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Latest Developments in Responsible Tourism 04/2020

April 12, 2020
Harold Goodwin
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  1. Travel & Tourism in Global Crisis 
  2. 2020 Africa Responsible Tourism Awards winners announced 
  3. The WTM World Awards in Responsible Tourism
  4. The Climate Crisis is no less urgent
  5. Tourism in the Recovery from Covid-19
  6. The other existential crisis - Biodiversity
  7. Responsible Kerala is Resilient 
  8. Resilient Destinations
  9. Meaningful Connections 
  10. Childhood is a Lovely Country


1. Travel & Tourism in Global Crisis
Travellers, expatriates and tourists are struggling to get home as the airports close and flights are cancelled. These are dark days for international travel, cruising and for domestic tourism. The UK government has advised against all but essential travel for an indefinite period, TUI Has cancelled all holidays until mid-May and furloughed 11,000 employees.  Jet2 has cancelled holidays and flights to mid-June. ABTA has called on the government to do whatever it takes "to avoid mass insolvencies of UK travel companies, prevent the loss of hundreds of thousands of UK jobs, and to ensure customers can receive refunds or book alternative travel arrangements as quickly as possible." ABTA is lobbying MPs  calling for Government action to save industry jobs and protect customer money.On the first day of ABTA’s Save Future Travel campaign 13,500 people responded by emailing their MP.

Travel Counsellors founder David Speakman has likened the way airlines fund operations from customer money to a Ponzi scheme. He claimed that at any one time airlines will typically be holding hundreds of millions of pounds of customer money for un-flown flights and yet now they’re facing refunds they say they don’t have it.  “Executives must be taught that they put money aside for a rainy day. The airlines are holding on to customer money. Speakman accused airlines of acting as if they are too big to fail, like the banks in the financial crash of 2008.... " it’s agents and operators who are on the hook for all this money that the airlines refuse to give back." Speakman is reported to have said: "The travel industry is particularly vulnerable to a stop or slow down, as it has operated as a massive Ponzi scheme, borrowing and using up-front customer cash to operate. Cash taken from customers booking today for future journeys, pays for travel executed today that was paid for by customers two, three or even twelve months previously."

Across Europe airport traffic fell by nearly 60% in March.  John Hopkins University is graphically recording and reporting the global scale of the pandemic, look there for updated figures.   As Justin Francis has pointed out on LinkedIn : Being dependent on the tourism industry for putting food on the table or sending your kids to school is very different to relying on it for your holiday. #Coronavirus will hit the poorest in tourism destinations hardest. And the poorest will be hardest hit as the governments close the airports to defend against importing Covid-19 and the the originating markets close.


International borders have been closed to defend against new arrivals bringing the virus with them. With in national boundaries it has been more difficult to end domestic tourism and people have taken to the streets to protest as the residents of Moloka'i and Maui. The Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board has requested that visitors stay home, saying: "Our finite local resources and the limited capacity of our local health care system are not adequate to support tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic."

The Peak District has urged people not to be tempted to break government measures during the Easter break and to stay away. Cornwall became the first major UK tourism destination to tell visitors to stay away until the coronavirus crisis is over. Visit Cornwall published a statement saying: “Visitors should not come to Cornwall at this time, in order to slow the spread of the virus, to protect themselves, as well as the communities of Cornwall.”

2. 2020 Africa Responsible Tourism Awards winners announced
To be presented with a coveted Judges' Award for Responsible Tourism is a rare honour, you need to have been recognised a number to times is different categories by different groups of judges. Only give awards have been presented, three of them to business in Africa, Grootbos, Ol Pejeta and most recently Transfrontier Parks Destinations (TFPD)
Benefiting Local People: Gold: Uthando, South Africa & Silver: Coffeebeans Routes, South Africa  Destination Award: Gold: !Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre South Africa Silver: Ilha Blue Island Safaris, Ilha de Moçambique Responsible Business:  Gold: Spier, South Africa, Silver: Chobe Game Lodge, Botswana Wildlife: Gold: Great Plains Conservation, South Africa, Gold: Marine Dynamics & Dyer Island Conservation Trust, South Africa   The Judges' Reasons and citations are here.  The public vote results are here 

