environments
edited by M Lück
CABI, March 2008
Marine Wildlife and Tourism Management explores the effects of human activity on marine wildlife – obviously in this growing industry, there could be cause for concern. What measures can be taken to prevent damage to marine wildlife populations and ecosystems?
|That is a very tricky question. Firstly, I think it is necessary to have a precautionary approach. Currently, it is often the duty of the “concerned party” – be it an environmental NGO, a scientist, or anybody else – to provide proof that certain tourism activities are detrimental to the marine environment. I agree with Lars Bejder when he demands that this needs to be shifted to the tourism provider. Only when a tourism provider can provide sound proof that their activities are not detrimental, and that the impacts are minimal and acceptable, then they should be allowed to operate in the respective area. This would require a major shift in our current thinking, but maybe this is the only hope we have if we want to sustain the marine environment and its species. Secondly, James Higham and myself decided to edit this book because we believe that currently, scientific evidence is often overlooked, and not taken seriously. Decision makers need to listen to sound academic research, and base their decisions on the results. And again, in the absence of research, a precautionary approach is necessary. To my knowledge, so far, there has been only one case where a governmental body acted quite drastically on grounds of scientific research on marine wildlife tourism, when Western Australia’s Minister of the Environment decided last year that there is sufficient evidence that two dolphin tour operators are too many for the dolphin population in Shark Bay, and thus revoked one of the two licenses. For many, this was an unpopular decision, but it was the necessary and right thing to do. We need more politicians who are brave enough to make unpopular decisions based on scientific research for the benefit of the environment.
Marine Wildlife and Tourism Management
J Higham and M Lück
CABI, Nov 2007
You’re currently organising the CMT conference in Auckland – can you tell us a bit more about the event and why it’s becoming increasingly prominent?
It has been my endeavour to bring researchers in the wide area of marine tourism closer together, and build a forum to concentrate research in marine tourism. Founded by Jan Auyong and Marc Miller in 1990, the CMT has since been held at irregular intervals. Together with Jan and Marc, and with the enthusiastic support of many colleagues around the globe, we decided to do the growing field of marine tourism justice and make the CMT a regular event. The 5th CMT here in Auckland will not just be an academic conference. We will also get together and discuss and finalise this idea and procedures. I can already tell you that the next CMT will be hosted by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, which is another fantastic location for such an event! The coming CMT here in Auckland attracted registrations from more than 100 delegates from all continents, and around 70 to 80 oral and poster presentations. Being in charge of organising such an event is an honour, and I truly enjoyed it. I believe that CMT is becoming increasingly popular due to various reasons. Firstly, there are a growing number of researchers in this area. Particularly positive to me is that there is increasingly collaboration between tourism researchers and marine scientists. Many of the delegates are in fact marine scientists, despite by name it is a tourism conference. Secondly, I believe that the location plays a role in the popularity as well. Auckland, and New Zealand as a whole, have an excellent reputation, and are a dream destination for many people. I believe that quite a large proportion of the delegates add a few days of holidays to the conference and discover more of this enchanted land. Last, but certainly not least, I believe that this CMT is quite popular due to the programme. After we posted first drafts of the programme – both the organisation by us, but also the large number of high calibre delegates – registration numbers went up almost immediately.
World Tourism Day is coming up (27th September), and this year the focus is on gender in tourism, particularly its impacts on women. The theme is “tourism opens doors for women”. Have you any experiences which have shown this to be the case?
I personally do not have experience in this area, and I am a bit divided about this statement. On one hand, I think that tourism does indeed open doors for women, but on the other hand I am not sure if that is what women want, because it often open doors just to the lower paid jobs. Particularly in the hospitality sector it is still a very tough world for women, including long working hours, difficult conditions, sexual harassment, and many more factors. Personally, I always said that I do not care too much about gender. I chose people by other values than gender. If a woman has the same qualities to do a job she should get the job. And – most importantly– she should get the same money for it as her male counterparts.
Will “gender empowerment” through tourism encourage positive growth in the developing world, do you think?
My answer to this question is similar to the previous question: I am very critical as to what kind of jobs women in the developing world get. Yes, it might be wonderful for them to have a job, be allowed to work and contribute to the family income, but at what cost? Often they get tough and tedious jobs, that are low paid, and have poor working conditions. I am not sure if that is the right development. But, it might change some traditional values and attitudes in these countries, which is certainly beneficial to these women and their communities as a whole.
How did you first become involved in tourism?
I remember that day very clearly: I was about 14 years old and was on an evening stroll in the city with my parents. We passed by a travel agency, and I said “I want to become a travel agent!” I stuck to that idea, and started working at one of Germany’s largest package tour operators after finishing school. After another couple of years with them, I went to university to study economics with a major in tourism. I was self employed with my own travel agency, and started teaching at university on a casual basis only four months after my undergraduate degree. I loved it and my professor encouraged me to do a PhD and stay in teaching, which I happily did. I feel blessed that I was always able to do what I wanted to do. I love working in the tourism field, and there is nothing I would want to do more.
Working in New Zealand you must be surrounded by outstanding tourism destinations! However, if you had to pick one place in the world as your favourite, where would it be and why?
Well, being German and having worked in Germany, Belize, New Zealand, Scotland and Canada, coming back to New Zealand was a conscious choice. As much as I love most places on this planet – each has its charm – New Zealand to me is the place to be. The geographic isolation can sometimes be a bit of a pain, but it has many advantages as well. I love how Kiwis stand up to their beliefs, and are not intimidated by the mighty USA. I like the casual Kiwi attitude and their love for the outdoors. And I found my partner here, which is obviously helping to make this place very special. If you ask me for a specific place within New Zealand, I have two favourite spots: Lake Tekapo in the Southern Alps, and Sandfly Bay on the Otago Peninsula. Whenever I am at either of these places I feel incredibly happy. The view at Lake Tekapo is breath taking, and Sandfly Bay is sheer beauty, especially in the evening when the Yellow Eyed penguins come to shore.