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Latest Developments in Responsible Tourism September 2020 (1)

September 9, 2020
Harold Goodwin
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  1. Learning to Live with Covid-19
  2. Tourism and Racism
  3. Climate Change is still THE Existential Issue
  4. Biodiversity, Habitat & Wildlife 
  5. Sustainable Aviation
  6. The New Air Safety Agenda
  7. Rebuild Tourism - better?
  8. How ethical is a staycation?
  9. The Housing Crisis 
  10. Miscellany 

The next edition will be out in mid-September
The Responsible Tourism Hub provides quick links to curated material on Responsible Tourism 

1. Learning to Live with Covid-19
As Simon Press, Senior Director at WTM London has pointed out: "Companies are now in survival mode and shifting priorities to protecting revenue, reducing costs and maintaining existing customers. Transparency and Trust are key... The crisis is devastating, but the forced pause of the industry does provide an important chance to rethink tourism, and hopefully rebuild in a better way."

Iberostar is offering free medical insurance on every direct booking.   The "Dominican Republic Eliminates Mandatory COVID-19 Tests, Adds Free Insurance As Part of New Tourism Recovery Plan" more

At the virtual WTM, London in November we shall be addressing the core challenge that confronts our sector: How do we build back better after the damage done to our sector by Covid-19. Trust is the new currency of tourism.  Travellers and holidaymakers are understandably nervous about the threat of Coviod-19 to their health and the risk of being trapped abroad or required to quarantine on return. There will be a post-Covid new normal, today's industry leaders will shape it, but in a much more difficult environment. In the July 18 edition of RT News we reported the European poll evidence from MORI ib people's willingness to travel and the attitudes of residents in Europe to international arrivals. The survey revealed the unwillingness of people to travel abroad and to allow in foreign tourists.  The YouGov researchers concluded that "the vast majority of people who might normally consider going somewhere on holiday are refusing to do so specifically because of coronavirus.." Take a look at the detailed data on the YouGov website

2. Tourism and Racism

The Black Lives Matter movement has been a powerful reminder of the ways in which institutional and structural racism shape the way we think and affect what we see. There will be a panel focused on Tourism and Racism as part of the virtual Responsible Tourism programme at WTM, London in November. There is a very much reduced virtual Responsible Tourism programme this year so we are keen to enable voices to be heard in the run-up to the November panel and to continue afterwards. There is already a series of interviews here on YouTube.

The Black Travel Alliance was formed to "hold destinations and travel brands accountable on the issue of diversity in travel marketing and storytelling." Their training and business support is built on three pillars: Alliance. Amplification. Accountability. The Alliance strives to "create a world where Black people are supported and accurately represented in the travel industry."  Racism is an issue that touches every aspect of our industry from employment, through guiding and itineraries to marketing.

Alex Temblador talks about Allyship, why it matters, how to do it and about making travel better.  Allyship matters because once we acknowledge that we have privileges, we need to ensure that we use these privileges to improve the lives of others.   Alex wrote a very perceptive article for Conde Nast Traveller back in August about the questions any anti-racist traveller should ask themselves. The questions a traveller should ask apply too to itinerary planning and destination marketing. Alex also explains clearly the difference between cultural appropriation and appreciation. Once you can see the difference you realise how large the chasm is between them, between the good and the bad.  There is a recorded webinar on opportunities to promote African destinations to the international diaspora and Pan-African, it was part of Africa Travel Week.

3. Climate Change is still THE Existential Issue
Planet Earth has lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice in less than 30 years meaning that sea level rises, triggered by melting glaciers and ice sheets, could reach a metre by the end of the century. Every centimetre of sea-level rise means about a million people will be displaced from their low-lying homelands. The end of the century is one live time away, more victims of climate change are born every day. A forty-year study has revealed that the Arctic Ocean is warming by a degree every decade, the highest rise since the last Ice Age. Over the Barents Sea and around Norway's Svalbard archipelago temperatures have increased by 1.5 degrees per decade throughout the period. Arctic temperatures are rising faster than expected.

Our planet is burning. Carbon emissions from this year's wildfires burning in the Arctic Circle have already outstripped 2019's record levels and are the highest for the region in data going back to 2003. They are up one third on emissions in 2019. more

The Amazon is burning once again and reports say this year could be more devastating than 2019. But there is some good news at last! NASA-funded researchers have developed a new tool which now makes it easier for authorities and other stakeholders to track the types of fires that are burning, the locations they are burning in, and the risks they pose.  Douglas Morton, chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, reports that there is " little evidence that the burning moratorium has had an impact. Instead, there is a noticeable increase in fire activity since the moratorium went into effect on July 15, ... ”large numbers of the fires in those states are clearly deforestation—not small-scale agricultural fires.” More

