Tourism for Tomorrow Newsletter August 2016
The 2017 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards Call for entries opens in 15 days!
It's almost time to apply for the 2017 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards! The Call for Entries opens on September 1st, 2016, just a couple of weeks away...
Anyone working towards a more responsible, sustainable tourism industry, however large or small a company, organisation or destination you represent, is eligible to enter one or more of 2017's five categories - Environment, Community, People, Innovation and Destination.
In the last few years winners have varied from household brands to innovative startups, from iconic destinations to places that remain off the beaten track. The rigorous judging process ensures that it is true quality and authenticity that matters, and that shines through in the end. To find out more about what it takes to win the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, read the profiles of all the winners from the last five years.
Interested in applying? Lead Judge Graham Miller from the University of Surrey and Fiona Jeffery OBE, Founder and Chairman Just a Drop and Chair of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards have recorded this helpful video of tips for anyone thinking of entering. You can watch it here.
And then from September 1st, apply online here.
Tourism for Tomorrow winners interviews: Expediciones Sierra Norte, winner Community Award, 2016
Expediciones Sierra Norte (ESN) won this year's Community category in the Tourism for Tomorrow awards. In 1995 the number of tourists who stayed overnight in the villages where it operates in the Sierra Norte, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, was less than 20 per year. Most tour operators and travel agencies didn't believe the state's rural communities could successfully manage a tourist program.
ESN has since established more than 100km of community-managed walking and mountain biking routes, all following the ancient trails and paths that have connected the communities for centuries. And 22 years later, the region receives around 17,000 tourists a year. WTTC spoke with the company's Co-ordinator General, Angelina Martinez about their new success and what it means.
WTTC: How did your community react to winning the award this year?
Angelina Martinez:The day that we returned from [the ceremony in] Dallas, our team organized a special dinner and invited the local authorities of Pueblos Mancomunados and some friends that had supported the ecotourism project from the beginning. One of the founders, Mr Adelfo from Llano Grande, talked about our first years and how hard it had been, how many times they were called "eco-crazy" and how many doors were closed. Also many friends from different parts of Mexico and around the world shared their stories with Pueblos Mancomunados on Facebook, as they also feel part of the achievement. It reminds us that this award is the result of the joint work of an entire community and we know that we must continue working for our region and our country.
WTTC: ESN is described as an indigenous tourism company. What is the significance of this and what differences has it made to the way you operate?
Angelina Martinez: ESN is owned by Pueblos Mancomunados, a group of 8 communities that live in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, México and are part of the Zapotec ethnic group. We say it is an indigenous tourism company because when our communities decided to create an ecotourism project in the region, they planned it so the administration, management and marketing of tourism in Pueblos Mancomunados would remain under the control of the communities themselves.
Our organization therefore represents a real case of community-based tourism. It is designed 100% under community control; the local people are involved in every stage of the project. We have a local tourism office in each community and a main office in Oaxaca City that is operated by four women from Pueblos Mancomunados.
Another big difference is that Expediciones Sierra Norte ensures the resources from tourism are fairly distributed between all services providers (such as transportation, guides, restaurants, bakeries, stores, arts and flower shops).
WTTC: What difference has the tourism company made to the protection of biodiversity in the region where you operate?
Angelina Martinez: Our communities and tours are located in the Northern Sierra of Oaxaca, a region classified by WWF as one of the oldest and most diverse ecosystems on the planet.
The 400,000ha of the Sierra are under the indigenous communities´ control (Zapotec, Chinantec and Mixes) through approximately 60 communal properties.
The good preservation of these natural areas is no accident. The communities of the Sierra Norte have ancient knowledge passed down from their ancestors, about the rational use, protection and conservation of the resources in their territory. The ecotourism project represents an alternative form of development, while promoting sustainable practices to protect nature. We believe that the economic sustainability of our project is directly proportional to the sustainability of our natural resources, and if we conserve our natural and cultural heritage, the project will stay alive.
This is why we decided to take ever greater actions to better prepare us and to confront the planetary challenges facing tourism today. For example, a study is being developed with the support of one PhD student from the University of North Carolina. It looks at how ecotourism is often considered as a positive development strategy to alleviate poverty and conserve natural and cultural heritage, particularly in developing countries such as Mexico. However, until now, studies of tourism-related impacts from climate change have been isolated to developed countries and not included community capacity building for climate-related changes in tourism demand.
