Tourism for Tomorrow Newsletter June 2016
Launching a series on Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals #1: What is the connection between tourism and peace?
Last Year, the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals, that together comprise the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Each of these goals is further made up of a series of targets - 169 in all.
These goals and targets address a range of issues including poverty and hunger, health, education, sustainable cities, climate change, and protecting oceans and forests.
And in three of the goals - numbers 8, 12 and 14 - sustainable tourism is specifically mentioned as a means to achieving it.
Since tourism inter-relates with every aspect of human existence on the Earth, however, it can play a role in every one of the 17 goals. For the following 17 issues of this newsletter therefore, we will be looking at each of the SDGs in turn, and exploring what tourism can do to support them.
Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies
We're starting not with goal 1, but with goal 16, which may at first glance seem not to have the most obvious connection to tourism. Just last month, however, WTTC published a report, Tourism as a Driver of Peace, which sets out to explore the links between tourism and peace. Delivered in partnership with Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP), the research concludes that "countries with a more open and sustainable tourism sector tend to be more peaceful."
According to the report, the clearest link between tourism and peace can be found in what it describes as "positive peace", by which it means the attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. These are explained as: a sound business environment; good relations with neighbours; high levels of human capital; acceptance of the rights of others; low levels of corruption; a well-functioning government; free flow of information; and the equitable distribution of resources.
The report also gives examples it sees of tourism promoting positive peace, such as a study of Israeli ecotourists visiting Jordan who positively altered their perceptions of Jordanian institutions and culture, when compared to a control group that did not travel. On the other hand, Jordan has recently suffered a considerable drop in visitor numbers due to regional instability affecting many of its neighbours, despite the lack of terrorist incidents occurring within its borders.
For tourism to support and promote peace, therefore, it needs to be seen by the communities in which it operates as being a positive, restorative player in society, as not walled off away from the communities in which it operates, but engaged in the provision of meaningful local employment, contributing to environmental regeneration and protecting the most vulnerable from its impacts.
One of the specific targets in SDG 16 is "End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children." In recent years, there has been increasing amount of awareness and effort by the travel and tourism industry of the role it can play in protecting children, ranging from debates at large events such as World Travel Market to the development of industry initiatives such as The Code.
Nonetheless, there is still a great deal more work needed. Published by ECPAT last month, The Global Study on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism found that, despite 20 years of efforts, the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism has expanded across the globe and out-paced every attempt to respond at the international and national level.
In our efforts to meet a specific target like the protection of children, just as in the achievement of the wider goal of promoting peace, the tourism industry can play a hugely positive or negative role. Acknowledging this potential and addressing the inherent risks in failure is therefore best place to begin.
Tourism for Tomorrow winner interviews: Wilderness Safaris, winner Environment Award, 2016
At the end of the last millennium there were no wild rhino left in Botswana. Starting in 2000, however, Wilderness Safaris, working with the Botswana government, began to reintroduce both black and white rhinos back into the Okavango. During 2014 and 2015, the company facilitated the largest ever international black rhino translocation to date. For this remarkable project, Wilderness Safaris won the 2016 WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Environment Award. We spoke with the company's Group Conservation Manager, Kai Collins about ecotourism, poaching and what more the tourism industry can do to protect species threatened by the illegal wildlife trade.
WTTC: You have had remarkable success with your rhino relocation project. How significant a role can this sort of approach play in protecting species such as rhino at risk of poaching?
Kai Collins: With less than 4 200 black rhino remaining on the planet, they are Critically Endangered and urgently require conservation action to prevent extinction of the species. This really motivated us to mobilise significant resources towards our ambitious project which culminated in the largest ever international translation of black rhino in history. This was only possible through support from partner governments as well as collaboration with a wide range of dedicated stakeholders and conservationists and funding from our generous donors.
It is the ongoing monitoring and security of what is now a rhino population of continental significance that is crucial to ensure that Botswana remains a safe haven for these incredible and highly threatened species. By garnering international recognition for our 15-year long project we are able to continue raising funds and pioneering best practice with regards to sustainable rhino conservation initiatives. The hard work has just begun, however, and if things go on as they are, rhinos will be extinct by 2024. International support and funding is crucial to ensure that we can continue to help make sure that this never happens.
WTTC: IATA recently committed the airline industry to working together to combat poaching and wildlife trafficking. Do you believe the wider tourism industry is doing enough to combat poaching, and if not, what more can it do?