The climate change threat is not diminishing, it is accelerating. It is having real impacts now and we cannot self-isolate to escape its consequences. It is one thing to be worried about an issue and quite something else to do anything about it. It is quite disturbing to hear that only 64% of consumers globally are concerned about climate change. Just this month we have evidence that temperatures in the Arctic Ocean between Canada, Russia and Europe are warming faster than predicted. 28 trillion tonnes of ice have disappeared from the surface of the Earth since 1994, and sea-level rise could be a metre by the time a baby born this year reaches 80. Carbon emissions from this year’s wildfires burning in the Arctic Circle have already outstripped 2019’s record levels, and the Amazon is on fire again. Climate change is a much more significant threat than COVID-19 and much more challenging to deal with. The industry has been slow to respond and to take responsibility to address climate change "Individual businesses and airlines see little, if any, first-mover advantage in reducing their emissions. To do so costs money and risks their being beaten on price by those who refuse to act without compulsion." more

4 Biodiversity, Habitat & Wildlife
One of the consequences of climate change, change to which the travel industry contributes, is habitat and biodiversity loss.  Global warming is an existential threat to us, and to thousands of other species. WTM has partnered with the World Tourism Forum Lucerne (WTFL) to explore how tourism can reduce its negative impacts on biodiversity and have a positive impact – economic, social and ecological.

Founded in Zimbabwe by former Australian special forces soldier and anti-poaching leader Damien Mander, the women-only team of rangers, drawn from the abused and marginalised, is revolutionising the way animals are protected, communities are empowered— and its members’ own lives are being transformed. Mander’s innovative approach to conservation calls for community buy-in rather than full-on armed assault against poachers. If a community understands the economic benefits of preserving animals, then it will eliminate poaching without an armed struggle. AKASHINGA: THE BRAVE ONES is a celebration of the courage, conservation and unorthodox thinking that’s leading to massive positive change. Watch the film here. 

Kenya's Sustainable Travel Tourism Agenda STTA has asked the rhetorical question: Where should the buck stop when clients misbehave when on safari or on any holiday? They conclude that the buck stops with the tour company. Ultimately, a truly responsible tourism company has the opportunity to influence the behavior of its clients and supply chain because the organization's identity and values will be evident at every point of interaction. Read their reasons here. 

There will be a panel, with WTFL, on Biodiversity, eco-system services and tourism - conflict or symbiosis? at the virtual WTM in November.

Sustainable Aviation
Many readers of RT News will remember Jane Ashton when she was at TUI, she moved on to EasyJet where she is sustainability director. Recognising the increasing debate about climate change and the need for urgent action Ashton has pointed ou that "all companies will need a clear vision and plan to address" it, and that the aviation industry must “reinvent itself and…move to electric and hybrid aircraft powered by renewable energy.” She argues further that “airlines and destinations should work together to make more sustainable choices.”  “Airlines, destinations and tourism bodies can also together help to ensure that governments have the right policies in place which support investment in new technology and incentivise more sustainable behaviour,” more

The Boeing 747, the much loved Jumbo jet 747 is beginning to be withdrawn from service although. It first flew before the 1969 Moon landing and they have carried the Space Shuttle on their backs. Aircraft are long term investments and the carbon polluting aircraft being built now will still be flying long after 2050, unless ss they are scrapped by government edict.  BA is to retire its fleet of 31 Boeing 747s with immediate effect. more Ryan Air has cut its capacity by a fifth as bookings weaken and announced that it will shut its bases at London Stansted, Southend and Newcastle. more

There will be a panel on decarbonising aviation in the Responsible Tourism virtual programme at WTM, London in November 

6 The New Air Safety Agenda
Seven people from three different parties on Tui flight 6215 from Zante to Cardiff on Tuesday 25th August tested positive for Covid-19. Stephanie Whitfield, from Cardiff, who was on the flight with her partner, told the BBC: "This flight was a debacle. The chap next to me had his mask around his neck. Not only did the airline not pull him up on it, they gave him a free drink when he said he knew a member of the crew. "Loads of people were taking their masks off and wandering up and down the aisles to talk to others. "As soon as the flight landed, a load of people took their masks off immediately. The flight was full of selfish 'covidiots' and an inept crew who couldn't care less." more

In early July nearly two-thirds of the public (64%) said that they would not feel safe travelling by plane, up from 40% on 8 June. more The aviation sector from check-in to the taxi rank in the destination is challenged to ensure client safety, it is no longer just about safety in the air although that remains a big part of it. The pandemic has created a new reason to fear flying. Trust has become the new currency of tourism.

