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RT News: Latest Developments in Responsible Tourism 02/2023

February 19, 2023
Harold Goodwin
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 2023WTM Global Responsible Tourism Awards are open for India, WTM Latin America and WTM Africa.

  1. Why Sustainable Tourism Failed  
  2. Kerala: RT Comes of Age 
  3. Overtourism: Amsterdam, the Balearics and Venice
  4. Animal Protection 
  5. Cannabis Tourism - encouraged and discouraged 
  6. Rooted on Proximity & Defeating Destination Homogeneity
  7. The humanitarian potential of the $9T tourism industry
  8. Behavioural Change for Sustainability
  9. Our Finite World From Space
  10. Miscellany

This newsletter and the website are now available in 20 languages - see the box top right.
The 2022 Responsible Tourism Charter points out that responsibility drives sustainability & lists the major issues which need to be addressed, and asserts the importance of transparent reporting is essential to demonstrating what is being achieved and avoiding greenwashing.

The WTM Responsible Tourism Awards 2023 
Africa: open until 28th February Enter here 
Africa Travel Week is calling all sustainability champions, changemakers, movers, and shakers to enter the WTM Responsible Tourism Awards 2023 as applications are now open for entries.
> India: open until 30th June Enter here
The ICRT India Awards are being promoted with the support of Fairfest Media ( TTF and OTM) and will be presented at BLTM - Business + Leisure Travel and MICE at the Leela Ambience Convention Hotel, Delhi 29-30 September. The Gold winners in each category will automatically be entered into the WTM Global Responsible Tourism Awards.
> Latin America: open until 30th January 30th  Enter here
The finalists who will receive the “Gold” and “Silver” Awards and the “One to Watch” will be announced in the first week of March and the awards ceremony will take place during WTM Latin America in April 2023. and encourage those ventures and projects that deserve to be awarded and can inspire everyone to promote increasingly responsible tourism."
> Rest of the World - launching  shortly

1. Why Sustainable Tourism Failed

John Swarbrooke is widely recognised as having written the textbook on Sustainable Tourism Management. Published in 1998,his text book was widely used in colleges and universities, informing the thinking of lecturers and students. Others followed, generally multi-authored. John provided a coherent and integrated approach, recognising that a multistakeholder approach was required, led by the public sector. Local government has the responsibility to represent the interests of the whole population, not the particular interests of those engaged in the business of tourism.

Back in 1998, John recognised that sustainable tourism might be an impossible dream and argued that polarising tourism into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, often based on little more than prejudice, was unhelpful. John brought to his academic work experience in a local authority DMO and as a local councillor. He understood that tourism management is inherently political, that the powerful in any particular place will shape the policy to their advantage and that communities are rarely homogenous, rarely do we all want the same thing or even mean the same thing by sustainable, a chameleon word.

John identifies three fundamental flaws in sustainable tourism:

1. Placing too much faith in national governments and supra-governmental organisations
“In reality, and not at all surprisingly, politicians whose decisions tend to be based on short-term thinking and focused on the date of the next election have been reluctant to implement unpopular actions aimed at achieving long-term goals that might cost them votes in the short-term.

2. Seeing sustainable tourism as a technocratic challenge rather than a political issue
“… the failure to recognise that it is an inherently political issue as it is about the distribution of resources and costs and benefits, in which some gain and others lose, is most disappointing.”

3. Seeing Sustainable tourism as a destination rather than a journey
“This idea of sustainable tourism as a destination rather than a journey … seems naïve given that the world is constantly changing… The highly influential Brundtland report, ‘Our Common Future’ [1985] … “made little or no mention of either climate change or tourism. At that time the threat of climate change was not really recognised or understood while the tourism industry was not thought important enough to be discussed in relation to sustainable development.”

2. Kerala: RT Comes of Age 
In January, the Kerala State Government approved a draft Memorandum of Association and Rules and Regulations for the formation of the Responsible Tourism (RT) Mission as a Society. The Minister of Tourism will be the Chair and the Tourism Secretary will be the Vice Chair. Rupesh Kumar, the existing RT mission coordinator, will be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Responsible Tourism Society. The Society will continue to be funded by the government, and it will be easier to secure funding from other sources. Mohamed Riyas, Kerala Tourism Minister, set the vision for the state: “We now want to transform the whole of Kerala into an interconnected tourist haven where visitors get plenty of choices and diverse experiences. All this will make a trip to Kerala a wholesome experience for visitors looking for diverse experiences, be it a stay in a houseboat or caravan, ecologically responsible adventure activities, visits to heritage and cultural centres.”  more
The Hindu reported that the RT Mission will become the first government-owned society in the State to provide training, marketing, and other support systems to local communities to start various initiatives in the tourism sector.... With the society being able to operate independently, the plan fund utilisation could be reduced in the future, said a statement issued by the State government. In 2017 when it was formed, the government sanctioned 40 posts for the mission. Since there would be no new post or asset creation as part of forming society, it would not create any additional financial burden for the government."
Kerala is the only Indian state in the New York Times 52 best places to visit in 2023 - Kumarakom, Maravanthuruthu and Vaikom

3. Overtourism: Amsterdam, the Balearics and Venice

Residents have been complaining that because of the tourist nightlife, the city has become uninhabitable. In addition to restricting  cannabis smoking (see 5 below) Amsterdam City Council additional measures are being introduced: sex workers will have to close their establishments by 3 am, restaurants and bars will only work until 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays, and tourists will not be allowed to enter the city’s old district after 1 am. a ‘Stay Away’ campaign will be launched in the spring at the initiative of the city council. Its aim is to discourage tourists who only visit the capital for the purpose of using drugs, drinking alcohol, and having sex.

