News of an astonishing agreement that recognises the status of a river in New Zealand as Te Awa Tupua, i.e. “an integrated, living whole”. New Zealand’s Minister for Treaty for Waitangi Negotiations, Christopher Finlayson stated:
Under the settlement, the river is regarded as a protected entity, under an arrangement in which representatives from both the iwi and the national government will serve as legal custodians towards the Whanganui’s best interests.
Whanganui iwi also recognise the value others place on the river and wanted to ensure that all stakeholders and the river community as a whole are actively engaged in developing the long-term future of the river and ensuring its wellbeing.
A previous post called for conversations on places rather than destinations.
A number of voices and sources can be drawn on to support the case against places that are contrived, often from elsewhere (i.e. destinations), and in favour of places that are enabled to flourish from within (richly textured and distinctive places; places with integrity).
Greg Richards and Julie Wilson, for example, suggest that creating places as products for their marketing as destinations is of limited value, as it can often lead to the serial reproduction of culture (Richards & Wilson, 2005).
Similarly, Chris Murray concludes that “the notion of designing identities for places should be rejected as in the end it leads to disaffection (…) and there is insufficient evidence that it works” (Murray, 2001: 73). He proposes that a more appropriate process is to identify and build on distinctive local cultural resources for successful place branding and marketing.
Anna Pollock’s framework on conscious travel indicates a similar shift from product-led thinking, which sees destinations treated as products, albeit complex ones, by their marketers and some “been-there-done-that” consumers, towards concerning ourselves with “people and place”:
Instead of discounting their primary asset – the Place – [conscious travel advocates] focus on protecting, expressing and celebrating its unique Personality to sustain and increase its value to guests.
After several years of reading and thinking about tourism, I’ve decided I dislike the term “destination”.
I don’t mind “you will reach your final destination by early evening”, i.e. point of arrival. But when applied to villages, towns, cities, islands, parks and other protected areas, peninsulas, and whole countries… urgh!
OK, the word is widely-used because it is useful to us, but therein lies my niggling discomfort with “destinations” in academia and business parlance: it reflects the generally industrial use of places by travel, tourism and associated industries, otherwise described as commodification.
You’ve probably enjoyed visiting many destinations, but ask yourself this, “would I want to live in a destination?”.