There are about as many definitions of sustainable tourism as there are international travellers (1.2 billion at the last count), so how does a small business, multinational company, or even an industry association know where best to focus their resources when it comes to working towards a sustainable future?
The World Travel & Tourism Council recently undertook an exercise to answer just that question, and here is how they found the answer.
1. We laid out all the issues
Before we started asking people what’s important, we wanted to know what the scope of the conversation was. We investigated what others had identified and researched, and compiled a long list of issues to prioritise. We grouped the issues (43 in total) under eight headings, and you can find the full list HERE.
· Travel, tourism, and environmental impacts.
· Maintaining sustainable destinations in a changing world.
· Travel, tourism, and health.
· Travel, tourism, and human rights.
· Shifting innovation drivers in the Travel & Tourism sector.
· The evolving labour market and employment practices.
· Travel, tourism, and security.
· Responsible business practices and leadership.
2. We asked our membership
We then did a survey of all our Members, where they were asked to rate each of the 43 issues in terms of their relevance to the industry, using a simple scale of low/medium/high and severe impact over a medium term horizon.
Perhaps not surprisingly many of the responses focused on key issues of the day — security threats (Brussels airport bombing had just happened) and health pandemics (the Zika virus was in full swing); as well as day to day governance and compliance issues. It was clear that those issues that play out in the longer term — such as climate change — are perceived to be less significant amongst those who have more pressing concerns.
3. We asked the experts
Given the focus on issues of immediate concern we were keen to get a perspective from outside the sector. Individuals who are taking a longer term view of the issues and their impacts. We did this by speaking to a wide range of academics, economists, private sector specialists, and NGOs and intergovernmental organisation leaders from across the sustainability spectrum. To find out what they said read the full report HERE.
4. We defined our own success criteria
We chose to apply four ‘lenses’ to the analysis to help us identify where best our resources could be focused. These were:
· Long term — issues that will play out over the next 5–10 years or longer.
· Strategic — issues that will affect the ability of Travel & Tourism companies to create sustainable growth.
· Influential — issues where the Travel & Tourism sector is able to make a specific and unique contribution, relative to other sectors.
· Cross sector — issues where there is a need for collective action across Travel & Tourism as a whole.
5. We combined the findings
We mapped the priorities of the Members against those of the experts and were able to clearly identify a selection of the original 43 issues that were at the top of both lists. These included:
· Degradation of ecosystems, biodiversity, and landscapes.
· The impact of climate change on the attractiveness and the long term feasibility of certain destinations.
· Safety and security preparedness and response.
· Reduced travel to destinations affected by public health crises.