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#TravelEnjoyRespect

The United Nations 70th General Assembly has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

 

To that end, please explore the official IY2017 website at www.tourism4development2017.org, which is their primary tool for coordinating the worldwide celebrations of the year, and on which more than 200 events and activities have already been registered. The UNWTO kindly invites you to upload your IY2017-related initiatives, as well as to share your best practices, stories and/or knowledge. Your initiatives will be visible on the website’s calendar and global map, and you will be able to use the IY2017 logo in all your communications. Kindly note that all the information they receive will be included in their final report to the UN General Assembly in 2018.

Furthermore, UNWTO is organizing a series of events and activities, the details of which you can find in the attached document. For instance, they are running a consumer-oriented awareness-raising campaign “Travel.Enjoy.Respect.” with six useful tips for responsible travel, and would very much like you to help disseminate it as broadly as possible. In addition, UNWTO is organizing 14 IY2017 Official Events, as well as producing two flagship reports related to the themes and objectives of the IY2017, for which your support and input would be more than welcome and on which more info will follow shortly. As part of their awareness-raising activities, they have also initiated a Special Ambassadors programme, currently comprising seven high-profile individuals who will help spread the relevant messages regarding tourism as an agent for positive change.

Read more: PATA Sustainability & IY2017 Initiatives

 

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Chinese tourists, in particular, face harsh criticism in Hong Kong.

There appears to be increasing tension between tourists and residents around the world, with the former often blamed for behaving inappropriately and disturbing locals. Protests against tourist behaviour have erupted in Barcelona, Venice and Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, tourists are blamed for being noisy, inconsiderate, urinating in public, buying up necessities such as baby milk powder, and generally not following local customs. Chinese tourists, in particular, face harsh criticism in Hong Kong as well as in Thailand.

By  and . Read more.

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WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards finalists

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is pleased to announce the 15 Finalists for its 2017 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. The 2017 Finalists cut across five continents in the following categories: Community, Destination, Environment, Innovation and People.

The WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, now in its 13th year, showcases business practices of the highest standards that balance the needs of ‘people, planet and profits’ within our sector.

The 2017 Awards fall within the UN International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, all 15 Finalists illustrate great commitment to “support a change in policies, business practices and consumer behavior towards a more sustainable tourism sector than can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals”, as the International Year calls for.

Following a rigorous 3-phase judging, which includes an onsite evaluation, Winners of the 2017 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards will be announced during the Awards Ceremony at the 17th WTTC Global Summit, taking place in Bangkok, 26 – 27 April 2017.

David Scowsill, President & CEO of WTTC said: “I am extremely pleased to once again see such inspiring business leadership amongst this year’s Finalists. This year saw a 36% rise of applications, which shows not only that more and more Travel & Tourism companies are looking to operate sustainably but also an increased interest to share company best practices and thereby educate peers and governments.

As the Travel & Tourism sector continues to grow, WTTC currently estimates global Travel & Tourism to have grown by 3.1% in 2016, we have to ensure we safeguard the environment, local communities and cultural heritage, and our Awards programme calls on tourism businesses to showcase just that.”

Awards Lead Judge, Graham Miller, Executive Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Surrey, said: “The 2017 Finalists illustrate how widespread the notion of sustainable tourism has become. While sustainability used to be focused around the preservation of nature, this year, the organisation’s missions are, amongst other things, centred around innovative value creation for societies, travel technology for those with accessibility needs, and empowerment of the young workforce.”

The Finalists of the 2017 WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, which is Headline sponsored by AIG Travel for the second year, are:

Community Award Finalists, whose organisations are committed to sustainable tourism leadership in local community development, empowerment and cultural heritage

  • Cinnamon Wild Yala, Sri Lanka
  • G Adventures, Canada
  • Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya

Destination Award Finalists, who show commitment to supporting and delivering sustainable tourism best practices in their destinations:

  • Botswana Tourism Organisation, Botswana
  • City of Bydgoszcz, Poland
  • Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, Finland

Environment Award Finalists, whose organisations and companies achieved environmental best practice through biodiversity conservation, protection of natural habitats, addressing climate change, and green operations:

  • Biosphere Expeditions, UK
  • Caiman Ecological Refuge, Brazil
  • Misool, Indonesia

Innovation Award Finalists, who provided innovative solutions to overcoming the challenges faced by Travel & Tourism in implementing sustainability in practice:

  • NATIVE Hotels and Accessible Tourism, Spain
  • Soel Yachts, Netherlands
  • The Mapping Ocean Wealth initiative led by the Nature Conservancy, USA

People Award Finalists, who are dedicated to the development of capacity building, training and education to build a skilled tourism workforce for the future:

  • Desert & Delta Safaris, Botswana
  • STREETS International, Vietnam
  • The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation’s China Hospitality Education Initiative (CHEI), China

The Winner Selection Committee is chaired by Fiona Jeffery OBE, Chair of the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards and include a further 15 independent judges from within the Travel & Tourism sector.

Fiona Jeffery OBE, Tourism for Tomorrow Awards Chair, said: “Now more than ever it’s important to highlight how tourism positively connects people across the planet and brings great social and economic benefits to destinations. The 2017 Tourism for Tomorrow Award Finalists demonstrate a commitment to long term vision in preference to short term gains and provide inspiring examples of responsible leadership in their businesses. The true value of the awards is the insight and learning which can be shared across the industry and I’m looking forward to hearing their stories during the WTTC Global Summit in April 2017.”

For the full list of finalists and more about the Awards, read more here.

Click here for the original article by WTTC.

To view the announcement of the 2017 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards Finalists, presented by Lead Judge Graham Miller, please click here.

Copyright @ WTTC 2017

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'green' events planning

In line with 2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, it is important that we take steps towards implementing sustainability in our day-to-day activities. This includes events – a major component of our industry.


There are many things that event planners, service providers and meeting participants may do as a means of contributing to sustainable and responsible event management.

Here are a few simple ‘green’ meeting tips:

1. Use online registration to reduce paper usage

Forget about archaic paper registration methods. Use an online registration tool. Online registration and ticketing not only eliminates excess printed materials but also saves time. Participants love being able to register from any device at any time. Check out Eventbrite, an example of a low-cost online event registration mobile app that can be used to promote and manage your event events.

2. Use electronic communication and marketing

Save a tree by going digital. Send out invitations, real time information, announcements and updates through online media and other online channels. electronic devicesDraw attention to eco-friendly aspects of your event with digital signage and information.

3. Choose a green venue

The venues, and their facilities, have a huge impact on the sustainability of your event. Consider first whether the building itself is certified, for example, by the US Green Building Council. Select an event site that’s easily accessible by foot, bicycle or public transport. This reduces the carbon footprint of your event. If your event is attracting international delegates, give them ‘green’ hotel options.

4. Encourage sustainable transportation

Choose energy efficient, hybrid or electric vehicles for your event. Encourage delegates to travel by public transportation by making it easy for them to navigate. As an alternative, set up carpool service (e.g. liftshare.com) or shuttle bus service for your attendees. Find out more about how to commute in an eco-friendly way; check out 30 ideas on green event transportation.

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5. Recycle and reduce waste at events

Provide bins for recycling and composting to minimise waste-to-landfill. Make recycling stations highly visible and accessible. Liaise with the venue management team about arrangements for composting food waste and donating any excess food to local charities.

6. Minimise energy use

Using natural light instead of artificial light reduces bills and helps the environment. Where electric lighting is required, make the switch to LED bulbs. Switch off lighting and equipment when it is not being used.

7. Go local

Use local vendors for ancillary services such as food, décor, gift items, and rentals. This reduces emissions and gives important support the local economies. Hire local staff to reduce travel times, costs and pollution.

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8. Inspire sustainable practices

Educate and inspire attendees by making your ‘green’ event practices highly visible to all stakeholders, including the public and the media. Encourage responsible behaviour among all stakeholders and foster understanding and appreciation of sustainability by adapting the PATA Responsible Business Travel Guidelines. Finally, check out our favourite 5 tips to become a responsible green delegate.

