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RT News: Latest Developments in Responsible Tourism 11/2023

December 23, 2023
Harold Goodwin
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The 2022 Responsible Tourism Charter points out that responsibility drives sustainability, lists the most significant issues which need to be addressed, and asserts the importance of transparent reporting as essential to demonstrating what is being achieved and avoiding 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”?

  1. WTM 2023 & the Global Responsible Tourism Awards
  2. Governments Taking Responsibility
  3. Addressing Visitor Behaviour
  4. The Delivery Gap
  5. Tech Matters
  6. Reporting
  7. Climate Change 
  8. Responsible Tourism in India 
  9. Wildlife and Animal Welfare 
  10. Miscellaneous

1. WTM 2023 & the Global Responsible Tourism Awards
As WTM London's Exhibition Director, Juliette Losardo, reminds us, the London show has "consistently championed responsible tourism through its dedicated program, with the ethos of sustainability ingrained in our core values. The bedrock of our commitment to sustainable tourism is evident in the comprehensive Responsible Tourism Program, a cornerstone guiding our actions."  The half-day Responsible Tourism Conference was packed. WTM kindly recorded the sound from the panels, which will be available as podcasts early in 2024. We are grateful to WTM London for hosting the Awards annually since 2004. The 2023 winners are here.  The 2023  WTM Yearbook is available online pp 104-105; Celebrating two decades of RT  pp 108-109; Responsible Tourism: Making Tourism Better; pp 110- 117 The Evolution of Responsible Tourism.

The World Responsible Tourism Awards were sponsored in 2023 by the Responsible Tourism Partnership, and the new online showcasing of the winners has been successful. Sabre is sponsoring the Global Awards in 2024 with regional awards in Africa, India and Latin America. The WTM Africa Awards are open now and close on March 1st. Full details of the categories and the entry forms are available online.  Juliet Kinsman endorsed the Global Responsible Tourism Awards in her article in the London Evening Standard. She endorses the  Awards: "hugely rigorous criteria", transparency about the judges and their knowledge, "the panel of judges for this year’s awards is both impressively credentialled and suitably diverse, ensuring a breadth of informed world views, which is essential for the selection to have value on the global stage." Juliet recognises that there is in the judging process "an appreciation for innovation and original thinking."

2. Governments Taking Responsibility
Two of the critical questions are "Who owns a destination?" & "Will the destination use tourism for sustainable development, or will tourism use and exploit the destination? Only the local government can manage tourism on behalf of the community and assert their ownership of their place.
is pushing tourist shops out of the city centre to prevent a monoculture and make the centre more attractive to locals; there are plans to move the Red Light District to a skyscraper in the south of the city, although there is opposition to the move from local residents. more The city is promoting. a new vision of the city to its residents: " a place of experimentation and creativity, with plenty of room for fresh ideas and new inspiration. Thousands of alternative perspectives make the city unique and constantly evolving. Find your community, revise your opinion and stretch your imagination with these initiatives that will renew your view of Amsterdam."  Renew your view
The city is also limiting the number of private tourism rentals and seeking to increase the housing supply for students, teachers and police officers in training. The EU will have new rules on Airbnb-style rentals that should finally be in place by 2026. In 2022, 13 cities, including Amsterdam, Paris, and Barcelona, called for urgent EU action, arguing that long-term rentals were increasingly being converted into short-term tourist accommodation, causing soaring prices and more problems for residents. "A pillar of the new legislation will be the data collection from online platforms, which will have to share information with local councils, feeding into tourism statistics and helping officials to regulate the market." In October, Florence banned new short-term lets on Airbnb and similar rental platforms within the Unesco-protected centro storico. 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.”

Tourism Ireland says the chase for growth in visitor numbers from far-flung markets such as Asia needs to be weighed against damage to the environment and the ability of the country to cope. The new Tourism Ireland chief executive Alice Mansergh says he cross-Border body that markets both the Republic and the North abroad will no longer run broad consumer campaigns targeting travellers in many faraway emerging markets. Instead, it will work mostly with tour operators to bring in only high-spending tourists.

Vespestad, Hehir & Koivunen conducted a content and discourse analysis of six European Arctic DMO consumer websites. The findings reveal examples of euphemistic labelling and using morally neutral language to conceal unsustainable activity. There is a sustainability communication discourse in what can be interpreted as moral muteness. Moral muteness helps us to interpret how DMOs downplay the negative impacts of tourism and promote low-effort pro-environmental behaviour to provide a narrative that allows the clients to disengage morally.

Austrade has developed a National Sustainability Framework for the Visitor Economy, which commits to Australia's goal of becoming a world leader in sustainable tourism.

