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Responsible Tourism at WTM Latin America

The Responsible Tourism Seminar programme  WTM Latin America celebrates the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development

WTM Latin America opens the door for Latin America tourism and travel trade celebrating – and working for – the sustainable development goals in the industry. With 3 different sessions on the UNWTO’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, initiatives, tools and results were made available so the Latin American trade take responsibility for impacts in destinations.

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The Responsible Tourism Seminar started with the presentation of Ms. Sandra Carvão, chief of Communications and Publications at UNWTO. The audience had the chance to learn the initiatives the organisation brought in this special year for the promotion of Sustainable Development, with many online tools both the trade and the traveller can join and take the responsibility for local sustainable development.

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The session benefited from  the speech of Mr. Frederico Levy, director of sustainability at the Brazilian Tour Operator Association – BRAZTOA, who presented the projects the association has been developing to promote sustainable tourism among its members, like the BRAZTOA Sustainability Awards, the SEEDS Program (Semeando a Excelência do Desenvolvimento Sustentável, or Sowing Excellence for Sustainable Tourism) a series of seminars with specialists who bring solutions for positive local impact for the association’s members.

The second day of Responsible Tourism Seminars at WTM-LA brings South American World RT Award winners 

The second seminar on Responsible Tourism at WTM-LA, in São Paulo, brought to the audience the first World RT Awarded initiative in the continent, Caiman Ecological Refuge, in the Brazilian Pantanal. Mr. Roberto Klabin (owner of Caiman Refuge) presented on how this jungle lodge acts for the conservation of the biodiversity, showing reasons for having got the Silver Award in 2008.
Mr. Klabin was followed by the presentation of the 2016 World RT Awards Overall Winner, Tren Ecuador. Ms. Ana García Pando (General Manager at Tren Ecuador) brings the experience with traditional communities along the railway where Tren Ecuador takes its travellers, confirming the positive social and economic impact is an efficient action towards poverty reduction.
The session also counted with the participation of representants from Bonito (Best Destination for Responsible Tourism, 2013) and Campo dos Sonhos (Best for People with Disabilities and Overall Winner, 2014), showing the importance of the WTM World RT Awards for the trade and sharing effective solutions for a more responsible travel and tourism industry.
Animal Welfare was the topic for the 3rd day for Responsible Tourism Seminars at WTM Latin America 

Mr. Roberto Vieto, Wildlife Manager at World Animal Protection – Latin America brought the Program “Wildlife: Not Entertainers” showing the trade the urgency on taking the responsibility for the use of animals as attractions across the globe, specially in major ecotourism destinations such as in Latin America countries. Their program aims to educate travellers on their holidays, bringing useful information to help protect animals from mistreatment.
Mr. Vieto was followed by two Brazilian cases in which organisations use tourism as a strategy for environmental education and conservation of wildlife. The first to speak was Mr. José Henrique Becker, biologist at Projeto TAMAR, an NGO that brings tourists to their 8 bases spread along the Brazilian Coast to educate on the issues related to sea turtles in the country. With the support of visitors, TAMAR has helped release on seas over 25 million baby turtles, protecting their nests and working on the issues of fishing, maritime pollution and hunting.
Mr. Pedro Nassar (Coordinator of the Community-Based Program at Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development) then presented the case of jaguars in the Amazon. Together with local riverine communities and Uakari Floating Lodge, the jaguar researchers at the Institute developed a scientific program for travellers that helps raise awareness in local communities of the importance of the conservation of the species, qualify selected teenagers to become local researchers on jaguars and funds the Jaguar School, an environmental education basis for locals to learn more about the local biodiversity and the threatens on specific species. Along with having the chance to spot jaguars in the wild, visitors fund all those initiatives with positive local impact.
The seminars drew good good audiences with 40 to 50 on the frist day, 50-60 on h second and 25 on the thired day.
Interest is clearly growing in Resonsible Tourism in Latin America.
All the sessions were moderated by Gustavo Pinto

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Filed by Gustavo Pinto

Founder and director at Inverted America Journeys
Linked in 

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Is the knowledge gap too wide to innovate responsible accommodation?