 

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A micro-approach to sustainable tourism: how travelers can take small actions that result in large, positive impacts

Categories: Blog Posts, Case Study, Community, People and Places
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By La Carmina, travel blogger and TV host @ lacarmina.com

la-carmina-lacarmina-asia-fashion-blogger-tv-host

 

Intro

As a millennial travel blogger, I’ve noticed a rising interest among travelers my age for “authentic, immersive” experiences. I personally gravitate towards sharing stories in this vein, such as conservation safaris in South Africa, or village food tours in Vietnam. Skift’s recent report echoes this movement: “Arguably the most significant, systemic trend in worldwide tourism today is the demand for ‘experiential travel’.”

Their report adds that 71% of US travelers now prefer to travel with family and friends, and book local stays. In particular, young travelers are uninterested in joining a big bus tour, briefly hitting the landmarks and sleeping at a chain hotel. Instead, they’re keen on local, off-the-beaten-path experiences. According to Trekk Soft, travelers are increasingly expressing a “real interest in interacting in a genuine way with other people and cultures” – giving examples such as camel treks to Merzouga, and staying in yurts with Mongolian nomads.

These experience-seeking travelers might not use the word (or hashtag) “sustainable” in describing their preferred travel style, but their approach often shares the same priorities. “Sustainable tourism,” after all, focuses on making a positive, ethical impact on the local environment, community and economy.

Leisure travelers might not instinctively be drawn to “sustainable tourism”, as the first images that come to mind tend to be voluntourism in poor areas, eco-work in jungles and other challenging long-term commitments. Skift suggests they may feel daunted by the physical level required, difficult living conditions, or overall social impact of their contribution.

However, travelers can make a significant impact even in a single day of action. There are many “micro-approaches” to incorporating sustainability into a trip – such a staying at a family-run hotel, devoting a day to volunteering in the city, or taking a cooking class run by villagers in their homes.

Since these small and less intensive choices are accessible to travelers, it’s likely that more will be willing to take part – resulting in compounding positive returns for the community. These “micro-sustainable” activities are also exactly in line with the meaningful, local experiences that travelers are increasingly seeking.

Tourists will always be in need of accommodations, food, transportation, and possibly a guided tour – all of which are opportunities to support locals, and leave a small footprint. In recent years, I’ve been putting the spotlight on small, sustainable choices in these areas, which can go a long way. Here are three examples from my recent journeys, and the lessons I’ve learned.

 

Case study 1: Volunteering with Myanmar punks

Volunteering abroad can take on many forms. Like many leisure travelers, I am not able to commit to a long stint of service, such as spending several weeks or months at a rural school. I also have some health concerns that limit me from certain types of activities, and I can understand why travelers may feel uncomfortable in some circumstances, such as working at a hospital.

Regardless, there is an abundance of direct, local-led ways to make a difference in any destination. These activities can fit seamlessly with one’s personal interests and abilities, and fulfill the “authentic” experiences that travelers desire.

For example, I’ve identified with subcultures ever since I was a teenager, especially Goth and punk lifestyles. When I had the opportunity to visit Myanmar, I was surprised to learn that there is a vivid, “old-school” punk scene in Yangon. These bands perform raucous sets at dive bars, wearing spiky Mohawks, studded jewelry and ripped tops – followed by hardcore partying til morning!

However, Yangon’s rockers are also committed to helping their community from the ground up. Kyaw Kyaw, leader of the punk group Rebel Riot, started two local charities: Books Not Bombs (raising funds and supplies for schoolchildren in need), and Food Not Bombs (a weekly program where the punks and volunteers feed the homeless).

Photo: La Carmina

Photo: La Carmina

As someone with a passion for underground culture, I was excited to meet Myanmar’s punks and help out with their non-profits. I messaged Kyaw Kyaw and others directly on Facebook, and we struck up a conversation. My friends and I ended up bringing a suitcase full of school supplies for the local children. We watched him perform at Human Rights Day, taking photos so that I could feature the concert on my travel blog. Later, we interviewed him while hanging out with his punk friends, which led to a decadent night out at Chinatown bars.

