Tourism for Tomorrow Newsletter March 2016
Italy to restrict visitor numbers to Cinque Terre
The beautiful Italian region of Cinque Terre has become the latest destination to consider the costs of popularity too great and impose restrictions on visitor numbers. In so doing it is joining the likes of Barcelona, Venice, Sabah and many more around the world unable to cope with ever-growing numbers of tourists attracted by the lure of the quaint, the unchanged, the small and the quiet.
Despite being protected by UNESCO - or perhaps in part because UNESCO status now acts as a lure to culture-hungry tourists - the five coastal villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore that make up the Cinque Terre now play host to 2.5 million tourists a year. Of these, around 650,000 disembark en masse off cruise ships, causing unmanageable spikes in numbers at certain times. In particular, the surge in visitor numbers is damaging centuries-old footpaths that connect the villages along the rugged coastline.
In a bid to arrest this seemingly endless growth, numbers will therefore be capped this year at 1.5 million visitors, with an online ticketing system determining how many tickets are allowed each day.
New global standards for aviation emissions announced
After six years of discussion and development, the first-ever aircraft CO2 emissions standard to impose binding energy efficiency and CO2 reduction targets for the aviation sector has been agreed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The move was welcomed by the aviation industry and praised by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “We need more sustainable energy alternatives to fossil fuels. Airlines must increase their use of energy-efficient technology. Airport buildings and transport infrastructure all over the world must be sustainable and climate-friendly," said Ban. "Cohesive international action will be key to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and limiting climate change. ICAO is showing the way.”
However, in a blow to the aviation industry's efforts to decarbonise, a new study by researchers at the University of Surrey has found that the industry and the media have overblown the potential of new technological solutions that promise emissions reductions. The researchers examined various new technologies and their reporting in the media reporting, ranging from aircraft laminar flow and composites and blended wing body design to solar or electric powered aircraft and alternative fuels derived from jatropha, animal fats, algae and hydrogen. “The way in which new technologies are presented constitutes a myth, a form of propaganda which denies the truth that progress in climate policy for aviation has stalled," said Dr Scott Cohen of the University of Surrey. "The use of these technology myths by industry and government relieves anxiety that nothing is being done, by pointing to future ‘miracle’ solutions, which in reality are unfeasible.”
INTERVIEW with Tony Charters, Tourism for Tomorrow Finalist Committee Judge
Ecotourism expert Tony Charters is one of the longest standing judges for the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. We spoke with him about the sector he has worked in for many years, how he has seen it change and what makes the Tourism for Tomorrow finalists stand out.
WTTC: As a consultant how have you seen the sector changed in recent years?
Tony Charters: Ecotourism has matured and has grown out of the ‘flavour of the month’ tag that once applied. After 25 years of ecotourism we now see the term widely accepted and globally adopted. There are well established standards for ecotourism, led by Ecotourism Australia when it launched its Eco Certification scheme 20 years ago. We are now seeing Eco-certified operators picking up a very high percentage of tourism awards - a clear endorsement of ecotourism. There are still examples of ecotourism being adopted in name only - i.e. greenwashing - but this is diminishing as consumers have become more aware of good environmental practices.
A significant and welcome trend in ecotourism is the energy that is being applied to developing community-based ecotourism. Small scale, locally-based ecotourism projects offer significant opportunities for diversifying the economic base of communities. For experienced travellers, community-based ecotourism offers a unique opportunity to engage with local people and to explore the natural and cultural heritage of a region.
Another key opportunity for ecotourism in the developing world is the return to traditional methods of construction and ways of life. The carbon footprint of communities in much of the developing world is minuscule compared to those in highly developed regions. Their culture and way of living is unique. Traditional construction methods using local palm, bamboo, grass thatching, stone etc. are affordable, renewable, low energy and authentic. It also makes for a unique tourism experience. Similarly organic farming, local produce and handicrafts add to the tourism experience and create local jobs. There is a real opportunity for developing economies to apply low tech solutions to sustainability - solutions that maximise job creation and create highly valued ecotourism experiences.
WTTC: What do you see as the biggest challenge confronting the growth of responsible tourism?
Tony Charters: The growth of responsible tourism can only be seen as a positive thing. As with ecotourism, there is a risk that the term responsible tourism is bandied around as a form of greenwashing. Over time, the minimum standards that apply to responsible tourism will be developed. Tourism awards play an important part in establishing these standards - through the assessment criteria that they establish. So often in the past we have seen glib statements from operators about sustainability and responsible management. Initiatives such as strict tourism award assessment criteria and certification schemes play an important role in defining what constitutes sustainability and what constitutes responsible tourism.
WTTC: What sets apart the sort of companies and organisations that make up the finalists for this year’s awards?
Tony Charters: In my experience the single greatest thing that sets apart the finalists is the presence of a strong, highly motivated and charismatic leader. A passionate and single-minded leader can overstep impediments, avoid compromise, inspire their team and maintain enthusiasm for their business. The business can be small or large, for profit or not for profit - but it must have a great leader. The other element that is often present is the support of mentors - people with complementary skills, experience and a track record of success.
