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All posts in 2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development

As predicted earlier, the buzzword “du jour” in tourism is fast becoming transformation. Its predecessor, sustainability, has through over and mis-use become meaningless and ineffective lacking the capacity to lift hearts, inspire hope and, ironically, sustain action. I am delighted but also very concerned.. Here’s why.

New buzzwords are favoured by a sector that, by its very nature, has to focus on quick fixes to short-term problems and thrives on novelty. Tourism is a phenomenon run by marketers and there is a good reason for that. Its suppliers sell dreams and fulfill fantasies. The customer cannot experience the “product” prior to its consumption. Hosts must defy gravity and inertia to lift their customers from their armchairs to a place far from home by stimulating desire and imagination. Hosts must paint pictures that trigger a desire strong enough to generate a “click,” then a booking and sustain interest and enthusiasm through the rigours and unpleasantries of passage to the source of the anticipated experience.

In my forty-four year career, I have observed first-hand how marketers have progressed from one promise to another as their customers became more sophisticated in their needs and demands. While I like to look forward, sometimes an understanding of context and history can be helpful.

Read the full article here.

 

By Anna Pollock from Conscious Travel

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The $1.2 trillion travel industry, which moves more than a billion international travelers around the globe each year, has both the opportunity and the responsibility to contribute to cleaner, greener and more respectful travel practices, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

And with that in mind, for 2017 the organization has launched a yearlong “Travel. Enjoy. Respect.” campaign aimed at educating travelers about how to reduce their environmental impact.

“Global tourism is really big business … but sustainable tourism still only represents a small fraction of the global industry,” said Taleb Rifai, secretary-general of the UNWTO, which declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

According to the UNWTO, tourism generates an estimated 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and tourists consume much more water while on vacation than they do at home. With the number of global tourists expected to reach 1.6 billion by 2020, issues such as waste generation at resorts and on cruise ships, overfishing on coral reefs to feed visitors and the impact of the ballooning global travel industry on local cultures is cause for concern, the organization said.

Thus the UNWTO is working to inspire a sea change in the travel industry, a message that appears to be resonating with some travel companies that have responded by committing to changing the way they do business.

 

Read more here. 

 

By Michelle Baran from Travel Weekly

 

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Travelling breaks down barriers and promotes diversity. Travel is about shared experiences and building friendships. It is a great way to learn understanding for different customs.

If we teach our children how to make the right travel choices, it can not only benefit them, but it will also make the world a better place.

 

Here are some ways to travel more responsibly with your children:

 

  1. Choose sustainable transport

Explain to children how biking, walking or using public transport is much better for the planet and then choose one of those modes of transport every day during your holiday. Understanding the impact of your carbon footprint will help children to grow into more responsible travellers. Read more on green transportation here.

 

  1. Choose responsible destinations

Make time to plan your trip together with your children – research each destination’s commitment to the protection of people, animals, sites of important historic interests and, of course, the environment. Participating in this process enables younger travellers to learn about the importance of sustainable and responsible travel. Read about top destinations that enforce sustainable tourism here.

 

  1. Get off the beaten path

Choose places where you may connect with locals and learn about their traditions. Building closer connections with a place is much more enjoyable and inspiring for you and your children. Consider asking your tour operator about participating in a community based tour or a local handcraft activity.

 

  1. Encounter wildlife with respect

Teach your children a few basic rules and lead by example: use a quiet voice, do not touch, feed or get too close to wildlife and always obey the rules and instructions.

 

Showing children how to travel responsibly now will shape them into empathic and compassionate travellers and more learned members of society. And by travelling with them as responsible adults it’s a fascinating learning experience for the entire family.

Read more on sustainable travel with children here.

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The same people and organizations we admire for protecting our wild places also have a history of being apathetic—or plain antagonistic—toward issues of race and social justice

Given the history of conservationists elevating endangered plant life over endangered black lives, it is environmentalism’s soul that most needs saving.    Photo: Kristen Rogers Photography/Stock

 

Facing a new White House administration led by Donald Trump, environmental leaders recently signed an accord pledging their allegiance to civil rights and social justice. Among the signatories are several leaders of the Sierra Club, including its executive director, Michael Brune, who in recent years has steered the organization toward rather bold stances on a range of issues that aren’t traditionally recognized as “green.” In 2013, its board of directors voted that the organization should advocate for immigrant rights. The following year, the Sierra Club endorsed and defended the Black Lives Matter movement. Since President Trump came into office, the organization’s resolve has only strengthened, as Brune indicated in a November 18 blog post: “I’m proud of how the Sierra Club has begun to address the intersection of climate with inequality, race, class, and gender, and I guarantee that we’ll go even deeper.”