My friends and I were happy we were able to meet new friends who shared our love of alternative culture and fashion. We had a unique, fun experience with locals in Yangon, while also supporting a charity in person. With the Internet and social media, it’s easier than ever to reach out directly to individuals like we did, and make a difference even during a short trip.

 

Case study 2: Staying with a Serbian family

One of the simplest ways that travelers can support sustainable tourism is by choosing local, ethical accommodations. In the past, tourists booked chain hotels because they could count on the consistent quality. However, with the rise of crowd-sourced online reviews today, travelers minimize the risk of staying in subpar places. With a little web research, they can confidently put their dollars towards homestays, B&Bs, and independently run boutique hotels with excellent reputations.

When my travel TV team and I were planning our stay in Belgrade, I looked at international brands such as Best Western, Radisson and Hyatt. I knew these hotels would provide a satisfactory stay – but I probably wouldn’t remember the rooms or staff a few months later. In other words, there would be no “experience” or sustainable/local facets, which are important to my travel stories.

Instead, I looked at TripAdvisor and other boutique hotel reviews online. Selection Apartments stood out because it had 5-star reviews across the board, and won TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence every year since 2012.

We contacted them and received a personal reply and welcome from the family that runs these apartments, including the offer to pick us up from the train station for free. When we arrived, the father and wife team served us Serbian coffee and fresh-baked pastries, and then took us on a little walking tour of the neighbourhood to get us situated. They upkeep the rooms themselves, and were always available for friendly chats and to give advice. To this day, we still keep in touch on Facebook.

Photo: La Carmina

Photo: La Carmina

If we had booked a chain hotel, we would never have had a personalized, local experience like we did at Selection Apartments. My team and I feel great that we supported a kind Belgrade family, and consistently recommend them to travelers to help get the word out. This sustainable choice rewarded us with new friends and memories, while also helping out a local business.

 

Case study 3: Supporting Moroccan women on a tour

Likewise, in Morocco, my team and I wanted to dive deeper into the local culture, and film meaningful stories about individuals breaking boundaries. We were curious about the lives of Moroccan women, so we created a custom itinerary through Plan-It Fez, a tour company run by two expat women. We had a Moroccan lady as our guide and translator, and she helped us experience immersive activities that support local female-run businesses.

Photo: La Carmina

Photo: La Carmina

We learned how to make bread and couscous at a bakery collective, run by women in a village outside Fez. The next day, we took part in a family-run henna workshop, where three generations of Moroccan women showed us beauty treatments and drew designs on our hands. Finally, we stayed overnight in a Berber village home, cooking dinner with the ladies of the house.

Photo: La Carmina

Photo: La Carmina

Although my filmmakers and I only spent about a week in Morocco, our Plan-It Fez tour gave us powerful insight into the lives of independent, local women. We saw our dollars made a direct impact on the lives of these women, as we could observe how they were building lives for themselves through their work, which they opened up to tourists.

In any given destination, there are dozens of big-name tour groups, buses and cruises to choose from. However, with a little online research, sustainable-minded travelers can find a niche tour that focuses on a cause or aspect that they feel passionate about. These options can range from a small eco cruise for people who love diving, to music workshops run by emerging artists. I personally love shining a light on women and fringe groups, which made this tour a perfect fit for my interests, while creating sustainable benefits.

 

Conclusion

Today’s travelers are increasingly interested in “experiential, meaningful, local” journeys – and these values are in line with sustainability. However, large-scale voluntourism and eco-focused trips might not match the comfort levels of most leisure travelers. Instead, tourists can be encouraged to take small, mindful actions – such as booking homestays and ethical tours, or spending a day volunteering for a cause they believe in.

My case studies suggest that these “micro-sustainable” choices can fit one’s personal interests and be enjoyable, while also making a significant, positive impact on communities. Travelers are also more likely to take part in such “small” actions, as these require less time and physical investment. No matter how small, every choice that is mindful about a destination’s environment and residents will make a difference.

