An Interview with David A. Fennell, Author of “Tourism Ethics”

We recently published the second edition of Tourism Ethics by David A. Fennell. In this post David answers a few questions about the field of tourism ethics and his work within it.

How did you first become interested in studying tourism ethics and why do you believe it’s such an important field of study?

I would go to conferences in the early 1990s and colleagues would ask me if I thought ecotourism was the most ethical form of tourism. I would respond by saying “yes”, but these responses were based solely on intuition. At the time, we did not have any empirical or philosophical yardsticks from which to understand the place and value of ethics in tourism. I had some excellent conversations with my colleague, David Malloy, when I was at the University of Regina. David was studying sport ethics at the time. These conversations led to four publications on ecotourism and ethics with David during the mid-to-late 1990s, which provided the foundation for me to venture more deeply into the realm of ethics.

It’s been 11 years since we published the first edition of Tourism Ethics. What can we expect from the second edition?

The new edition has more of a focus on contemporary philosophers such as Virginia Held, Jürgen Habermas, and Emmanuel Levinas. Several dozen tourism papers and books were also summarized to bring the tourism studies component up-to-date. The book continues to focus on many deep theoretical contributions that range from biology to philosophy. It’s only through an appreciation of the importance of these works on human nature that we will begin to better understand the nature of tourism and of tourists, in my opinion.

Where do you see the field heading in future?

The tourism ethics sub-field is evolving quickly. Over the course of the last 11 years, I have seen much more of a focus on interpreting and contextualising the work of seminal philosophers in the tourism studies arena. The trick will be to determine how these important works translate into practical wisdom, as tourism is very much an applied field. So, areas such as responsible tourism, fair trade, sustainable tourism, and ecotourism may be enriched through the discourse on ethics. For too long we have focused on impacts in tourism studies to the exclusion of other worldviews. I see ethics as more of a proactive way of fixing tourism industry problems, and impacts as more reactive.

What’s the favourite place that you’ve travelled to in the course of your research?

Given my interests in nature, it’s hard not to pick New Zealand. For me it’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I also really enjoy spending time in Croatia because of the mix of culture and nature.

Closer to home, I really enjoy the Haliburton Sustainable Forest (Ontario), which is Canada’s first certified forest. The HSF has a 100-year management plan to bring the forest back into a balanced ecological state. I don’t know too many companies, private or public, that look so far into the future.

What books – either for work or for pleasure – are you reading at the moment?

For work, I’m just finishing Bauer’s book on sustainability ethics. And for pleasure, I have The Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee on my Christmas list.

For more information about the second edition of Tourism Ethics, please see our website.

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