Technological advancements and artificial intelligence can be a threat to tourism and hospitality

During the Tourism and Hospitality Educators Forum in Sydney on 11 December 2017, Dennis Foster, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) expert and colleague in tourism research presented a challenging and thought-provoking piece on the potentially catastrophic vulnerabilities of a civilization becoming increasingly overreliant on technology year by year. I found Dr. Foster´s thoughts on tourism and the Internet of Things (IoT) extraordinarily perceptive and well worth considering in terms of futures and risks in our field.

 “As civilization becomes increasingly reliant on technological advancements and artificial intelligence, the illusion that “everything is fine” in tourism and hospitality is inexorably approaching an irreversible and potentially catastrophic event horizon.

Tourism, owing to its ease of access, has long been the target of violence perpetrated by terrorists, nihilists, criminals, and mentally deranged individuals. In addition, earthquakes, cyclones, volcanic eruptions, and other adverse natural phenomena have posed threats to travel and travellers since ancient times. The internet and social media have made global awareness of such attacks near-instantaneous. Now, cybernetic attacks loom large on the horizon.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the latest pop-science fad, describing devices of all kinds connected to the internet, from refrigerators and washing machines to light bulbs, autonomous cars, and even rubber ducks. IoT devices rely on the internet to relay commands from the user’s smartphone, or from the device itself, to a network server, which in turn activates the connected thermostat, light bulb, garage door opener, or rubber duck. For example, an AI-empowered refrigerator, upon detecting a shortage of milk or eggs, might send the relevant information by email to the nearest grocery store. In 2014, a hacked smart refrigerator sent unsolicited messages to routers, multimedia centers, smart TVs and other smart refrigerators. From December 23 to January 6, email messages were sent three times per day in batches of 100,000 in the first Internet of Things cyberattack. Such attacks have since become commonplace. To illustrate the gravity of the risk, a virus called Stuxnet was able to decommission uranium enrichment centrifuges with ease.

Internet of Things

Virtually every industrialized nation is vulnerable to a “cyber Pearl Harbor” in which trains can be derailed, water supplies poisoned, and power grids crippled. It has been demonstrated with much publicity that any car or truck with an internet connection can be hacked by means of almost any WiFi-equipped device. An ominous threat is posed by drones with WiFi connections, capable of hacking and taking control of virtually any device, or infecting it with a cybervirus. Security researchers have revealed that medical devices, such as an insulin pump, can be hacked and the attacker can alter the dosage and schedule of the insulin release. 

It has been predicted that, by 2020, 25 billion devices will be connected to the internet, and by 2025, a trillion. Already, there are 4.9 billion devices in the IoT, including smart home-automation devices, consumer products such as smart watches and health monitors, vehicles, and smart infrastructure used in buildings and cities. Unfortunately, virtually any device that can be connected to the internet is vulnerable.

 Security researchers Runa Sandvik and Michael Auger discovered that a computer-controlled sniper rifle is vulnerable to cyberattack via its WiFi connections. The scope’s calculations can be altered so that the shooter misses the target or shoots a different target. Software intruders can also disable the scope’s computer or even prevent the weapon from firing. The shooter would not even be aware that the rifle had been hacked.

 It has been established by security specialists that, by hacking a kitchen appliance, a hacker could penetrate an entire hotel, including its thermostats, garage door openers, automobiles, and offices. The hacker would then be able to attack the hotel chain and its bank and, thereby, the entire international banking system. It has been demonstrated repeatedly that an airplane in flight can be commandeered or sabotaged via its internet connections.

On a global level, the Internet of Things itself is threatened by the vulnerability of power grids to solar storms. The most powerful solar storms send coronal mass ejections (CMEs), containing charged particles, into space. If the earth happens to be in a CME’s path, the charged particles are capable of disrupting satellites in orbit—or even causing them to fail—as well as disrupting telecommunications and navigation systems of high-flying aircraft. They have the potential to affect power grids, and have been known to black out entire cities, even entire regions. 

Tourism and hospitality are especially susceptible to threats emanating from the Internet of Things. From reservation systems and databases to airplanes, trains, and automobiles, the risk of cyberattacks is no longer theoretical. Global Distribution Systems, hotel data systems, and airline operations both on the ground and in the air are attacked on a daily basis. Local and global airline disruptions, hotel chain piracy, and cybervirus penetration have become commonplace. Over one billion credit card accounts have been stolen from hospitality companies alone.

In the popular vernacular, the Internet of Things is widely acclaimed as “The Next Big Thing.” As civilization becomes increasingly reliant on connective technologies, tourism, inexorably, will be “The Next Big Target.” It is the nature of profit-based enterprises, including technology companies, to “race to the bottom,” maximizing profits by minimizing costs. Conspicuously, the cost of designing and incorporating security safeguards against hacker attacks, sabotage, terrorism, and other inevitable hazards are routinely omitted in the design, engineering, and manufacturing of devices based on artificial intelligence.