 

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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2016 has been a significant year in advancing fundamental principles and rights at work. Working with governments, social partners and communities, the ILO FUNDAMENTALS Branch has helped those who cannot organize and bargain collectively, those suffering from discrimination, and those who are trapped in child labour and forced labour. There is much more to be done, and we look forward to accelerating progress and coordinating action towards our common goals over the coming years.

Click here for the original article by International Labour Organization (ILO).

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Tourism Tidbits: Providing Tourism Cheer

Categories: Community, People and Places, Tourism Resilience
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Tourism and more

Wishing Everyone a Happy Chanukah and a Merry Christmas

December 2016: Tourism this past year has faced many challenges, from a slow economy in Europe to ISIS attacks, from medical issues such as Zika to waves of terrorism in Europe and wars in the Middle East.  For many around the world, despite the fact that this has not been an easy year, the month of December creates a great deal of “light” and “hope’. In the northern Hemisphere the lights of Christmas and Chanukah provide great beauty during the dead of winter. In the southern Hemisphere this is the beginning of the summer holidays and a time for rest and relaxation. December then is a time when most of the world seeks cheer and hope and looks to break the bleakness of everyday life with special events, with celebrations and with a chance to find beauty in life.

Tourism has a major role to play in helping all of us add cheer and a sense of joie de vivre to our lives. Despite the high cost of airline tickets and poor service along the continued weakening of the economy in many western nations, people seek the gift of travel.

Perhaps the greatest gift the travel and tourism industry can give the public is to find new and innovative ways to return at least some of the romance and enchantment to the world of hospitality. That means remembering that our guests are not mere statistical numbers but rather that each traveler represents a world unto him/herself and quality must always override quantity.

To help your locale or attraction put a bit of the romance and enchantment back into your industry, Tourism Tidbits offers the following suggestions.

Emphasize the unique in your community rather than the standardized.   Do not try to be all things to all people.  Be something that is special.  Ask yourself: What makes your community or attraction different and unique from your competitors?  How does your community celebrate its individuality?  If you were a visitor to your community would you remember it a few days after you had left or would it be just one more place on the map?  Emphasize unique shopping and dining experiences. If travel means nothing more than eating at the same restaurants no matter in where you are then it is merely a hassle rather than a memory.   For example, do not just offer an outdoor experience, but individualize that experience, explain what makes your hiking trails special, and your beaches or river experience with ideas from ecology, history or geology. If your community or destination is a creation of the imagination then allow the imagination to run wild and continually create new experiences.

Create enchantment through product development.  Advertise less and give more.  Always exceed expectations and never overstate your case. The best form of marketing is a good product and good service. Provide what your promise at prices that are reasonable.  The public understands that seasonal locations have to earn their year’s wages in a few months. Higher prices may be acceptable but gauging never is. If the other communities are building golf courses, then build something else, think of your community or destination as another country.  People do not want the same food, language and styles that they have back home. Sell not only the experience but also the memory by being different from other destinations.

Take the time to get excited about your community and then share that passion with other.  Ask ten neighbors what places they most like about your community and then make sure that you visit these locales.  You cannot get other people excited about your community if you are not excited about it.  Play tourism in your own community. See what you like and dislike about it and then emphasize the good and fix the bad.

Think of why it is great to be a tourist in your location. Do you offer special types of food that want to make people forget for a few days about counting calories, provide unique experience, or give people a chance to unwind?  Does your locate have unique music or can a visitor have a once in a lifetime experience when visiting?  Can your locale provide the visitor with a chance to leave his or her schedule and turn every hour into a happy hour?  These are the basics that make being a visitor and tourist fun.

Assess the areas of your tourism experience offerings that destroy enchantment and then fix them.  For example are your guests subjected to:

  • lines that are too long
  • a lack of shelter from the weather, sun, wind, cold etc.
  • rude service personnel
  • personnel that neither listen nor care
  • traffic jams and airport hassles
  • a lack of adequate parking
  • no one who is willing to listen or own a complaint?

