Tourism for Tomorrow Newsletter November 2016
TripAdvisor stops selling certain animal experiences and commits to developing education portal
The chance to see wild animals that don’t live near your home is one of the most popular motivations for tourism. Whale and dolphin watching, safari trips and the simple pleasures of birdwatching underpin millions of holidays each year. Yet too often experiences like these can have a negative impact on the animals we love to see.
The recent announcement by TripAdvisor that it is removing the ability to buy certain trips that put the wellbeing of animals at risk was widely applauded, as was its commitment to develop an information and education portal connected to its review site where the issues that underpin its decisions could be explored in as balanced a way as possible.
According to the announcement, TripAdvisor and its Viator brand will no longer sell tickets for specific tourism experiences where travellers come into physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species, including elephant rides, petting tigers, and swim with dolphin attractions. These changes have started instantly for some attractions, while TripAdvisor plans to have both the educational portal and booking policy changes fully-launched and implemented by early 2017.
By this time, every attraction listed on TripAdvisor that involves animals will be identified with a “PAW” icon that will link to the new education portal. The aim of this portal is to provide wildlife tourism education for travellers in partnership with top accredited trade groups, conservation organisations, academic experts, tourism experts, and animal welfare groups, including the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, ABTA – The Travel Association, Global Wildlife Conservation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), Sustainable Travel International, The TreadRight Foundation, Think Elephants International, Asian Elephant Support, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and World Animal Protection (WAP). With such a broad range of groups brought together, TripAdvisor will be able to provide numerous points of view from experts in the fields of sustainable tourism, animal welfare, wildlife conservation and the zoological and marine.
Steve McIvor, CEO, World Animal Protection (WAP), which has run a very visible campaign this year challenging TripAdvisor to stop selling trips that might harm animals, welcomed the move. "World Animal Protection looks forward to partnering with TripAdvisor to help educate millions of travellers about the cruelties of wildlife entertainment,” he said. “This is a significant step towards ending wildlife tourism cruelties, and we hope it will have a huge influence on the tourism industry as a whole. We will share our welfare knowledge, expertise and point of view on the cruelties that animals face in the tourism industry. We believe once people know about these wildlife abuses, they will make other travel choices because of their love for animals.”
In further good news for wildlife, the US Fish and Wildlife Services has banned the import of any trophies from captive-bred lions. Over the five years 2010-2014, CITES records show that US hunters imported 2,582 lion trophies from South Africa, accounting for 55% of all South African trophy exports. As US hunters are the major market for such experiences, this decision boosts ongoing efforts to end the practice and associated tourism experiences such as walking with lions and lion cub petting.
“Our decision to prohibit such imports is based solely on our evaluation of the conservation benefits of captive lion hunts,” wrote Dan Ashe, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, in a Huffington Post blog. “In the case of lions taken from captive populations in South Africa, that burden of proof has not been met.”
Accessible Tourism Focus - Brettapproved.com - Creating the ‘TripAdvisor for Accessible Tourism
Brettapproved is building a crowd-sourced review site of tourism facilities and attractions from an accessible tourism perspective. We spoke to the founder Brett Heising about developing such a unique company and his vision for its development.
WTTC: Can you tell me how brettapproved came about?
Brett: I always say, I’m the most unlikely of entrepreneurs. I have a degree in journalism and had settled into a Fortune 1000 career in journalism and PR. I earned a very good salary, was happy in my work, and I didn’t think in my wildest dreams that I’d become an entrepreneur.
I traveled a lot for business. And time and time again, I had trouble just getting simple things at hotels – like a roll in shower, so I could wash up, get some sleep, and meet my business obligations in the morning. If anyone asks you whether someone can start a company because he wants to take a shower, you tell them, ‘Yes.’ And you can tell them you know the guy that did it.
WTTC: What challenge was it set up to address?
Brett: People with disabilities and mobility challenges, including aging Baby Boomers and Beyond, have unique information requirements about terrain, architecture, facilities, menus, and services in order to travel with confidence. Existing sites do not provide such information or enable booking based on specific physical accommodation requirements. There is no central platform to market goods and services for this fast growing, high value travel market.
WTTC: What trends are you seeing from the reviews in terms of recurring issues (or things industry is getting right)?
Brett: The fastest growing travel sector is “inclusive tourism” (aka accessible travel). Powered by the Baby Boomer market, people with mild to highly impactful mobility challenges are traveling more frequently than ever before. Hospitality, activity, dining, and entertainment venue owners are only just beginning to take notice. So this is an early stage, fast growing trend. According to the Gates Foundation, by 2020, more than 24% of the world’s population will have some form of disability.
Cities are taking a deeper look at the accessibility of their infrastructure. Dubai is going to host the global travel conference, Expo 2020. In preparation, the city governors have pledged to make Dubai 100% accessible to welcome all travelers. That’s a huge goal. We offer accessibility assessment and communications training modules and hope to work with them to make it possible.