Technology-related job losses in industrialized countries, unless mitigated by governments and employers, will result in extreme wealth inequality, spurring increased social upheaval, mass migration, crime, and civil unrest. Increased dependence on technology will make civilization as a whole vulnerable to sudden collapse as a result of numerous causes, including sabotage, depletion of available resources, and adverse natural phenomena such as solar storms and climate events.

Thinking-machine chaos may already be inevitable. Most likely it will occur not as a sudden explosion of out-of-control autonomous devices, but as a phenomenon that makes its way into everyday life, much in the same methodical way that natural disasters resulting from climate change have now become commonplace. T. S. Elliot mused that the world will end “not with a bang but a whimper.” Though over-reliance on emergent technologies may not end the world, it will unavoidably complicate and challenge human existence.”  

I will say at a simpler level, I have recently been concerned about the particular issue of how tourism and hospitality scholars seem so little concerned with the ways technologies may undermine the nature of our work (e.g. robots offering hospitality and tour guiding) and undermine the future job prospects of our students.  There is little doubt that AI and robotisation (whichever term you prefer) have long impacted significantly on work and employment in tourism and hospitality and will continue to do so. That is not necessarily a bad thing because some (much?) of this work is challenged to meet even the basic criteria of the ILO’s notion of decent work, especially in economically developed contexts such as Australia or the UK. When engaging in this debate, I am always drawn to George Orwell and his thoughts, published in the 1930s, about the work of the restaurant pot washer in Paris:

“The question I am raising is why this life goes on – what purpose it serves, and who wants it to continue, and why I am not taking a more rebellious attitude. I am trying to consider the social significance of the plongeur’s life. I think I should start by saying that the plongeur is one of the slaves of the modern world … he is no freer than if he were bought and sold. His work is servile and without art; he is paid just enough to keep him alive; his only holiday is the sack.”

There has to be  very good argument that we should be welcoming the robot as an alternative to this kind of work in hospitality – and, believe me, this sort of menial employment is by no means extinct today. At the same time, thousands, millions, of lives depend on the this kind of work to put rice and bread on the table so eliminating it will undoubtedly have a huge social impact.

The argument can never be seen exclusively in technological or, indeed, social terms. It is one that feeds into a multitude of debates about work but also about modern society. In pre-Brexit Britain, it is right up there as a political debating point as a ‘solution’ in relation to the potential absence of migrant workers for  hotels, restaurants and, indeed, fruit farms. It links into discussion about employment issues in the modern city (in both the global North and South) in relation to gentrification, affordable housing and transport – see articles written on the place of ‘ordinary people’ in technologically advanced and creative cities. Of course, from the perspective of the academic researcher, such conundra are what make this area so fascinating (I would argue, the most fascinating) as an area of debate in tourism. The reality that we are challenged to find meaningful answers to the issues that they raise should not allow us to shy away from discussion of them.

Voltaire wrote, “Everything is fine today: That is our illusion”, I hope and wish that the future of hospitality & tourism in the wake of technological advancements and artificial intelligence becomes the ‘hot’ research topic to be debated this year and beyond, particularly implications on work and employment. I have also cautioned myself to note that perhaps some of our colleagues are researching these things at the cutting edge and we are awaiting the outputs (recognising the long timelines for publications and other outputs).

Publish or Perish mantra in the tourism field: Key issues in an age of information war and alternative facts

Recently, I  read three very interesting articles in a newsletter received from The Source – run by Cabells: a) The role of predatory journals in an age of ‘information war’ b) the process of peer review including news on Elsevier’s moves in this direction, and c) the value of ‘B’ journals. While I would suggest you look at them, allow me to make a few comments which I believe may be of great interest to those who are doing research, editorial work, teaching, learning or overseeing scientific writing and writing skills.

As a scholar in a world full of falsifications, alternative facts, fake news (no reference to Donald J. Trump´s assertions) and even fake research, it bothers me greatly that facts don’t count anymore. How do I teach my students to write when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a claim grounded in fact? How do we guarantee quality in knowledge creation and dissemination?  First, our undergraduate and postgraduate programs need to make information literacy and writing skills a cornerstone of the curriculum. As put by Peter Wayne Moe, an assistant professor of English and director of campus writing at Seattle Pacific University, “Students need to learn the difference between Google and a library database, between BuzzFeed and Politico, between a blog and fact-checked reporting. Whatever our students are reading, we must couch that reading within larger discussions of information literacy” (See full article ¨Teaching writing in a post-truth era¨ published by The Seatlle Times).

