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Voluntourism. It sounds like a beautiful way to combine service and travel. Indeed, many volunteers are flocking to countries, usually for short periods, to Asia and Africa to help children, to save endangered animals or to build houses and schools.

 

However, this form of tourism arguably does more harm than good. It is suggested that voluntourism perpetuates stereotyping, creates dependence on aid and aggravates symptoms of neo-colonialism.  

 

When conducted correctly, however, your community, NGO, or business may benefit from voluntourism. Your organisation needs to stand out from the industry that makes profits from the poverty of local communities in order to have a promising future.

 

Here are some suggestions on how to make the best of your voluntourism initiative:

 

  1. Find your match

Balance the motives of the potential volunteer with those of your company. It is not beneficial to employ volunteers who just want to pad their CVs. Give preference to those who are willing to contribute more time, remembering that it takes some time for a person to settle into a role and on that precious resources are often spent training or wasted in high turnover situations.

 

Do not work with young people who are eager to save a whole community but rather those who are willing to learn from a different culture and who are aware that they are not coming as a type of ‘superhero’.

 

  1. Preparation is key

One of the most important success factors is to match the expectations of the volunteers with your standards. To guarantee a successful tenure, consider hosting a preparation meeting. It is not only important to brief the volunteers about risks and expectations but also about the culture and history of the destination. This will help them to understand the community prior to arrival. Follow up on this meeting with regular discussions during their stay.

 

  1. Community involvement

Remember that the community is also a key stakeholder in voluntourism. To create a lasting and positive impact, match the communities’ expectations with that of your organisation and volunteers. Gather ideas on how a volunteer may engage with the community and where a helping hand is needed. Discuss how voluntourism projects may benefit the community in the longer term. It is also helpful to communicate motives and cultural differences of the volunteers.

 

 

Voluntourism is a controversial subject. It is thus imperative to make special considerations for your programming to create a win-win situation for all parties involved: your volunteers, community and organisation. If undertaken correctly, this form of tourism can be very rewarding and make a contribution to world peace and mutual understanding.

 

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The Code (short for “The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism”) is an industry-driven responsible tourism initiative with a mission to provide awareness, tools and support to the tourism industry in order to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.

Visit their events on Child Protection in Travel and Tourism:

  1. Workshop on Child Protection in Travel and Tourism: 7-8 June, 2017 Luang Prabang, Laos
  2. Industry Training Session on Preventing Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism, 15 June, 2017, Chiang Mar, Thailand

 

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Climate change is considered by many to be the biggest global health threat a concern that is driving people to greener behaviour and consumption. Those concerns drive people to go for greener and environmental friendly products but health starts with everyone within.

 

Companies should tackle this issue and ensure the support of happy and healthy employees, not only to meet the development goals of the International Day for Safety and Health at Work 2017, celebrated this week on the 28 April 2017, but also to promote sustainability as it often begins with passionate employees.

 

A healthy workforce can not only demonstrate corporate responsibility, it also positively impacts a company’s bottom line through increased employee productivity and decreased turnover. Moreover, customers are increasingly scrutinising companies’ responsible business practices and expect them to be socially responsible towards your employees with high standards of health, safety and wellbeing. Practicing health and safety will boost a more positive public image for your business. Read more on benefits of healthy workplaces here.

 

Here are some tips on how to maintain a healthy workplace:

 

  1. No pain, no gain

Make arrangements with a local gym to give employees a discount on membership. You can have a trainer from the gym come in first and talk about the role exercise plays in weight control and overall health.

 

  1. Be in control

It is important to stay abreast of one’s health on a frequent basis to identify health problems early. That is why you can offer health checks for your employees to monitor their cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Read more here.

 

  1. Serve the right food

According to the Forbes Magazine, we consume too much fatty snacks during worktime. That is why you could offer healthy meals in vending machines or in the canteen instead. When catering food for meetings or events, also opt for healthy options such as fruits and vegetables.

 

  1. Arrange a charity sporting event

You can sponsor a charity sporting event such as a 10K run and motivate your employees to take part by ensuring a donation for every accomplished route. This tactic of event sponsorship not only brings about brand awareness and positive PR, it also encourages employees to stay healthy and fit, the best prevention. Be sure to reward your team with a delicious picnic afterwards!

 

Having a team of healthy employees requires planning and motivation, but ultimately it can save money while protecting a company’s most valuable asset – its people.

 

Read more on how to ensure happiness and sustainability at work by forming a Green Team.

 

 

 

 

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Recent research found 70% of people in middle- and high-income countries believe overconsumption is putting our planet and society at risk. Photograph: Seth Wenig/Reuters

 

This week, heads of state are gathering in New York to sign the UN’s new sustainable development goals (SDGs). The main objective is to eradicate poverty by 2030. Beyoncé, One Direction and Malala are on board. It’s set to be a monumental international celebration.

Given all the fanfare, one might think the SDGs are about to offer a fresh plan for how to save the world, but beneath all the hype, it’s business as usual. The main strategy for eradicating poverty is the same: growth.

Growth has been the main object of development for the past 70 years, despite the fact that it’s not working. Since 1980, the global economy has grown by 380%, but the number of people living in poverty on less than $5 (£3.20) a day has increased by more than 1.1 billion. That’s 17 times the population of Britain. So much for the trickle-down effect.

Orthodox economists insist that all we need is yet more growth. More progressive types tell us that we need to shift some of the yields of growth from the richer segments of the population to the poorer ones, evening things out a bit. Neither approach is adequate. Why? Because even at current levels of average global consumption, we’re overshooting our planet’s bio-capacity by more than 50% each year.

 

Read the full article here.

By Jason Hickel from The Guardian

 

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Since this year’s Earth Day falls on a weekend, PATA decided to celebrate a little early. For this year’s Earth Day, our Green Team invited Mr Poonyos Kumpolkunjana, founder of Paper Ranger a local Bangkok non-profit, to give our team a workshop, titled, “Everyone can be a hero.”

 

On Tuesday, 18 April, Mr. Kumpolkunjana came to the PATA Engagement Hub and spoke to our team about how easy it is to make something useful out of paper waste, then showed us how to make notebooks using our office’s used paper! Our team had a lot of fun crafting notebooks out of paper waste.

 

Mr. Kumpolkunjana from Paper Ranger showing how its done

 

Everyone joined in, including Dr. Mario Hardy, the CEO of PATA

 

Proud participants presenting their work

 

His foundation arranges workshops with various groups, and donates the handcrafted notebooks that result from these workshops to schools throughout Thailand. Learn more about Paper Ranger here, and to book your own workshop, contact paperranger@live.com.

 

Recycling is a crucial concept in sustainable management, especially in an office environment. For more information check our green tips of this week here.

 

 

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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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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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Thailand, 2015. Photo: UN Women/Pornvit Visitoran. | Lebanon, 2015. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saad | Kenya, 2016. Photo: CIAT/Georgina Smith

The 2017 theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March, focuses on “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”. 

The world of work is changing, with significant implications for women. On one hand, technological advances and globalization bring unprecedented opportunities for those who can access them. On the other hand, there is growing informality of labour, income inequality and humanitarian crises.

Against this backdrop, only 50 per cent of working age women are represented in the labour force globally, compared to 76 per cent of men. What’s more, an overwhelming majority of women are in the informal economy, subsidizing care and domestic work, and concentrated in lower-paid, lower-skill occupations with little or no social protection. Achieving gender equality in the world of work is imperative for sustainable development.

Read more about the International Women’s Day here. By UN Women.

 

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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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