Business Ethics and Tourism

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•UTTERWORTH
I'I~E

[NEMANN

0 26 I-5177(95)00015- I

Tourism Management, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 26.3-268, 1995
C opyright © 1995 Elsevier Science Ltd
Printed in Great Britain. All rights reserved
0261-5177/95 $10.00 + II.00

C urrent issues

B usiness ethics and tourism: from
m icro to macro perspectives
A lf H Walle
Travel and Tourism Program, University of Nebraska, West Center C226, Kearney, NE 68849, USA

Business ethics is a complex field which the tourism industry must understand. In addition, t ourism is a unique industry; although general concepts of business ethics are often useful, t ourism transcends mainstream business and must be evaluated accordingly. By forming alliances with subdisciplines of business which parallel our own interests, tourism can advance in appropriate ways.

I n recent years, tourism has become an increasingly
i mportant industry. As a result, a familiarity with
t heories of business ethics is essential. The general
n ature of much business thought,* however, is not
t otally appropriate for tourism, which is a unique
i ndustry with its own special needs, priorities and
c onsiderations.
T his paper begins with an overview of business
e thics as crystallized in a polemical exchange bet ween Milton Friedman and Keith Davis. Since the t ourism industry is greatly influenced by such
t hought, this analysis nests tourism ethics within a
f amiliar setting.
U sing this overview as a stepping stone, the
u niqueness of tourism is discussed in order to
e mphasize its character and to propose ethical
s trategies which operate in concert with it. By formi ng alliances with subdisciplines of business such as m acromarketing, the tourism industry can embrace
* Since the Second World War and especially since 1960, the
b usiness disciplines have increasingly portrayed themselves as g eneral/universal and capable of bcing employed by all organizat ions. In marketing, for example, the definitive statement of such a n expanded role is Phillip Kotler and Sidney Levy's "Broadening t he concept of marketing', Journal Of Marketing (1969) w hich e xplicitly considers lourist activities such as m u s e u m attendance. A lthough such an orientation is useful in many contexts, it ignores p rofound w m a t i o n between different professions and industries a nd can mask variations which need to be acknowledged.

m ore appropriate models and allies. Applying the
f ruits of such multidisciplinary cooperation to the
e thical realm, the appropriateness of such selective
b orrowing will be explored and demonstrated.
A d ebate within business theory
M odern business ethics can be described with refere nce to a debate between Nobel prize-winning econ omist Milton Friedman and Keith Davis of Arizona S tate University. As is well known, Friedman argues

t hat ethics are not the province of business while
D avis insists that business must embrace social res ponsibility, not merely profitability. F riedman 1'2 argues that the only legitimate role of
b usiness is to generate profits for stockholders and
h e asserts that dwelling on ethical considerations for
t heir own sake perverts its true purpose. Friedman
a lso argues that executives are specialists; thus, it is
f oolhardy to assume that they are qualified to forge
a ppropriate social policies and strategies.
F riedman, it should be added, does insist that all
o rganizations should obey the law; however, he
e mphasizes that once enacted, laws become the
' rules of the game' which must be universally
o beyed. But until legislation limits options, organ izations should pursue their most fruitful opportuni ty. Friedman, nonetheless, does acknowledge that a f irm might legitimately act in a socially responsible

263

C urrent issues

T able I

Ethical orientations: a comparison
S ocial obligation

Social responsibility

Social responsiveness

G eneral overview

Legal and profitable

Current social problems
a...
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