A recent report prepared by researchers at Stanford shows that that 80 percent of middle-school students cannot distinguish between real and fake news and are clueless as to what “sponsored content” means on a news website. The problem of information literacy is not exceptional, it reaches beyond the middle school and is part of a wider global problem in our institutions of higer education – the tendency to disregard quality of publications in favour of quantity. There are institutions where academics are encouraged (indirectly) to publish as much as possible, regardless of the quality of the outlet, due to the mad rush for points (which, basically, determine how much money the government allocates to the institution). I may be wrong on this point, but most fields of research emphasize quality over quantity, when it comes to getting postdocs and competitive research positions. This does not mean quantity is irrelevant, but we have to acknowledge that ones growth as an academic in most of the respected instititutions of higher education is mainly based on his or her promise as a researcher. To that end, I have a small advise for grad and postdoc students: One truly excellent paper may be enough to land you an excellent faculty position (along with good references), because it suggests you have the potential to produce more excellent papers. On the other hand, 10 truly mediocre papers may actually reduce your chances of geting such opportunity.

Publish or perish

Image source: Institute of Infection and Global Health (IGH), University of Liverpool, 2016

The writing and publication quagmire in tourism research seems to be a generational issue, articles written by the older generation (when they were young scholars) covered implicit debates about serious research issues in tourism, these authors are currently senior and well-published gurus whose research work is recognized at an international level. They include, Dimitrios Buhalis, Richard Butler, Nelson Graburn, Brian King, Chris Ryan, David Airey, Larry Dwyer, Jafar Jafari, Sara Dolnicar, Pauline Sheldon, Geoffrey Crouch, David Simmons, Bob McKercher, Christian Laesser, Tom Baum among others. I review for one of the top tourism research journals and I can authoritatively argue that articles submited for publication by the current generation of young scholars are shallow in all aspects, most of the ideas and arguments presented are idiosyncratic, under-referenced and generally not well-organized.

Unfortunately, chances of learning from past writing mistakes are limited, why? Because new authors have no access to review comments related to published articles. At various conferences, Prof. Chris Ryan, the Editor of Tourism Management has been proposing that in our field there should be a willingness to publish data sets to accompany articles, and this suggestion has generally met resistance  for understood, but I think misplaced, reasons. One concern is that others will purloin the data in order to  gain publications in this ‘publish or perish’ age. My own view is that we do research to disseminate findings and knowledge, and if others find things that the original authors omitted, then good on them. And if they fail to acknowledge the original authors then in this age of the internet they will be quickly found out. Of course there are some considerations or ethical issues to think about in the case of qualitative research when republishing a data set, especially, where the data may consist of interview transcripts. Ethics approval in some Universities require the transcripts to be stored securely and only accessed by the research team and the person who provided the interview; publishing them online would need to be factored into the ethics approval process. Probably, the underlying concern is that a complete transcript, even where de-identified, might suggest the identity of the interviewee, whereas individual quotes or vignettes taken out of context make it less likely that this would occur.

Some colleagues in tourism research (minority) find the particular idea of publishing review comments interesting, they wouldn’t mind it as long as their identity remained anonymous. According to them, it may help readers to see the evolution of an article and the common mistakes in preparing a manuscript. Additionally, reviewers may be more measured in how they approach a review. However, the majority, think it is a bad idea. In one particular opinion, it was questioned whether people would  actualy read reviews – given the amount of reading we are all doing and the things we are juggling, the argument is that someone would rather spend that time reading another journal article. To demosntrate the level of disagreement o the issue, another colleague had the following to say:

I have refereed for a journal where the referees and reports were transparent – it did not make too much difference, I do have my doubts about the openness generally – it would mean that writing a review would take more time if you knew it was going to be made public or shared, simply because you would write it in a more scholarly fashion rather than say bullet points.  That would mean turning it into more of a discussion/comment on the article. We do not have time for that and so I would probably not be prepared to review for a journal that wanted to publish reviews.

If you read the following example of a review report, that I recently wrote for an article submited to Tourism Management Perspectives, you will understand why I am now asking this question – would the community involved in tourism research welcome the publication of the referees’ reviews along with the actual article?

General comments: I think the subject matter of the paper is of great importance, the topic is of interest and relevance to tourism research. The objective of the study is clearly stated, however, I think that the methodology chosen is not adequate; some paragraphs are not well written, see page 2 for example…. The objective is to manage the impacts (economic, social or environmental) in such a way that the attraction will be sustained and available for future generations to enjoy it in the same manner as the present. I don´t think that this content is sufficient to  be considered a substantial contribution in its current form, the authors must work on gramatical and theoretical rigour before resubmitting for publication. The concept of tourism sustainability is well researched, however literature in the present article is inadequate and outdated (most of the sources are from 10 to over 20 years!), this is a hot area of research and one that needs to be constantly updated. Literature review is inadequate. For a stronger theoretical foundation, I suggest that you look at sustainable tourism indicators proposed by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), available at The results section is well presented, it contains a number of assertions which detracts from an understanding of the results of this study versus others. Can these be organized and elaborated in a better manner.