WTTC: How has the website been received by the industry?
Brett: Since the launch of the beta site in early 2015, we have grown a community of about 20,000 travelers with mobility challenges. We have been mentioned in press nationally and worldwide, and Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists alike are taking a close look. The travel industry is just beginning to notice us. We hope to partner with several major brand hotels in 2017 to bring their accessible inventory onto the brettapproved platform, helping them to increase occupancy rates, ADR, and guest experiences by providing a matching service so the ‘right rooms’ get assigned to the guests who need them.
Over time, we expect to see increased accessible and universal design infrastructure, not only in hospitality, but throughout the built environment worldwide. The full spectrum of humans of all abilities is being incorporated in design ever more frequently and we are encouraged to see it.
Tourism and the SDGs: Goal 4 - Quality Education
Each month, we are looking at how tourism can impact on efforts to achieve one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. For this newsletter the focus in on Goal 4 - Quality Education.
To see the different way tourism can impact upon education, take a look at three of the winners of this year’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. Three very different initiatives, they show the industry’s potential to inform and educate travellers, suppliers and local communities.
Wilderness Safaris won the Environment award for its work translocating at risk rhinoceros to Botswana. For several years now, the company has also operated a scheme called Children in The Wilderness. This is an environmental and life skills educational programme for rural children in the communities where Wilderness runs safaris, for whom it provides opportunities ranging from regular Eco-Clubs at schools, to three-day camps at Wilderness Safaris and partner camps. By the end of 2015, it had run camp programmes for over 5,600 children, with more than 2,500 children participating in 58 Eco-Clubs in 2015 and 302 children on its scholarship programme.
ANVR won the innovation award for the Carmacal carbon calculator, a user-friendly application which allows tour operators and other businesses to measure the complete and detailed carbon footprint of their tour packages, enabling the integration of carbon management into their daily operations. Before Carmacal, it was virtually impossible for tour operators to measure and understand the environmental impact of the tours they were offering, since standard carbon calculators do not offer more than one emission factor for accommodations; have only general emission factors for transport modes; and most significantly are frequently centred on one element of tourism: either air transport or accommodation, thus making it impossible to accurately measure the effect of every component of a multi-faceted tour.
Carmacal, however, educates tour operators about the total carbon impact of the products they are selling, thus enabling them to redesign to reduce emissions, and provide transparent, useful information to consumers, making them more aware travellers in the process.
The International Tourism Partnership won the 2016 People award for its Youth Career Initiative, which provides training for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them get careers in hospitality and tourism. Since its launch, over 3,000 young people have graduated from its courses, with 85% success rate in finding them employment afterwards.
However, while these stories illustrate the breadth of possibilities available to the industry, research published last month provides a note of warning. According to new findings by the Pew Research Centre only 47% of employees in the US hospitality sector see training and skills development as “an essential part of their future work life.” Writing about the findings in Skift, Dan Peltier commented: “Hotel employees have plenty of reasons to make them weary of training and education such as exorbitant college costs and intimidating technology. Hoteliers need to persuade employees that they support their education and training, and it’s also a vehicle for employees to be creative and more autonomous in their day-to-day jobs.”
DESTINATION FOCUS: Highlighting the threats destinations face risks driving tourists to visit before it is too late, suggests new research
Much of the growth of sustainable tourism has been motivated by the desire to protect destinations from the damage badly managed tourism can inflict. And one of the main ways people have tried to achieve this is through making tourists more aware of the problems places face. These issues range from overcrowding in Venice, polar bears at risk from melting ice caps, to Cuba about to ‘lose its soul’ due to the influx of tourists once it opens up. However, it appears efforts to warn people off may have backfired.
According to new research published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism, raising awareness of such threats may have an unforeseen negative effect, as awareness of the threats actually motivates tourists to make sure they see the at risk destination before it is ‘ruined’.
According to one of the research’s authors, Professor Xavier Font from the University of Surrey, “It questions the validity of awareness-raising campaigns as behavioural change vehicles”. In addition, he explains, it could provide an explanation as to why the people who are most likely to declare themselves environmentally aware are often those who travel the most.
You can read the original research here: Font, X., & Hindley, A. (2016). Understanding tourists’ reactance to the threat of a loss of freedom to travel due to climate change: a new alternative approach to encouraging nuanced behavioural change. Journal of Sustainable Tourism.
INNOVATION FOCUS: Airbnb and SolarCity partner to promote solar energy
Airbnb has announced a partnership with leading US solar power provider SolarCity to make it easier for Airbnb hosts to run their homes on solar power. Under the terms of the partnership, SolarCity will offer Airbnb hosts a rebate – up to $1,000 cash back – on all solar panel systems. The rebate is available to Airbnb members in each market where SolarCity currently operates. According to SolarCity, the average solar power system will offset 178 tons of CO2 over 30 years of its lifetime, saving the amount of fuel it takes to drive the average car 390,300 miles.
