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RT News: Latest Developments in Responsible Tourism 12/2023

January 7, 2024
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”?

Sabre is now sponsoring the Global Responsible Tourism Awards. There 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 

  1. State of the Climate
  2. Airbus, easyJet and Hydrogen  powered flight
  3. Sustainable Aviation
  4. Green Hydrogen
  5. Travellers Choice & Behaviour 
  6. Overtourism 
  7. Dual Narratives Matter
  8. Tourism Impacts of Housing 
  9. Iberostar. 
  10. Miscellaneous

    1. State of the Climate
     As António Guterres pointed out back in July: “The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.” As COP 28 opened in Dubai, it was already certain that current global temperatures were around 1.4C (2.5F) above the pre-industrial average, according to the WMO’s Provisional State of the Global Climate Report 2023. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in the opening session:“Record global heating should send shivers down the spines of world leaders and it should trigger them to act...  We are living through climate collapse in real-time, and the impact is devastating.” The impacts of global warming are apparent everywhere. 
    Research published in October in Nature Climate Change suggests "that mitigation of greenhouse gases now has limited power to prevent ocean warming that could lead to the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet" and a large rise in sea level flooding coastal areas. " The scientists conclude that "Limiting the societal and economic costs of sea-level rise will require a combination of mitigation, adaptation and luck."  More on the speed and consequence of melting ice in Antarctica. 

    The Tourism Panel on Climate Change published its Stocktake report on the progress to decarbonisation. They conclude that "Approximately 8-10% of global emissions are from tourism. Data show that tourism emissions have increased annually over the decade prior to Covid-19 disruptions, and tourism is not on track to achieve the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism interim target of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030. Urgent whole-of-sector leadership is required for tourism emissions to peak and decline substantially by the end of the decade.” They conclude that many forms of emission-intensive tourism growth are a major impediment to reducing emissions. more
    The Global Tipping Points report that "Five major tipping points are already at risk of being crossed due to warming right now, and three more are threatened in the 2030s as the world exceeds 1.5°C global warming." They conclude that ‘business as usual’ is now over. Rapid changes to nature and society are occurring, and more are coming. If we don’t revise our governance approach, these changes could overwhelm societies as the natural world rapidly comes apart. The Guardian has a useful analysis of winners and losers at COP28. Indigenous people and climate justice groups say Cop28 was ‘business as usual’

    Dr Neil Grant, an author of the IEA’s report, said: “For years, energy demand growth has outstripped renewables deployment, despite record additions of wind and solar. We’re now approaching the tipping point, where renewables overtake demand growth and start displacing coal, oil and gas. This would mark the beginning of the end for the fossil economy.” The Economist has pointed out that: "Being explicit about the fact that, eventually, polluters will be paying for the removal of their waste will both spur investment in technologies and concentrate the minds of emitters.
    Climate Trace has sophisticated emissions mapping, which enables the identification of emissions of CO2e, CO2, CH4 and N2O in granular detail.
    VisualCapitalist has Visualized: Global CO2 Emissions Through Time (1950–2022) mapped emissions by country in 2022 with projections  to 2050

    2. Airbus, easyJet and Hydrogen  powered flight











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 was recorded, and it is available as a podcast to download here.

3. Sustainable Aviation
As 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."
Details of Airbus's ZEROe programme are here.  The transition to clean fuel is coming fast to aviation.
Regent expects to trial their new all-electric seaglider, a plane-boat hybrid, for use in coastal zones. They have sold over 467 seagliders with a $7.9B order backlog spanning global aviation and ferry customers. On December 10th  Ampaire flew their Electric EEL demonstrator in Camarillo, California for 12 hours and had fuel for a further two hours. The Eco Caravan can transport up to nine passengers and, according to Ampaire, could be the first electrified regional aircraft to enter commercial service – FAA certification is to be expected in 2024. UK-based Monte Aircraft and Brazil-based Azul Conecta have already placed orders for the Eco Caravan.

PwC has banned partners, directors and other staff from travelling business class to assist in achieving their net zero carbon emissions target by 2030. Business travel is PwC's biggest source of carbon emissions in the UK. Germany has accepted  German flag carrier Lufthansa's argument that a kerosene tax would put the airline at a competitive disadvantage and introduced a passenger tax. Denmark has similarly adopted a passenger tax. Across Europe, aviation pays no kerosene taxation, little or no ticket taxes or VAT and a carbon price on intra-European flights only. Back in July 2023 Transport & Environment (2023). Aviation’s Tax Gap, the sum of tax and emission pricing exemptions at €34.2 billion in 2022 and €47.1 billion in 2025. They calculate that (56%) of the total European tax gap in 2022 is attributable to the top 15 most polluting airlines’ activities in Europe.

