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1. Launch of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance
On October 1st the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) was relaunched as the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (SHA), now once again fully independent. It was back in 2004 that the original International Hotels Environment Initiative founded at the time of the first Rio Summitt on Environment and Development in 1992 became the ITP which worked across a broad agenda: environment, siting and design guidelines for hotels, the Youth Career Initiative (YCI), pioneering work on human rights. The SHA is registered in the UK as a charity and will build on the work of the ITP with a strong commitment to working across the sector and to sharing their tools and resources work. In the video senior figures from Hilton, Marriott and IHG discussed key issues, including the future of sustainable development in the industry and hospitality’s role within the community during and following the pandemic. The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance brings together 14 of the world’s leading hotel companies and has launched with a renewed vision of responsible hospitality for a better world. Alliance members have 25% of the global hotel industry by rooms, including Marriott International, Hilton, IHG, Hyatt and Radisson. Aligned with the UN SDGs they commit to driving continued action on human rights, youth employment, climate change and water stewardship. more
2. Responsible Tourism at Virtual WTM, 10 & 11 November 2020
This year we have eight live panels in Virtual WTM, four on each day. The details of all eight panels are online. There will also be some on-demand panels and interviews details of these later in the month. There are two existential crises confronting our species: climate change and biodiversity loss. The UK's Prince Charles speaking at the opening of Climate Week has pointed out that the coronavirus is a 'wake-up call we cannot ignore' and that the looming environmental crisis will “dwarf” the damage wrought by coronavirus if the world misses the opportunity to “reset”. Does the Covid-19 pandemic provide a “window of opportunity” to change the world for the better? That is the question we are asking this year. The of WTM this year is Recover, Rebuild, Innovate. We begin by considering how our sector has responded to the pandemic in a panel moderated by Martin Brackenbury on Resilience & Covid-19 (1) The second panel consider how we might Build Back Better (2) looking at five leading examples of destinations already on the road to building back better. Our third panel looks at the biodiversity challenge: Tourism and Biodiversity, Friend or Foe (3), see the item below.
On 21st September Airbus revealed three concepts for new ZEROe zero-emission aircraft. There is little detail beyond a commitment to have the first in the sky by 2035. As Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO has reminded us “The transition to hydrogen, as the primary power source for these concept planes, will require decisive action from the entire aviation ecosystem. Together with the support from government and industrial partners, we can rise up to this challenge to scale-up renewable energy and hydrogen for the sustainable future of the aviation industry.” At WTM we are focussing this year on Decarbonising Aviation (4) and asking what the travel and tourism sector can do to contribute to pollution-free flight and to maintain the pressure for change. The aviation industry is our sector’s Achilles’ heel. Planes commissioned this year are expected still to be flying in 2050 – the time to change is now, and in a panel on aviation, tourism will be challenging aviation to clean up.
We have a panel on Tourism and Racism (6), chaired by the author Alex Tremblador. Some will be shocked by this arguing that discrimination in the sector is rare; others will disagree. Tour operators, travel agents, OTAs and guides offer what the consumer wants to buy – if they do not, then they fail. But client expectations change and perhaps we have a responsibility to reveal the whole truth, warts and all. The National Trust in England has for several years been revealing the origins of the wealth which enabled the building of grand houses and monuments; including “the global slave trades, goods and products of enslaved labour, abolition and protest, and the East India Company.” more Alex Temblador has written an article reflecting on the range of perspectives on the issue which emerge from the series of video interviews recorded on tourism and racism and to be found on this playlist.
Real progress is being made in India as more states and the National Ministry of Tourism take up the core ideas of Responsible Tourism, we discuss this with Indian leaders in a panel on Responsible Tourism in India (5), there are more details of developments on the subcontinent below. We have a panel on Certification and Consumer Choice (7) we discuss where certification is today and what it holds for the future. Are there too many schemes? What strategies could deliver more transparent consumer information? What can be done to improve certification and drive the sustainability agenda forward? How will health and safety shape sustainable tourism? In our final panel, we tackle the key question and ask Can we make tourism better? (8) The question is in part rhetorical. Of course, we can, we know what needs to be done, but will we do what needs to be done?