Is the knowledge gap too wide to innovate responsible accommodation?

Christopher Warren 9th February, 2017

There is currently insufficient research to assist the transition for tourist accommodation to become a low carbon sector that also uses water sustainably. After reviewing 110 academic resource-saving studies  Christopher Warren and Susanne Becken found significant research gaps that leave us still unclear how accommodation can make deep game changing savings.

What the Gaps cover

These gaps include:

  • renewable energy
  • renewable water
  • non-hotel accommodation types
  • building design
  • climate and cultural influence
  • smart technology
  • guest engagement

Lack of Data

They could only find a small number of studies which detail consumption amounts, so there is insufficient data to establish benchmarks and track savings (only 15 studies provided energy and 13 studies offered water benchmarks). This limitation is made worse by the lack of studies which measure the influence of seasonality and climate over time (an important when considering Climate Change and adaptation).

They found many studies lacked detail that allows us to unambiguously interpret findings. Overall the studies used different measures and terms making it hard to compare results and build a body of knowledge. Only a few studies indicated a return on investment, which is worrying as new technologies tend to be sold on the idea of a financial benefit.

Without clarity, deep savings become more difficult because there are in fact a multitude of factors which influence consumption. This demonstrates that technical efficiencies alone cannot be relied upon as the sole method to save. Building a solid body of knowledge and developing the skills to run accommodation more sustainably is therefore essential; since it is human behaviour that controls resource use by how a firm is run, how savings methods might be organised and how guests can consume less.  To stimulate service innovation we require a more consistent research approach and to link expertise that tests and refines solutions.


 

Lack of Coverage

Tourism is a global sector yet most of the research into resource saving at tourist accommodation has been conducted in Europe (38%), Asia (mainly China, 26%) and North America (19%). The Middle East only had two papers and the Southern Hemisphere only records 20% of the total output. Of the eight papers whose primary focus was water saving, none covered the Middle East and Africa. Since local climate, building design and culture are important variables in resource use there is obviously a great need to redress the imbalance and conduct innovative research in the South (see research opportunity below). Likewise there were only six papers focused on guest engagement (tiny when considering guests can account for half of the energy and water used in hotels). Most of the papers concentrated on hotels with a small number covering camp sites, shared economy and small operators. These findings clearly spotlight ‘known unknowns’ which we must address.

Why this is important now

The urgency to bridge the research gap is also a global challenge as tourist accommodations’ environmental footprint is very likely to be underestimated. This is because the shared economy has been outpacing traditional accommodation growth, and statistics exclude unofficial hosts, so the size of the sector is far larger than authorities estimate and more complex. Therefore the level of consumption, versus aspirational carbon reduction targets, may present a larger challenge than originally thought. The sector’s consumption is further aggravated by aging building stock and changing climates. Meanwhile, tourism grows exponentially, so while an accommodation may show energy and water savings per guest night, absolute resource use could remain unchanged. Without holistic knowledge to help the sector innovate and become more sustainable, consumption is most likely to rise and with it carbon emissions and water use.

What we should do

Tourism should now establish collaboration networks between scientists, practitioners, and entrepreneurs which bridge the knowledge gaps and accelerate sustainability-oriented innovation.

How we might do it

Findings from our study lead to the following proposed research framework (see figure below – adapted from Warren & Becken, 2017). If we want to close the research gap and generate new knowledge then we need a holistic approach that includes key influencing elements, more consistently presented findings, to share and built upon. Networks linking expertise must conduct research which addresses clear savings targets and identify paths to achieve them (e.g . if we want to save 50%, then we need to take this action). The ICRT-Australia is conducting an international research study on responsible service innovation and is an example of collaboration; expressions of interest to participate are welcomed. The knowledge gap will not be too wide if we start collaborating now.

