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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Une vision humaniste du tourisme

by Marc Leras

Published in l'Humanité on 15 May 2006

BITS Conference, 2006: Tourism - a Humanist Vision

Translated by Carol Gullidge

Translated Thursday 1 June 2006, by Carol Gullidge

Seventy years after Léo Lagrange - in a bid to promote holidays for all - first negotiated discounted rail fares for employees and their families, Aubagne welcomed over 300 delegates from thirty countries to the 2006 BITS conference on social tourism, which set out to produce a clearer, more up-to-date definition of its aims.

Tourism: a Humanist Vision

Aubagne and its surrounding urban community hosted the International Bureau of Social Tourism (BITS) conference from 10-12 May.

Aubagne (Bouches du Rhône)

Marc Leras, Private correspondent

“A blend of the welcoming atmosphere, respect for employees, environmental sustainability, solidarity with the countries of the South, and the social-awareness component of our holidays: that’s the basis of values and practices on which social tourism is grounded. For this we seek tolerant, respectful and friendly clients. None of the old adage that ‘the customer is always right’”. At the forum of the regional council of Provence-Alpes-Côtes d’Azure (PACA), Frédéric Rosmini, a representative of Léo-Lagrange, spelt out once again the definition of social tourism. Aubagne and the Garlaban-Huveaune-Sainte-Baume (GHB) community have in fact played host to the BITS conference here - from 10-12 May. Created in 1963, this Brussels-based organisation holds its conference every two years. Over 300 delegates from 30 countries came to amend the 1996 Declaration of Montreal by means of an addendum which defines precisely what is meant by a humanist and social vision of tourism.

“We have to move on from a ‘development of tourism’ to a ‘tourism of development’ - of the environment, culture, exchange and respect”, explains Éric Svoboda, member of the administrative council of BITS and conference co-ordinator. “For several years now we’ve been seeing the emergence of a desire for alternative travel, initiatives for solidarity tourism, humanitarian actions, and a search for fairer, and more human contact. It’s far from being standard tourist behaviour, but it’s a fast-growing trend amongst the young, and therefore has great potential.”

To start off with, social tourism was created to promote the idea of the right to holidays for all, along with decent working conditions and incomes for employees of the leisure sector. From now on, there are new factors that have to be taken into account. For tourism often has devastating effects on traditional economies, while the most sought-after destinations are changing ever more rapidly. This constant switching of destinations leaves a trail of devastated populations.

Éric Svoboda continues: “We need to move towards a tourism of development and solidarity, a sustainable tourism that develops areas in the long term while avoiding the uncertainties of market trends”. Maurizio Davollo, Italian member of BITS, agrees with this: “Resources generated by tourism should remain within the country and serve the host population.”

The social and equitable tourism niche does attract a certain amount of envy from private operators, which calls for extra vigilance. For example, “Ryan Air has just set up in Marseilles”, Frédéric Rosmini stressed, “but, as far as I am concerned, low-cost airlines are not social tourism but dumping.”


Article first appeared in l’Humanité on 15 May 2006

URL : http://www.humanite.fr/journal/2006-05-15/2006-05-15-829790

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