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RT News: Latest Developments in Responsible Tourism 01/2024

February 12, 2024
Harold Goodwin
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The 2022 Responsible Tourism Charter points out that responsibility drives sustainability, lists the most significant issues that need to be addressed, and asserts the importance of transparent reporting to demonstrate what is being achieved and avoid greenwashing.
Responsible Tourism is about using tourism to make better places for people to live and better places for people to visit. How can we “do tourism better”?

ICRT Conferences: RTD 16 took place in The Gambia in January, addressing responsible cultural heritage management and leveraging sustainable practices for community development and growth with a particular focus on creating shared value. Report and learning material on shared value 
Save the date RTD17
is planned for Piggs Peak Hotel in Eswatini on 17th April to explore practical strategies for benefitting local communities by applying Porter's idea of growing the cake by creating shared value. Enriching local communities and the guest experience. Full details in the next edition of RT News 

International Conference on Responsible Tourism and Hospitality (ICRTH) 6-11 August 2024 Kuching, Sarawak Details

Sabre is now sponsoring the Global Responsible Tourism AwardsThere are six categories in 2024:    (1) Making Travel Inclusive (2) Championing Cultural Diversity (3) Nature Positive (4) What are you doing about Climate Change? (5)  Increasing local sourcing- Creating shared value (6) Employing and Upskilling Local Communities. Gold winners in each regional awards programme automatically enter the Global Awards.
The Africa Regional Responsible Tourism Awards are open; they close on March 22nd. ENTER HERE 
The India sub-continent Regional Responsible Tourism Awards are open; they close on June 30th. ENTER HERE

The WTM Africa Responsible Tourism Programme in Cape Town  10-12 April   

  1. Good News
  2. Hydrogen: clean aviation 
  3. Business as Usual 
  4. Aviation - Business as Usual
  5. Climate Change
  6. Certification & Green Claims
  7. Overtourism, Pollution, Holiday Lets, Second Homes and Tourist Behaviour 
  8. Taxation 
  9. Green Tech
  10. Miscellaneous

1. Good News
The travel writer Mark Jones headed his first piece of 2024, "Things can only get better. That's what things (almost) always do" He writes about Comares, a Spanish mountaintop village he and his wife know well and which is now prospering, and he says the village is finally completed.  He recommends Factfulness by Hans Rosling, I have a copy on my bookshelf along with Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature which documents the decline of violence in the modern world.  Pinker's fine book was published way back in 2011; sadly, the past is not always a reliable guide to the future. Rosling demonstrates that things are better than we think they are. They are in large part because we have ravaged our planet to create prosperity. Unsustainable growth.  Climate change is addressed in less than half a page, and he does not discuss our planetary boundaries on a finite earth. I explain the scale of the challenges we face in  Tourism in a a Finite, Climate Challenged World; just published. We know how to fix most of the problems we have created - but will we? Mark inspired me to begin this edition of RT News with good news.
The European parliament voted on 17th January to outlaw the use of terms such as “environmentally friendly”, “natural”, “biodegradable”, “climate neutral” or “eco” without evidence, while introducing a total ban on using carbon offsetting schemes to substantiate the claims.

