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RT News: Latest Developments in Responsible Tourism 01/ 2021

January 31, 2021
Harold Goodwin
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We enter 2021 confronted by four inter-connected crises, all of them global in their reach and consequences. Covid-19, climate change, biodiversity loss and mounting inequality. All of them accelerating. Tourism is a contributor to all of these crises and a victim of them. The development of vaccines and new treatments for Covid-19 and the various lockdowns and quarantine regimes have demonstrated that we can tackle crises. We have many solutions to these crises and there will be more. We now need to implement them.

"Without swift and immediate action, at an unprecedented pace and scale, we will miss the window of opportunity to 'reset' for... a more sustainable and inclusive future." Prince of Wales Terra Carta

  1. Climate Change Accelerates
  2. Coping with Covid-19
  3. The New Normal
  4. Tackling Biodiversity Loss
  5. Take Back Control - Manage Tourism, 
  6. The Kerala Approach extends to Madhya Pradesh
  7. Plastic Pollution Spreads 
  8. Responsible Tourism in Colorado, USA
  9. Brexit impacts on travel 
  10. Miscellany 

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  1. Climate Change Accelerates
    At the Climate Adaptation Summit in January, the UN Secretary-General reported that extreme weather and climate-related hazards have killed more than 410,000 people in the past decade, the vast majority in low and lower-middle-income countries. The S-G called for"a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience" and a transition to a "low-carbon, high-resilience future." He called for financial support for adaptation and resilience in the developing pointing out that: " Support for adaptation and resilience is a moral, economic and social imperative."  As he reminded us we "have the tools, skills and opportunity to deliver “more, faster and better” adaptation actions." We know what needs to be done. He concluded, "Let us live up to our responsibilities and jointly change course towards a sustainable, fair and resilient future." more
    January also saw the launch  of the Terra Carta charter r “provides a roadmap to 2030 for businesses to move towards an ambitious and sustainable future …. one that will harness the power of nature combined with the transformative power, innovation and resources of the private sector.” Based on work by a “coalition of the willing” among global business leaders, the Terra Carta, is supported by the Bank of America, Blackrock, EY, AstraZeneca, Schroders, BP, and Heathrow Airport. The charter is designed “to bring prosperity into harmony with Nature, People and Planet over the coming decade.”
    The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service has reported that 2020 tied with 2016 as the world’s warmest year on record. In 2020, temperatures globally were an average of 1.25 degrees C  higher than in pre-industrial times, and the last six years were the world’s hottest on record. The Arctic and northern Siberia continued to warm more quickly than the planet as a whole in 2020, with temperatures in parts of these regions averaging more than 6C above a 30-year average used as a baseline. This resulted in an "“unusually active” wildfire season, with fires poleward of the Arctic Circle releasing a record 244 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020, over a third more than in 2019. more
    The US experienced a record number of named tropical storms formed in the Atlantic, with a record 12 making landfall and its most active wildfire year on record leaving 262 dead. There were a record-breaking 22 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that struck the country in 2020. more
  2. Coping with Covid-19
    The Dominican Government, through the Ministry of Tourism and Public Health, has announced new country-wide measures that it will begin offering free antigen testing to all international visitors staying at a hotel to meet the new Centers for Disease Control’s travel protocols requiring travellers from January 26, returning to the U.S. to present proof of a negative COVID-19 or antigen test prior to departure. Africa has been hit hard by the second wave of Covid-19 and the new variant 501Y.V2 which makes up to 90 per cent of new cases in South Africa.  As at 31 January, Africa has 90,4389 confirmed deaths and 3,553,032 confirmed cases to date. Data
    We are all vulnerable to new variants of the virus which may require new vaccines. As the WHO has been reaffirming for several months, a global pandemic requires no less than a world effort to end it. None of us will be safe until everyone is safe. Global access to coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments for everyone who needs them, anywhere, is the only way out. This is a historical stress test for global cooperation. But we are ready to meet this challenge. This is why we have launched the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT)-Accelerator.
    There is very unlikely to be a post-Covid world, just as there is no post-flu world. Globally the World Health Organization estimates that 290,000 to 650,000 people die of respiratory diseases linked to seasonal flu each year. We have vaccinations and treatments and we have learnt to live with it.
    As Thomas Crampton, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at The Commons Project has pointed out "You can be tested every time you cross a border. You cannot be vaccinated every time you cross a border." Covid-19 tests and vaccinations could become necessary for concerts, theatres stadiums and to cross national boundaries.  "Cathay Pacific, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic are among the airlines that have already established partnerships with the Common Trust Network, an initiative that has been under development by the Swiss NGO The Commons Project and the World Economic Forum. The CommonPass is an app created by the group allows users to upload medical data such as a Covid-19 test result or, eventually, a proof of vaccination by a hospital or medical professional, generating a health certificate or pass in the form of a QR code that can be shown to authorities without revealing sensitive information. For travel, the app lists health pass requirements at the points of departure and arrival based on your itinerary." more
    But as The Economist has pointed out vaccine passports "are divisive, politically tricky and probably inevitable". The "yellow card" international certificate was created almost 100 years ago to record inoculations against cholera, yellow fever, typhus and smallpox. Many countries require a yellow-fever certificate as a pre-condition of entry. We don't yet know how effective vaccinations are against transmission. Vaccination passports will at least initially be divisive - those with underlying health conditions, over 60 and from wealthier countries will be vaccinated first and global parity in vaccination is a long way off.
    The Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank has researched the comparative performance of countries to answer the question: What impact have geography, political systems, population size, and economic development had on COVID-19 outcomes around the world? The answers are interesting  
  3. The New Normal
    So the new normal will involve learning to live with Covid-19 as we do influenza. Barcelona has recognised that confidence and safety are key elements for cities and tourist destinations in the post-COVID-19 context and made a tool available to them in order to minimise the risk of infection and to increase safety and confidence to reactivate the city’s economic fabric. Asserting that Barcelona never stops the city authorities are focussed on reactivating the economy and they are using the campaign slogan LET'S GET OUR CITY BACK
    Petra Hedorfer, CEO of the German National Tourism Board (GNTB)  wrote in January about the way the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for global social and technological macrotrend accelerating the digitalisation of communication and information processes. As she points out "... sustainable consumption does not mean having to go without and does not require customers to put up with poorer quality or a poorer experience. Quite the opposite: Sustainability is a hallmark of quality and a competitive advantage because it directly improves the quality of life of locals and visitors alike." The GNTB commissioned research in October 2020 in their main source markets and 80% of all those surveyed said that they thought COVID-19 would lead to more sustainability in tourism. more