Considering that travel and tourism’s total contribution to the Mexican GDP was 13.3% in 2013, and that community-based tourism is frequently promoted as a viable development strategy, there is a dire need for research that examines community planning strategies for forecasted changes in tourism demand. This study assesses community adaptive capacity and tourism demand in an effort to build climate readiness within the community-based mountain ecotourism organization (Expediciones Sierra Norte) in the Pueblos Mancomunados of Southern Mexico. We are looking to determine tourists’ perceptions of climate change impacts and how those impacts may affect future travel decisions, and gauge the level and type of adaptive capacity that already exists within the communities.
WTTC: What plans do you have for future development of ESN?
Angelina Martinez: We think that Expediciones Sierra Norte still has a long way to go and every day we grow a little more. But we want to work on several aspects in particular. First, we want to support new communities getting involved in ecotourism with us. We offer them a program for exchange experiences with other communities so they can learn what has worked well for us in the past and what has not. Second, we want to take advantage of the ancestral knowledge possessed by our communities to create community interpretative trainers in tourism. At the same time, we are seeking agreements with some universities for local guides to learn English and obtain an internationally-recognised certificate. Third, we have begun designing new tourism products that highlight the essence of the communities and showcase their daily life so as to generate greater participation for local people and enable us to reach specialized niche markets who understand and appreciate the essence of the project.
Finally, as conservation is at the heart of what we do, we want to create a complete program to know the most important species in the region and how to protect them. Every year we celebrate the Wild Mushroom Regional Fair in Cuajimoloyas, one of our communities, so now we are looking for resources to create a wild mushroom museum, where the children and the local people can learn about the importance of these microorganisms in the forest and in the planet.
How can tourism help manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss?
Sustainable Development Goal 15 aims to protect Life on Land. For the third part of our series looking at the relationship between tourism and the SDGs, we explore how tourism can help this goal be achieved.
The success of Expediciones Sierra Norte's efforts to use responsible tourism to protect the 400,000 hectares of cloud forest in Oaxaca is one of many examples of well managed tourism being instrumental in helping societies meet the aims of Sustainable Development Goal 15. Properly designed, tourism can provide a sustainable source of income to communities that live in and around such ecosystems, encouraging them to preserve forests and other habitats rather than seek alternative, more extractive sources of income such as mining or logging. And because such ecotourism relies for its attractiveness to visitors on the preservation of the natural world with as little interference as possible, this further supports maintaining these ecosystems unspoiled.
However, in the past, the concept of ecotourism was often criticised for protecting habitats by excluding local people. However, today's successful companies - as typified by many of the winners and finalists of the Tourism for Tomorrow awards over the years - ensure that the people that live in a region benefit directly from the preservation of their natural world. Take another of this year's winners, Wilderness, who have successfully reintroduced rhinoceros back into Botswana's Okavango Delta and work closely with the communities who provide 85% of the staff at its camps to change attitudes towards wildlife amongst surrounding villages through initiatives such as the Eco-Clubs that it runs at local schools, and three-day camps it hosts at Wilderness Safaris and partner camps.
Or last year's Community award winner, Grootbos. Not only has the luxury hotel restored (and now manages) 2,500 hectares of very high conservation value land, with 785 indigenous plant species recorded on the reserve (of which 117 are species of conservation concern and seven are endemic to Grootbos). It does so in ways that ensure the many impoverished communities that live nearby benefit. For example, its Growing the Future project provides skills development in organic agriculture, sustainable animal husbandry and beekeeping, while its GreenBox planting system enables 200 households to produce their own food.
Over in Fiji, meanwhile, another 2015 finalist, Rivers Fiji has collaborated with indigenous landowners and the logging company that owns the land to create a 16km long river corridor to save the forest through what may well be the only conservation area in the world funded entirely by white-water rafting trips. And like Wilderness and Grootbos, they have designed their operations so that local people see the benefits. Each year Rivers Fiji brings over doctors and engineers from the US to run free medical clinics and build facilities to improve water quality for communities along the river's bank. Partner communities also receive US$3 for every person who rafts with Rivers Fiji. So far they have earned more than US$1,000,000.
Similar examples can be seen in the success of Jetwing's Vil Uyana, the Mountain Shepherds initiative in India, and Asilia Africa and its work in the Naboisho private conservancy in Kenya, which has protected 200 km² within an important wildlife corridor in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, which had no tourism income before 2010 and now generates close to US$1M through the industry.
