Tourism for Tomorrow Newsletter April 2017

Countdown to WTTC Global Summit

The theme for this year’s WTTC’s Global Summit, which takes place at the end of this month in Bangkok, is ‘Transforming our World’. As 2017 is the UN’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, this year’s summit focuses on tourism’s potential to make the world a better place, and the challenges it faces to achieve these aims. 

Several sessions will discuss various UN Sustainable Development Goals where tourism can play a leading role, from Sustainable Cities and Communities, Industry, innovation & infrastructure to Good Health and Wellbeing, and Quality Education. A host of other highly topical issues, from ‘overtourism’ to migration will also be explored, along with the growth of China and India as increasingly dominant forces in tourism. Speakers this year include the former UK Prime Minister the Rt Hon David Cameron, the outgoing Secretary General of the UNWTO Taleb Rifai, and several CEOs from leading travel firms. The summit will also see the announcement of the winners of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards for 2017. 

The full programme and complete list of speakers can be found on the WTTC website. This year the event is being livestreamed, with leading travel editors Arne Weismann, Peter Greenberg, Rafat Ali and Christopher Tkaczyk conducting interviews with CEOs, providing commentary and analysing the event’s main news.




Tourism and SDG 2 - Zero Hunger. 

How can tourism help end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture?

For many of us, food plays a central role in our travel experiences. Whether discovering a local restaurant, pottering through village markets or enjoying the time to cook and eat with friends, our holidays provide the much needed time and freedom to enjoy these sensory pleasures. Furthermore, as one of the most direct connections there is between visitor, host and the land, food also offers responsible practitioners many opportunities to use tourism to support local communities as well.

One of the best examples of this is found at Grootbos, the luxury lodge on South Africa’s Cape that was a runner up in the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards for 2016. Much of the food eaten in the lodge is grown at its own on site organic farm. And not only does the farm supply vegetables, herbs, lettuces, fruit, eggs, honey and preserves for Grootbos guests, it also provides skills development in organic agriculture, sustainable animal husbandry and beekeeping to members of the local community, particularly women. It is also the hub for Grootbos’ Greenbox scheme, which delivers container gardens to local households so they can grow their own produce and boost their food security, while reducing water and fertiliser by 60%. When tourism can be criticised for increasing pressure on local agriculture, or of forcing prices up beyond the reach of residents, Grootbos’ approach is transformative for the community where it operates.

Hotels can also make a significant difference in the local area through their purchasing decisions. For example, despite being situated in Jordan’s remote and arid Dana Biosphere Reserve Feynan Ecolodge, a Tourism for Tomorrow finalist in 2015, buys 80% of the food used at the lodge from within 40km. All of its bread is made by one local Bedouin woman, baked at her family tent, and guests are further connected to these traditions through bread making classes offered at the lodge. 

What happens at the end of the meal matters too. Later in this newsletter, we report on a new scheme being developed by WWF along with several leading hotel chains that is looking into how they can reduce food waste. Part of the answer is not to see food waste as waste, but rather as nutrient. At Soneva Fushi, another finalist in 2015, all food waste is composted using a force aeration method, which turns organic food and garden waste to nutritious soil that is reused in the herb and vegetable gardens. These gardens provide 15,000kg of food for the hotel each year - which when you are situated on an atoll in the Maldives, has a significant impact on the need to import food from further afield, to say nothing of the carbon savings too. 



Accessible Tourism interview: Helping everyone see African wildlife with Endeavour Safaris

Based in Botswana, Endeavour Safaris specialise in safaris for disabled people and those of limited mobility, providing a template for rest of industry that it doesn’t matter how wild and remote your offer is, it is possible to deliver it in a truly inclusive way. We spoke to founder Mike Hill.

WTTC: What motivated you to start offering accessible safaris?

To answer this briefly, it was the love of the Botswana wilds, and the mere fact that persons with disabilities could not enjoy, nor had any opportunity to be able to experience such a wild place.

WTTC: Have you introduced any particular innovations to help you be accessible? How did these come about?

We have had to adapt and modify various aspects of our operation to be able to host guests with disabilities professionally. These include our tents and equipment, our vehicles with hydraulic lifts and tie down railings, so as not to further discriminate between paraplegics and tetra-plegics. We really have tried to cater to almost all types of physical disabilities, and allow our travellers as much independence as we could.

WTTC: What have you learned from your differently abled clients that has helped you experience the bush differently - maybe even adding layers of richness that you had not thought of before?

To be involved with Disability Tourism, is in itself very rewarding, especially when you are offering something unique, that integrates persons with and without Disabilities together, whilst at the same time, importantly allowing for their independence. 

WTTC: Do you see others in the safari industry following your lead? Is the sector becoming more accessible in general?

Like everything in life, people tend to work and be involved in areas that they feel comfortable in, and that they understand. Disability Tourism is fast becoming better understood by operators in general, and we definitely do see a positive move towards products becoming more accessible, or Inclusive in their nature. This has come about through many pioneers with disabilities who have travelled to often difficult unknown regions, and have taught or played a role in educating the operators based there.

I cannot stress enough to persons with disabilities to get out there and travel, this is the only way that society in general will fully accept your needs and understand about disability. We have come a long way in the last 15 years, but still have much to achieve going forward. Our company Endeavour Safaris, will be there to support, advocate and achieve Inclusive Tourism with passion every step of the way.