Proposed integrative framework to advance research and theory of energy and water savings in tourist accommodation. Adapted from Warren & Becken, 2017

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Adapted from Warren & Becken, 2017 Int. Journal of Tourism Research

ROE (Return On Environment)

 

For more information contact:

Christopher Warren

christopher.@icrtourism.com.au

 

Work Responsibly in Pakistan

A request from Najeeb Khan

I humbly request all the Domestic Pakistani Tour operators, Facebook tour operators
PLEASE PLEASE
Work Responsibly:
It is simply not possible to advertise a 4 day trip from Lahore to Hunza, it is not possible if you follow the international travel rules, no matter the clients are corporate OR students, they need to be guided not misguided
Don’t drive at night time just to save money,
On the Karakorum Highway there is no 2nd chance, exhausted drivers behind the wheel, in the blink of an eye can take you down in the Indus River and disappear,
Adverts,
Please be more informative, adverts on your page must be clear and complete of services included name of the hotel, meals, menu and excursions
If you take security personals they are for security not for show-off, some are advertising as the retired SSG guards, the security personals need to be from a licensed security company along with licensed weapons and in normal shalwar kameez not in uniform
Uniform gives unnecessary visibility; people are travelling with you for holidays not to look like VIPs.
Respect the local culture and traditions,
A group of students from Punjab were in trouble in central Hunza while taking picture of ladies working in the field, luckily in the group there were female participants they intervened and apologized to the ladies, the issue settled before the local youth arrived.
You need to put your landline number, so in the case of emergency your office can be contacted
Copyrights:
Please respect copyrights.
Najeeb Ahmed Khan CEO Himalayan Holidays (pvt) Ltd
Winner of The World Responsible Tourism Award WTM London

From Responsible Tourism top Craft Beer

Robin Barden completed the MSc in Responsible Tourism Management  (2007-10) with a very good report on the tourism and sense of place in the Barri Gòtic.

Robin is the first RT graduate to have his name in lights on Times Square.

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In 2013 Robin was part of the team which ran the 7th International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations in October 2013.

He ran a successful weekend of “walks and talks on responsible tourism in heavily-visited touristic-historic cities” (Barcelona, Spring 2012) which brought together members of the ICRT’s international network, the ICRT Barcelona & Catalunya (Xarxa de Turisme Responsable), local tourism businesses, tourism consultants, tourism board professionals, journalists, a slow food group, students, and academics in the area.

Applied local and responsible tourism knowledge to compile My Guide to a Sustainable Congress for the IUCN World Congress in Barcelona and ran  an authentic visitor experience in Barcelona built around the emerging craft beer movement in the region. See www.facebook.com/CraftyBeerTours

In January 2014 he became the Craft Beer Ambassador for Edge Brewing,  brewing American-style craft beers at its brewery birthplace in Barcelona, where Edge’s two adventurous founders and Robin first met.

As Robin says
It’s an exciting project presenting new challenges, but also fun opportunities, like meeting new people who are passionate about generating and sharing ideas, whether those relate to brewing, or creative ways to engage the “craft beer curious” , and keep the “craft beer converted” on their taste buds. It’s great to be in a position where better flavour, a greater diversity of flavours, a little reflection on what you’re imbibing, sociability and happiness… growing an interest in all those things is the name of the game, because that’s what good beer is all about.

Barcelona a Beer Destination 
Las cervezas artesanas duplican ventas cada año

Edge Brewing
Carrer de Llull, 62
08005 Barcelona
Onwards, upwards and… Edgewards!  On Twitter and Facebook too!

Look for Edge Brewing in the  lists of the World’s Best New Breweries & Best New Beers.

Responsible voluntourism exists – and I found it in the Calais jungle

It was as I was beginning to edit my first ever responsible tourism video (concerning how tourism can help the refugee crisis) that it hit me: I live within 30 miles of a refugee camp, and yet I’ve never visited one.

I was reading about awesome initiatives and inspiring stories that told how refugees were being integrated into our communities as museum tourist guides, and how tourists and refugees were encountering each other in Lesvos and sharing life dreams.

And then I stumbled upon Manda Brookman’s A Million Acts of Sanctuary project.

It was here that I discovered that the Cornish community is coming together in an act of compassionate collaboration. And then it suddenly dawned on me: I need to help more too. But how can I possibly be credible in delivering the message if I have no personal experience of what is really going on?

My first thought was to tell my friend and Production Manager, Maddie Duggan, that I had to go to Calais. She agreed, and told me that she was coming too. We packed our bags and emailed the Help Refugees charity in Calais to tell them we would join them for a weekend.