Mallorca is “repositioning” its brand, recognising  “the importance of sustainability and responsible travel practices”, with the intention of “not only preserving Mallorca’s natural beauty and cultural treasures but also for ensuring the long-term prosperity of the island and the well-being of local communities”. The repositioning links the social fabric of the island and its purpose is to establish a conscious coexistence of tourists and residents, based on a common awareness and a unique reference point, which is that Mallorca is a privileged island that all must contribute to protect. The Mallorca Responsible Tourism Pledge 

Bhutan has cut the nation’s Sustainable Development Fee (SDF)   by 50 per cent from September 1, from  US$200 per person per day to half that figure.  The new rate will remain in place until August 31, 2027. Funds from the SDF will continue to be allocated to measures to offset the carbon footprint of visitors, such as through planting of trees and assisting the tourism sector by upskilling workers, maintaining trails, reducing the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and electrifying Bhutan’s transportation sector. For a detailed discussion of Bhutan's pricing since it opened to tourists, see Pricing solutions to Bhutan's sustainable tourism policy.

The village of Hochatown, in Oklahoma, close to Dallas, has a resident population of 219. Just before Covid Hochatown had 400 Airbnb rentals, it now has 2,400 and, at weekends, a population of 50,000. The village has " no police officers, no firefighters, no garbage collectors, and most houses aren’t connected to the sewer system. Moreover, the rental houses – many ..  with a jacuzzi – put giant pressure on the water infrastructure, leaving many without drinking water at times." A failure of planning control and governance.

3. Addressing Visitor Behaviour
The BBC has run a piece about more tourists taking responsibility. Ecobnb enables people to search for environmentally-friendly hotels, home rentals, B&Bs, and other forms of accommodation, listing more than 3,000 properties worldwide, from a vegan and organic farmhouse in Tuscany, to an eco mountain lodge in Costa Rica. 2.8 million travellers now use Ecobnb each year, up from 780,000 in 2018. In the Netherlands, Conscious Hotels is a chain of seven eco hotels whose environmental features include only using renewable energy, only buying sustainably sourced furniture, and solely serving vegetarian food, of which 90% comes from a 90km (56 mile) radius. Founded in 2020, flight-free travel company Byway Travel has seen demand for its services grow from 173 bookings in 2021, to 2,200 for this year.

While more travellers are behaving responsibly, there is more "policing" of behaviour. Amsterdam  is rebranding itself as a city which is more inclusive and open to its residents and is not just a theme park for tourists to get rowdy. Amsterdam's Stay Away campaign launched in March with pop-ups being activated n Britain, by particular search terms, such as “stag party Amsterdam” and “pub crawl Amsterdam”. UK arrivals are down 22% compared to 2019’s 2.4 million. In The Telegraph, Greg Dickinson writes I know the British tourist isn’t always the classiest, nor the best behaved, but it does feel like the scrutiny should fall on the product as much as the customer. Amsterdam is one of the only places in Europe where you can casually and easily buy sex or cannabis. You can also pay €300 for somebody to “arrest” your friend on his stag do, if you so desire."
Mallorca, too, is cracking down on anti-social tourists, imposing tougher fines. The current decree on excesses will be renamed responsible tourism. It will be in force as the season opens in 2024. Iceland has appointed a "polite tourist bouncer" to enforce a seven-day limit on the stopovers.

The TikTok-famous Elafonissi Beach, on Crete  known for its pink sand, sunny weather and watersports scene, has been badly damaged by overtourism; tourists are queuing to get onto the beach. Instagram tourism can also lead to dangerous behaviours by tourists without experience and ill-equipped to cope with the environment. Mountain Rescue teams in Wales and the Lake District get busier every year.  New Zealand launched an amusing  “Travelling Under the Social Influence” video of the Social Observation Squad (S.O.S) patrolling some of New Zealand’s top tourist spots on a mission to stop people from taking photos under the social influence. It has been watched close to 700,000 times.

Hope and Homes are pointing out that: "The world doesn’t need orphanages. They harm children and they harm society. And shockingly, 8 out of 10 children in orphanages have family members who would care for them – but a broken system hoards money, makes false promises, and keeps children neglected and families exploited." They've teamed  up with ABTA and the safeguarding and modern slavery unit of Border Force to help end Orphanage Tourism.

Tourism can be a force for good, increasing understanding, tolerance and solidarity between diverse people. Mark Twain argued that travel broadens the mind: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Palestinian Arab Aziz Abu Sarah, and Scott Cooper, a Jewish American, were working together for peace when they realised that travel could be a powerful and untapped resource for international understanding and peace. They describe themselves as “business partners, best friends, and consider each other brothers.” In 2009, they founded Mejdi Tours, offering dual narrative tours, initially to Israel and Palestine. They have added tours to Sarajevo, Belfast and Washington D.C., travelling with guides from both sides of conflicts, able to tell the history from the perspective of their community, and with opportunities to meet with people from both sides of the divide. Over 1.5 million people have viewed Aziz Abu Sarah’s Ted Talk – take 5 minutes to watch and listen, it is inspiring.