Remember that tourism is first about people.  Tourism is about fun and you cannot help others to have fun if you dislike your job!  Make your job something special, do something goofy every day and find new ways to break your daily routine.   Remember that you need to be less interested in yourself and more interested in the vacationer’s experience.  An employee who is unique, funny, or makes people go away feeling special is worth thousands of dollars in advertising.  Every tourism manager and hotel GM ought to do every job in his or her industry at least once a year.  Often tourism managers push so hard for the bottom line that they forget the humanity of their employees.  Be with the visitors and see the world through their eyes.

Enchantment starts with caring and appearances.   The rule “people first” is an essential part of tourism, but along with good customer services, comes the way your locale, business and community appear.  In tourism appearances matter!  Develop a group of specialists in such fields as lighting, landscaping, color coordination, exterior and interior decorations, street appearances and city themes, parking lots and internal transportation service.  Utilitarian devices, such as the San Francisco trolley cars, can be vehicles of enchantment if they enhance the environment and add something special to place and help to differentiate it from other locales.

Create lists about what is special about your community and then make sure that the local population is aware of these attributes.  All too often locals believe that there is no reason anyone should come to their community and in fact there is nothing to do.  Run regular newspaper and TV spots that emphasize information such as:

  • What special attractions you community has
  • Special nature trails and outdoors activities
  • What to do when there is inclement weather
  • When festivals and special events occur
  • What are some of the special traditions and customs in your community
  • What are unique shopping opportunities

Remember hospitality starts with people so the more personal interactions that you can create the more positive is the memory that visitors take away from their visit to your locale.

Create a safe and secure atmosphere.  There can be little enchantment if people are afraid.  To create such an atmosphere local security professionals must be part of the planning from the beginning.  Tourism security is more than merely having police or security professionals hanging around a site.  Tourism security requires psychological and sociological analysis, the use of hardware, interesting and unique uniforms and careful planning that integrates the security professional into the enchantment experience. Enchantment oriented communities realize that everyone in the community has a part to play in creating a positive tourism experience and one that creates a unique and special environment not only for the visitor but also for those who live in the community.

By Dr. Peter Tarlow. Read more on Tourism & More, Inc.

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Sustainable Holiday Gift Ideas

Categories: Community, Green Tips, Planet
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Finding the perfect holiday gifts for loved ones may seem difficult and stressful sometimes. For this holiday season, instead of giving the traditional boxed gifts, consider giving a present that has a really positive impact.

Here are some great ideas to help you become a responsible gift giver this holiday:

Sustainable Material Gift

  • Choose Sustainable Materials: Choose items that are made from natural and renewable materials such as organic cotton, bamboo, wood, hemp, wool, or silk. Not only do these materials feel nice, but they also support sustainable industries.

Vintage Gift Ideas

  • Shop second-hand or vintage: One of the most sustainable things you can do for the planet is to support recycling. Shopping second-hand and vintage goods helps to extend the life cycle of a product. These gifts are unique, thoughtful, and full of history, and are often less expensive than their newer counterparts – not to mention the consignment and vintage shopping experience itself is part of the thrill of finding the perfect holiday gift.

Shop Local Gift

  • Purchase responsibly: We recommend that you buy fair-trade products that support goods produced in developing countries to achieve sustainable development, that support fair-trade farmers and small communities. Shop local to support your own community or consider supporting other small businesses online such as through Etsy – a peer-to-peer site that sells homemade/handcrafted and vintage goods.

 

The Gift of Charity

Image credits: TisBest

  • The Gift of Charity: The holiday season is a time for giving. By giving a charitable gift for the holidays, you’re actually giving twice! Consider giving a charity gift card, or making a donation in a loved one’s name this holiday, allowing the recipient to experience the rewards of donating to a cause of their choice. Check out TisBest for more information

Give an experience gift

  • Celebrate Together: Rather than giving something material, which could eventually find its way to the landfill, ‘give an experience gift’. Purchase a homemade coupon for a family bowling outing, a museum visit, a picnic in the park or other fun activity. Better still, in the spirit of holiday, find a way to conserve resources while at the same time connecting with others, thus creating lasting memories by inviting friends and family to celebrate with you in your home. The perfect gift for this festive season!