3. The WTM World Awards in Responsible Tourism
The categories for this year's World  Awards will be announced on April 30th, there will be five categories. Two will focus on the existential crises of decarbonisation and biodiversity loss. In the context of Covid-19 the third category will be for businesses and destinations which have helped their communities weather the crisis. Bulungula has converted its lodge into a protective quarantine for the elderly in their  community. In Singapore Marina Bay Sands is donating food to charity, Hilton and American Express are to donate up to 1 million  rooms to front line medical professionals, and in Binsar Village Ways, through its charitable trust, is helping communities protect themselves from Covid-19.  Fairbnb.coop is encouraging people  to book today, while staying  at home, that way you can immediately contribute to the fight against Coronavirus and at the same time plan a sustainable holiday, helping Italy to recover. Do you have ideas for the other two categories? If you do email harold@haroldgoodwin.info 

4. The Climate Crisis is no less urgent
The urgent has driven out the important. The Covid-19 crisis has eclipsed discussion about climate change and resulted in COP26 being delayed until June 2021. The World Health Organisation reports that there are currently an estimate of 150,000 deaths per year caused by climate change. Le Mont-Dore, in the Massif Central, one of France's oldest ski resorts has gone into receivership for lack of snow. Europe experienced its warmest winter on record fully 1.4°C above the previous high set in 2015-16 and 3.4°C warmer than the average for 1981 to 2010. Helsinki was 6°C above the long-run average. There has been a heatwave in Antarctica Casey Research Station, in the Windmill Islands oasis, experienced its first recorded heatwave. For three days, minimum temperatures exceeded zero and daily maximums were all above 7.5C. On 24 January, its highest maximum of 9.2C was recorded, almost 7C above Casey’s 30-year mean for the month. The ice caps at the poles are melting faster that in the 1990s. A new Antarctic maximum temperature of 18.4C was recorded on 6 February at Argentina’s Esperanza research station on the peninsula – almost 1C above the previous record. Three days later this was eclipsed when 20.75C was reported at Argentina’s Marambio station, on Seymour Island east of the peninsula. more

There is little progress to report on tackling climate change. Eight Democrat Senators tried unsuccessfully to attach carbon reduction conditions to Federal financial assistance to airlines and the cruise industry. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) established a  Technical Advisory Body (TAB) to assess 14 organisations that had applied for their carbon credits to be recognised under CORSIA.  The UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) offsets came out of the review very badly. (1) they did not have to fill in the application form (2) they failed on six of ICAO's quality criteria, (3)  CDM projects were not required  to report on sustainable development benefits. Despite all the inadequacies in these carbon offsets ICAO approved the UN's CDM projects as having met the agreed CORSIA criteria.   Confirmation that there are problems with the UN's CDM carbon offsets, but they are approved anyway for CORSIA.

5. Tourism in the Recovery from Covid-19

So far only one country has emerged from lock down, given the diversity of destinations and source markets it is difficult to predict the speed and shape of the tourism recovery. As China came out of lock down domestic tourists flocked to popular tourist sites, international tourists remained effectively locked out.  The UNWTO has recognised the scale of the crisis: "The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. Tourism has been the hardest hit of all economic sectors, and in many places the most vulnerable members of society will suffer the most." And it has been optimistic about the recovery  "tourism has shown an unparalleled ability to recover from crisis. Furthermore, the sector is uniquely positioned to lead wider societal recovery, driving economic growth, creating jobs and transforming lives."

UNWTO has issued "A global call to reach the most disruptive startups, entrepreneurs, innovators and existing technologies to mitigate Covid-19 impacts on tourism through health, economic and destination recovery solutions. A step forward for Sustainable Development in a crisis situation, providing support to travelers, businesses and authorities."

6. The other existential crisis - Biodiversity
Tourism is an important source of funding  to the conservation of wildlife and habitat. Ol Pejeta is a leading example of the positive impact of tourism on wildlife conservation, it is the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa with 100 black rhinos, and it is home to two of the world’s last remaining northern white rhino. They will be hit hard as tourism revenue ceases. They are encouraging people to book now for a visit in the future, they have organised a children's art competition The Art of Survival  Ol Pejeta  is looking for emergency funding.  "We pride ourselves for being self-sustainable mostly from tourism but COVID-19 is having an impact on our sustainability model. With global travel restrictions tourism is now severely compromised. The impact is so significant that we won't be able to sustain all our efforts for too long." Donate here.

Join Ol Pejeta's daily live broadcast of Sofa Safari on Instagram or Facebook. Their MD, Richard Vigne and champion guide, Samuel Mbogo, will take you on the game drive you are dreaming of. From elephants, to rhinos, to dung beetles and birds, we will make sure that you get your Ol Pejeta fix. Catch us daily from 4:30pm EAT. 