The Travel Corporation's Treadright Foundation has secured the future "of the Cape Kimberley wildlife corridor is in place, ensuring forever access to essential habitat for the rare and threatened species of the Daintree rainforest. This partnership is a perfect example of ethical business going the extra mile to protect nature.
Heat pumps in order to mitigate some of the greenhouse gases emitted by transport to Juneau, tourists are asked to pay a few dollars to counter their emissions. The money goes to the Alaska Carbon Reduction Fund; instead of buying credits from some distant (and questionable) offset project, the nonprofit spends that cash installing heat pumps, targeting residents who rely on oil heating systems.
In Kenya at  Olkaria, near the flower-growing town of Naivasha 56 miles (90km) from Nairobi, there are close to 300 geothermal wells providing steam that runs turbines in five geothermal power plants operated by KenGen.
At Davos, resilience was frequently mentioned in the climate discussions. Gim Huay Neo, managing director of World Economic Forum Geneva, while chairing a Davos panel on 17 January said "We know that the growth that we've experienced over the years has been powered with an overconsumption of Earth's finite resources... "The big question that companies have to navigate is, can they continue to grow, can they continue to generate profits, while cutting emissions and stopping depleting natural resources? ... "We have to build new economic models, new businesses and possibly new lifestyles or humanity that are just as good, or even better, than what we have today."
"Sustainable Brands offered '10 positive trends to feel good about the world heading into 2024'. Amongst the trends they call out, they suggest that: "as an outcome of the anti-ESG rhetoric and crackdown on greenwashing ... — we predict we will see a maturation of ESG ... To differentiate in an increasing sea of sameness, we’ll see businesses focus on creating more specific “stand-tall moments” that drive both brand storytelling and real change. As brands find their sustainability voice, we’ll see “greenhushing” morph into green confidence."
Plastics: in the US " there are more than 500 citywide ordinances banning plastic bags in the US, as well as 12 statewide bans — in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai‘i, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. New bills could soon add Georgia and Massachusetts to that list."
VisitPortugal began the year with a new campaign: #It’s not tourism. It’s Futourism. Their campaign sets out 12 New Year’s resolutions for the tourists of the future, 12 commitments to inspire people to change the way they travel and take an active role in the changes that tourism needs.

2. Hydrogen: clean aviation
The aviation sector is largely proceeding with Business as Usual, investing in SAF solutions which cannot deliver green aviation; see Chris Lyle's analysis (4) below.

At WTM, London engineers from Cranfield Aerospace Solutions, Airbus Aviation Environmental Roadmap (AAER) and Rolls-Royce, easyJet’s Sustainability Director and Bristol Airport described the progress being made to deliver hydrogen-powered aviation at scale by the middle of the next decade. The panel on Decarbonising Aviation – Is Hydrogen Part of the Solution? was recorded, and it is available as a podcast and can be listened to or downloaded. Meanwhile, Airbus’s ZEROe programme remains on schedule to have a plane in the sky powered by hydrogen in 2035.

I had the privilege to interview John Coplin, FRAE, the RB211 aero-engine Chief Designer, then Director of Technology and Design at Rolls Royce. He was passionate about the possibilities of hydrogen-powered aviation, about why tourism matters and why it is important for the world.

The nay-sayers, those wedded to business as usual and carbon-emitting fuels, argue that there is a problem with green hydrogen.

The BBC headline addresses one of the questions of the moment: Could there be a gold rush for buried hydrogen? Green hydrogen produced by electrolysis is relatively expensive; it is currently ~1%. “Known as natural hydrogen, gold hydrogen or white hydrogen, natural deposits could be an important source.” It is already being used in Bourakébougou, in western Mali. Prof Pironon, research director at France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) at the University of Lorraine, estimates there could be 250 million tonnes of hydrogen under France, enough to meet current global demand for more than two years. The US Geological Survey (USGS), estimates that there is probably around 100,000 megatons of accessible hydrogen – and that could represent hundreds of years of supply.

The Economist headlined its story “A rush for colourless gold – Meet the boffins and buccaneers drilling for hydrogen” – the piece is in the Christmas edition of the magazine. Hydrogen has been found in France, America, Brazil, Australia, Colombia and Oman. There is still a degree of uncertainty about how the hydrogen is generated. “In 2020 Viacheslav Zgonnik, a chemist of Ukrainian origin, published a review of academic literature showing that “molecular hydrogen is much more widespread in nature than was previously thought.”  Dr Zgonnik reckons that the most promising explanation “is serpentinisation: iron-rich rocks below the Earth’s surface react with very hot water to produce iron oxide and hydrogen gas—in effect, rusting.” The USGS calls it geologic hydrogen. Hydrogen has the highest energy density of all chemical fuels and is very reactive.