The night before our trip, some of my extended family told me I was making a mistake, that the people in the camp were economic migrants seeking better livelihoods, and were not actual refugees. And that I should be very wary and not stray away on my own.

I was also told that I needed to establish if any refugee women live in the camp, because, you know, there’s an assumption made that women prefer to send their men out to seek asylum and then receive money from them. The implication was that they wouldn’t actually make the journey themselves because they weren’t really in any danger.

The usual propaganda.

I wanted to draw my own conclusions. I informed friends and family that I would go with an open mind, and would share my thoughts with them upon my return.

When we arrived at our destination, our briefing pack discouraged us from entering the camp and taking photos of refugees. We were asked not to prompt any discussions as they could do more harm than good, and potentially distress people. The camp managers highlighted that refugees are not tourist attractions and shouldn’t be treated as such; and that we, as volunteers, had an important duty to perform: to help provide refugees with the best possible experience in the circumstances.

I was told that jobs inside the camp were only given to long-term volunteers who understood the etiquette of the camp and knew how to interact with refugees, and came with the appropriate qualifications.

In my close circle of responsible tourism practitioners, we recognise that deprived people should not be treated as tourist attractions, and that formal qualifications are imperative when it come to volunteering to work with vulnerable people.

That’s exactly what Justin Francis from Responsible Travel, together with Harold Goodwin and many other responsible tourism industry leaders have been campaigning about over the last few years.

And we’re now seeing even more widespread traction on these topics, with the likes of J.K. Rowling campaigning against reckless voluntourism, and promoting a more well-informed approach, especially when it comes to volunteering with vulnerable people.

During my Calais trip I discovered that responsible voluntourism was being practiced correctly – right in front of my eyes. I was delighted; these people were doing it the right way.

We spent our two-day adventure putting together winter-clothes arrival packs for women (yes, surprise, surprise – there are women in the camp) and working on a production line assembling food packs. We neatly put together the essentials: beans, milk, rice, flour, sugar and onions into boxes that were due for delivery by truck the next day. We were asked to prepare extra packs, because the following day a lorry drivers’ protest was scheduled and the whole compound needed to be sealed.

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While we worked, we did some research. We found out that, as well as women, the camp contains over 860 children, 78 percent of whom are on their own, some as young as eight.

We discovered other statistics: 45 percent of camp refugees come from Sudan, where the war ended nine months ago. A further 30 percent hail from Afghanistan, which is still at war, and seven percent have arrived from Pakistan, whose north-west region has been at war since 2004. There are also minorities from Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Iraq – countries that are all engaged in active conflicts.

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This data alone proves that these unfortunate people are not economic migrants; they are fleeing from war.

My experience has proved to me that we need to start getting our facts straight, and work at understanding these conflicts better. As Robin Lustig said very recently, it is time for some moral outrage. We need to understand the problems better, and we need to do a great deal more to help – each and every one of us.

How is it possible that the UK government continues to supply weapons and licence the sale of arms in some of these countries? Whether we like it or not, we are complicit in perpetuating such conflicts, and we have to do something to help reverse the situation.

Despite the dark clouds gathered across our world, I always see a silver lining, and continue to remain hopeful. There were so many positive outcomes following our experience.

We hung out with compassionate people, did useful jobs, learned things and ate great food (thanks, Calais Kitchens).

  • Since our return, seven work colleagues have decided to join Maddie and me for our next volunteering trip.
  • Our foray was taken notice of by Travel Weekly, who decided to write about it.
  • Harold Goodwin has asked me to talk about how tourism can help the refugee crisis at November’s World Travel Market.

And finally, I love witnessing my friends’ campaigns that promote the right course of action. We can all make a difference, and every individual effort adds up to make a huge contribution to dealing with the crisis.

For me, it started by making a video, which in turn inspired my trip to Calais. Now, I have a huge to-do list. What about you?

My name is Crista Buznea, and I’m here to learn.

