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Dr. Peter Tarlow’s “Tourism Tidbits”

Friday, April 1st, 2011
Two Guest Authors

April 2011

Editors note: Tourism Tidbits tries to provide differing viewpoints and ideas. As such this month we offer two articles by guest authors, one on fire safety by Dr. Richard Feenstra and one on tourism and ecology by Max Habestrom.  Please note that the ideas expressed in these articles are purely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Tourism Tidbits or Tourism & More, Inc.


By Dr. Richard Feenstra

Putting on a successful event takes a lot of work and coordination. One area often over looked is the need to work closely with the local fire department. For example, in many US locales when an event exceeds 300 people a permit for temporary assembly is required. Cooking, fireworks, even the simple use of candles may require an event planner to apply for a permit.

One only has to look at the most recent US Football Super Bowl to see event planning gone awry. Over 400 fans traveled great distances, excited to see the Super Bowl, just to find out the event planners had failed to coordinate with the Arlington Fire Department and therefore did not have seats. Issues with fire departments shutting down events are more common than expected. In 2010, the Los Angeles (California)  Fire Department shut down L.A. Production Studios hosting fashion week,  The Tampa (Florida) Fire Department shut down a haunted house, and the Santa Barbara (California) Fire Department shut down a number of down town wineries from hosting any events with occupancies over 50 guests.

To avoid potential mishaps with the fire department Tourism Tidbits offers the following to help with any challenges along the way:

– Submit your request for authorization early. How quickly a fire department can process a permit varies, so call and ask. Double the amount of time they give you and triple the amount if you hire a 3rd party to file the permit for you.  Even if the fire department says it will only take a couple of days, four weeks prior to any event is the minimum amount recommended. When revisions are requested, this extra time will help ensure success.

– Conduct your own inspection before the fire inspector arrives. While you may not be aware of exactly when the inspector is going to arrive, it is a good idea to walk through the event and check to make sure fire extinguishers are charged and have inspection tags, exits are not locked or blocked, exit signs are properly lit, there are no trip hazards, or any other obvious safety concerns exist.

– Seek a fire inspector you like. While fire codes are written in “black and white”, the way each city and each inspector interprets the codes will be slightly different. While one inspector focuses on keeping exits clear another may focus on the location of fire extinguishers. When you find an inspector you like, establish a relationship and request they work on your event. Done correctly, an inspector will pick up your call and help even when not assigned to your event.

– Get agreements in writing. If an inspector shows up at your event and requires or allows any changes, work with the inspector to get the changes documented. Regardless if the change is or is not in your favor, the better documented the more useful it will be for planning future events or for dealing with a new inspector.

– Don’t be afraid to stand your ground. If you really do not agree or find the inspector unreasonable, don’t be afraid to make a formal appeal or request to speak with a supervisor. The best approach is to remain calm and explain how the requirement the inspector is trying to enforce will impact your event and then ask the inspector to provide you with the appropriate appeals process so you can work together towards an equitable solution.

– Ask for a reasonable abatement date.
Given the nature of temporary events, sometimes an inspector will ask for a code violation to be abated immediately even though realistically it cannot be accomplished. The same violation noted in a permanent facility will often be given several days or even a few weeks to comply, but because an event is temporary the inspector may try to use the forthcoming assembly permit as leverage to immediately abate the problem.

– Be creative, there is almost always a way to get the fire department to say “Yes”. Within the code there is an option called Alternate Materials & Methods, sometimes known as Alternate Means & Methods. When told no, ask about what alternates are available. Can you use a fire watch, what about placing an engine on standby? Fire Protection Engineers can be used to craft alternatives to the code.

A Convenient Truth for Tourism
“Sustainable/Responsible Tourism and Renewable Energy for Peace”
by: Max Haberstroh

There is a documentary movie stirring up people’s minds (and hearts): The Fourth Revolution – Energy Autonomy (, produced by Carl-A. Fechner. The documentary responds to Al Gore’s blockbuster The Inconvenient Truth with a visionary ‘convenient truth’: Within thirty years from now, solar, wind, or biogas-powered transport will be real.

The basic idea of linking sustainable/responsible tourism with renewable energy is that ‘renewables’ have already been a global issue for a long time, with growing intensiveness ever since many scientists have become sensitized over the man-made impact on climate change. Instead of rehashing the technical advantages of system updates in coded messages, why not state that: “everyone can be an unlimited clean energy producer”?

It is time for the tourism industry to reflect on our own indifference towards the collateral damage caused by a civilization whose negative impact has become disproportionate to the desired conditions of many. Using and boosting renewable energy instead of fossil fuels would not demand ceding one slice from our usual comfort. On the contrary, it would improve it and profitability of businesses as well. However, using renewable energy is less dependent on a generally acknowledged rationale, but rather on an amalgam of consumer, company, and governmental long-heeded habits, combined with the well woven networks of conventional energy supplier and traditional financial players to keep wielding their overwhelming lobbying power with political decision makers.

Energy means power, and tourism means freedom. These are higher values added to mere functions like providing ‘electric power’ and offering ‘transport/accommodation/recreation’. It is up to us to extrapolate ‘renewable energy’ and ‘sustainable/responsible tourism’ to a ‘lifestyle’, keeping in balance the very sense of development of social wellbeing, economic progress and ecological sustainability.

Fossil energy has started to show its limitations, whereas renewable energy is practically unlimited. Biological systems are energy systems, after all, and invisible energetic conditions create and form visible and tangible conditions, as evolutionary research tells us. Hence, like fresh air, sunshine, and spring water, energy is originally a gift – renewable and accessible for everyone. Today, the heart of the matter is no longer technology, it is up to the political will to turn the magic of ‘tapping the sun’ into reality – it’s pioneering decision-makers awareness of butterflys flapping their wings.

An unrenounceable ingredient to wonderful holidays, the sun has become the ‘face of tourism’ on catalogues and advertisements. Providing the basic impulse for any kind of movement and life, the sun is the ‘face of energy’, a symbol of freedom, happiness, wealth, success, beauty, restart or unification. Why not catch the spirit, making The Sun, shown in so many national flags and coats of arms, the new symbol of an emerging Solar Age, the interface of Renewable Energy and clean global Travel and Tourism’?

In developing countries, especially, and other regions that depend largely on Travel and Tourism, the immense damage caused by tourism, due to high water and energy consumption, plays an elementary part. In their capitals, sometimes only a few major hotels account for most of total energy (and water) consumption. Mega hotels are energy eaters – almost like a small town under one roof.

People say that travellers won’t worry about their hotel’s energy source.
To be sure they will once it has become usual that hotel heating, cooling, illumination are constantly available, clean and free of charge.  This is contrary to some current experiences with scores of power cuts per day in so-called ‘holiday paradises’.  Once it is common practice that visitors are no longer exposed to the night-and-day sound of diesel-propelled power engines, spoiling the otherwise highly appreciated natural holiday ambience, whether in the shelter of an alpine cottage in the majestic Tien Shan mountains or in a rainforest lodge on the shores of the mighty Amazon river.

Sharing the spirit of the natural system in times of global complexity, renewable energy and sustainable/responsible tourism are nothing less than natural allies. We will decide what should prevail – the Authentic, the Beautiful, the Valuable – or mere mediocrity, hypocrisy, fallacy. The fossil-energy consumer or the renewable-energy user, the indifferent tourist or the responsible traveller, paradise lost, or Planet Earth regained? The options are more quantity, or better quality.

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