3. Business as Usual

Plastics: There are waste and greenhouse gas emissions from plastics Currently, 99% of plastics are made from fossil fuel sources, and the world currently recycles about 9%. Oxford researchers have just published a research study, Designing a Circular Carbon and Plastics Economy for a Sustainable Future. The UN is inching towards a Global Plastics treaty but progress is frustrated by the ‘low-ambition coalition’ of oil states.  EDIE reports on progress on the treaty:  "The second draft released on the 28th of December provides a glimmer of hope, with options in the text providing for the elimination of chemicals and polymers that are hazardous to human health. Mandatory disclosure from corporations on plastic pollution another. But whilst building upon the bare bones of the Zero Draft Treaty, the spectre of big oil still hangs over the process. There are swathe of weak options allowing for business as usual, within a draft treaty that will not be progressed until INC 4 in April. This Treaty can still flounder, killed by multiple choice appeasement."
Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines, criticized industry-wide greenwashing practices related to carbon offsetting schemes while speaking at a Politico event titled “Reauthorising the Federal Aviation Administration”. Kirby said these schemes are a “fraud” adding that most of the eco-initiatives used by airlines “are either forests that were never going to be cut down or trees that were going to be planted anyway.” more  More recently, Michael O’Leary, of Ryan Air, has pointed out: ‘There isn’t enough cooking oil in the world to power one day of green aviation.”
Firefly based in the UK is making SAF from sewage sludge. Firefly puts it into a high-pressure reactor to separate it into two useful materials: Biochar, a fertiliser for the agriculture industry, and bio-crude, which can be refined into jet fuel. James Hygate, Firefly Green Fuels CEO, said. “This cheap and abundant feedstock will never run out and the SAF we can produce with it is almost identical to fossil jet fuel.” Firefly reports conversations with officials in a major metropolitan area who believe that, through the sewage-to-SAF process, they could power up to 80% of flights from their international airport using SAF alone. SAF is attractive because it facilitates Business as Usual. But SAF still creates greenhouse gases causing climate change.
Amazon Deforestation: Although primary forest loss is way down across the Amazon, in  2023, nearly a million hectares (911,740 ha) were cleared.
Sustainable Travel International is offering a 10% discount on all  "Travel Carbon Offsets" "Our sale helps you stretch your impact by enabling you to offset the same amount of CO2 for 10% less." As they point out: "The voluntary carbon market is driven by companies and individuals taking responsibility for their own emissions by choosing to offset their carbon. The voluntary market can be more flexible and innovative than the compliance market and allows many communities and ecosystems to benefit from offsetting. When you purchase carbon offsets from Sustainable Travel International, you are investing in the voluntary offset market. This marketplace offers us an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while addressing the development needs of certain countries." As they also point out, " a voluntary carbon credit cannot be used by entities to meet their obligations under a regulatory scheme." As worthy as many of the projects are, they don't necessarily effectively offset carbon emissions.

4. Aviation - Business as Usual
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is excellently facilitating Business as Usual, delaying the step change in aviation that must come and come soon. Flying is not the problem; the dirty fuel is. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) reports Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) emissions reductions for CORSIA eligible SAF pathways and feedstock compared to a fossil fuel reference value - they range between 35% and 95% of fossil fuel emissions. (EASA, Fig. 4.3) SAF emissions still contribute to global warming. 
The  TPCC has just published Chris Lyle's authoritative and critical assessment of  Climate Change Mitigation Policy of International Aviation'. Lyle, Founder of Air Transport Economics, reviews the relationship between and mitigation activities of ICAO, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the European Union (EU) against the backdrop of national regulations. As he points out, Aviation is the “increasingly dominant contributor” to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of international travel & tourism. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and many other airline and regulatory authorities have the “aspirational” goal of ‘net zero’ by 2050. But they pay little attention to intermediate targets. Lyle argues that individual nations must be free to add their own more ambitious actions.