“Our partnership with Airbnb demonstrates the important role energy plays in our everyday lives – including travel – and how clean energy can reduce everyone’s carbon impact on the world,” said Toby Corey, President of Global Sales and Customer Experience, SolarCity. “Homeowners that make the simple switch to solar energy can save money on utility bills and fix their energy costs for years to come. This partnership will create the first opportunity for many Airbnb guests to stay in a solar-powered home, and allow them to experience first-hand how easy it is to use clean energy to contribute to a cleaner, healthier society.”
SolarCity has also been in the news this month due to a joint announcement with Tesla for the production of new solar roof tiles. Later in November, a proposed merger between the two companies goes to a shareholder vote.
Might new legislation help ecotourism get its groove back?
The word ecotourism is often dismissed by promoters of sustainable tourism (or responsible tourism, if that is their preferred term). It’s criticised for being too vague, and for sometimes masking practices that may happen in natural surroundings, but that degrade or damage the very places they profit from visiting. On the other hand, done well, ecotourism can be a powerful tool for conservation, as research published earlier this year - which found that overall ecotourism is good for wildlife - showed. At the recent IUCN World Conservation Congress, which took place in Hawaii recently, efforts were made to address this issue, with the acceptance of ‘Proposal 065 - Improving standards in ecotourism’. “Done poorly,” commented Peter Cochrane, IUCN Regional Councillor for Oceania, “it can be degrading in every sense of the word. So high standards of performance and behaviour are essential, not only to protect the environment but also to communicate and demonstrate to visitors, local communities and regulators that ecotourism is a mature, responsible and valued part of every economy.”
Two lines in the proposal - which was accepted unanimously - are particularly worth quoting. It states that the Congress is "ALARMED that collective efforts have not yet resulted in improved practices globally and that ecotourism can be often associated with tourism operations and activities that have severe negative impacts on communities, biodiversity and geodiversity, geological heritage, places of geological interest, wildlife and the natural environment.”
It also states that it seeks to “expand sustainable tourism guidelines to include explicit ecotourism best practices, including an updated IUCN definition of ecotourism, relevant standards and indicators for culturally sensitive community engagement and welfare, environmental learning, appropriate infrastructure and tourist behaviour to seek the prevention of negative anthropogenic influence on species and ecosystems and more.”
Elsewhere, it was recently reported that Cambodia is drawing up legislation with the help of the French University of Toulouse and Acting for Life, an NGO which specialises in sustainable tourism, to identify necessary criteria to govern and support the development of ecotourism in the country, where arrivals from tourists looking for ecotourism and community-based tourism (CBT) are said to be increasing by almost 20 per cent a year. “Ecotourism is a new tool to attract foreign tourists and it is a trend that should be focused on to develop our tourism industry,” said Cambodia’s Tourism minister Thong Khon. “Ecotourism can benefit local people directly and play an efficient role in reducing poverty.”
You can read the complete text for Proposal 065 here.
Asian hoteliers launch Hotel Owners for Tomorrow coalition
A group of leading hotel owners from across Asia has launched a coalition supported by brands, management companies and industry supporters to commit the sector to a fixed set of sustainability actions. Launched at the recent HICAP 2016 event, the founding signatories of the Hotel Owners for Tomorrow coalition committed to five actions for building a sustainable future. These are: to incorporate sustainability from the beginning of investment decisions; to evaluate one renewable energy project and one efficiency project per property per year; to routinely monitor and benchmark sustainability performance; to support brand efforts; and, to share best practices.
The founding signatories include AKARYN Hotel Group, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, ITC Hotels, Marriott International, Nikoi Island, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, TAJ Hotels Resorts and Palaces and Wyndham Worldwide, along with industry bodies including the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, the International Tourism Partnership and PATA.
“The initiative is simple,” said Eric Ricaurte, Founder and CEO of Greenview, which co-ordinated the initiative. “Commit to five actions to raise awareness and spread best practice. We will build the coalition to provide recognition for hotel companies, global industry organisations and hotel development players who are committed to the future of the industry.”
“Asia is the centre of the planet’s future,” added Ricaurte. “It is also the battleground for sustainable development. More hotels are going up in Asia than the rest of the world put together. More people live in Asia who will attain a better quality of life. More resources will be needed in Asia to support this growth than anywhere else. The solutions to the planet’s problems will be scaled in Asia and that’s why we are here driving this initiative and inviting all hotel owners to join us.”
Written and edited by Jeremy Smith
Tourism for Tomorrow in the news : A selection of news articles from last month