This shift toward racial justice matters has not been universally accepted among the Sierra Club’s ranks and may even have cost it a few members. Those who disapprove have often expressed sentiments amounting to “racism is not the environmental movement’s responsibility.” But Brune says the organization won’t be backing off anytime soon, a position he forcefully defended on the group’s blog. He will assure his members, he tells me, “that we are continuing to protect wildlife and wild places, and this is how we can best do that in the 21st century.”

What Brune is acknowledging is the darker legacy of the green movement. Some may believe that environmentalism has little to do with social justice issues, but the mission of the Sierra Club, and many conservation groups like it throughout the late-19th century and most of the 20th century, was anything but race neutral. In many ways, racial exclusivity actually shaped the environmental mission, which is what makes the Sierra Club’s leap toward civil rights advocacy such a radical move. It’s important not because a network like Black Lives Matter needs environmentalists, but because environmentalists need black lives. Given the history of conservationists elevating endangered plant life over endangered people of color, it is environmentalism’s soul that most needs saving.

 

Read the full article here.

By Brentin Mock from Outside

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by Marta Mills (@oneplanetblog), Stakeholder Engagement and Communications Director, Transcaucasian Trail Association


According to UNWTO, tourism’s role in the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is to promote inclusiveness: inclusive sustainable economic growth, social inclusiveness, diversity, mutual understanding. The word “inclusive” appears in five Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet one thing that was clearly missing from the ITB’s “Sustainable Tourism Program 2017” was inclusiveness.

ITB Berlin (held 8-11 March) is “the world’s leading travel trade show” with over 10,000 exhibitors from over 180 countries, and over 160,000 participants. The three-day-long Sustainable Tourism Program of seminars, workshops, panel discussions and award ceremonies included over 200 speakers on 12 different stages in seven halls. However, the programme lacked speakers from the southern hemisphere; it showed race, nationality and gender imbalance amongst panellists; and lacked the Responsible Tourism (RT) practitioners during debates on big stages as if RT was not part of the “proper” tourism industry. I found it quite puzzling and questionable, particularly now in the Year of Sustainable Tourism.

There were some very inspiring and insightful sessions I am going to refer to later on, but I will start with the challenges that should be addressed in planning next ITB.

Nationality, race and gender imbalance while discussing sustainability in tourism

Nationality, race and gender imbalance while discussing sustainability in tourism

 

My ITB hats

I attended ITB wearing two hats – a sustainable tourism practitioner and a MSc student of Responsible Tourism Management. With a background in sustainability communications, I work on developing sustainable tourism in the Caucasus region through the Transcaucasian Trail project. I study how to implement responsible business practices for the benefit of communities and the environment in destinations. I was therefore keen to hear the latest news, trends and practical solutions in sustainable destinations management and in maximising the positive impacts of tourism globally. And anything related to trails, understandably.

Morning queue outside the venue: 160,000 people from over 180 countries attend ITB Berlin each year

Morning queue outside the venue: 160,000 people from over 180 countries attend ITB Berlin each year

The programme and the venue – first obstacles

The first ITB challenge, even before going to Berlin, was to go through the 27-page-long (!) CSR programme, pick the sessions of most interest, and work out whether it is actually possible to get from one to the other (often held in different halls on different floors) on time. The venue is huge – there is a shuttle bus cruising between 28 exhibition halls!

It is pretty time-consuming to work out what sessions happen simultaneously, and the app doesn’t allow to put “my favourites” in order either. I ended up making a spreadsheet of my timetable to work it out and wondering why this can be simplified. Perhaps the ITB could make it easier next year and run a scheduled timetable of all sessions so we could see at a glance who, when and where is speaking?

But these are technical issues that can be easily resolved. I believe that the lack of inclusiveness I referred to above is much more serious. Here are the challenges mentioned in the introduction:

 

  • Nationality/race imbalance:

Vicky Smith of Earth Changers, a RT practitioner and the ITB veteran, made a point that “although held in Germany, ITB is the international show, and therefore has more of an opportunity to showcase international players, start-ups and initiatives on its stages in order to represent the worldwide perspective.” And the worldwide perspective doesn’t only come from the European, white middle-aged men in suits. Particularly during debates on sustainable tourism.