Enjoy a responsible holiday and make sure you do your part this year. We wish you much joy as you celebrate a ‘greener’ holiday!

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by Maeve Nightingale, Mangroves for the Future Programme Manager, IUCN

 

Cox's maeve

Home to a golden sand beach, towering cliffs, amazing surf, rare conch shells and colorful pagodas, Cox’s Bazar should long ago have been on the map as a popular tourist destination. Yet, little is known about this fascinating fishing port located in the South Asian nation of Bangladesh.

Cox’s Bazar is best known for having the longest beach in the world – a 120 km of continuous sandy shore running the length of the coastline. The town is named after Lieutenant Cox, an officer of the British East India Company who sought shelter in the then British territory after the conquest of Arakan by the Burmese. A majority of the population, many of which are originally from Myanmar, are descendants of the Arakan refugees creating a continuum of ethnic diversity and cultural harmony that shapes Cox’s Bazar today. Products of the Rakhine people are a favorite amongst tourists. Their unique culture attracts visitors from home, and abroad.

Cox's fishermen-on-inani-beach-coxs-bazar

“Fishermen on Inani Beach, Cox’s Bazar”©IUCN Asia/Ann Moey

From Cox’s Bazar all the way down to Teknaf: a place of culture, wildlife and natural landscapes

Located north-west of Cox’s Bazar town, the Island of Sonadia has been identified by the Government of Bangladesh as an ‘Ecologically Critical Area’ or ECA to protect it from over exploitation (Environmental Protection Zone as a result of the 1995 Environmental Conservation Act). It is a barrier island, meaning it is protecting the mainland from erosion by lying parallel to it. Sonadia Island provides diverse habitat that supports three different vegetation types—sand dunes, salt marshes and mangroves. Along with its associated marine area, it provides habitat for several threatened species including marine turtles, shore birds and cetaceans. The Island is one of the last remaining habitats of the Spoon Billed Sand Piper, a very rare shore bird.

Nearby, St Martin’s Island – the only coral-bearing Island in Bangladesh – is a site of interest for establishing one of the first national Marine Protected Areas (MPA) through the support of IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, and its regional coastal ecosystem programme, Mangroves for the Future (MFF), opening up opportunities for conserving wildlife and promoting sustainable tourism activities. MPAs involve the protective management of natural areas so as to keep them in their natural state. MPAs can be conserved for a number of reasons including economic resources, biodiversity conservation, and species protection. They are created by delineating zones with permitted and non-permitted uses within that zone.

Other important local attractions include the Forests of Shilkali and Chunuti, which are managed and protected by local communities. Chunuti Wildlife Sanctuary is the country’s third oldest sanctuary and home to a herd of majestic Asian elephants, the rare Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Kalij Pheasant and Crab-eating Maongoose, all of which can be seen whenhiking in the forest. The Teknaf Wildlife Sanctuary is another place of diverse wildlife, featuring a hill forest in the middle part of the Teknaf Peninsula.

Driving Cox’s Bazar tourism industry towards inclusiveness

Sustainable approach to tourism means that neither the natural environment nor the socio-cultural fabric of the host communities should be impaired by the arrival of tourists (UNESCO). In fact the goal is for local communities to benefit from tourism, both economically and socially, without sacrificing their natural environment in the process.

Tourism can be a driver for social growth and economic development if it carefully considers local assets to build attractive and marketable tourism products while maximizing benefits sharing and reducing negative environmental impacts.

”Defining a Sustainable Tourism Strategy for Cox’s Bazar will require developing a common vision at the local, national and regional level, to pave the way for local to national economic development opportunities and work across industries including fisheries and aquaculture, agriculture, handicrafts, tourism facilities and service providers,” says Maeve Nightingale. The first step of this strategy will be a participatory consultative initiative where national, local government, tourism industries and related businesses as well as local communities work together to design the vision and way forward for a sustainable future for Cox’s Bazar, recognizing that conservation and tourism and community development opportunities go hand in hand as marine and coastal environments provide key natural assets, essential to the tourism industry and coastal communities. Therefore, coastal tourism development should be an inclusive process that values local communities and creates benefits-sharing systems.