Kai Collins: The recent significant increase in poaching is driven by well-resourced and highly organised transnational crime syndicates. Poaching is everyone’s problem, and even though there are many tourism organisations aggressively trying to fight the scourge of poaching, it is crucial that the wider tourism industry comes together to continue working closely with our Government partners to help create awareness in illegal wildlife product destination markets to help reduce the demand.
Within Africa, it is also not enough to operate in the savannah only. Serious ecotourism companies need to migrate the model into less well-known and even more threatened ecosystems (such as sensitive montane grasslands and lowland forest) and prove the merit of conserving these spaces and species too. It’s not just about big, iconic species or offering guests world-class accommodation. The focus should be on the centres of endemism which contain groups of species with restricted distributions, making them high conservation priorities. Ecotourism companies working collectively in this regard will also greatly help counteract habitat fragmentation which is another serious threat. It is also crucial that local communities not only buy into the importance of protecting biodiversity conservation, but also truly feel the benefits too.
Wilderness Safaris operates in eight biomes and five centres of endemism across more than 2.5 million hectares of prime African wilderness land; this helps to protect 33 different IUCN red list species, all of which are increasing in our areas. Care must be taken to ensure that the existing biodiversity is maintained and enhanced over time for ecotourism to be sustainable.
WTTC: How can tourists who are concerned about wildlife poaching support efforts to tackle the issue?
Kai Collins: Any donations, however seemingly insignificant, can make a difference towards anti-poaching efforts in less resourced countries to assist reputable conservation companies in providing training and alternative livelihoods to communities adjacent to protected areas and towards reducing the demand for illegal wildlife products. It is important for tourists to do their research beforehand to ensure they choose to travel with a responsible safari operator that has a proven track record of sustainable conservation and community engagement; in this way their contribution to the industry goes towards a worthy and responsible cause. As also mentioned above, it is important for guests who truly want to make a difference to Africa’s ongoing biodiversity to understand the value of each and every species within an ecosystem and to appreciate the luxury of pristine, untouched wilderness areas; gone are the days when you go on safari to chase the ‘Big Five’…sustainable and authentic ecotourism is about so much more.
WTTC: Wilderness recently co-signed a letter rejecting captive breeding How is this campaign progressing, and what more needs to be done?
Kai Collins: We are opposed to the captive breeding of carnivores species – especially lions – when they are used in tourism activities under spurious conservation claims. There are no conservation benefits to these programmes and in fact they may well divert well-meaning funding away from more deserving projects.
As one of southern Africa’s largest inbound tour operators we felt it was important to set an example and take a stand against supporting these programmes. For the past 10 years we have declined to market or sell these activities through our tour operator and found that when the film ‘Blood Lions’ came out that many others were prepared to join us in publicly taking a stand. This campaign was put together by ‘Blood Lions’ protagonist Ian Michler and we were very happy to participate. Quite simply unscrupulous breeders use tourism as an additional revenue stream for their activities and this is possible in part because large tour operators endorse, promote and market the activity, actively selling it to their clients. These clients in turn believe they are aiding conservation when in fact this is not true. I think the public nature of the campaign has drawn others to support it and we anticipate a groundswell of changing attitudes and the dwindling of this activity.
What more needs to be done? Aside from better legal frameworks and accountability the most important additional activities are to continue raising awareness of the false nature of the claims, and encouraging responsible travel professionals and their travellers from providing financial support to these programmes.
Travel Corporation supports Wilderness Foundation through Earth Day campaign
The Travel Corporation (TTC) marked Earth Day 2016 by committing to donate $1 to the Wilderness Foundation - Africa for every booking made on April 22 with any of The Travel Corporation’s family of brands. Some 4,120 bookings were made that day so the Travel Corporation gave Wilderness USD$4,120.
The donations were made through the TreadRight Foundation (itself a joint initiative between TTC’s various brands) to help purchase more flight time for Wilderness's Bat Hawk, a specially designed lightweight sport aircraft purchased by TreadRight for the Wilderness Foundation to help in its efforts to combat rhino poachers.
“Wildlife organizations face an uphill battle against a well-funded and ubiquitous adversary," explained Brett Tollman, CEO, TTC and Founder, TreadRight Foundation. "If organizations like the Wilderness Foundation – Africa are going to win the dire fight to save the rhino, and it is a fight we have to win, they require leading technology and tools in order to do so.”