    A new platform has been launched to position and promote the Caribbean as a unique, special and desirable place to live, work and play; and to consummate exchanges among consumers, businesses and exceptional players in the Caribbean. Exceptional Caribbean is designed to help Caribbean people fall in love with ourselves. We need to lift up and promote talent; to elevate the spirits and minds of our people; to love ourselves, and make the world fall in love with us. Earth  Changers has acknowledged that: "Every origin and every destination has different rules, and every accommodation, tour or transport provider will work in different ways specific to their location, business and the appropriate risk-based approach."  they have produced so good general advice for travellers. We are going to have to be Covid-aware when we travel and safety and trust will be major issues for transport providers, destinations and tourism businesses to address. Covid security will remain a major concern for the foreseeable future. Vanuatu has launched a global campaign under the slogan, ‘We’ll keep it Beautiful for You,’ until travel restrictions are lifted, and tourists can return to the islands. Vanuatu’s Sustainable Tourism Policy's objective is “to protect and celebrate Vanuatu’s unique environment, culture, kastom and people through sustainable and responsible tourism.” Thailand is promoting ‘SEXY’ tourism. To be rolled out during 2021-2022, the ‘SEXY’ tourism concept is in response to the changes in travel behaviour and TAT’s goal to restore Thailand’s tourism: S – Safety and Hygiene, E – Environmental Sustainability, X – Extra Experiences, and Y – Yield. This reflects TAT’s existing strategy to move the Thai tourism industry out of mass tourism and towards responsible tourism with an emphasis on revenue-generating quality tourists.