WTTC: Thank you for your time and best wishes for your work in sustainable tourism.
INNOVATION FOCUS: The Finalists for Tourism for Tomorrow's Innovation Category 2016
Though very different from one another, this year's innovation finalists all share one trait - they are committed to enabling the reduction of tourism's environmental impacts. Here are the profiles of all three projects:
Carmacal Carbon Calculator by ANVR - the Netherlands Travel Trade Association
Until now, a significant problem with most carbon calculators was that they focused on only a limited part of the tourism package - typically either aviation or accommodation. However, thanks to Carmacal, the first B2B carbon calculator for tourism enterprises, it is now possible to measure all aspects of a holiday with one tool.
Carmacal is the only carbon calculator to be able to provide climate footprints at the level of airline/aircraft combinations per route, while also estimating the carbon footprint for 500,000 accommodation options around the world. It means that tour operators can now assess the carbon impact of the packages they offer more thoroughly than ever before, and look for ways to make them more efficient.
North Sailing, Iceland
Iceland's North Sailing is a travel company as remarkable as the area it takes visitors to see. In 2015, the company's schooner Opal became the first ship in the world to be installed with a Regenerative Plug-In Hybrid Propulsion System, enabling her to recharge batteries while under sails.
Having no engine burning fossil fuels means the ship releases no soot or fumes into the water, nor does any engine noise disturb the wildlife that people have come to see. Being better for the environment and better for the whales means a better viewing experience for everyone on board too.
‘Measuring Tourism’s Impact’ by PwC, Travel Foundation & TUI Group, United Kingdom
Seeking to assess the full impact of tourism on a destination, the Travel Foundation applied PwC’s Total Impact Measurement & Management methodology to TUI Group's operations across eight hotels in Cyprus in 2013.
Taking into account the visits of 60,000 guests, this was the first time that the overall economic, environmental and social impacts of a large tour operator in a mainstream holiday destination had been assessed at this scale.
Although the study focussed on TUI’s operations and customers, the methodology and the lessons learned can be applied to other destinations and companies as the findings and methodology have all been published and made freely available online.
InterContinental Hotels Group launches IHG Foundation
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has launched an independent charitable foundation and announced the first beneficiaries. The IHG Foundation will focus on four key areas – helping communities to develop skills in hospitality, providing support for those impacted by disasters, facilitating local community investment and protecting the environment. The first five beneficiaries are Goodwill Industries International, Care International UK, Youth Career Initiative (YCI), the British Red Cross, and The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT).
Commenting on the choice of beneficiaries, Richard Solomons, Chief Executive Officer, IHG, said: "They provide a powerful early sign of the positive impact the Foundation will deliver, helping to set the foundations for stronger, healthier, and more prosperous communities around the world.”
The specific, targeted work that the IHG foundation will undertake with the various beneficiaries was also announced. It will collaborate with CARE’s emergency shelter team to increase its ability to prepare for and respond to disasters. It will provide Goodwill Industries with a grant to develop the hospitality sections of its online career services and mentoring platform, GoodProspects. It will work with YCI to support survivors of human trafficking. It will aid the British Red Cross recovery programme for people impacted by the December 2015 flooding in Cumbria, UK. And it will help the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) with the construction of a sustainable drainage system so that it can showcase innovative ways of managing water resources to the centre's almost 190,000 annual visitors.
Luxury hotel reports benefits of Considerate Hoteliers' Conserve tool
The Considerate Hoteliers, the developers of the Con-Serve system for hotel resource management, has reported a successful case study of a user of its service. According to Considerate Hoteliers, a European luxury hotel recently subscribed to Con-Serve to collect data on its energy, water and waste. Although the hotel only started using the system 6 months ago, the Considerate Hoteliers team was able to collate and validate all of its 2014 and 2015 data, and therefore assess the hotel's performance over two years. In this period, the hotel saw savings of £31,000 for their gas use and total gas consumption fell by 4.5% - despite an increase of overall occupancy.
Thanks to its work with Con-serve, says Considerate Hoteliers, the hotel's engineer was therefore able to quantify the value of work over a 24 month period, formulate a business case, and receive more capital investment for initiatives that will continually drive sustainability and yield further environmental as well as cost savings. For more information, visit Con-Serve website.
UNESCO and EU to develop cultural heritage routes
The UNESCO and the European Commission have launched a project to develop cultural routes through Europe. Starting from 2017, the new European Heritage Routes will use the draw of World Heritage Sites along their itineraries to connect travellers to other cultural attractions, such as festivals, museums and other events.
"The European Heritage Routes project is a welcome concrete demonstration of the power of cultural heritage to serve as a wellspring for sustainable economic development for communities and regions,” said the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova. “I am confident that this European project will provide communities, conservationists and political leaders with a model that can inspire development strategies drawing on the outstanding universal value of World Heritage sites in many parts of world.”
To learn more, visit the UNESCO website.
Written and edited by Jeremy Smith