4. 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 the US Geological Survey (USGS), estimates that there is probably around 100,000 megatonnes 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.

Prof Pironon estimates there could be 250 million tonnes of hydrogen, enough to meet current global demand for more than two years.

5. Travellers Choice & Behaviour

Venice: tourists in a gondola refused to stay seated and stop taking selfies. They capsized the gondola, ending in the canal.  There have been other examples in New Zealand and at sea.   more here
Canada's Globe and Mail published an article on how to be a responsible tourist.
American Travellers: Carl Friedrik is a purveyor of leather travel goods. They surveyed 1,095 Americans in October 2023 and reported that 94% of Americans want to experience slow travel; Americans take only 8 days of vacation per year; and meeting local people was important to 43% of respondents. Only 31% of respondents cited environmental concerns as an incentive to adopt slow travel methods.
Global Consumer Trends: Euromonitor has identified the Top 6. One of which is  Greenwashed Out. "People are Greenwashed Out. They know their eco-friendly choices help to an extent, but real change needs to be a collective effort. So, consumers are pushing the responsibility back on businesses...Consumers realise that their individual contributions can only do so much. They’re tuning out messages that place the burden on their behaviour. Instead, they want organisations to step up and show proof of their eco pledges. People who are Greenwashed Out won’t accept empty promises or false narratives.
Sustainability Dissonance, aka the "Action Gap":
A summary of Phocuswright's Sustainability Dissonance: What Travelers Say vs. What They Do (and What to Do About It) has been published. Respondents answered historical trip questions without knowing they were participating in a study about sustainability. In the second half of the survey, respondents answered questions after the study's purpose was revealed. This allowed Phocuswright to compare awareness, attitudes and intentions around sustainability with actual travel behaviour. About half of the respondents said they were more likely to choose a method of transportation for its carbon footprint than for convenience. 1 in 10 people, sometimes less, actually chose their transportation based on environmental friendliness. The results for lodging were similar. According to this research " less than 1 in 5 of people who care about sustainability as a cause are making greener choices in travel products." Crowding "up to 28% stayed in a lesser-known area to avoid crowds on the most recent trip. So we start to close the gap a bit when a sustainability issue directly impacts the consumer experience. But still a significant discrepancy between how many people say they prefer the quieter areas and how many follow through.” There is a 15-minute presentation by their Senior Research Analyst on YouTube: "The money is not where the mouth is."

6. Overtourism

Venice: the mainstream media are reporting that from June, groups will be limited to a maximum of 25, and the use of loud hailers will be banned. Venice has also announced that visitors will be charged a fee of five euros on 29 peak days between April and mid-July.
Everest 'traffic jams'. 'Everest is becoming a lucrative business, with westerners forking over anywhere between $10,000 and $100,000 for permits to climb it.'  Congestion, rubbish, and danger as climbers queue to summit. Suggestions that ladders be fixed on the more treacherous rock faces have been rejected by professionals who do not wish to see the challenge reduced.  Before 1985, only one expedition at a time was allowed on the Nepal side. more
Amsterdam is deterring "stag parties", restricting river cruises, converting hotels into hotels and offices, closing bars and clubs earlier and banning the smoking of cannabis in some parts of the city, and distributing tourism more evenly across the city. Amsterdam & Partners have sponsored Lonely Planet to publish a very different guide to the city.
Amsterdam has introduced new rules from January 1st 2024, revealing 'the underlying mission of the Dutch capital to rebrand itself as a city that is more inclusive and open to its residents and is not just a theme park for tourists to get rowdy.  The city is going to stop issuing permits for tourist shops, limit the number of private tourism rentals, and reduce the number of B&Bs by 30%.  The tourist tax will increase  12.5 %, "which will make it the most expensive charge of that kind in the European Union. ...with an average room price of 175 euros per person, the surge will result in an increase from 15.25 to 21.80 euros per night in 2024. The tax for cruise passengers will increase from 8 to 11 euros per visitor."

7. Dual Narratives Matter

In The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain wrote: “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.” At the heart of Responsible Tourism are the values of respect and the aspiration to create meaningful connections. Respect does not require the denial of difference. A meaningful connection is best achieved through the exploration of difference, through conversation, dialogues and debate. 
Mejdi has pioneered dual narrative tours to, amongst other places, Israel and Palestine, and Northern Ireland. Their two-guide model equips groups with two local guides, each representing conflicting, unique cultural, religious, political, and ethnic narratives. Mejdi Tours is “founded on the belief that tourism should be a vehicle for a more positive and interconnected world.” MEJDI translates to both “honour” and “respect.” The business was established to “change the face of tourism through a socially responsible business model that honours both clients and communities.” Travellers engage with diverse views about the places they visit and multiple narratives. Watch Aziz's remarkable TED Talk: For more tolerance, we need more ... tourism?  You can watch my conversation with Aziz Abu Sarah on YouTube
Nearly twenty years ago, Palestinian-American Aziz Abu Sarah and Jewish-American Scott Cooper, partnered together to co-found Mejdi Tours. Realising that not everyone is able, or comfortable, to take a dual-narrative political tour into a warzone, and so Aziz and Scott came up with a new concept: a non-profit InterActive Education Center, where we can bring the multi-narratives of conflict to the wider world, building empathy and understanding on a much larger scale.