It was Abraham Lincoln who warned, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” more

5. Climate Change
Former NASA scientist James Hansen is credited with the first high-profile revelation of the dangers of climate change in testimony to the US Senate in 1988. He has warned that the world is moving towards a “new climate frontier” with temperatures higher than at any point in the last million years. He is quoted in The Guardian “When our children and grandchildren look back at the history of human-made climate change, this year and next will be seen as the turning point at which the futility of governments in dealing with climate change was finally exposed ... Not only did governments fail to stem global warming, the rate of global warming actually accelerated.” He went on to say that the best hope "...  is that young people may realise that they must take charge of their future. The turbulent status of today’s politics may provide opportunity.” NOAA Chief Scientist Dr. Sarah Kapnick said " A warming planet means we need to be prepared for the impacts of climate change that are happening here and now, like extreme weather events that become both more frequent and severe."

Noaa calculated that last year’s global temperature was 1.35C (2.4F) hotter, on average, than the pre-industrial era, which is slightly less than the 1.48C (2.6F) increase that EU scientists, who also found 2023 was the hottest on record, came up with due to slightly different methodologies. A separate analysis by Berkeley Earth has the year at 1.54C above pre-industrial times, which is above the 1.5C (2.7F) warming limit that countries have agreed to keep to in order to avoid disastrous global heating impacts. The BCC has more detail and graphics on 2023.  2024 opened with severe storms and flooding, which damaged the tourism industry in the Gold Coast of Australia.

In 2023 Antarctic sea ice cover crashed for six months straight, to a level so far below anything else on the satellite record that scientists struggled for adjectives to describe what they were witnessing.  A study published in Nature in March found meltwater from the continent’s ice sheets could dramatically slow down the Southern Ocean, overturning circulation, a deep ocean current, by 2050 if greenhouse gas emissions continued at their current level. Two months later, a further paper estimated the circulation, which influences global weather patterns and ocean temperatures and nutrient levels, had already slowed by about 30% since the 1990s. The impact of the melting of ice in the Antarctic will have global consequences. More in The Guardian.

Scientists have suggested a way of measuring and reporting the rise in average global temperature so that Earth's breaching of 1.5°C can be addressed sooner. Applying and accepting the methodology reported in the journal Nature would avoid further procrastination, " distraction and delay just at the point when climate action is most urgent." Some progress is being made in the EU; fossil fuel emissions fell 8% in 2023 from the level of 2022. But emissions are not falling fast enough. more

‘The antidote to despair is action’: Lesley Hughes, Distinguished Professor of Biology and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Integrity and Development) at Macquarie University, on motivation through a climate crisis - video 

6. Certification & Green Claims
The European Parliament passed a new law banning greenwashing and misleading product information: (1) " the new rules aim to make product labelling clearer and more trustworthy by banning the use of general environmental claims like “environmentally friendly”, “natural”, “biodegradable”, “climate neutral” or “eco” without proof. (2) the use of sustainability labels will be regulated and (3) the directive will ban claims that a product has a neutral, reduced or positive impact on the environment because of emissions offsetting schemes.
FigBytes have published a free guide to help businesses prepare or SEC and CSRD Climate Disclosure Regulation. WTTC and Biosphere have partnered to promote sustainability criteria in the hotel industry under the Hotel Sustainability Basics initiative, which has 12 criteria. (1) Measuring and reducing energy and water consumption, as well as reducing waste and carbon emissions, (2) Fundamental actions to protect the environment. (3)Fundamental actions towards a positive contribution to the communities in which they are located.  Exodus Adventure Travels has become a certified B Corp.

7. Overtourism, Pollution, Holiday Lets, Second Homes,  and Tourist Behaviour 

Overtourism: In Iceland, the supply of long-term housing is dwindling. "In the capital area, almost 8% of all residential housing is listed on Airbnb, according to a study by AirDNA, and homestay licenses increased 70% last year in comparison to 2022. According to a 2019 study, at least half of all apartments in some centrally located districts are tourist rentals, and up to two-thirds of homes listed on Airbnb were previously for long-term tenants. ... a 2021 report found that as many as 7,000 people — just under 2% per cent of the total population — had taken up residency in illegal housing, including commercial buildings. ... Of the roughly 200,000 people currently employed in Iceland, about 35,000 are in tourism."

