The travel industry is trying to avoid a return to business-as-usual, and it is doing so by pushing forward the concepts of regeneration and sustainable living.

Global tourism needs to rethink its role as a business, avoid a blanket use of "sustainability," embrace locally-led and locally-designed solutions, and define new success metrics if it wants to stay relevant.

The recommendations are made by Dr. Mordecai Ogada. Ogada will be giving a presentation at the Skift Global Forum in New York City.

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"Sustainability is being used in scientific literature like a technical term, and we forget that it is just a subjective word, like loveability." Ogada said that subjectivity creates a problem for tourism.

The first time Ogada came into contact with the tourism industry was when he was the manager of the Wildlife Trust. He shares it in his book.

Ogada's work with Survival International focuses on the impact of conservativism on Indigenous Peoples' rights in Africa, bringing a boots on the ground perspective at a turning point for the tourism industry. Travel and tourism is expected to grow at a faster rate than the global economy. Global inequality is at its highest.

Through the example of tourism's influence on Africa's host communities and their livelihoods, Ogada lays out key principles that must guide global tourism's path forward.

1. Tourism Must Avoid “Sustainability” Unless Locally Defined

Dr. Mordecai Ogada

If the industry is to move towards a more positive form of business, it needs to take into account local solutions as to whatsustainability means for a specific host community.

Ogada said that someone might think a guy herding his goat is destroying the environment, but the same person would think a tourist flying from New York to see elephants and drink champagne is sustainable.

Ogada said that the subjective nature ofsustainability is what drives some of the nonsensical solutions that have emerged.

Tourists should be prepared to see locals in their traditional environment if they want to see a sustainable tourism business.

Ogada said that tourism has been pushed for so long that it is an alternative to agriculture. Tourism is like haute couture, it's fashion that changes every day, and it's vulnerable to a financial crash. Tourism is a good way to make money, but it should be more than that.

2. New Success Metrics Must Be Prioritized — Now

Skift advocated for a new tourism performance metric that accounts for the true cost of tourism and the benefits to host communities. A turning point for the future of global tourism was signaled by the European Union's intention to shape new metrics to measure tourism success.

There isn't a time frame on how soon new measures will emerge beyond heads in beds and arrivals in airports. The pursuit of a foreign visitor continues.

The number of arrivals is the most important metric used by the government. I don't appear on any metric if I take my children down to Mombasa.

Some of the people who have harmful needs, such as sport hunting and child sex exploitation, are put at a premium by that type of focus.

You expose yourself to a lot of potential problems if you place a premium on a foreigner.

The world famous tourist destination of Masai Mara is an example of how the way tourism is practiced can be harmful. Everyone wants to get the best photos, and people are five meters away from the animals.

The lack of qualitative metrics is what leads to environmental damage, and the focus on numbers means no one cares what tourists did or what their experience was like.

3. Tourism Must Place People at the Center of the Product

In his book, Ogada tells the story of how he came face to face with the reality of foreign tourists' interest in the preservation of the environment.

As far as selling African safaris destinations and activities that serve the interest of foreign visitors and investors is concerned, nothing has changed since then.

Human rights groups would be up in arms if the government decided to displace people for a road or installation. The silence over the displacement is deafening.

The latter is related to tourism's colonial roots.

The people had to be removed from the picture because they were always a problem. Tourists must know that there were people living here when there was a national park.

If the industry is to "rethink" its path, it needs to be aware of tourism's neo colonial practices. The UNWTO has a theme for this year's World Tourism Day, "Re thinking Tourism".

Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general of UNWTO, said in a World Tourism Day release that they have a shared responsibility to make sure that tourism is fully realized.

Over the past two years, the call to rethink tourism has remained constant and loud, but the colonial mentality that plagues how the industry operates hasn't changed.

Tourism in Africa is an example of what we are selling. The countries themselves need to put people at the center of the product.

4. Tourism’s Harmful Marriage With Conservation Must End 

Tourism investors exert a lot of influence over how the environment is managed. Over the years, this marriage has become harmful.

Ogada said that tourism needs to distance itself from conservativism because it's a business. Tourism shouldn't be involved in setting our standards once it has developed its policies.

Ogada said that conservativism serves the interests of donors. The travel industry needs to be more skeptical of conservativism and understand what it is trying to accomplish.

The United Nations has a plan to save 30 percent of the planet's land and sea by the year 2030.

One cannot continue to shape the other's policies if the two industries mature independently.

5. Tourism Must Demolish the “Tarzan Mindset”

There were a lot of myths about tourism. Ogada said that one of the myths was that tourism saved wildlife because government-employed rangers were still on the job 24/7.

Ogada said that any tourist coming to Africa should remove any idea of saving them from their minds. It was there before you and it will be there after you.

As travelers grow more conscious and sophisticated, voting for inclusive brands with their money, seeking hyper-localized experiences, and responsive to marketing that represents them, the need to remove the artistic "Lion King" impression of Africa is an imperative.

Those who are in charge of rethinking tourism for the future went back to demolishing the western mindset. Travel leaders in the West talk about giving locals a voice. Ogada said that voices are always there but they have been suppressed.

It isn't about building anything in Africa, it's about demolishing the wall in the West that keeps those voices out.

It's a wall Ogada says cuts across many fields. There is good news. The "Tarzan mindset" is what Ogada calls global tourism.

The home of the mentality is tourism. It will be a powerful push if the tourism industry backtracks.

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