Theoretical Foundation: I also think that the theoretical contribution of the study is very limited. The goal of any kind of research is to contribute to the existing body of knowledge or simply put- theory development. It is unclear how the findings of this study bring theory forward. Nothing is suggested for future research. It is only stated that…. data will be useful to other researchers who want to compare their data to determine the environmental performance of the case studies they investigate….It is unclear how the findings can be empirically tested in future research. The introduction lacks focus and direction, the literature review is short and doesn’t clearly and systematically unpack and orientate key ideas in a focused manner towards the research agenda and methods. I suggest the formulation of a strong and pertinent theoretical framework that provides the necessary foundation on which to base and ground the findings of the study.

Methods: The methods section is not detailed, what is the meaning of this statement… The main research design for the study is a secondary data analysis. .. Again, the methodology doesn’t reference any similar, or broadly relevant, studies. Do not make the wording so complicated that the reader doesn’t understand what you are trying to say.

Analysis and Results: The analysis and findings are clear and well presented. How do your results compare with those from other studies? This section needs more careful construction. Sentence improvements are necessary. The simpler language you use here the better. The results need better link with the literature, unless we see how the present results compare with results from previous studies, the research does not achieve the objective of knowledge contribution.

Conclusion: Overal, I think that the conclusion is very brief and rather limited by what has gone before. This is a very rich topic – think about what your study really means and what you found out – and how you found it out. And, why it is important. Where does this work fit into the existing body of knowledge. Additionally, limitations and directions for future research need to be explicitly discussed. I do hope this helps the author. I think that this is a very worthwhile subject area and with more work would result in a vastly improved paper. I encourage you to continue working on it.

Tourism Management, a leading journal in our field made a similar move a few years ago to disseminate back to reviewers the reviews of others as part of the review process and the world did not collapse. Arguably it may have improved the review process at least a little, because reviewers appreciate receiving comments made by their colleagues and find it instructive to see different approaches in reviewing the same article. Can we achieve further gains if referee comments become publishable? If you favour this, how important to you would be the right to remain anonymous as a referee? Would you still be willing to act as a referee if you knew your review might be published?

Review considerations, ethics issues and successful cientific writing Hints

I have commented on the lack of writing and information-filtering skills before in this article, but I reckon it really is time for undergraduate – and perhaps graduate – tourism programmes to require a writing and research paper – even a short course, if not a full semester or trimester before.  Some reasons? (a) Increasing number of pleas by editors and reviewers for correct referencing (b) To make students aware that there are several different referencing/citation forms and that they need to be aware of the differences (c) To introduce ethics into the study of tourism – which includes, accurate and non-plagiarising referencing; an appreciation of applicable privacy laws (as well as university ethics requirements), ethical issues applicable to field research, etc. (d) To learn how to research – and filter information. We can’t expect newly rising graduates to know “how to” and to appreciate the full ramifications without training them, and training them would benefit both them and the publishers of their future works. I spend some time with colleagues in law and legal publishing, and referencing to them is not the issue that it is in tourism (and other social sciences) today. I can highlight the reason: in law school (at least in the US and many law schools outside the US), legal writing and research is a required subject, additionally, there is one accepted legal citation form – with no variations permitted, so, you either get it right or wrong. In my experience as a journal reviewer and – I may get flamed for it, I think pure laziness of the current generation of grad students and early career researchers is the main reason for low quality articles submited for publication, they simply don’t pay attention to specific details and formalities, from proper referencing to formatting, and everything in between. My plea to young academics out there, please, read author guidelines carefully when submitting manuscripts to journals, I am convinced that a large number of you fail to recognise the convention that on menus marked with a plus sign, if you place the cursor over the plus sign, that enables a further drop down menu to occur!

Another review challenge has to do with proper referencing, there are significant numbers of people who fall into what we might call the “Napster and BitTorrent generation” as well as those who identify as libertarians of the “anarcho-capitalist” variety, who essentially dismiss the entire concept of intellectual property. Thus, once something is online, it’s in the public domain and up for grabs. It’s not that they don’t understand the concept of stealing, it’s that they honestly don’t believe it to be theft when applied to ideas rather than things. Similarly, we have students copying from wikipedia, not because they’re trying to cheat but because they actually think it’s OK and that it belongs to them (and everybody else). The logic is severely flawed (as with much Austrian Economics) – but it has also been swallowed whole by, amongst others, the segment of the generation of college students who rallied for Ron Paul a couple of US Presidential elections ago. It doesn’t defy belief or explanation, however much we disagree with it – it’s very much a recognizable phenomenon and disappointingly explainable. So, if you fall into this category of crooked authors, remember the following caveat every time you are tempted to plagiarize: All papers submitted these days to leading journals are initially checked with anti-plagiarism software. Many students cut and paste text and think that giving author and year of publication is sufficient. It is NOT! You must use quotation marks and provide the page number if replicating the original text. It is not that difficult to get right! And it saves time for you and hassle for editors and reviewers! Often, editors have had to write the following type of responses to authors or even set up a standard reply letter on their editorial system:

“As you know, manuscripts submitted to the journal are checked by plagiarism software, and currently your score exceeds that we normally accept. This is primarily due to incorrect referencing. For example, you state:

So, customer satisfaction is a business philosophy that highlights the importance of creating value for customers, anticipating and managing their expectations, and demonstrating the ability and responsibility to satisfy their needs (Dominici & Guzzo, 2010).