I believe that at such an international show there should be a better representation of speakers from developing countries. The practitioners on the ground in destinations are not given the chance to participate effectively. The ones with hands on experience and often have a much better practical understanding of various sustainability issues than CEOs of companies based in Germany.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for inclusive participatory processes from designing change to implementation of good practices. Without “southern” speakers taking part in global discussions we are not addressing the sustainability of tourism. One of those small handful of “southern” speakers, the Founder of the Gambian Institute of Travel and Tourism Adama Bah, told me that “the purpose of the global discussion is to raise awareness so that the industry will take responsibility of making tourism sustainable. Without hearing from “southern voices” where most negative impacts of tourism do happen, educative global discussions defeat their purposes to make tourism sustainable.”

 

  • Gender imbalance

And speaking of other imbalances… One of the most-attended debates on “How Can Sustainable Travel Offers Be Marketed Successfully?” was led by seven white men on stage. Six Germans and one English. I tweeted ITB asking whether it was really that hard to find at least one woman who knows how to communicate sustainability (didn’t get a reply). Some other tweets about “the glass ceiling in tourism” followed. A quick glance at the small presentation offer in hall 4.1 (dedicated to Responsible Tourism) would have provided a few names of women professionals to choose from. Again, something to consider for next year.

I understand that by supporting various sustainability awards, the ITB demonstrates its commitment to sustainable development and gender equality. And there were women on other panels (although just over 30% – 38 women compared to 115 men speaking on the big stages). But it was quite ironic that a major session on sustainability has forgotten about respecting SDG 5 – Gender Equality.

Interestingly, at the very end of the session, the moderator apologised that “there are all gentlemen up here” on the panel. Considering how much applause that comment got, I clearly wasn’t the only one feeling disappointed.

 

  • (not) knowing your audience

Sometime I also felt that some speakers were not aware who the audience was. While I understand that the level of knowledge of sustainable tourism in the audience varied, I also believe that it is safe to assume that most of us in hall 4.1 (Responsible Tourism hall) knew a fair bit. There was still a lot of vague language from the business representatives, particularly the more senior executives of big companies, for example “we are working to build more capacity and improve sustainability of our operations”. This sounds great, however doesn’t provide any meaningful information nor any clear examples of what exactly the operator did to “build capacity” and what exactly “improving sustainability” meant.

Also, we already are “the converted.” We know that – to quote a few panellists – “everyone has to take part,” “it is our shared responsibility,” “we need to accelerate in sustainable product offer” or “make the message about sustainability more visible.” I didn’t come all the way to Berlin to listen to such old and vague slogans. I came to listen and learn how others actually do it, what works and what doesn’t, how I can get involved in a practical way. And, as many sessions have proven again, the best advice will always come from those who work on the ground, who have tried various approaches, who have made mistakes and are happy to share them, so we can all learn together.

Practical overview and lessons learn from the Jordan Trail Association – an insightful, fun and informative session led by practitioners on the ground

Practical overview and lessons learn from the Jordan Trail Association – an insightful, fun and informative session led by practitioners on the ground

 

  • Not enough awareness

However, these messages are important and should be repeated to the ones who are not converted and who need a constant reminder about the importance and role of sustainability in tourism – and that’s why I would also argue for including more RT speakers in the wider programme of ITB Convention. The whole industry needs to transform to minimise its negative impacts. The ITB mentions that “additional panels dedicated to ecological and social responsibility can also increasingly be found e.g. at the ITB Destination Days, but it should do much more to mainstream sustainable tourism.

For example, “ITB Young Professionals day” discussed which graduates will the industry need in the future. That could have been an excellent opportunity to raise awareness and repeat the messages about sustainable tourism. Or the big debate on “World Tourism Trends.” or “Success Factors for Nation and Place Branding” – giving RT practitioners space on the panels would have demonstrated that sustainable tourism is one of the big trends and brings competitive advantage when it comes to successful branding. And, overall, contribute to raising awareness amongst the wider industry. 

 

But…

I found the events on smaller stages much more informative, useful, practical, and engaging. Most presenters used their 30 min-slot very well – a short summary of the project/issue, how the issues are being dealt with, lessons learnt, time for questions. I immensely enjoyed the session on the Jordan Trail on the big stage of hall 4.1 on Friday 11th – three women panellists, all of them working on the ground in Jordan, representing the business and government stakeholders. Giving that practical overview with challenges and opportunities I was craving for. Similarly, an engaging session on community-based tourism in Myanmar, with a step by step guidance on how to develop tourism in emerging destinations. Both of them proved my point – ITB needs an international representation of hands-on practitioners to share the potential and best practice examples of sustainable tourism.