On 7th April Zac Goldsmith, the UK's Minister for the Pacific, int’l env, climate & forests & UK animal welfare tweeted  "As we emerge from this crisis, we will need to reflect profoundly on our relationship with nature.  This is a consequence of a war we have been waging, and which we can never win.  Just as the world agreed the Geneva Convention after WW2 we will need a new Covenant with Nature."

More than 200 wildlife groups have signed an open letter calling on the WHO to do all it can to prevent new diseases emerging from the trade in wild animals. Previous diseases like Sars and Ebola have also been linked to viruses that spread from animals to people. The open letter asks governments worldwide to bring in permanent bans on live wildlife markets. more  Gorilla tourism in Africa has been suspended, while sanctuaries for other apes, such as orangutans have closed to the public. more  It is not all bad news, in Venice the tourists have left, the canals now run clear and the fish and birds have returned. more

A new scientific review has concluded that despite being used as rubbish dump our oceans are proving resilient. Humpback whale numbers have rebounded since the ban on commercial whaling. The proportion of marine species assessed as threatened with global extinction by the IUCN has dropped from 18% in 2000 to 11.4% in 2019. The new study estimates that it will costs $10-20bn a year to rebuild marine life by 2050. But the review also points out that for every dollar invested, the expected return would be $10. more Grounds for optimism but it will depend on what we do - we have been here before on climate change and failed to act.

7. Responsible Kerala is Resilient
The Responsible Tourism Mission in Kerala has recorded a four fold income in its revenue.  The Mission's work continues during the lock down. Following the advice: Work at Home.. Stay Safe ... Break the Chain, they are producing RT Mission Work at Home videos. 

RT has been successful in Kerala in large part due to the strength of state and local government. Kerala has been identified as a model state in reducing the impact of Covid-19 They has a state control room mobilised by 26 January. Two Keralan students returning from Wuhan tested positive and on 30th January were put into isolation. "In order to “break the chain”, the government has been conducting rigorous “contact tracing”, or studying whom the infected person has been in contact with and then whom that person has been in contact with so that the entire chain of possibly infected people can be informed and put into isolation. Route maps showing the places that the infected persons have been to are being published, and people who were present at that time at those places are asked to contact the health department so that they can be screened and tested. The route maps are widely disseminated through social media, and through GoK Direct, the government’s phone app. Local government officials and ASHA health workers (women who are the pillar of local public health) are doing the groundwork of finding people who are infected and making sure their contacts are also in isolation." More here  The Washington Post has also covered Kerala's performance.  Coronavirus: How India's Kerala state 'flattened the curve'

8 Resilient Destinations
The economic crisis arising from the global public health emergency has demonstrated once again how the resilience of the travel and tourism sector is dependent on the resilience of the source markets and destinations the industry connects. Those destinations which are over-reliant on tourism will be hardest hit by declines in arrivals. These are tough times for communities around the world, in the midst of a public health emergency. Our sector should recognise the primacy of the risk to life, think about what we can do to help, avoid making the situation worse and avoid special pleading. more
A new website was launched in mid-March curating resources on responses to Covid-19

9. Meaningful Connections

Creating meaningful connections between tourists and hosts is one of the characteristics of Responsible Tourism, tourism is a major part of the experience economy.  Visit Scotland has had a big success with its Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder campaign, described by the Scottish Tourism Alliance  as " a message of support and hope to our friends around the world and assure them that, whilst they can’t visit just now, we will still be here with a warm welcome for them when the time is right." VisitScotland described it as " virtual hug to fans of Scotland, near and far, with a heart-warming film asking them to dream about visiting now, but to travel later." In just five days the film reached 1.6 million people.  Will people turn to virtual tours - there are links to 12 tours of famous museums here.  French Waterways are stimulating wanderlust.

10. Childhood is a Lovely Country
Mark Jones has written a great piece about travelling with his father, thinking back to the days before we all started flying. I remember this, my family went along the Watling Street into mid-Wales every year.
"Picture a family saloon– in today’s terms, a very small car – with a family of five chugging down the Fosse Way – still, for me, the most magical road in England – heading south west to Wales. I will have been sick three times before Leamington Spa. There’s no point saying ‘are we there yet?’ because on the 200-mile journey ‘there’ is a pure abstraction. The only time when time is slower is the week before Christmas. You sink into the vinyl seats, too disconsolate even for i-spy or thinking of three rivers beginning with ‘A’. There was nothing before this small car packed with thermoses, sandwiches, clothes and brothers – and not much prospect of anything after." Read more here


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