In this sentence much of the text is a cut and paste from the cited article. Therefore it needs to be in quotation marks and the page reference also given.

Can you please go through your text and make the necessary changes”

This is time consuming on the part of reviewers and editors, causes delays in the processing of manuscripts – and to be honest, I feel that editors and reviewers shouldn’t be wasting their time on this kind of work. In short – simply citing authors and years of publication is NOT enough if you are replicating the original text. So, I am asking that authors do check for this before submitting papers as I suspect that I am not the only one being exasperated by this practice of incomplete referencing.


Image source: Tendai Mupaso, TechZim, 2015.

Equally, I must admit that sometimes, it is dificult to distinguish between proper and improper referencing because of the grey zones in plagiarism. Often, editors are faced with the dilema of deciding whether to turn back papers that have certain problematic areas as shown in similarity reports generated by plagiarism detection software like iThenticate and Turnitin for student papers. Recognizing that different journals and institutions treat this topic differently, I posed the following questions to colleagues in an online forum. What are your policies in terms of the percentage of similarity accepted? Do you have different percentages for self-plagiarism? Is this a strict cut-off point or do you take any other factors into consideration? The answers and experiences were varied.

In one of the responses, a colleague recounts a small problem/ experience he ran into recently – one of his PhD students submitted an article to a journal and he got into trouble because the PhD dissertation was available online, the editor of the journal considered it as a case of auto-plagiarism and according to him, the work was already published. What followed was an interesting email dialogue between the student, his University and the journal about how PhDs in New Zealand (and elsewhere) were made available online, but not usually published as books as they are in Europe. The approach adopted by the journal would mean very few New Zealand PhD students would be able to publish from their theses. In a similar experience, a students had his thesis plagiarized by someone else who attempted to defend himself by noting that, because the University of Waterloo puts all theses and dissertation on-line, that constituted publishing and that it was okay for him to copy substantial portions of the original thesis and present it as his own work in a journal article, however, the logic in this last case defies belief or explanation. The problem of plagiarism is a shared responsibility between the authors and in most cases, students and their supervisor, look at the following example: a research student submits a paper with his supervisor as the second author – but the supervisor is not aware of the level of inappropriate/appropriated text – such circumstances tend to be sorted out quite quickly once the senior member of staff is made aware of the situation. My point is that all authors should know the source of every single paragraph in the article and feel comfortable with the text, it is now practice for most journals to write to all authors simultaneously and not jut a corresponding author.

It is interesting to know how major tourism journals and research communities handle ethics issues and the grey zones of plagiarism. The Academy of Management has a formal written Code of Ethics (available online) and this is what their journal editors generally do; they utilize CrossCheck powered by iThenticate for all submissions.  A 30% or lower similarity index across journals is generally used but some journals, notably AMJ utilizes a 20% similarity index threshold.  AMLE utilizes 30% but realistically anything between 20-30% similarity will be flagged.  When an article is flagged the editor will start by reviewing the methods section carefully as it is possible that the overlap is entirely due to the methods as there are only so many ways to write up some parts of that section of a paper.  In general an 18% similarity is low enough to proceed with a review of the submitted manuscripts.  However would that perception of low similarity hold in a case of self-plagiarism?  Each case is reviewed on its own merits as different ethics issues require different interpretations.

The International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management (IJCHM) has been using iThenticate software for the past five years to check all accepted manuscripts before publishing them and it has indeed helped tremendously to reduce cases of plagarism. iThenticate has has its own settings that can be adjusted, so for example, references and direct quotes can be excluded and also, the editor can decide how many words should match. Sometimes running a word document versus a pdf version of the same article may change the similarity index, so IJCHM prefers using the word documents to look at the similarity index and usually excluding references. Their decision on similarity levels dependes on different circumstances and they find it misleading to say a 20% similarity is acceptable and a 50% similarity is too high. Argument? An article with a 20% similarity may have a 10% or 15% similarity with one single source, which can be a major concern. On the other hand, in the case of 50% similarity, the highest similarity to any source/reference may be less than 1% or 2%, which may eventually be okay. In terms of self plagiarism, authors are often trying to publish multiple articles from one dataset. In such cases, some parts of methodology and literature review sections are identical or similar. IJCHM generally requests their authors to reduce the similarity to any single source to 1%. Authors are equally ecouraged to use Turnitin software to check their articles before submitting them, one major challenge is that the software saves and keeps all uploaded documents, which creates major problems when the same documents are run through iThenticate. Conference proceedings and PhD dissertations are sometimes published online, so articles coming from the above mentioned documents can have high similarity index. In such cases, the journal editor has to make a decision. In short, each case is different for articles submitted to the IJCHM. Finally, the journal uploads manually all accepted articles to iTheticate, spends several hours to read reports and communicate with the authors. This may be time consuming for a busy editor, but it is a norm at IJCHM.