4. The Delivery Gap
Darrell Wade, co-founder and now Chair of Intrepid Travel, said this month that "travel has to move from relying on offsets to “definitely now reducing emissions per person per day”. “Offsets have to be credible,” he says. “And at the moment, they’re not. That’s the reality.”  ".... all the rhetoric in the world is not going to solve this problem. You need taxation, you need regulation, you need media pressure – you need litigation as a last resort.”

The Polluter Elite. For six months, the Guardian has worked with Oxfam, the Stockholm Environment Institute and other experts exclusively to produce a special investigation, The Great Carbon Divide. The Oxfam report reveals that the richest 1% of humanity is responsible for more carbon emissions than the poorest 66%. "The wealth gap between nations only partly explains the disparity. The report shows that in 2019 – the most recent year for which there is comprehensive data – high-income countries (mostly in the global north) were responsible for 40% of global consumption-based CO2 emissions, while the contribution from low-income countries (mostly in the global south) was a negligible 0.4%. Africa, which is home to about one in six of the world population, was responsible for just 4% of emissions." "A less discussed but faster-growing problem is inequality within countries. Billionaires are still overwhelmingly white, male and based in the US and Europe, but members of this influential class of super-rich can increasingly be found in other parts of the world. Millionaires are even more dispersed."

The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that the "Oil and gas majors putting less than 3% of investments into renewables." IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol said: “With the world suffering the impacts of a worsening climate crisis, continuing with business as usual is neither socially nor environmentally responsible.”

Are Hotels Meeting Consumer Expectations in Reducing Environmental Impact? A YouGov poll revealed in July that 24% of respondents thought that hotels were doing enough to minimise their impact on the environment, and 46% said that they were not doing enough. Only hospitals and health services were judged more favourably. There is considerable variation between nationalities. More on Sarah Habsburg's site.

New Venture Capital Firm Transition, is using the ‘Planetary Boundaries’ model to invest in startups that can help balance humanity’s impact on the planet. more

Using data to reveal regulatory failure. The Save Windermere Campaign demands that the Environment Agency, the Lake District National Park Authority and United Utilities manage excessive nutrients entering and polluting Windermere. Their mission is to return Windermere to its ecologically natural state through the complete removal of ALL treated & untreated sewage discharges into the Windermere catchment. They are using Satellite Monitoring to support their case. Save Windermere has partnered with Map Impact and the UK Space Agency in an innovative data collection project to study the inputs into Windermere. Using Earth observation data, this partnership will build a catchment-wide view for freshwater management. Satellite imagery will be used in conjunction with data from one of the UK's largest mobile networks, which will provide anonymised cellular data to determine the number of people within the Windermere catchment at any given moment. This will enable Save Windermere to quantify the pressure from human activity (i.e. sewage) in the area and its impact on phosphorus concentrations in the lake. Video

5. Tech Matters
Hydrogen-Powered Flight: Research shows that 81% of the British public believe hydrogen is the best option to decarbonise aviation, with 91% supporting the UK government's investment in hydrogen production and use in the aviation sector. In September easyJet, Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Ørsted, GKN Aerospace and Bristol Airport, established the Hydrogen in Aviation (HIA) alliance to accelerate the delivery of zero-carbon aviation. HIA will work to ensure the UK capitalises on the huge opportunity hydrogen presents to both the aviation industry and the country as a whole.
France's Air Liquide has been supplying cryogenic hydrogen to the Ariane rockets of the European Space Agency (ESA) for 50 years, producing more than a million tonnes of hydrogen a year and as well as fuelling rockets; its hydrogen is used in trucks and all sorts of industrial processes. For three years Air Liquide has been investigating the potential of hydrogen in the aviation business. Universal Hydrogen has developed special tanks to hold liquid hydrogen, which can then be trucked to the airport, where they can be plugged into the aircraft. Universal Hydrogen hopes to begin test flights in 2024. more
In September Rolls-Royce tests on a full annular combustor of a Pearl 700 engine at DLR in Cologne running on 100% hydrogen proved that hydrogen can be combusted at conditions that produce  maximum take-off thrust.

Carbon Capture & Storage: The IEA  cautions that carbon capture, often seen as crucial in companies’ transition plans, cannot be used as a substitute for reducing oil and gas production and demand. If oil and gas usage follows present policies, achieving a 1.5C temperature limit would demand an unimaginable capture of 32 billion tonnes of carbon for utilisation or storage by 2050, with 23 billion tonnes extracted through direct air capture.
Carbon-capturing algae: London North Eastern Railway (LNER) is set to trial algae-based carbon capture technology which could be up to 400 times more efficient than tree planting.