8. Tourism Impacts on Housing 

Florence: The UK's broadsheet newspaper, The Telegraph, reports that ‘Florence is in danger of becoming a beautiful museum with no life ... Visitors to the Italian city should expect higher taxes and fewer Airbnbs – but locals fear their home is beyond saving". The city council has banned new short-term lets 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.”  There are reported to be 14,000 registered and many more unregistered apartments. The city imposes a €5.5 per night tourist tax. The housing crisis is reported to have arisen as rents have increased 40% since 2016 and ~ 15,000-odd American students arrive every three months on overseas study programmes.
"Camilla Speranza, the vociferous porta voce for the Santo Spirito resident’s committee, laments the exodus of residents and asks: “What is a city without its people? Florence is in danger of becoming a beautiful museum with no life.

Brussels: research by Professor Pieter-Paul Verhaeghe into the rental housing market between 2015 and 2020 suggests that areas with a higher density of Airbnbs experienced higher rental increases: " ... for every additional Airbnb property added per 100 regular households in a neighbourhood – the increase in the rental prices overall was to the tune of 1.6% on average." The Airbnb effect can be explained thus: "Every new property on the platform decreased the supply of long-term rentals. In addition, the attraction of tourists leads to an increase in prices in other areas, such as bars, restaurants and shops – making life harder to afford for local residents." This is a trend exacerbated by the use of Airnbn-style platforms by people letting multiple properties to tourists. 

Rent Responsibly is an education and community-building platform for short-term rental operators. They help owners, hosts, and managers navigate their local laws, professionalize their hospitality businesses, and rent responsibly.

9. Iberostar
 At COP28, Iberostar launched its circular economy roadmap reporting that it has diverted 56% of its waste from landfills and reduced its Scope 1 & 2 emissions by 12.4%, in line with the SBTi commitment to decarbonize by 85% by 2030. Gloria Fluxà, Vice-Chairman and Chief Sustainability Officer of Iberostar Group, reminds us that: "The shift away from linear thinking will certainly deliver profound and enduring impacts. This transition will ultimately lead us to substantial reductions in carbon emissions, minimizing resource extraction, promoting biodiversity restoration, whilst maintaining economic viability so that we can safeguard both natural ecosystems and communities."

Through this strategy we broaden our approach to include developments across People, Carbon, Water, Goods & Services, Built Environments, Ecosystems Services, Destination Development, Innovation and Partnerships. The roadmap has three main approaches, including specific targets to activate effective change:

1. Evolving Operations towards Circularity - Demonstrating a commitment to complete circular thinking, redefining operations at a hotel level.
2. Contributing to Regenerative Destinations - Adding value by developing infrastructure and ecosystem services that support regenerative tourism, aligning and evolving with the destination.
3. Driving Partnership Through the Value Chain - Focusing on partnerships across the value chain, focusing on driving accountability and pre-competitive collaboration.
Iberostar sustainability strategy is available here.

10. Miscellaneous

In Scotland, North West Highlands Geopark named among Rough Guide's must-visit locations in 2024. more
In India the National Ministry of Tourism has already trained some 12,000 people in support of its Sustainable Tourism strategy by providing courses "at the doorsteps of the local people and service providers residing near tourism sites and destinations who cannot afford to travel to the cities/towns to take training."
Opening the Beypore International Responsible Tourism and Textile Art Fest, Kerala's Tourism Minister P.A. Mohamed Riyas called upon the State's people to be ambassadors of its tourism projects.
Millions of Chinese are venturing to the beach for the first time more
End-of-year report by TUI Care Foundation 
Skiing has fast become just another soulless, pre-packaged, mass commercial experience. more
Jadav Payeng, the Indian man who planted trees continuously for 37 years on Majuli Island. He has now created a forest and wildlife reserve twice the size of Central Park in New York.
Latest insights on rewilding horses in Europe more
The success story of Bwindi and its gorilla population stands as a testament to the power of responsible tourism in preserving the world’s most fragile ecosystems


12 December Did COP28 make insufficient progress in tourism?
06 December Is there a downside to taking action against greenwashing?
30 November Who owns a destination?

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The Sustainabilist UAE
Responsible Cape Town
Climate Change in 7 charts

Responsible Traveller, South Africa
Encounter Africa

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