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26 Sep, 2018

UK-based watchdog group Tourism Concern dies, aged 29, due to funding shortage

Bangkok, 26 September 2018 — The UK-based tourism watchdog group Tourism Concern has announced its closure, citing a “lost battle for financial survival in these difficult times.” The group’s website has been shut down and replaced with the closure notification.

The group was funded by volunteers, charities, foundations and membership fees. The closure announcement said all this income was no longer enough to survive. “The trustees were determined that Tourism Concern should not become a zombie charity, raising money simply to exist,” it said.

Founded in 1989, Tourism Concern positioned itself as a “campaigner for ethical and fairly-traded tourism”. It played a lead role in warning the travel industry about the perils of “over-tourism”, the social and environmental impact of behemoth cruise ships, human trafficking, the legal and consumer implications of companies like AirBnB, animal rights, working conditions of employees, and much more.

Although these campaigns clearly were the best form of promoting “responsible tourism” long before the buzzword became popular, its executives were seldom invited to present their alternative perspectives at industry conferences and events, whose well-funded organisers and sponsors have zero tolerance levels for either critical thinking or democratic dissent and debate.

The closure is a sad reflection of the intellectual impoverishment in the travel industry which spend mega-millions of dollars on advertising campaigns, awards ceremonies, consultants, futurists, security experts, branding gurus, etc., but is loathe to support volunteer-funded activist groups trying to inject some valuable check-and-balance mechanisms into the system.

I personally subscribed to Tourism Concern’s newsletter and reports for many years, siding with their efforts to disrupt industry mindsets and challenge the status quo.

The full text of the message from the Tourism Concern trustees reads thus:

Following a report from our Treasurer, the trustees of Tourism Concern have taken the difficult decision to close the charity. The vote was unanimous.

The charity has struggled financially for a number of years and cut costs to the barest minimum but despite the best efforts of talented executive directors and generations of enthusiastic and committed trustees, the battle for financial survival has been lost. Funding from charitable foundations, which sustained us in the past, is no longer available in these difficult times and income from membership fees has not been sufficient to allow Tourism Concern to pursue its charitable aims as the trustees would like. The trustees were determined that Tourism Concern should not become a zombie charity, raising money simply to exist.

Next year would have marked our 30th anniversary and we would like to pay tribute to the founders for their passion and foresight and to thank the charity’s directors, volunteers and past trustees for their commitment and many achievements, of which perhaps the most significant has been to project the principles of responsible tourism into the mainstream conversation.

We would also like to thank Tourism Concern’s loyal members and supporters who have contributed so much through all these years, not only towards the achievement of the charity’s goals but also to the promotion of responsible tourism around the world.

The trustees are particularly indebted to our manager, Lidia Hejja, who has valiantly kept the organisation afloat in recent months.

We have nominated a charity with similar objectives to receive any outstanding funds.