INNOVATION FOCUS: All Melia's Italian hotels now run on 100% green energy tariffs
As a result of an agreement with Italian energy company A2A, Spanish hotel chain Meliá Hotels International will now supply all its Italian hotel properties with green certified energy from the country's national grid. These include the Gran Meliá Rome, ME Milan il Duca, Meliá Milan, Meliá Genova, Meliá Campione and Meliá Villa Capri. A2A is the second largest Italian producer of renewable energy.
The announcement follows on from the company signing an agreement with Endesa to ensure all of its hotels and corporate headquarters in Spain would use 100% renewable electricity. Furthermore, next year the company opens its first completely off grid hotel - Meliá Serengeti Lodge - which will use solar to generate electricity (and accumulators to store it), supported by a biogas generation system that is fed by a wastewater treatment plant.
Just as it is looking to source its electricity responsibly, so it is seeking to run its computers as responsibly as possible. The company has become a partner of the World Community Grid, an initiative sponsored by IBM that aims to create the world’s largest computing grid to take advantage of the unused capacity of computers connected to the Internet and make it available for medical and social research projects, as well as other issues related to natural disasters or environmental problems.
TUI Group publishes progress report on sustainability strategy 2015-2020
Along with the publication of its latest sustainability report, the world's largest tourism group has set itself targets to reduce CO2, provide more sustainable holidays, and develop its community engagement programmes in the coming years. The report provided an overview of the activities and progress delivered in the first year of the Group-wide “Better Holidays, Better World 2015-2020“ strategy and lays out plans for the rest of the decade.
According to the report, TUI airlines’ carbon emissions for 2015 were 66.0g per passenger kilometre, down 2.3 per cent on the previous year, meaning it operates the most climate-efficient airlines in Europe. Meanwhile the new cruise ships launched by TUI Cruises are said to be up to 30% more energy-efficient than comparable ships; and 68% of TUI’s hotel brands had a sustainability certification recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. The company says it aims to reduce the specific CO2 emissions of its airlines, cruise companies and hotels by a further 10 per cent.
In 2015, TUI Group took more than 5.6 million customers to hotels with sustainability certifications and more than 500,000 customers enjoyed a TUI Collection excursion tailored to promoting sustainability. TUI's report states that it seeks to deliver 10 million 'greener and fairer' holidays per year and by 2020, the Group will also invest 10 million euros per year to support good causes.
"We see the societal and economic potential of tourism to benefit people throughout the world," said Fritz Joussen, CEO, TUI Group. "For us, environmental and social sustainability are two sides of the same coin." Indeed, between 2012 and 2015, improved management of energy, natural resources and fuel saved TUI 63 million euros.
You can read the report here.
DESTINATION FOCUS: New Accessible Tourism guide for destinations launched
VisitEngland has published a new accessible tourism guide for destination managers so they can ensure their destinations are best prepared for this ever-growing market, said to be worth £12bn in England alone. The publication is particularly timely, as the theme for World Tourism Day 2016, which takes place on September 27th and then carries through for the following 12 months, is Accessible Tourism for All.
According to VisitEngland, 83% of people who look for access information when planning a trip will use destination websites. But only 39% find this information easily, meaning significant lost opportunities. VisitEngland's free guide 'Winning more visitors' provides lots of information about best practice for access information on destination websites.
VisitEngland also provides advice on performing a destination access audit, which can offer insights into the experiences of disabled visitors. Aimed at local authorities, it covers the key stages including planning, procurement, carrying out the audit and producing an audit report and evaluation.
Throughout, the new guide busts common myths, reveals best practice examples and gives ideas for quick wins and longer term actions. Along with several other free accessibility resources it can be downloaded here.
Written and edited by Jeremy Smith
Tourism for Tomorrow in the news : A selection of news articles from last month
The Fiji Times: Serua scenic and serene
St Lucia Star: Jus’ Sail Enjoys A Hat Trick Of Travel Industry Recognition
Yahoo: AIG Travel Survey Explores Consumer Perceptions of Sustainable Travel Movement
Sierra: Sustainable Tourism in Nepal: How to Travel Responsibly
4 Traders: Marriott : Makes Bold Commitment to Youth Employment in Europe