Peter Richards, Expert on Community Tourism Development and Market Access during a practical and engaging session on tourism development in Kayah State, Myanmar

Peter Richards, Expert on Community Tourism Development and Market Access during a practical and engaging session on tourism development in Kayah State, Myanmar

 

ITB 2018

Matthias Beyer, the moderator of the aforementioned all-men-in-suits panel, noted that his panel in terms of gender balance doesn’t reflect the reality of the industry, emphasizing that for the future, it is imperative to find a better gender composition for such panels. Such an approach is much needed and gives me hope that at future ITBs the number of women and intentional speakers will match the number of white men in suits.

 

Note: ITB Messe-Berlin was unavailable for comment.

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author(s) and those providing comments on these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) or any employee thereof. We make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability or validity of any information presented by individual authors and/or commenters on our blogs and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries or damages arising from its display or use.

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A report from CDP finds that S&P 500 companies with sustainability strategies are outperforming the other companies on the index. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

 

Analysis of S&P 500 companies finds that corporations with sustainability strategies outperform others on the index

A new report by nonprofit CDP, released Tuesday, provides some of the first evidence of a link between business leadership on climate change and a company’s profitability.

The study, which coincides with the climate talks in New York, finds that S&P 500 companies that build sustainability into their core strategies are outperforming those that fail to show leadership.

Specifically, corporations that are actively managing and planning for climate change secure an 18% higher return on investment (ROI) than companies that aren’t – and 67% higher than companies who refuse to disclose their emissions.

The findings could help answer the long-debated industry question of whether sustainability undermines or improves financial results. Read more on how sustainable corporations perform better financially here.

From The Guardian by Jo Confino.

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Remembering to switch off lights in an unoccupied room makes a big difference to our planet’s energy bill. Switching off your lights during Earth Hour on March 25 shows your commitment to the planet. Our actions today can change our world for tomorrow.

Here are some creative ways to spend your Earth Hour:

 

1. Candlelight dinner or indoor picnic:

Prepare the meal in advance. Spread out rugs on the living room floor, light some candles and enjoy this special meal with someone you love. It’s a different and very romantic way to celebrate Earth Hour. Get some recipes here.

 

2. Art in the dark:

Try sketching, painting, or handcrafting in the dark. Do not worry if you’re not in the same class as Canaletto or Van Gogh. You will still have a laugh when the lights are switched on and your masterpice is revealed.

 

3. Play Games

It’s always fun to play games and tell stories. This Saturday night, switch off the TV, tablets and smart phones and get back to basic family fun with a board game by candlelight. Here are some ideas for more games to play in the dark.

 

4. Make a resolution

Take this opportunity to think about how you can save more energy at home. Turning off the lights can not only be fun but can also help you save cash. Pick any of these simple tips to help conserve the environment. Finally, be sure to follow our regular series of Green Tips to keep you on a right path for a sustainable future.

 

 

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Sustainability in tourism isn’t just about re-using that hotel towel a second day. It’s thinking deeply about how visitors get in and out of a destination while doing the least harm.

— Jason Clampet

With 2017 being the United Nations’ International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, now is as good a time as ever to take stock of the opportunities and challenges faced by tourism providers trying to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry.

While tourism is important to many local and national economies, overcrowding is changing the perception of the benefits of mass tourism. Spain is a prime example of a country struggling with its popularity.

Barcelona’s relationship with tourism has been shaky for a number of years now. Already in 2014, the documentary “Bye Bye Barcelona” highlighted the negative impact of mass tourism on the city. Locals fear that they will be priced out of the housing market, eventually resulting in Barcelona losing population diversity and character. The local government has stopped issuing licences for new hotels and has banned change-of-use permits required for holiday lets.

And Barcelona is not alone. As of 2017, Santorini is limiting the number of cruise visitors to 8,000 per day. Local activists in Venice have asked government to ban cruise ships stopping in its harbour, as cruise visitors have quintupled in the past 15 years. Cinque Terre on the Italian coast is capping the number of visitors to 1.5 million per year. Popular attractions including Machu Picchu and Mount Everest are capping the number of visitors and require visitors to be accompanied by a recognised guide, and Zion National Park is looking at proposals to limit visitors through a reservation system.

Capping tourists is a drastic measure, and surely not something destinations would like to do. It is often seen as a last resort, and the fact that more and more tourist destinations see no other way to remain sustainable and competitive is telling of the apparent failure of other initiatives.

 

Read more here.