In the UK the Daily Telegraph is backing a campaign by the travel and tourism industry to put in place a Test, Track and Isolate system.  Collaborative testing between states could create a protective corridor to permit international travel, just as security screening does. The LAMP test costs €38, completed the day before or on the day of departure covers the passenger for 72 hours through a digitally secure iWarrant. This is a ‘lab in a box’ solution using Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) technology, and it is I fully CE/IVD certified for use in human diagnostics. more

National Geographic had an article back in January about how virus's spread on planes. The research reported there suggests that window seats are safest. The peer-reviewed research paper produced by The FlyHealthy Research Team on Behaviors, movements, and transmission of droplet-mediated respiratory diseases during transcontinental airline flights published in 2018 is available online.

Eurowings has launched a bookable middle seat from €18

7. Rebuild Tourism - better?

Anastasia Miari writing for The National in the Middle East has asked Will the pandemic turn us into more conscious travellers?   As she argues one demand changes so will supply, but the industry can also make change by developing new products, offering new experiences to attract travellers and holidaymakers. It is too early to tell to what extent people's preferences will have been impacted by the pandemic. But for sure it will vary within source markets and between then.

The World Bank points out that this pandemic is far greater than the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s. There are now twice as many international arrivals – and domestic tourism has grown too. Second, “the emergence of social media as a means of sharing information is compounding uncertainty and has led to heightened anxiety in relation to travel.” And third, for the first time in history, the number of people over the age of 64 is higher than the number of children under the age of five. The authors of the World Bank report foresee:

  • Tourism recovery will be uneven.
  • Demand for particular tourism products/segments may be reshaped leading to new forms.
  • Consolidation of major operators in varied segments is likely, starting with airlines and hotels.
  • More liquid and agile players who can withstand the severity of the downturn could have a significant impact on how countries emerge.
  • Governments will be conflicted. (As businesses struggle to recover governments will be looking to tax them)
  • Many businesses that were directly or indirectly connected to tourism will need assistance to survive.
  • As the effects of the pandemic continue, it will be increasingly difficult to support all firms.
  • Governments will need to be aware of the trade-offs they face in determining policy responses.

As the authors point out “while the timing of reopening borders will have a large impact on the survival of the sector, it can also damage destination credibility if done too early and infections increase.” There is perhaps nothing very surprising here – but it is sobering to see the challenges listed out. The report goes on to give much detailed practical advice to World Bank clients – it is valuable for governments and destinations.
There will be panels on Resilience and Recovery &  Building Back Better in the Responsible Tourism virtual programme at WTM, London in November 

8. How ethical is a staycation?
Flora Samuel, a professor of architecture at the University of Reading and an expert on social value has reflected on the ethics of second homes in the journal Building Design. She recounts how during an Airbnb holiday in Wales she learnt from the neighbours about how "anti-social alterations had been cynically done to the house without planning permission in full knowledge that the local authority would be pretty toothless to remedy them. Its “superhosts”, portrayed as a cosy local couple on the website, was actually a property developer residing in another country."  As she argues these property companies do "offer local employment it is of the most menial type, seasonal and vulnerable when it comes to the pandemic (my friend will be made redundant after furlough). Perhaps going to a UK holiday home isn’t the responsible tourism it might at first appear to be." She concludes "we have to put the heart back into communities and look closely at the social value of our holiday destinations."

9. The Housing Crisis
The Telegraph reports that the collapse of the short term letting market fueled by tourists is leading in London "to a glut of new long-term rental properties which is dramatically driving down prices. Hamptons International, an estate agent, reports that since May, 12% of homes coming onto the rental market in central London were previously short-term lets driving up availability on central London by 42% and causing rental prices to decline by 8.4%. In Northumberland the council is planning to help sustain the vitality of communities, in parishes where 20% or more of household spaces are identified in the latest Census as having no usual residents, a principal residency restriction will be applied to all new market dwellings, which will be secured through a section 106 agreement.”  This would effectively ban sales to buyers who cannot prove they live in an area for a majority of the year. St Ives in Cornwall and Fowey in Cornwall, as well as councils in Suffolk, Norfolk, Cumbria and Derbyshire, are all considering bans on the sale of houses as holiday homes. Barcelona has told landlords of empty flats to find tenants or the city will rent out the property as affordable housing.

10. Miscellany

  • Romanian tourists are overvisiting the remote village of Viscri in central Romania. 
    Sniffer dogs to check air passengers in Finland for COVID-19, experiment to be privately funded more
  • Local residents in the Maldives have won a campaign against developers and the government who wanted to turn Madivaru &  Madivaru Finolhu into a luxury resort. They argued the plan would have deprived local people of vital jobs and caused damage to coral reefs and the wider ecosystem. video
  • Visual Capitalist has produced a graphic showing the cities which in 2018  attracted the most international visitors who stayed for longer than 24 hrs. Hong Kong is still the most popular, although international tourist arrivals declined 4.2%, Bangkok is second, with an increase of 15.1%. London is third despite a decline of 1.4%

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