Cox's “Women from Nuniarchi Conservation Village selling their hand-made products” © IUCN Asia/Petch Manopawitr

“Women from Nuniarchi Conservation Village selling their hand-made products” © IUCN Asia/Petch Manopawitr

To guide the tourism sector towards sustainability, IUCN has developed guidelines for the integration of biodiversity in hotels and resorts development; to integrate business skills into ecotourism operations; and to ensure sustainable tourism in Parks and Protected Areas. In parallel, MFF works to leverage opportunities for communities to develop small-scale, sustainable enterprises, which support local livelihood development. Some of these initiatives include facilitating the supply of local sustainable seafood to hotels and restaurants, souvenir product development for hotels, development of ecotourism services. In Thailand, MFF/IUCN influence coastal industries through interaction with supply chains and customer base e.g. several Marriott Hotels & Resorts have now local seafood strategies in place for their restaurants. A Thailand seafood guide will also be developed for awareness.

Cox's one-of-joars-eco-cottages-mff-funded-project

“Lunch with MFF grantee Joar at one of the eco-cottages in Shyamnagar”© IUCN Asia/Amin Raquibul

Emphasizing the importance of these types of collaborative approaches, MFF works closely with communities in Bangladesh to achieve a sustainable, community-based ecotourism industry. In Shyamnagar, a sub-district located close to the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, MFF works together with Joar an NGO that supports natural resources dependent communities by providing alternative sources of income from the operation of eco-cottages and related ecotourism activities.

Cox's "Joar's Eco-Cottages (MFF Funded Project)”©IUCN Asia/Amin Raquibul

“Joar’s Eco-Cottages (MFF Funded Project)”©IUCN Asia/Amin Raquibul

Raising awareness for public-private partnerships

In the long run the future of tourism as a driver of sustainable and inclusive development in Cox’s Bazar will necessitate a participatory approach, working together and active support from both private, public sector and the community.

Strategic guidelines like a participatory tourism development planning is necessary for Cox’s Bazar to ensure a holistic approach for sustainable tourism development that includes considerations for managing freshwater, wastewater, drainage, waste management, infrastructure and other essential services necessary for tourism. At the same time preserving, the much treasured cultural and natural heritages as the foundation not only for tourism but also for societal well being is essential. Recognized for its potential to become a top tourist destination, Cox’s Bazar has been selected to be the venue of this year’s PATA New Tourism Frontiers Forum – 24th and 25th November 2016. Mohammad Shahad Mahabub Chowdhury, National Coordinator for MFF Bangladesh will be moderating the session “Rethinking Sustainable Coastal Tourism.” The session will focus on how the private sector is a critical stakeholder for the stewardship of coastal resources.

Cox's "Boat Renovation on Inani Beach Cox's Bazar”©IUCN Asia/ Ann Moey

“Boat Renovation on Inani Beach Cox’s Bazar”©IUCN Asia/ Ann Moey

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About IUCN

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN’s work focuses on valuing and conserving nature, ensuring effective and equitable governance of its use, and deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges in climate, food and development. IUCN supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world, and brings governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice. IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organisation, with almost 1,300 government and NGO Members and more than 15,000 volunteer experts in 185 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by almost 1,000 staff in 45 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world.

Learn more at: www.iucn.org

About MFF

Mangroves for the Future (MFF) is a partnership-based regional initiative which promotes investment in coastal ecosystem conservation for sustainable development. MFF focuses on the role that healthy, well-managed coastal ecosystems play in building the resilience of ecosystem-dependent coastal communities in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. The initiative uses mangroves as a flagship ecosystem, but MFF is inclusive of all types of coastal ecosystem, such as coral reefs, estuaries, lagoons, sandy beaches, sea grasses and wetlands. MFF is co-chaired by IUCN and UNDP, and is funded by Danida, Norad, Sida and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Thailand.

Learn more at: www.mangrovesforthefuture.org

 

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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