In the Balearics, the government is planning to impose a limit of 16.5 million tourists per year, in 2022 Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza welcomed 16,475,579 tourists in 2022. It remains unclear how these limits will be enforced, the government is prioritising quality over quantity. The Supreme Court backed Palma's ban on tourist apartment lets. The town hall justified its measure based on the high cost to rent in Palma and on the fact that it was a city experiencing great housing pressure because of tourist letting. The tourism minister, Iago Negueruela, has said: "We believe that it is feasible to have more occupancy with fewer tourists. Despite the theories of those who bet on quantity versus quality, it has been shown that we are going in the right direction." The 2022 number "is a maximum that should not be exceeded but should tend to decrease". "There must be a clear trend towards the reduction of tourist accommodation places." There is opposition: Antoni Riera, the director of the Fundació Impulsa private-public body for Balearic competitiveness, is reluctant to set a ceiling. "No one knows the actual carrying capacity of the islands. One cannot speak of a number, although the social and environmental impact that it has is undeniable. The important thing is to forge a tourism vision that hasn't been defined yet." more   There is a campaign growing to reclaim the centre of Palma from 'touristification'.

Venice was planning to introduce an entry fee for day-trippers from January 16th. In July last year that announced that day-trippers would have to book their visit to the lagoon city online from Jan. 16 and pay between 3 and 10 euros ($3 and $10) for a pass in an effort to control crowd numbers. This had now been delayed  for at least six months. There are reported to be some 2000 small vessels abandoned in the lagoon - and no plan to remove them. more

4. Animal Protection
Skift headlined its report "Travel Companies Rebuked for Exploiting Wildlife for Entertainment"
and pointed to the reputational risk and potential  brand damage, ...tour operators must carefully consider the power they wield in the experiences economy. After all, travelers are becoming much more discerning about the companies they book with.

Would a real responsible traveller have captive wildlife entertainment on their wish list? World Animal Protection  reports that companies like TUI Musement, GetYourGuide, Trip.com, AttractionTickets.com and Jet2holidays are STILL, exploiting wildlife for profit despite 84%1 of UK citizens who believe that tour operators should not sell activities that cause wild animals suffering, Watch the video.

Travelling responsibly means never including cruel, captive wildlife entertainment on your itinerary and never booking your holiday with travel companies that are failing to address animal welfare issues and continue to profit from wild animal suffering.
As a responsible tourist, you have the power to take action against travel companies failing animals with their offerings. Animals are not commodities; calling out the operators treating them as such can change lives.
350,000 of our supporters campaigned tirelessly for Expedia Group to end the sale and promotion of captive dolphin venues and succeeded. TripAdvisor and Virgin Holidays stopped marketing these cruel attractions in 2019.  The full report is available online.  They gave also launched a  free Animal Friendly Holiday Guide.

5. Cannabis Tourism - encouraged and discouraged

In order to reduce crime rates, the Amsterdam City Council has decided to ban smoking marijuana outdoors in the red-light district. Residents have been complaining that because of the tourist nightlife, the city has become uninhabitable. The law will come into force in mid-May. Public cannabis smoking will be banned on the streets along the canals, where the city’s sex shops and strip clubs are located. If the laws do not have the planned effect, the city said that in the future it may extend the rule to the terraces of marijuana-selling cafes.

The Cannabis Travel Association International (CTAI) was formed to promote the development of safe and responsible cannabis tourism, unify the cannabis and tourism industries, and advocate for an enabling regulatory environment and promoting best practices in the cannabis space. CTAI is a registered 501c(6) non-profit advancing safe and responsible cannabis tourism. Committed to cultivating open communication, social equity, and environmental sustainability, the CTAI was established to represent and support the diverse voices and perspectives of the emerging cannabis tourism industry. Details of its February World Fair can be found here.

Hibnb is an online accommodation booking platform (just like Airbnb) but with the focus on offering guests cannabis-related lodging.

In South Africa operators are reporting an increase in the cannabis tourism industry, since the introduction of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill in 2020. The personal possession and private use of cannabis has been decriminalised in the country, and it seems as if government is increasingly looking towards capitalising on the potential economic benefits of the plant. In February last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa suggetsed  that the cannabis industry had a potential annual value of R28bn (€1.6bn), and would alleviate unemployment by creating 130 000 jobs.