3. Biodiversity and tourism, conflict or symbiosis, friend or foe?
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Living Planet Report 2020, published in September, sounds the alarm for global biodiversity, showing an average 68% decline in animal population sizes tracked over 46 years (1970-2016). It reports that this catastrophic decline is largely due to the environmental destruction, such as deforestation, unsustainable agriculture and the illegal wildlife trade that contributes to virus outbreaks such as COVID-19. Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, makes the point starkly: "We can’t ignore the evidence – these serious declines in wildlife species populations are an indicator that nature is unravelling and that our planet is flashing red warning signs of systems failure. .... it is now more important than ever to take unprecedented and coordinated global action to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity and wildlife populations across the globe by the end of the decade, and protect our future health and livelihoods. Our own survival increasingly depends on it.” We cannot shield from climate change and biodiversity loss, we have to accept and come to terms with the fact that we are part of nature, we destroy it at our peril. As WWF-US President and CEO Carter Roberts, points out: "We cannot shield humanity from the impacts of environmental destruction. It’s time to restore our broken relationship with nature for the benefit of species and people alike"
McKinsey has published a report mapping areas where nature appears to have particularly high value and analysing some of the co-benefits and costs that could result from conservation of these areas. These additional prioritized areas would effectively double the current conservation of land and national waters to 30% of the planet—a proposed UN target used as a reference point for this analysis. Recognising that biodiversity loss and climate change are the twin existential challenges that we face as humanity WTM, London has worked with the World Tourism Forum Lucerne to record a series of interviews with leaders addressing what tourism can do to reduce biodiversity loss. At WTM London at 14:00 on November 10th, Shaun Vorster will be moderating a panel on these issues. The Responsible Tourism programme this year at WTM is online, so you will not need to travel to London to join us. This will be a lively panel exploring what the industry can do to halt the loss and ensure positive social and environmental footprints.
4. Responsible Tourism Grows in India
Kerala committed to Responsible Tourism in 2008 and has become a world leader in ensuring that the local communities benefit economically from domestic and international visitors, particularly, but not only, in rural areas. Madhya Pradesh has adopted a similar tourism policy and implementation strategy. At the national level, the Ministry of Tourism has a draft policy out for consultation. As the Ministry writes (4.2): "Sustainable Tourism is all about minimizing the negative impact of tourism on social, environmental and economic aspects and maximizing the positive impact. Responsible Tourism is about taking responsibility by all Stakeholders for achieving sustainable tourism, and to create better places for people to live in and for people to visit. The Ministry is funding initiatives to bring tourism to rural areas to contribute to rural livelihoods through the development of rural circuits under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme. The Ministry of Rural Development seeks through their Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) to develop "clusters of villages that preserve and nurture the essence of rural community life with a focus on equity and inclusiveness without compromising with the facilities perceived to be essentially urban in nature, thus creating a cluster of “Rurban Villages”. more
NotOnMap and Help Tourism in association the with ICRT India are developing 150+ training videos in 18 Indian languages divided into 12 training modules for Homestays, Village Panchayats, Teachers, Youth and Wome. It is all free and open-source and there are plans to reach 100,000 villages over the next year. The training material has been developed in three months and is based on 30 webinars which engaged with 2000 community members and fifty organisations over 17 states in India. In Kerala, the DTPC is promoting self-sufficiency by providing fish gardens. The World Responsible Tourism Awards have recognised many examples of RT in India and CGH Earth Hotels and Kerala RTT Mission have won the coveted Judges' Award these awards are rare and are used to recognise businesses which achieve in multiple categories and have been previously recognised a number of times. There is a panel on RT in India at the Virtual WTM on 11th November at 10:30 UK time.
5. Cruise Lines Face Particular Challenges: Covid-19 & Friends of the Earth
It will be at least another month before cruise liens are allowed to operate in US waters. According to CDC reports, between March 1 and September 29 data showed at least 3,689 Covid-19 or Covid-like illnesses on cruise ships in US waters, with at least 41 reported deaths. The agency warned that “these numbers are likely incomplete and an underestimate.”
British nationals are advised by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development against any sea-going cruise travel. “On cruise ships, passengers and crew share spaces that are more crowded than most urban settings,” said the CDC. “Data show that when only essential crew are on board, ongoing spread of SARS-CoV-2 still occurs. If unrestricted cruise ship passenger operations were permitted to resume, passengers and crew on board would be at increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and those that work or travel on cruise ships would place substantial unnecessary risk on healthcare workers, port personnel and federal partners [...] and the communities they return to.” more
The UK government has begun talking with the industry about how it might operate in a Covid world, the industry has developed a cruise framework is similar to the 'Interim Guidance for Restarting Cruise Operations’ released by the European Union in July, CLIA admitted, with some of the best practices taken and adapted in line with British rules and regulations. The Framework brings together three documents, focused on operators, the management of seafarers, and advice for passengers prior to their cruise. The industry is endeavouring to replicate at sea the government's onshore regulations and advice.