At Tourism Management (TM), they have a lower tolerance figure of 15% – but that is usually a signal to the editor to check the actual manuscript – there is no blind adherence to any given number.  Often, the editor will write back to the authors asking for correct citation formats to be used – which is often little more than the addition of inverted commas and a page number to be given in addition to author and year.  Again – each case is different for this journal.

In conclusión, I wish to offer some free advise to all authors (both old and new generation), be careful and honest when writting, don´t take the lazy route and plagiarize. Often we’re confronted with people who are brilliant, absolutely incredible researchers, but that’s not what makes them great scientists. It’s the character. Before embarking on the rigorous task of writing, make a plan and read the previous literature published in your area of study. During the writting and review process: make sure you include all key article components, respect previous publications and apply correct referencing of statements, do not overestimate your contribution, avoid ambiguity and inconsistency, prefer objective over subjective statements, give great care to grammar, spelling, figures and tables and generally, follow author guidelines, as well as, editor and reviewer comments. In 2016, the International Academy for the Study of Tourism developed a set of guidelines, hints and suggestions on what authors need to consider and common mistakes to avoid when preparing a manuscript (see the Academy´s website: This set of suggestions represents the collective thoughts of fellows who are chief editors of leading journals in our field and it is a handy/useful source for academics and doctoral students alike when drafting papers. You may also find George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” interesting.

Authored by Kennedy Obombo Magio, CONACYT Research Fellow, Tourism and Sustainability Studies in the Mexican Caribbean, Technological Institute of Cancún (México)

The politics of tourism: How Donald Trump´s immigration policy may affect global tourism

Tourism is as much a political terrain as a cultural practice, the link between politics and tourism dates back to the 1960’s, it is a complex and multi-faceted relationship with economic, cultural, social and ecological implications, and a subject which is assuming a higher priority in the research literature.  The activity has been promoted as a route to economic development for poor nations and wielded as an instrument of political leverage between nations – as the U.S. embargo against travel to Cuba or the easing of tourist-visa requirements between Russia and Brazil demonstrate. As a cultural practice, global tourism has been imagined as a bridge between cultures and as a form of public diplomacy, with the tourist’s passport emblematic of the complex relationship between politics and culture. Taylor and Francis (2015) suggested that tourism along with its obvious international economic impact transcends governmental boundaries by bringing people from different cultures together through the understanding of different cultures, environment and heritage. It has become one of the most important vehicles for promoting understanding, trust and goodwill among people all over the world.

Political and economic decisions made by different governments directly or indirectly affect global tourism. Fracking and tourism constitutes a subject of great importance and one that needs much research attention, especially in consideration of the bigger issue of fossil fuel dependence; consider what happened in Canada to Lac-Mégantic, a wonderful tourist attraction in the past, destroyed by a rail disaster involving an unattended 74-car freight train carrying Bakken Formation crude oil. One may want to consider other issues such as the huge water loss that fracking demands, pollution of underwater aquafers and reserves, potential increase in earthquakes and failure to use energy sources that are kinder to the earth enviroment than oil with the impact on climate change that petroleum use is having along with other causes. Another area not considered often on this list is the battle waged world wide between oil producers and their allies on the one hand, including the Cato Institute, and cities and regions on the other hand to create electricity powered local light rail transit which is happening in more and more cities. Rail lines have opened recently in Tuscon, Arizona, Washington D.C., the Gold Coast in Australia and one is being built after a very long political war in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Through reduced use of both cars and buses these commuter and tourist attraction lines will have a positve environmental effect.