And on microplastics 

6. Reporting
Graham Miller, now Professor of Sustainability at Nova Business School in Lisbon, has produced a paper for EarthCheck Research explaining ESG reporting – the practice of disclosing environmental, social and corporate governance data. "“Reporting non-financial ESG performance for the first time can appear daunting at first,” he says. “It requires you to know what, why and how to disclose, and to navigate existing and emerging regulatory requirements or disclosure frameworks.”

PwC surveyed 345 investors and analysts across 30 countries and territories, 75% said that companies’ management of sustainability-related risks and opportunities is an important factor in decision-making. However, 94% believed that corporate reporting on sustainability performance contains unsupported claims, up from 87% in the prior survey, and including 79% who said the unsupported sustainability claims are present to a moderate or greater extent.

The Economist's first Destination Always report, An Impact Study it unpacks how visitor inflows affect environmental and social outcomes and explores the tools with which stakeholders can manage the trade-offs. They conclude that tourism contributes to gender equity and that increased overnight visitors are improving social tolerance. Unsurprisingly, they conclude that "Visitors positively contribute to economic growth in recipient destinations, but the magnitude of impact depends on the destination’s ability to minimise economic leakages and attract high-value-added visitors." Download the report 

7. Climate Change
The NASA Climate Spiral, at the head of this newsletter,  reveals both the extent and speeds of global warming. It is even more disturbing, animated, on the NASA website.
I was at the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance Summit in mid-October, where I heard Anna Dacam speak as a member of Generation Z about what we must do more to combat climate change. It was a remarkable presentation: spend 20 minutes listening to what she has to say.  We cannot waste any more time.

8. Responsible Tourism in India
India featured again in the 2023  Global Responsible Tourism Awards. The RT Mission Kerala, Joint Winner Best for Local Sourcing Craft and Food and Soar Excursions, Joint Winner Best for Meaningful Connections.
Nearly 500 investors and entrepreneurs, including 46 startups and 118 investors from the Responsible Tourism sector, participated at the Tourism Investors Meet in Kerala.  A total of 75 projects were presented, of which 52 were from the private sector.

Kerala is to develop a new tourism master plan in 2024

Mrs V Vidyavathi, Secretary Tourism, Government of India. Biju K IAS , Secretary of Tourism, Government of Kerala and Sheo Shekhar Shukla IAS, Secretary of Tourism, Government of Madhya Pradesh took part with representatives for South Africa in a panel discussion about Engaging Communities in the Business of Tourism.

9. Wildlife and Animal & Human Welfare
In South Africa, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), with the Sustainable Finance Coalition, have activated the country’s first tax incentive for threatened species. "The incentive for Threatened Species and Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs), allows any South African taxpayer (private landowners, as well as individual trusts or companies) who are safeguarding threatened ecosystems or species, to deduct all expenses related to their conservation efforts from their taxable income."
Memsahib has raised concerns about the impact of tourism on the Pushkar Camel Fair.  A fair that has declined in part because of intrusive pressure from tourists. "Every year these pastoralists sit and endure tourists coming up and sticking cameras in their faces, often without even bothering to ask permission. Yes, they may ask for a small token for having their privacy violated so rudely, INR50 or maybe Rs100, but by and large, it is the travel companies that make money out of the Raika. The Raika do not." This is a long and thoughtful piece and repays reading.
Responsible Travel will no longer feature holidays on their website that feature elephant bathing. "Washing elephants is a very popular activity, raising valuable funds for sanctuaries that depend on tourist income. But it can also lead to abuse and exploitation."

10 Miscellaneous
Canada: According to a new study of travel advisors by luxury and experiential network Virtuoso, the majority of Canadian travel advisors – 54% – report their clients are increasingly taking climate change into account when planning their upcoming trips.
CGH Earth & Heritage Jose Dominic
shares the importance of heritage and how travellers can engage in a more immersive and respectful exploration of destinations.
Dr. Jane Goodall on Responsible Tourism, Individual Impact, and the Hope for a Better World
Costa Rica’s Guide for Responsible Tourism This Season
The Tourist Beaches predicted to shrink the most by 2100
The 2024 holiday rich list: From a private jet around the Med to a tour of India’s Golden Triangle – see where your combined household income will take you next year
Torquay, The once-thriving UK seaside town now so bad locals 'apologise' to tourists


30 November Who owns a destination?
22 November The dangers of Instagram tourism in national parks
16 November Every traveller is potentially an “Ambassador for Peace”
07 November These are the 2023 winners of the Global Responsible Tourism Awards
01 November Why hospitality should give back more than it takes

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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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