INNOVATION FOCUS: Ritz-Carlton Impact Experiences programme enables guests to support local communities
Hotel group Ritz-Carlton has launched a range of 'Impact Experiences' that enable its guests to engage positively with the communities where individual hotels are based through positive social and environmental activities. Operated as part of its Community Footprints programme, the activities on offer range from a heritage farming project in Arizona to planting endangered native trees in Dubai and building bird nests for migrating rare bird species at the Futian Mangrove Natural Reserve Area in Shenzhen, China.
Launched at the recent Travel + Social Good conference in New York, some of the Impact Experiences also target business and MICE travellers, and they are designed to be done at the hotel as part of a conference agenda during breaks or receptions. These include assembling school supplies and art materials in backpacks for donation to vulnerable students and collaborating to assemble emergency preparedness kits for disaster relief facility or community organizations.
“We are proud to make Impact Experiences available at every one of our hotels around the world to provide our guests with an option to address local social and environmental issues,” said Herve Humler, President and Chief Operations Officer of The Ritz-Carlton. “Impact Experiences have the power through coordinated efforts and volume to be a significant force for good.”
DESTINATION FOCUS: Thailand bans tourists from three islands to protect environment
Thai officials have closed the idyllic Koh Kai islands off Phuket to tourists indefinitely in order to protect their environment and surrounding coral reefs.
Last month the country's Department of Marine and Coastal Resources ordered the removal of all bars, restaurants and beach furniture such as deck chairs and umbrellas from the islands of Koh Khai Nok, Koh Khai Nui and Koh Khai Nai.
They also banned any tourist activities around the coral reefs that lie offshore. "All these activities negatively impact the marine ecosystem and cause a deterioration in natural resources," said Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) regional chief Watcharin Na Thalang. "They must be stopped. We have discovered that about 80% of the coral reefs in the area have suffered damage."
The news came just a few weeks after the country's authorities had announced a similar decision to close the island of Koh Tachai — described by The Bangkok Post as "the most beautiful island in Thailand" so as to protect its beaches and reefs from destruction by every increasing numbers of tourists. It's not just Thailand, either that is putting in place measures to protect destinations from an excess of tourism. Similar restrictions have been enforced recently as far afield as Cinque Terre in Italy and Myanmar's Bagan pagodas.
However, there's one other tourism attraction in Thailand whose recent closure has been widely applauded. At the end of June, the infamous Tiger Temple, the subject of numerous long running campaigns against animal cruelty occurring there, has finally been shut after 20 years.
Why it's good business to attract tourists who care about sustainability
What travel business doesn't want to promote itself to visitors who will spend more money, stay longer and come more often? It's just about the trifecta for tourism marketing. One way to do this, according to a report released last month by Sustainable Travel International, is to focus on delivering experiences and services sought out by the kind of travellers for whom sustainability is a contributing factor in their holiday decisions.
Published in partnership with Mandala Research, The 2016 Role of Sustainability in Travel & Tourism report looked at US travellers and their attitudes to sustainability and tourism. It found that travellers who consider themselves to have taken a "sustainable trip" in the last three years "spend more (on average $600 per trip), stay longer (seven days compared to four days) and bring higher benefits to local communities including job creation, giving-back and volunteering."
Furthermore, according to the study, 63 percent of all travellers (ie not just those who say they go on sustainable trips) say they are much more likely to consider destinations where there is considerable effort to protect the environment. And more than 60 percent of all travellers believe they are responsible for leaving a destination the same or better than they found it.
“The study is a huge wake-up call for the travel industry," said Sustainable Travel International Founder and CEO Brian Mullis. "It shows that the market for sustainable travel is much larger than previously thought. More than half of this market, or 60 million US travellers are selecting their travel company based on their sustainability practices; and 56 million make destination choices based on the sustainable practices at the destination. This is too big to ignore.
Written and edited by Jeremy Smith
Tourism for Tomorrow in the news : A selection of news articles from last month
E-Global Travel Media: Alcatraz Cruises Honored With Tourism For Tomorrow Nomination
Hotel Executive: Sustainable Practices of Major Hotel Companies , by Lawrence Adams
Bangkok Post: China plan hailed as model for boosting rural tourism
Sustainable tourism: A driving force of job creation, economic growth and development
TTG Asia digital: Go deep, do good