 

7 days in Penzance

You gotta’ love towns like this, working class, with a few quid in its pocket and some gaudy jewellery, but proud of its roots and not afraid to show it. Fronted by the faded grandeur of homes and businesses, that don’t quite live up to the promise of the wide promenade and the Jubliee Pool, these give way quietly to working piers, boatyards and the railway station…a real life, gritty and unashamedly working town…no artifice here, prime real estate given over to function.

But even so, tourism weaves its spell here. Taking a walk around the town, tiny alleys and lanes dip in and out of sight as we walk down the hill from the wonderful Penwith Community Development Trust (PCDT)  through Morrab Gardens revealing beautiful quiet streets with obvious wealth, in the form of stunning period second homes and holiday lettings, sitting quite comfortably alongside slightly umkempt town houses divided into flats and quaint ‘chocolate box’ cottages.

The door to the gorgeous Penzance School of Art is open, revealing a lone student at work in a beautifully lit, high ceilinged room. Were we disturbing her? Too polite to say yes, she allows us a question….Is local housing an issue? Yes, but a shrug of the shoulders says something more….it is just the price to be paid for living in a beautiful part of the world colonised by visitors for large parts of the year and where everything seems to only be valued from that perspective.

Calling into some travel agents to see it from their perspective we enquired from one whether there was any antagonism from local people about ‘outsiders’ buying up homes, ‘not really’ was the reply, ‘although some people, mostly local fishermen, wouldn’t be too happy, but who did they think would buy their fish”.

 

As a group we are being hosted in the Penwith Centre by Manda Brookman of CoaST  to take part in a residential week for our MSc in Responsible Tourism under Prof. Harold Goodwin of Manchester Metropolitan University.

We have already spent two days in London listening to Martin Brackenbury, Ruth Holroyd and John De Vial speak to us about ‘Leadership’, what it means, what it can look like and the types of leadership the tourism industry will require, if it is to manage the significant change, which is surely on the way, as we head into uncharted waters in terms of visitor numbers, climate change and global terrorism.

Our trip to Penzance is more focused on destination management and how tourism can be perceived as a positive or negative and we are here to meet with those who would bring our learning so far to life, real people, living real situations.

What do you do when you believe standard economic thinking distills the value of your hometown into pounds, shillings and pence…into costs and benefits, profit and loss…into an assett to be sold or rented out, and very often to the lowest bidder. What do you do when you think this is fundamentally flawed. Most people just give out about it, some people can be quite vocal about giving out about it, but a very few sit-down and actually do something constructive about it. We come across these people occasionally and they always impress with their passion and alternative solutions, but it is very rarely we come across two such people in a single day who epitomise this thinking, Today was one of those days.

Rachel Martin spoke to us about setting up Pop Up Penzance in June 2013 because they thought ‘someone should do something about the dismal empty shops in Penzance’ and knew they could be an opportunity to bring new and fun activities into the heart of town. These empty units also were a focal point for negative discourse about the town feeding into a downward spiral. The sheer breadth of activities that were utilizing these empty spaces, or ‘opportunities’ as they saw them, was indicative of their willingness to think outside the box and included …ping pong for senior citizens…arts competitions….pop up fish shops…interactive Christmas plays….mini film festivals, and the list goes on. In the main, these provided a social function, bringing the community together to use something we have allowed our planning authorities to rob from us, our main streets.

She also queried how we look at tourism by laying out in black and white a very simple but effective chart. Two columns, one for her and one for her ‘second home owning’ neighbor and listed all the ways they contribute to the area. Her column was very long and included a broad range across social, environmental and economic themes, ‘Charles’ the next door neighbor contributed in only one way, financially……It did beg the question though, if we can afford it, should we be allowed to buy our way out of our environmental and social responsibilities as visitors to a destination, but it is also not good enough of us to assume that the visitor is abdicating their responsibility through choice…we, who live there, must challenge them to contribute more before we rush to judge. Participation is after all a two way street.