6. Rooted on Proximity & Defeating Destination Homogeneity
Although tourism is defined by staying away from home overnight, it is not necessary  to travel far to experience the other. JoAnna Haugen. "Most people don’t think about their own communities as vacation destinations because this is where they live, work, and play every day. Yet, a surprising number of people haven’t really gotten to know the value, history, and story of their own backyards. Investing time as travelers within their own sphere of life can spark a sense of pride and compassion to care for their communities and share them with others." think of Unseen Tours or Migrantour.
JoAnna also has some suggestions about how to defeat destination homogeneity "Each destination deserves so much more than the same treatment as every other destination. Embrace the power of storytelling to share a more accurate and interesting story while attracting travelers most aligned with a place’s one-of-a-kind personality." She has identified 9 ways - read more here.

7. The humanitarian potential of the $9T tourism industry
Jessica Abrahams, Editor of Devex Pro, has written about a number of travel industry efforts to provide humanitarian assistance, to assist refugees fleeing Ukraine  AirBnB offered free accommodation, Eurostar and airlines offered free travel, and Uber gave free rides to those fleeing the war. She writes about the impact of Cyclone Aila which hit Bangladesh and eastern India in 2009, Gopinath Parayil and Blue Yonder became accidental humanitarians and their work during the 2018 floods in Kerala. Gopi is  quoted: “As a travel company we have access to shelter, accommodation, food and beverage, highly skilled human resources which can be deployed within such a short time because we are there in the hyper-local level, on the ground, all the time,” he said. Those are all things the humanitarian sector needs during a crisis, “and this is all sitting unutilized in the tourism industry.”  Read more

8. Behavioural Change for Sustainability

Read Sarah Habsburg recent post "Inspiration on how to engage your hotel guests" " It was an immense privilege to play a leading role in that emotion, that excitement, that story that I know every one of them continues to tell today."

BehaviorSMART™ is working with the Icelandic Tourism Cluster   on NorReg: A Platform for Nordic Regenerative Tourism (with financing from the Nordic Council of Ministers) The First Mile component designed and delivered by BehaviorSMART involves developing behavior change solutions that help Nordic businesses advance their transition towards regenerative tourism practices. The effort involves identifying change tactics that make sustainable and regenerative options the most likely choice among travelers, including increasing local buying, spreading visitation across a wider range of attractions, eliminating waste, etc. Tactics are tested by pilot businesses before being spread to the tourism sector across the Nordics.  Read more

BehaviorSMART™ is also developing a Green Tourism Platform for Behavior-Smart Adoption of Tech-Based Sustainability Solutions. They are planning to do this by (i) applying behavior change tactics to help improve their sustainability performance and (ii) adopting technology tools that optimise sustainability measurement and performance. Read more

9. Our Finite World from Space.
Adam Symington of Python Maps has mapped our planet's forests as if from space.  "According to the United Nations (UN), forests cover 31% of the world’s land surface. They absorb roughly 15.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO₂) every year. More than half of this green cover is spread across the boreal forests of Russia and Canada, the Amazon in South America, and China’s coniferous and broad-leaved forests. These carbon-sequestering forests purify the air, filter water, prevent soil erosion, and act as an important buffer against climate change." There is a lot of unforested land - Russia has 815m hectares while Brazil has 487 m ha

If you do not subscribe to www.visualcapitalist.com you may wish to do so, they produce some really data visualisations

This graphic below is also by Adam Symington maps out carbon emissions around the world, using 2018 data from the European Commission that tracks tonnes of CO₂ per 0.1 degree grid (roughly 11 square kilometers). This type of visualization allows us to clearly see not just population centers, but flight paths, shipping lanes, and high production areas.

10. Miscellany

Tourists and consumers are a priority from the point of view of the tourism business, and humans are considered the second priority in terms of nature protection. This creates a conflict situation. Consumers appreciate nature and are willing to compensate for the environmental impacts of their behaviour. This – feeling of ecological responsibility – is the focus in the articles of this edition. The articles were presented at the ICRT conference held in Helsinki. The publication is split into three themes following mainly the content of the research papers presented in the 15th International Conference on Responsible Tourism (ICRT 2022) in Oodi Library, Helsinki. Part 1 deals with research work linked to climate change.  Part 2 introduces actions planned and taken towards responsible tourism in the
region of Jamk University of Applied Sciences and Central Finland. Part 3 gives a brief overview of the cases in Finnish Lapland and Iceland.

In Goa Tourism Minister Rohan Khaunte is demanding that tourists be more responsible and stressing the importance of safe and clean beaches and integrated beach management plans to ensure that all stakeholders work in tandem to bring a change for good in the tourism sector. "“We need to ensure that we get good tourists. As long as we don’t get good facilities, good tourists will not come. ... “We need tourists who behave and are concerned about the environment. We need people who spend and support the economy and with that intention we need to improve our facilities,”

The URL www.rtp.education takes you directly to the RT Hub, which provides easy links to the RT Partnership.

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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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