By Wouter Geerts, Euromonitor from Skift

 

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By sharing their knowledge and their passion, the diving industry has recently guided the development of nine brand new “Green Fins How-to-videos”, designed to guide business managers how to easily implement the Code of Conduct and to show divers exactly what they should expect from an environmentally friendly dive centre.

They will be completely free for anyone to see and to use; you don’t even need to be working for a Green Fins member! Just follow the Green Fins website, YouTube channel, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to become part of the community and see sustainable diving in action!

Video #9: Eco Friendly Cleaning Tips for Diving and Snorkelling

This video aims to show dive centre owners and/or managers simple ways in which harmful discharge can be reduced by replacing chemical cleaning products with environmentally friendly ones.

 

Video #8: How To Make Reusable Tank Caps

This video outlines the issue of using masking tape to separate tanks and provides a very simple solution to dive operators shown as a step to step guide on how to make their own tanks caps. A long-term and sustainable solution.

 

Video #7: Implement Good Garbage Management Practices

This video aims to provide management and staff with simple guidance points on how they can properly manage their garbage so that it does not contribute to the global problem of marine debris.

 

Video #6: How to Use Alternatives To Anchoring

This video aims to show dive centre management alternatives for the use of anchors. Anchoring can devastate fragile marine ecosystems in a matter of seconds, to avoid the impact on the marine environment the video shows alternatives that can be easily implemented in different locations

 

Video #5: Guiding Divers Towards Best Environmental Practice

This video aims to provide management and staff with simple guidance points on how an instructor or dive guide can correct customer behaviour underwater for best environmental practice. By clearly understanding what behaviour can cause damage to the environment and how it can be corrected, instructors and guides can help their guests protect coral reefs.

Video #4: How to Give an Environmental Boat Briefing 

Sometimes it’s difficult to believe that your actions could change whole ecosystems but divers on boats have the potential to do just that. Throwing trash, cigarettes or food waste into the ocean can poison marine life and change their behaviour. The new Green Fins How-to-video shows dive guides and managers how they can include simple, environmental reminders in their boat briefings to help divers protect the ocean and their favourite marine life.

For this year’s World Oceans Day, Green Fin asked their top members to answer the question “What do you do to protect the oceans? “

 

Video #3: Implementing Good Garbage Management on Boats

Divers travel far distances to see the most unique marine environments, they wouldn’t like to dive on a polluted ocean. As we all know, marine debris is one of the biggest problems oceans are facing and the diving industry can have a big environmental impact if no measures are taken. For this reason, the new Green Fins How-to- video covers this problem by providing practical solutions to dive centre owners and managers on ways their in boat practices can have less or no environmental impacts. By implementing these simple tips and making it clear to your staff and guests, you will be part of the solution, not the problem!

 

 

Video #2: How-to-Manage Underwater Photographers

The second Green Fins How-to-video shows divers the threat they can pose to marine life when taking a camera underwater and how dive guides and instructors can support customers to be responsible photographers. Divers rely directly on the health of the marine environment. So it’s the responsibility of the diving community to do everything within their power to protect what they love.

 

 

Video #1: Pre-Dive Environmental Briefings

The first Green Fins How-to-video showcases one of the most important things a dive centre can do to protect the ocean it depends on. It outlines exactly what a dive guide should say to inspire divers to be responsible right before jumping in the water.

The Pre-dive briefing is the perfect opportunity to learn more from their guides about how they can protect the environment, becoming a steward for the ocean and a stronger member of the diving community.

Divers rely directly on the health of the marine environment. So it’s the responsibility of the diving community to do everything within their power to protect what they love. These videos will show you how.

 

 

 

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There’s no doubt that raising livestock for food requires massive amounts of land, food, energy and water – and it is claimed that these farm animals contribute to at least 50 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute.

 

Is it possible for humans to adjust lifestyles and diets in such a way that these emissions are reduced? Here are some easy options for reducing your meat intake and lowering your culinary carbon footprint.

 

  1. Try a vegetarian restaurant

Removing meat from the daily diet is becoming more popular. The app HappyCow has been developed to make it easy to find vegan and vegetarian restaurants. HappyCow gives you insider tips in over 175 countries. Download the app here.

 

 

  1. Think about your staples

Make a list of ingredients that you consume on a regular basis. Consider vegetarian alternatives and make a new list. If you enjoy spaghetti or chilli, for example, use a ground-beef alternative from suppliers such as Morningstar Farms and just cook it using your normal recipe and method.

 

  1. Tell your friends & family

Explain the rationale for your decision to reduce meat consumption and demonstrate practically how alternatives can be equally appetizing. Click here for some nutritious recipes.

 

 

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