 

Rachel was followed by Kate Jamieson from The Front Room, a truly humble and inspiring young woman…imagine a cafe where you get a ‘Buy one, get one free coffee’ after neatly cleaning your dogs’ poo. Where disco balls glint in the garden and leopard prints decorate the ladies bathroom and where the tenth stamp on your loyalty card means you’re not the one getting a free coffee, instead, a donation is being made which contributes to the wellbeing of the homeless. It might seem a bit odd – and maybe it is – but that is what makes this place stand out from all others. And its all the more remarkable because this is a two-way transaction, not only does Kate have to commit to it, but her customers also have to buy in for this to work, and it seems they do. The Front Room isn’t just a normal café, it might be best described as a quirky and social enterprise, not just chasing the money, but actually contributing to the local community and pushing us to stretch our concept of what a local economy could be.

Both our speakers were asked why they had begun what was surely a brave and lonely journey….their answers were the same,  spoken quietly and utterly without conceit;  ‘it was just the right thing to do’.

Many people see only the problems, but a few have the courage to roll up their sleeves and just do something about them. Today we were privileged enough to hear from two of them.

Cillian Murphy; Melvin Mak; Hannah McDonell; Crista Buznea; Arzu Özenen

Penzance, Cornwall   16.03.16

 

From Loop Head to the World Bank

Cillian Murphy, a Masters student on the Responsible  Tourism course at MMU writes about being invited to the speak on tourism at the World Bank

Bing..’you’ve got mail’….spam …spam …spam..then one email caught my eye…to say I was in shock was putting it mildly! It was a surprising culmination to an exciting 8 weeks or so.

 

Less than 6 years previously the Loop Head Peninsula hadn’t even existed as a destination and to say we had achieved a lot since then was to put it mildly.

We had set up Loop Head Tourism to begin the process of developing tourism on our forgotten part of the West of Ireland. Off the tourism super-highway between Killarney and the Cliffs of Moher the area was overlooked, by-passed and ignored. However, with many other destinations along the coast starting to become overcrowded, we realised it wouldn’t be long before the beady eye of the local authority, travel operators and tourism agencies started to look at our unparalleled landscape and heritage as new grist to the mass tourism mill. But what kind of tourism did we want?

 

Eco tourism, sustainable tourism, community based tourism all were models that were in vogue yet it was Responsible Tourism which caught my eye, primarily because it spoke about ‘better paces to live in, being better places to visit’ which resonated with the feeling that tourism should really be a means to an end rather than a goal, a development tool if you will, one that meets the needs of local people.

Resported on RTE News https://www.facebook.com/rtenews/videos/1227071937321806/

In May 2010 we won the European Destination of Excellence competition.

In 2013, The Irish Times, ran a competition called the ‘Best Place to Holiday in Ireland’. There were over 1400 entries from all over the island of Ireland, and our commitment to each other as a community and our ethos of ensuring tourism was embedded within all who live on the peninsula meant we were declared the winners. We were surprised but not shocked, quite frankly though, the rest of the country was stunned, where was this ‘Loop Head Peninsula’ place….others on the shortlist were nationally and internationally known destinations. We had arrived, overnight success….after three years of hard work. In 2014 we were the only Irish inclusion in the Sustainable Destinations Global Top 100 and in 2015 we won the Best Destination at the Irish Responsible Tourism Awards and followed that up with the Loop Head Heritage Trail winning Gold at the World Responsible Tourism Awards at WTM in 2015.

 

We were making a name for ourselves as a best practice destination but at a personal level I found I was lacking both the language for the discussions that we were involved in and the knowledge base to take the peninsula to the next level so I decided it was time for me to do a formal degree and I chose to do the MSc in Responsible Tourism with Prof Harold Goodwin at Manchester Metropolitan University. It was a big commitment as my wife and I own a busy restaurant and added to the large amount of time already given over to Loop Head Tourism I would be really stretched.

 

In October 2014 I received my first reading material and immediately felt at ease, many of the concepts discussed were ideas that I had been thinking about but didn’t know how to structure. Conversations with local authorities and tourism agencies became easier as I now had references and a common language that everyone understood and it also put me on a different level in our discussions, I could no longer be dismissed as ‘just some guy from the West.’ I found that I was beginning to have a better grasp of tourism and development concepts than the people I was talking to.

 

But back to that email that was looking up at me….it seemed that just one year on from beginning my Masters in Responsible Tourism, I had ‘lucked out’ as they say.