Friends of the Earth has published a report card comparing the environmental footprint of 18 major cruise lines and 193 cruise ships, examining sewage treatment, air pollution reduction, water quality compliance, transparency and criminal violations. The industry's response is covered in USA Today Travel.
6. Diversity Matters
Mejdi Tours are leaders in socially conscious tourism and the originators of the Dual Narrative Tour ™, with two guides, one from each side of the conflict. They are the world’s leading experts on post-conflict tourism now operating tours in 20 countries. At WTM London in November 2019 Aziz Abu Sarah, co-founder of Mejdi Tours, made a simple but profound point “The mistake is to think travel is about distance,” he said. “Travel is about change. It is about discovering difference.” At the heart of travel and tourism is difference. As the pandemic struck America and the Black Lives Matter movement raised issues of racism, Mejdi started a live stream weekly travel show hosted by Aziz to continue to educate travellers about responsible tourism. They have produced a host of programmes about Crossing Boundaries and offering others in responsible travel and peacebuilding a platform. There are now 31 episodes freely available online. "Through shared stories and conversations" the programme aim "to continue connecting our world during these challenging times—allowing us to travel from the comfort of our homes." Their pitch is powerful " Join us as we engage our guest speakers in conversation, discuss difficult questions, model friendship through respectful dialogue and disagreement, and provide an opportunity to encounter new voices and perspectives." more
7. Action on Holiday Rentals
The development of new platforms which facilitate the short term letting of accommodation to tourists had had a major impact on the availability of rental accommodation to residents in many European cities. In the Uk estate agents, RightMove has moved in the short letting market. "The rise and high profitability of STHR has led to a widespread pattern of long term housing rentals being converted into STHR. The impact on prices and the supply of affordable housing is alarming, particularly in inner cities. European citizens are increasingly voicing their concerns about nuisances caused by STHR. In addition to the adverse effects on the liveability of certain neighbourhoods and soaring prices, they report noise disturbance, health hazards, and even the slow disappearance of convenience stores." European cities are p[ressign for appropriate safeguards to be included in the new EU Digital Services Act more
Glasgow City Council is seeking a first-of-its-kind court interdict to shut a short-term rental property which will not comply with enforcement. A property on Victoria Road in Glasgow’s southside was ordered to shut last year after complaints of noise and anti-social behaviour but is still being advertised. In Poland, Airbnb and the City of Krakow have announced that they have signed a “landmark” partnership to support and promote responsible tourism and exchange aggregated data about travel and tourism.
8. Action on Plastic
Keeping guests safe from Covid-19 has significantly increased the quantity of single-use plastic going to waste. Travel Without Plastic has created GreenerGuest which offers a free course introducing a host of ways to reduce or eliminate unnecessary single-use plastic from business and providing access to more sustainable alternatives products. All of their suppliers have been selected for their commitments to social and environmental responsibility.
The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative has published recommendations on how the industry can continue fighting plastic pollution during the COVID-19 recovery. Download the recommendations here. The document builds on the key concepts underlying the common vision for a circular economy for plastic.
9. Animal cruelty rankings revealed: which travel companies are fuelling or fighting it?
World Animal Protection's report, Tracking the travel industry, exposes the companies that promote animal cruelty through the tours and excursions they sell, and those that are winning for wildlife, such as Airbnb, which scored the highest. Global tourist polls have shown there’s great customer appetite for this. 85% of respondents interviewed believe travel companies should avoid activities that involve wild animals suffering. The research, undertaken by the University of Surrey in the UK and commissioned by WAP independently analysed the public commitments travel companies have and haven’t made, and ranked them in order. The companies assessed: Airbnb, AttractionTickets.com, Booking.com, DER Touristik, Expedia, Flight Centre, GetYourGuide, Klook, Musement, The Travel Corporation, Tripadvisor, TUI.co.uk, Trip.com and Viator.
Companies were scored across four key areas: 1) Commitment: Availability and quality of published animal welfare policies and how applicable they are to all their brands. 2) Targets and performance: Availability and scope of published time-bound targets and reports on progress towards meeting animal welfare commitments. 3) Changing industry supply: Availability and quality of engagement with suppliers and the overall industry, to implement wildlife-friendly changes. 4) Changing consumer demand: Availability and quality of educational animal welfare content and tools to empower consumers to make wildlife-friendly travel choices. more
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Harold Goodwin blogs regularly on the WTM Responsible Tourism Blog
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