Research has demostrated that diplomatic relations between countries affect global tourism and few examples are more clear in regards to the overlap of tourism and politics than the the U.S. embargo against travel to Cuba. Limiting travel by Americans has been a central aspect of the unilateral embargo of Cuba by the United States. Different Administrations have narrowed and broadened the channel depending entirely on political considerations. President Obama opened the door completely to Cuban Americans but only partially lifted bizarre bureaucratic limits for the rest of the Americans. Unless Congress changes the law, Obama cannot permit completely sun and sand all inclusive tour packages, but he does have authority to extend the general (not applied for) license to all purposeful travelers, e.g. people to people, cultural exchange, high schools, sports, conferences, etc.   That would allow Americans to join Canadians, Europeans, etc., organizing their own programs and staying in privately owned bed and breakfasts, using public transportation, and renting cars (offering rides to ubiquitous hitch hikers), instead of being forced by the US government to join group tours organized by Cuban government related companies. Cuban American hard liners object to the additional income that would be gained by the State from more U.S. visitors.  However, it is likely that their real fear is of what actually happens as a result of human contact.  Regardless of what researchers say and the general public opinion about Cuba’s political and economic system, most Americans visit the country and go back home convinced that the lack of normal diplomatic and economic relations is a dumb policy and hurts both nations.

There is a lot affecting the tourism market overseas right now, from terrorism, the refugee crisis, to political instability in the southern Mediterranean, to the Zika virus, to the strength of the dollar in America. But many tourism practitioners are concerned about the effect one Donald J. Trump on travel. It is no secret at this point that Donald will be the Republican nominee in the United States presidential elections of 2016. The real estate mogul and ¨politician¨ is not your ordinary presidential candidate, his radical foreign policy proposals have earned him admirers and foes in equal measure, he has been lambasted not only by Democrats, but also fellow Republicans. Former Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney cast him as “very, very not-smart” in his comments about allowing ISIS to take out Syria’s leadership and for proposing the slaughter of the families of terrorists; according to him, Mr. Trump is taking advantage of the American public´s anger and directing it for less-than-noble purposes. “He creates scapegoats in Muslims and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture. He calls for the killing of innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protestors,” he said, adding that Trump would be a bad president for the world.

Diplomacy 2

Frank Luntz, a veteran pollster and political consultant who has worked with Republican politicians including Pat Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and George W. Bush said the following of Trump and his quest to be America´s next president “Donald Trump continues to defy the modern laws of political gravity. He stokes just as much fear as hope. On close examination, he doesn’t have a positive message, other than the vacuous injunction to -Make America Great Again. His performance, while rambunctious, is rambling. He incessantly talks political process rather than policy. When he says, -I could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue today…and not lose votes-, his audience only hears an authentic straight-shooter telling it like it is. He flouts his wealth – rather than run from it as most billionaires do – to raucous applause among lower-wage crowds”, (Full article published in The Telegraph, 5th of May, 2016).

Without attempting to judge Trump´s “political correctness”, the present article will look at the implication of his foreign policy proposals touching on immigration.  Trump plans to construct a $5-10 billion Wall on U.S.’s southern border and use a federal anti-terrorism surveillance law as a tool to force México to pay for it. This immigration plan relies largely on threatening to bar undocumented Mexican immigrants in the United States from wiring money to relatives in México. Using a broad interpretation of the post-9/11 USA Patriot Act, Trump would threaten to issue new regulations that would compel money transfer companies like Western Union to verify a client’s identity and legal status before authorizing a wire transfer. Trumps immigration plan, does not recognise the delicate relationship between political borders and global tourism, understanding this relationship requires a  detailed  understanding  of  the  concept  of  borders  and  their  various  different shapes, functions and scales. But most relevant within the context of tourism research is to understand that all political borders are human creations that through their form and type are not only able, but specifically designed to indicate the relationship a nation-state has with its neighbours. It could be argued that the less  visible  and  enforced  a  borderline,  the  friendlier  the  relationship,making  the existence of co-operation across borders more likely. He equaly needs to understand that tourism activities between the two countries depend on goodwill and co-operation, for tourism to prosper, host destinations must willingly welcome the tourists. Trumps plan is likely to create animosity between the two countries, if American tourists do not feel welcome in México, they will not go there (tourists from the USA account for 55% of international tourist arrivals in México). Certainly,   the   most   important and   most   difficult   aspect   of   cross-border   co-operation in general, with regard to the tourism industry, relates to policies and political issues, this is not easily achieved and is often accompanied by mutual suspicion and the desire to increase one’s own share over that of the neighbour. It is important to bring local, regional and national policies into a coherent line, in order to create an immigration policy capable of capturing the desired economic benefits of a prospering tourism industry and to avoid negative threats and implications. However, immigration and tourism policies, at least as far as border regions are concerned, also have to be compatible with policies that have been created on the other side of the border and need to consider national interests that might differ tremendously between neighbouring nations.