Pollution: Anjuna is a coastal village on the Arabian Sea in Goa, on the hippie trail in the 1960s, now known for its electronic music trance parties and flea market. The Pollution Control Board has closed hotels releasing sewage into fields. Mountainous Himachal Pradesh was declared India's second open-defecation-free state in 2016; now, the state is polluted with rubbish, much of it left by tourists. Video  Skiers are leaving “forever chemicals” in the snow on ski slopes. Research by the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen and the University of Graz in Austria has found 14 different types of PFAS chemicals, commonly used in ski wax, in soils at family skiing spots in the Austrian Alps at levels far higher than in areas not normally used for skiing. source

Holiday Lets: In the UK the tax authorities now require hosts with a listing in the UK or who are required to pay tax in the UK to reveal earnings and pay tax. "Under the current laws since data sharing began in 2018, hosts renting out properties through online rental platforms are able to make £1,000 a year before tax under a ‘tax allowance’, with any profits above that amount needing to be declared to HMRC. Those renting out a single room in their property have a much higher income threshold before they have to pay tax [£7,500] as part of the government’s ‘Rent-a-Room’ scheme. New rules outlined by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] will require platforms to report the income that sellers receive on a more regular basis, and the information will be shared between countries that have also signed up to the OECD tax rules. The OECD rules will only be asked to share data about sellers who make at least 30 transactions a year, earning more than £1,735 [€2,000] in that timeframe. Airbnb lists on its site advice on Responsible Hosting including national taxes, business rates, and regional regulations and taxes in the UK and for Europe, Asia-Pacific, North America, South America, & Africa. More on the UK rules here 
Florence has banned new short-term lets on Airbnb and similar rental platforms within the Unesco-protected centro storico. "The city’s mayor, Dario Nardella, said: “The consequences of the short-term tourist rental market are apparent to us all: a loss of identity in the centro storico,  inflated living costs and a dramatic reduction in available housing. We are looking at a steady growth in tourist numbers which has become even more significant since the pandemic, testing the city to its limits.”  "Patrizia Asproni, a prominent activist and former president of Florence’s Museo Marino Marini. “Everyone talks about the tourism boom, but few mention the enormous cost and strain on our resources of these millions of people passing through our city: the extra litter, the extra sewage, wear and tear on our streets and buildings, the filling-up of our A&E departments by American students in alcoholic comas. Not to mention the housing shortage and the environmental impact.”

Second Homes: Tenby "Our seaside holiday hotspot is being ruined by second home owners who clog it up in summer but leave it empty in the dead of winter - it's ripping the soul out of our tight-knit town" "In Wells-next-the-Sea, around 35 per cent of properties are second homes or holiday lets and at this time of the year the upmarket Norfolk town is eerily quiet."

Tourist Behaviour: In Venice from June 2024, tour guides will be banned from shouting through loudspeakers, while the groups they lead will not be allowed to exceed 25 people. Mallorca the Bauzá responsible tourism plan is much broader than the existing excesses law.... "the future for the whole of Mallorca does not lie with an outdated booze-based touristic culture. If this offends some holidaymakers and some businesses, then so be it."

On social media, users show off their collections of reusable Stanley mugs. Alaina Demopoulos asks in The Guardian, "Just how “eco-friendly” can it be when people are collecting a Quencher (plus endless accoutrements) to match every outfit?" Times of India: Destinations change tourist behaviours and can make it more responsible, reducing waste and increasing local spending: India's nine cleanest villages; Sikkim; Mawlynnong, Meghalaya; Khonoma, Nagaland; Majuli, Assam; Matheran, Maharashtra; Channapatna, Karnataka.

8. Taxation
Greg Dickinson, has an interesting piece in The Telegraph,  headlined "A €250 fine for building a sandcastle? Welcome to rip-off Europe". Greg concludes, " As the global clampdown on poor tourist behaviour intensifies, expect to see more fines rolled out in holiday hot spots. And, like them or not, entry fees and nightly tourist levies are going nowhere. Bali, Valencia and Iceland are among the destinations set to introduce new taxes for 2024. More will follow."