Travel Corporation and Treadright Foundation support Indian elephants for Earth Day

The TreadRight Foundation, created as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of brands, has announced that it will support Wildlife SOS -  India this coming Earth Day. For every booking made on Saturday, April 22, 2017 with TTC brands around the world, The TreadRight Foundation will donate $1 to Wildlife SOS - India to help save elephants in abusive or harmful situations.

Many elephants in India suffer from a lack of elephant welfare awareness and public awareness, which results in their exploitation through street begging, circus performances / entertainment and temple processions. Wildlife SOS aims to help rescue and rehabilitate elephants in distress, including those being used illegally under deprived conditions. Wildlife SOS currently offers medical services to elephants in need, and trains their handlers on humane treatment and management. They also run two elephant conservation and rehabilitation centres in India.

Each dollar donated by TreadRight to Wildlife SOS as part of the Earth Day campaign will go directly towards supporting the organization’s land fund for the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura, India with the goal of expanding the existing rescue centre in order to provide space to house 50 more elephants in need of rescue. 

In addition, TTC, TreadRight, and Wildlife SOS will publish “A Guide to Ethical Elephant Experiences” featuring important tips to help responsible travellers know what to avoid, to ensure their elephant experiences are rewarding for people and elephants alike. 

“Working with Wildlife SOS in India as one of our TreadRight Wildlife Initiative partners, we’ve had the tremendous opportunity to fully appreciate the remarkable effort and care their entire organization commits to saving elephants,” says Brett Tollman, Chief Executive, TTC and Founder, TreadRight Foundation. “That is why our travel brands across the planet are participating in this important Earth Day campaign, helping Wildlife SOS secure the land required to care for elephants still desperately in need of rescuing from harmful situations.”  




Damning report leads to call to end skiing in the Alps

It may be necessary to end winter tourism in the Alps in order to save the fragile mountain ecosystems, a spokeswoman for the Austrian Alpine Association has said, in response to a recent WWF study. The study, conducted for the environmental organisation by the Bavarian landscape ecologist Alfred Ringler, examined the ecological footprint of four decades of ski tourism across 1,000 Alpine ski resorts. It found that while smaller ski resorts are usually more sustainable, they are also abandoned more frequently due to competitive pressure. On the other hand, large ski areas continue to expand across sensitive Alpine areas. According to the report, there are now 55 mega ski resorts in France (20), Austria (17), Italy (10) and Switzerland (8) that are each larger than 2,000 hectares. 

“Slope planning, access roads, forestry and constructions of snowmaking facilities have drawn a trail of desolation in our mountainous landscapes,” commented spokeswoman Liliana Dagostin from the Austrian Alpine Association. “Whole landscapes are being rebuilt to adapt the slopes to the needs of the average skier and to the requirements of snow-making. If the alpine ecosystems are not to collapse sooner or later, there is a need to end skiing and winter tourism, especially for facilities in the highest mountain regions.”





WWF launches pilot scheme looking to reduce hotel food waste

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), supported by The Rockefeller Foundation and the American Hotel & Lodging Association has launched a series of pilot projects aimed at reducing food waste in the hotel industry. Each pilot project has been developed to tackle a critical step along the food waste supply chain, following recent research conducted by WWF that showed a strong need for industry-wide training and education on food waste reduction among hotel properties, and a general lack of measurement and tracking of food waste. Projects in the pilot include measuring food waste outputs on a regular basis, improving employee training programs, creating menus designed to limit food waste and raising awareness with customers. Following the pilot, a toolkit containing key findings, best practices and suggestions of next steps to tackle food waste in the hotel industry will be published. 

Some of the world’s largest hotel brands are participating in the projects, including Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott International. "With its substantial food service volume and broad reach with consumers, the hospitality industry is an ideal catalyst for accelerating change," said Pete Pearson, Director of Food Waste at WWF. "Imagine every hotel breakfast buffet or conference luncheon eliminating food waste. While businesses should make food donation and landfill diversion a priority, these pilot projects will focus on food waste prevention, which is ultimately better for business and the environment."




Innovative plan to save world’s reefs from extinction launched

Coral reefT4T

A global plan to save coral reefs from being totally wiped out by climate change, pollution and poor fishing practices was launched recently at The Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali. The initiative, called 50 Reefs, brings together a coalition of leading ocean, climate and marine scientists as well as conservation practitioners from around the world to develop a list of the 50 most critical coral reefs to protect. 

In the last 30 years, the world has lost 50% of its corals globally. Climate change is the greatest threat to the remaining reefs’ survival, and it is estimated that only 10% can survive past 2050. 
50 Reefs will therefore identify and prioritize protection efforts on the coral reefs that are least vulnerable to climate change, and also have the greatest capacity to repopulate other reefs over time. The final list and corresponding initiatives, to be announced later this year, will be used to raise awareness of the increasing severity of climate change impacts on the ocean and catalyze the global action and investment required to protect these important reef systems for the future.

“When people think of climate change, they often think of extreme heat, severe storms, and raging wildfires,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. “But some of the most disastrous effects of climate change are out of sight – on the ocean floor. In fact, 90% of coral reefs are expected to disappear by 2050 and saving the remaining coral reefs are critical. Without coral reefs, we could lose up to a quarter of the world’s marine biodiversity and hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people would lose their primary source of food and livelihoods. We must not allow this to happen.” 

Worldwide, coral reefs were estimated by WWF and the Smithsonian in 2015 to have a conservative value of $1 trillion, generating at least $300-400 billion each year in terms of food and livelihoods from tourism, fisheries and medicines. 




Written and edited by Jeremy Smith




Tourism for Tomorrow in the news : A selection of news articles from last month