In another immigration policy proposal, Trump plans to ¨temporarily¨ disallow all Muslims from entering the United States in addition to surveillance against mosques and the establishment of a database for all Muslims living in the U.S. This plan will potentialy lock out muslim tourists and  generaly scare foreign tourists away from the USA. An article: Could a Donald Trump victory scare foreign tourists away from Florida and the U.S.? Written by Justine Griffin (a Times staff writer) and published in Tampa Bay Times, states that tourism officials in Florida and across the nation are fretting that a Trump presidency — and even the rhetoric coming from Trump on the campaign trail — could put a dent in tourism that is breaking records all over the nation. According to the author, charter tours and travel booking companies say some tourists from Europe and Latin America — two big markets for Florida and Tampa Bay — have said they will vacation elsewhere if Trump is elected because they loathe his anti-immigrant policies and think he stokes an atmosphere of racial profiling and distrust of foreigners. Pundits agree that after 9/11, America adopted a fortress mentality, and it was a very unwelcoming experience to visitors. That hurt tourism and created a lot of lost years. In a direct quote from the aforementioned article, Muhannad Alabbassi, from the small island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf in the Middle East, worries that if Trump is elected, it will affect his plans to study in the United States. “After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, my family did cancel their plans to work and possibly live in the U.S. mainly due to concerns over hate crimes and racial profiling,” said Alabbassi, 24. “Now they are reluctant about going to North America and Europe for the same reason, this time because of ISIL and the migrant crisis. There’s no doubt their reaction would be the same if Donald Trump gets elected and starts an open discrimination campaign against Muslims.”

Another experience mentioned in the article is that of Iris Köpke, a journalist in Germany, who said that Germans are very interested in what’s happening in American politics, the U.S. presidential election is covered in major newspapers and television news channels every day. “The fact that Donald Trump is being quite successful surprises many people and also sparks interest in the election, but mostly in a negative way,” added Köpke, who is the editor-in-chief of the German travel trade magazine Luxusinsider. “I vividly remember people saying that they won’t travel to the U.S. as long as George W. Bush is president because they didn’t like his attitude. That totally disappeared with Obama, who is rather popular in Germany compared to Bush. I think a president called Trump might bring out those old resentments once again.”

I will conclude by saying that tourism is now one of the biggest industries in the world and has become extremely important to the World´s economy. However despite the size, it is a very volatile industry. There are a number of factors that can have an influence on peoples travel decisions including political decisions, the threat of terrorism, civil/world wars, and natural disasters. I therefore invite Donald Trump to review his foreign policy proposals touching on immigration to avert any potential negative impact on global tourism, just in case he becomes the president of United States later this year.


The transformative power of tourism: a paradigm shift towards a more responsible traveller

Recently, I co-authored an article in the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Affiliate Members Global Report titled: The transformative power of tourism: a paradigm shift towards a more responsible traveller (see page 97 of the report available at: The report which was jointly published in February, 2016 by UNWTO and the Institute for Tourism in Zagreb, Croatia illustrates with real-life initiatives the great potential of transformative tourism in contributing to development. Tourism has exhibited continued growth and deepening diversification over the recent years to become one of the fastest growing sectors in the world (Over one billion international tourists travelled the world in 2014, supporting jobs, generating income and boosting development. International tourism currently accounts for 10% of global GDP, 30% of services exports and 1 in every 11 jobs).

Global Report

Continue reading “The transformative power of tourism: a paradigm shift towards a more responsible traveller”

Welcome to my new Tourism Research Blog!

Welcome to my new Tourism Research Blog and thank you for visiting the site. If you checked out the “About Me.” page then you know my name is Kennedy O. Magio. I wanted to welcome you and let you know that I appreciate the fact that you have taken time out of your busy day to look at my blog! Thanks again.

Well, I am excited about using this communications tool and hope it will increase my interaction with tourism scholars, students and the general public. The blog is intended to serve as a vehicle for sharing tourism research findings and most importantly, it gives me an opportunity to hear from you. Areas of interest include, but are not limited to: Sustainability, Politics, Local Development, Global Issues and Trends.

This blog is a place for constructive dialogue and information exchange between us (the academic community and the general public), so, I hope you will actively participate! I will be posting regularly on the blog, addressing a variety of topics and hope you will comment on my posts and on the comments of others. Please remember that this is a moderated blog, there are are simple guidelines that we must follow to ensure that everybody is fairly heard. For instance, comments cannot contain vulgar, obscene, offensive or abusive language or personal attacks of any kind. Additionaly, comments cannot promote commercial services or products or political candidates. Please, do not include sensitive or classified information or personally identifiable information, including phone numbers, (other than your name and your email address if you choose to disclose them). I will shortly prepare detailed Blog Guidelines for your perusal, be sure to read them carefuly and act appropriately.

Another important point is that I will always appreciate your feedback about the blog.  If you have any comments or suggestions, I welcome them. I know criticism may not be fun to take in, but honest criticism, given in a honest positive manner is something we can all learn from, so feel free to air your views or ideas; remember, we collectively have the responsibilty of growing this blog.

Welcome again to my new Tourism Research Blog. I hope this is the beginning of a lively and engaging dialogue.

Kennedy Obombo Magio.

FCA-UAQ, México