In Cornwall, a tourist tax is being considered to help manage the negative impacts of visitors. A council report points out that "our popularity, especially in the peak period, also brings with it negative impacts to our communities such as reduction in air quality, environmental degradation at popular sites, increased demand on services and congestion.” Bali is introducing a levy of USD10 for adults and children from February 14th " to contribute to the preservation and continuation of the island's unique cultural heritage while reinforcing its dedication to sustainable tourism."  In Greece, the tourist fee is being rebranded as a climate levy; from November to February, the tax rate is unchanged 1&2* properties €0.5; 3* €1.5; 4* € 3 and 5*€4,  From March to October, the tax has been increased to 1&2* properties  €1.5; 3* €3; 4* € 7 and 5*€10. The Greek government expects to generate up to 300 million euros for reserve funds for reconstruction efforts following natural disasters. The climate levy will also apply to short-term rentals booked through online platforms.

9. Green Tech
"Mitsubishi is putting up $690 million to help build the world’s biggest green hydrogen plant, to be located in the Netherlands." Using the Eneco Electrolyzer", the plant’s envisioned capacity of 80,000 tonnes annually would be nearly 30 times greater than that of the world’s largest facility now in operation.”
Sirius Aviation has unveiled the Sirius Jet, its design for hydrogen-powered electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft "propelled by a hydrogen-electric ducted fan propulsion system" They are planning to deploy them in Paris for the Olympics.
Technology for Responsible Tourism provides curated, peer-reviewed and reliable advice about technology, which will deliver in a range of geographies, topographies, and climates and enable businesses and destinations to determine which technologies are most suitable in their locale.

10. Miscellaneous
Spanish journalist María Ramírez has written in The Guardian, "EU citizens are being kicked out of the UK. In Spain people are asking: why not treat Brits the same way?
The Responsible Tourism Mission Souvenir Network is organizing a competition to encourage the development of unique souvenirs that showcase the beauty and culture of Kerala.
South Pacific  "Paradise cost: the Pacific Islands, changing the future of tourism", slow and regenerative tourism based on longer stays and positive impacts. Susanne Becken considers how the islands could transition to be less dependent on fossil aviation fuels.
Professor Michael Hall points out that "Tourism has yet to become “a legitimate field of study in its own right; like migration studies”, and "there is “probably less genuine debate than ever before”.
Mallorca, 'The island of tomorrow', Our Pledge for Responsible Tourism
The Guardian Ethical and greener travel: the best new European trips for 2024
Flip the Lens aims to be a global movement for people to turn their lens outward, engage with the world around them, and share video projects about our shared human condition. We are building a community of cultural co-creators who want to foster greater understanding among people.
Google Maps - Armchair Exploring
Travel Noire Restoring Ghost Towns Through Tourism
Nearshoring applies to tourism too. "By shortening supply chains, optimizing resource utilization and reducing waste, nearshoring enhances economic resilience and embodies a shift towards a more sustainable and environmentally conscious approach to manufacturing."
Toda City, Japan, uses NFTs in tourism promotion program
Icon of the Seas, ‘Biggest, baddest’ – but is it the cleanest? World’s largest cruise ship sets sail.

Access the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance  free webinar, & in cooperation with BVA BDRC and PACE Dimensions, to discover answers to some of the biggest branding, consumer demand and behaviour change questions, including:

- What are the biggest markets and customer segments for sustainable travel?
- What aspects of sustainability are customers willing to pay a premium for?
- How do customers perceive your brand and its competitors?
- How can you build confidence and trust with your customers?
- How can you effectively influence customer choice and behaviour?

31 January Responsibility is being taken; progress is being made
24 January The Gambia is booming, benefitting from tourism-fuelled inward investment
17 January Goodnews about green aviation 
11 January  What if everything you bought told you where exactly your money was going?
02 January  Kyoto by the Sea bringing responsible tourism to Ine in Japan

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Other Responsible Tourism Newsletters

The Sustainabilist UAE
Responsible Cape Town
Climate Change in 7 charts

Responsible Traveller, South Africa
Encounter Africa

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