 

Earlier in the year, as part of the Tourism and Local Economic Development module, I had submitted an assignment titled ‘Tourism as a LED strategy for the Loop Head Peninsula’ which, thankfully, marked quite well. Harold asked me if I would be prepared to deliver it as a presentation at the Responsible Tourism Sessions at World Travel Market, nervously….very nervously, I accepted and in due course I travelled over and on the 3rd of November stood up to talk. It seemed to go well and after the event I spoke to many people who liked what we were doing and promised to call/email/talk, but of course, one never knows where these things lead to.

 

10 days after returning home, there it was…remember that email I spoke about, well it went pretty much like this:

 

‘Hi Cillian, I saw your talk at WTM and really liked what you had to say and your approach to tourism development, we are organising a conference in December about tourism and how it can contribute to the twin goals of the World Bank……’

 

I didn’t really see too much past the World Bank bit to be honest…I even had to check that it wasn’t a hoax email…!

 

The Loop Head story was off to the HQ of the World Bank Group in Washington.

The list of speakers reads like a list of who’s who in the global tourism industry, and to see a small destination like Loop Head sharing the stage with them in the first tourism conference held by the World Bank Group in 17 years was a pretty happy day for all of us who live there.

 

The opening speech by Dr Jim Yong Kim,  President of the World Bank Group, spoke about how tourism could be an important tool in realising the twin goals of the World Bank Group, eliminating poverty and boosting income for the world’s poorest people using three headline strategies, Grow; developing an inclusive economic growth model. Invest; in people and human capital and Ensure; people do not regress or become victims;

 

Over the course of the rest of the day it seemed every speaker had a quota of times they had to use the word ‘sustainable’…I lost count after the first panel…there was on the day, and largely is in general, a huge lack of clarity on the use of the word, the first discussion that needs to be had is what do we mean by sustainable tourism…is it the industry as a whole, is it solely confined to resource use, is it tourism at a destination level or do we mean the ability for tourism to sustain our communities. All of these are valid with none being more important than the other, but it is vital that when anyone speaks about sustainable tourism they first should define from which perspective they view it.

 

For instance, the cruise ship industry, may have made valiant efforts to reduce their resource use but can have such huge local negative social and economic impacts that they far outweigh any positive environmental ones. It surely isn’t enough to claim you are sustainable because you have saved yourself millions of dollars in fuel costs by implementing ‘efficiency measures’ while using the same language, ‘efficiency measures’, in a different context to pay as little as possible to staff because you have found a legal loophole which allows you to do so, and to cut prices paid to on-shore operators providing services to your guests.

 

When you hear Brian Mullis, the CEO of Sustainable Tourism International, saying “as the cruise lines take the lead in promoting sustainability” and that “2000 cruises had been verified for sustainable practices”[1] it is surely time to have a proper discussion about the meaning of the word sustainable within the industry.

 

In Loop Head we have never asked our members to undertake green certification, our feeling is there is enough of a financial imperative for our operators to use resources more efficiently, we pay by weight for our refuse collection with a sliding scale of costs depending on whether we recycle, compost or send to landfill. We pay per unit for water use, effluent treatment and electricity. Business, whether an SME or a multinational, pays attention to these costs, it is to their benefit to do so. When I visit a hotel I do not need to know they are minimising resource use, it pays them to do so and seeing a certificate in reception means nothing to me.

 

I prefer to see a certificate saying that all their staff are paid a decent wage, what staffing percentage come from the immediate locality and what percentage of their supply chain is produced locally and whether they have worked to increase the amount of local producers in the area from which they can purchase. These are not just sustainable practices, they show the industry taking full responsibility for the overall welfare of the communities it exists within and depends upon to survive.

 

Many of the speakers on the day passed in a blur of ‘brochure speak’…in effect there was nothing much to learn that couldn’t be by looking at one of their destination or company brochures. However, a couple of people and concepts stood out;

 

The one item that was raised time and time again by many speakers at many of the different sessions during the day was the need for proper metrics about the value of tourism especially at a local level.

