Kevin Bowler just doing his job

11 Aug

The new(ish) Chief Executive of Tourism New Zealand, Kevin Bowler, spoke today as part of the Victoria Management School’s Tourism Seminar Series.  There was a good turnout, but some in the audience were intent on raising their concerns that Tourism New Zealand was contributing to climate change by encouraging visitors to travel to New Zealand.

Just following orders?

There was an air of embarrassment in the room as questions from the floor focussed on the environmental impacts of international tourism to New Zealand – an issue that I have never actually heard confronted head-on by a leader in the New Zealand tourism industry.  And it is no surprise, as the issue is largely irreconcilable without a very fundamental change in perspective on the nature of tourism and role of international tourism in New Zealand’s economy.

When asked by an elderly gentleman in the audience to take personal accountability for his role in the impacts of tourism on the climate, Mr. Bowler’s response was that he is simply employed to do a job.

My sympathies are largely with Mr. Bowler, who has come from a non-tourism background to lead Tourism New Zealand and probably had never really thought too much about these issues (any more than the average New Zealander) before taking on this role.  But I left the presentation impressed by the deliberate but dignified approach of the ‘protesters’ and wondering if the head of Tourism New Zealand should have a perspective on this issue.  Furthermore, I was left wondering if his response that he is simply doing a job is acceptable – or whether our industry leaders should be able to articulate a position on what is an important moral dimension of the tourism sector.

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