  4. Tackling Biodiversity Loss
    There is some good news. African Parks has released three cheetahs into Bangweulu Wetlands in Zambia. Two new Whale Heritage Sites have been awarded in Tenerife and California. Whale Heritage Sites are a global accreditation scheme developed by the World Cetacean Alliance and supported by World Animal Protection, that recognises outstanding destinations that offer and celebrate responsible and sustainable wild whale and dolphin watching. Whale Heritage Site status provides tourists with an easy way to select responsible whale and dolphin watching destinations; places where people can experience cetaceans in their natural habitat and in an authentic and respectful way. There are only two other Whale Heritage Sites in the world: The Bluff, South Africa, and Hervey Bay, Australia.


    The African Wildlife Foundation has grave concerns for the future of wildlife in Africa "Unless African governments can maintain strong networks of community conservation areas, supporting thousands of jobs dedicated to wildlife conservation, protected wildlife areas face a difficult road to recovery. The fear is that Coronavirus in Africa could reverse 30 years of conservation gains, including communal conservancy programs in multiple countries. Early data show the fractures in the system, but the full effect of travel bans, border closures and vacation cancellations on protected areas and the local communities co-existing with wildlands is just starting to sink in across the African continent. The large revenue streams that supported livelihood and a stable economy were abruptly cut off in late March. No job in these areas was left unscathed. COVID-19 has revealed the fragility of wildlife conservation in Africa. With limited funding for most state-run nature agencies, there has been an over-reliance on tourism to support efforts. more
    These issues were discussed at WTM London in November