On a discussion about Pathways to Growth there were two contributions worth considering, one from Helen Marano VP for Industry at WTTC about security and our wish to travel, what I took from the discussion was that if we want open borders there will be a ‘tax’ on our privacy, our wish to travel freely may come with data protection waivers. A very interesting and thought provoking concept; given the amount of ‘big data’ companies and governments have available from our everyday use of technology; are we prepared to sign away our privacy in order to travel around the world? I know the concept bothers me, but I am 50, with a very different set of privacy values than, for instance, my children who have grown up in a digital world and simply shrug when I ask them if they care.

 

The second interesting contribution came from the same panel and again mentioned ‘big data’, Ms Marta Blanco, Director General of Turespaña, who spoke about the use of the information from credit card companies to provide very detailed breakdowns of tourist spending patterns. Like all brilliant ideas, it is the very essence of simplicity. Credit card companies know where you are from, how you travelled, what you spent your money on when abroad, whether you ate in fast food or upmarket restaurants, what activities you took part in, how many attractions you visited, on peak or off peak, car hire, mileage etc…the potential is incredible and could conceivably deliver detailed metrics from national levels right down to local.

 

In the panel discussion about Tourism’s Sustainability & Inclusion there were two items that merit reporting here, one from the Costa Rican Minister for Tourism who explained that the government retained ownership of the last 200m of land with the 50m closest to the water solely for public use and the next 150m available on a concession contingent on local council planning regulations.

 

The other came from Lynn Cutter, Exec. VP for National Geographic Travel who spoke about identifying pristine seas and making the case for their protection, putting a value on them and how that value can be utilised for local benefit. Other good discussion were had at the Leveraging the Cultural & Heritage Assets of Tourism with the Georgian Deputy Minister of Economy and Development Ms Keti Bochorrishvili showing us how they have protected their local heritage and leveraged it for local economic benefit.

 

My own gig was on the following day, last panel of the day, just before lunch, always going to be hard to fill the room but with the award winning journalist Elizabeth Becker moderating we had a very good attendance. Our panel was Destinations that Deliver and Elizabeth drew a line in the sand by showing a clip from the movie ‘Bye Bye Barcelona’ and asked us to comment on how DMOs could avoid hitting the same self-destruct button. Brian Said from Discover Philadelphia spoke about tourism in general and missed the opportunity to speak about whether they had a strategy in place to avoid the ‘Barcelona effect’ and the other panellist was Miguel Pena, Senior Sustainability Analyst for Royal Caribbean Cruises who to be fair was between a rock and a hard place given the pretty indefensible practices the cruise ship industry has promoted in the past.

 

From my own point of view, I spoke about why we do what we do, how we engage the local community and what the benefits have been for the area as a whole, I did have a fan in the moderators chair though which always makes things a little easier. We were asked to finish with recommendations to the World Bank Group and for my own part it was simply this:

 

There is no guarantee that tourism will be a good development tool, it will only do so if managed with local benefit at its core. It is not good enough for companies to talk about the trickle down benefits of tourism, the benefits should flow around and expecting it to do so without specific monitoring and reporting is naïve at best and negligent at worst.

 

A number of World Bank Group staff approached me at lunch to say that they had waited a day and a half to hear from someone such as ourselves, operating at ground level, and in touch with the realities of what tourism can do if developed with the local community benefits to the fore at all times.

 

The primary benefit for Loop Head, and myself as the chairperson of the group who manage its tourism development, is the validation we received for our Responsible |Tourism ethos from simply being there. Our small destination of barely 125 sq kms with a network of 47 local businesses, working voluntarily on an annual budget of less than €20,000 sitting on the stage at the World Bank taking part in their first tourism conference in 17 years.

 

Sweet!

 

Harold Goodwin adds – Sweet for me too. A previous student inviting a current student to speak at the first World Bank Tourism Summit on 17 years!

 

Cillian Murphy,

Chairperson Loop Head Tourism

Kilkee,

Loop Head Peninsula,

Co Clare.

 

http://www.worldbank.org/en/events/2015/11/20/world-bank-group-tourism-forum-2015

 

www.loophead.ie

[1] http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2015/12/04/cruise-lines-go-from-losers-to-leaders-in-sustainable-tourism/ accessed 20/12/15