  5. Take Back Control - Manage Tourism
    In Amsterdam, there are plans to crack down on growing numbers of low-budget “drug tourists” and organized crime, by forbidding the sale of marijuana to foreigners in its  166 coffee shops. Research commissioned by the city revealed that 57 % of foreigners visiting the center of Amsterdam say that visiting a coffee shop is a “very important reason” for their visit. The Mayor insists that “Amsterdam remains an open and tolerant and hospitable city, but we want to end the undermining effects of criminal organizations.” more   In Venice the Mayor has controversially decided to keep the Doge's Palace closed until April. more
    Venice has postponed a planned entrance fee for daytrippers until January 2022. Venice has established a "control tower" a Smart Contol Room to monitor tourism flows in real-time using mobile phone data to identify which countries they are from. more
  6. The Kerala Approach extends to Madhya Pradesh.
    Madhya Pradesh has signed a memorandum of understanding with Kerala for replicating Kerala's pioneering Responsible Tourism initiative. Kerala's Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that RT was the “only tool for sustainable development of tourism” as it created better places for people to live in and visit. The Minister said the pact with Madhya Pradesh was “another milestone” for Kerala Tourism and its RT Mission. more  Madhya Pradesh's government has expressed its intent to adapt and implement the model, aimed at the development of village and local communities, eradicating poverty and emphasising women's empowerment. more
    In Kerala, performing artists were amongst the most affected by the pandemic, many have taken to performing and teaching virtually. " Nearly 18,000 artists under the government’s Responsible Tourism Mission, specialised in different art forms such as kathakali, koodiyattam, mohiniyattam, chavittunatakam and martial arts like kalaripayattu have been left with nothing after the tourism industry collapsed." more
  7. Plastic Pollution Spreads
    Further evidence that we have entered what future archaeologists will define as the plastic age. Digging at the Iron Age Castell Henllys site in Pembrokeshire; wrappers from well-known chocolate bars and snacks were among 2,000 items found trampled into the ground. In the Arctic Ocean scientists have found widespread pollution by microplastics. Roughly three-quarters of those fibres were polyester and resembled those used in clothing and textiles, highlighting how the laundry of synthetic clothes is polluting the oceans. A 2019 study estimated that 878 tonnes of plastic microfibers are released every year from household laundry in North America through wastewater treatment plants. The weight is the equivalent weight of ten blue whales. Other studies have found microplastics at the highest point on Earth, near the summit of Mount Everest, in penguins' bodies in Antarctica and in Alpine snow. more
    Scientists have now discovered the processes of clogging and dispersing through which plastics spread. Microplastic particles get stuck when travelling through porous materials such as soil and sediment but later break free and often continue to move substantially further. more
  8. Responsible Tourism in Colorado, USA
    Hawaii
    is setting the budget and "looking more for the higher dollar, higher spend kind of tourists". The House Consumer Protection and Commerce Chairman has said "We need tourism to be able to come back, but we also are exploring this so that we’re ensuring it’s the kind of tourists that are best for Hawaii, and it’s not necessarily mass, budget tourism where everybody’s looking for the cheapest prices and people are just coming here in droves,” and that "lawmakers are pursuing multiple goals at once with the bill, including funding climate change mitigation and “promoting responsible tourism.” Lawmakers are discussing taxing tourist through surcharges on "vehicles that are rented for six months or less, including mopeds, and would also apply to vans or buses that are used to haul tourists or luggage.
    Durango is a small city in southwestern Colorado, near the New Mexico border, they have a new tourism strategy combining management and marketing.  The strategy recognises that the "real measure of effective tourism is about the social and economic impact." "We know that tourism is doing its job when Main Avenue is bustling, the job market is healthy, affordable tourism is on the rise, and the cultural fabric ... is invigorated." "One of the ultimate goods of tourism is to increase quality of life for residents... In addition to implementing strategies  that avoid overcrowding, Visit Durango will also focus on environmental sustainability   and stewardship of the destination." Their marketing strategy focuses on high-value responsible travellers to "generate great economic returns  with less impact on the community."
    Breckenridge is a Colorado town at the base of the Rocky Mountains, known for its ski resort, year-round alpine activities and Gold Rush history which has left it with a Victorian core. The Town Council has committed to what the tourism office President Lucy Kay describes as  "responsible tourism". They are going post-pandemic to be "looking for ways we can target guests whose value sets align with ours,”  “… Figure out who are people who think about the environment, who think about other people, who think about the world in a similar way to us, and try to invite those people in first.” Event fatigue was an issue pre-pandemic, and Covid-19 has created an opportunity to reevaluate tourism. One summer resident has commented, "How would that happen, and who decides what the criteria are (political party, voting record, religion, race)? Sound pretty Orwellian to me." [The press report has been misunderstood. Ed.]
  9. Brexit impacts on travel
    The UK has taken back control of its borders, and so has the EU. Fast track lanes no longer available except by grace and favour and UK citizens no longer have any guarantee of entry, immigration procedures will be slower. " Now the official is required by European Union law to conduct deeper checks. They may ask for the purpose of the visit; where you plan to travel and stay; how long you intend to remain in the EU; how you propose to fund your stay; and whether you constitute a threat to public health." Travellers can take in no more than 200 cigarettes and a litre of spirits.  No “POAO”. This stands for Products Of Animal Origin, and the government specifically warns you cannot take food “containing meat or dairy (e.g. a ham and cheese sandwich) into the EU”. The same applies to Northern Ireland.
    As the UK chose to become a third country, the EU’s long-standing “90/180 rule” has taken effect for British travellers. UK citizens can stay only 90 days (about three months) in any 180 (six months) in the Schengen area. The 90-day limit is not per country. It applies to the entire Schengen Zone.  In Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, and Spain, it appears that third country tour guides are simply not permitted. And from some point in 2022 UK travellers to the EU will need to register online and pay in advance for an “Etias“  permit under the European Travel Information and Authorisation System. more
    None of this should surprise UK citizens; the remain campaign pointed out that these were consequences arising from third-country status.
  10. Miscellany

♦ Rooted's selection of the Best Readings, Ideas, and Solutions of 2020 "From decolonizing museums to urban biodiversity hotspots, 2020 moved the needle forward in a meaningful way."

♦ New Zealand has launched a campaign against "Travelling Under the Social Influence" to discover something new and think outside the box.

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