Tourism for Tomorrow Newsletter August 2017
Is it Too Much To Ask?
It started with a simple idea. Is it too much to ask for everyone to do their part to help ensure the survival of this planet?
It's not, we thought, but what are we asking exactly when we say is it too much? Well, we initially started this process by conducting research among our WTTC Members to analyse and decide what our critical issues of focus need to be (you can read more about it briefly on our blog here). The issues focused on climate change, protecting people & places, and, without question, the continuously escalating environment of disruption in seemingly all aspects of human life and commerce. Yet, even more simply, all these issues centre on one more thing: protecting the one thing we all share – this planet. Without it, without it’s finite resources, we would not have anything else.
Throughout history, human evolution and growth has relied on one thing: humans’ ability to cooperate. Without our shared and collective belief in the same ideals, the same facts, the same conclusions, we would not be able to move forward.
Now is the time to be counted. We can no longer be stagnant. Sustainability has been a concern for decades. Now is the time we make it count and try to make a change. We can only do so together. We believe it is a very important and simple message with a potentially big impact, and we hope you will too.
For more information about the campaign, please visit: wttc.org/toomuchtoask
GUEST BLOG: A new insurance market to protect people, places and economies
By Kathy Baughman McLeod, Managing Director for Risk & Investment, The Nature Conservancy
When you hear the word ‘nature,’ what do you think about? A pristine beach? Maybe your favourite wild animal? Nature means different things to different people. But do you think of nature as a powerful source of protection from storms, rising sea levels and other negative impacts of climate change?
If you don’t, then you should.
Climate change is no longer a distant threat. We are living with the reality of it, right here and right now. The impacts of climate disruption from Florida to Fiji, and everywhere in between are clear, costly, and widespread as storms, floods and droughts become more severe and less predictable. Storms are costing us $300 billion a year, and 68,000 people are being displaced every single day.
We can’t afford to do nothing - literally.
An estimated 840 million people around the world live with the risk of coastal flooding, and for coastal communities, the health of their economies is directly related to the health of their coastal ecosystems. For example, in 2012, while Hurricane Sandy did tremendous damage to the eastern United States, coastal wetlands likely saved more than $625 million in flood damages across coastal communities in 12 states. And in the Philippines, mangroves are expected to avert more than US $1.6 billion in damages for 1-in-25 year events, and US $1.7 billion in damages from 1-in-50 year events.
Seawalls, breakwaters and sand bags often come to mind first for disaster preparedness tools, but these are not the only options. And sometimes they aren’t even the best option. Nature, including coral reefs, mangroves, wetlands, sand dunes and healthy beaches, offers the first lines of defense to slow waves,reduce flooding and protect coastal people and property.
Coral reefs protect 200 million people around the world. A healthy coral reef can reduce 97% of a wave’s energy before it hits the shore, and just 100 meters of mangroves can reduce wave height by 66%. These nature-based solutions are cost-effective, self-maintaining and adaptable to sea-level rise. And they also offer other benefits to communities that traditional “grey infrastructure” solutions simply can’t, including improved water quality, more fish and new ecotourism opportunities. In fact, there are more than 70 countries and territories across the world that have million dollar coral reefs - reefs that generate more than one million dollars per square kilometre.
Economists, engineers, insurers and conservationists are together developing new science, models and strategies to evaluate and leverage the protective services of this natural infrastructure, including coral reefs and beaches, and to make sure they can be restored after a damaging storm.
Indeed, one of the most promising new developments to maximise the value of nature is the possibility of actually putting an insurance policy on it - to protect the health and protective services of these ecosystems and ensure they are restored after extreme storms hit. This combination of insurance and science could be a powerful step toward protecting and improving the health of reefs and beaches so they can continue to protect us. This approach suggests that insurance could cover other naturally protective systems like mangrove forests and coastal marshes and even oyster reefs.
The increased threats of severe storms and climate impacts are here today - but so too are replicable and scalable nature-based solutions. We need action at all levels, from the international to the local, to shift our behavior and thinking around nature and drive investment in nature at a level equal to the value it provides us.
Now is the time to examine the full suite of solutions available to us to protect and sustain coastal communities and economies - and that includes taking a closer look at the potential of insuring nature to ensure nature keeps protecting us.
We can’t do this alone, though. Visit nature.org/insuringnature to learn more about our work in this area and how you can help launch this market, helping to protect people, securing coastal economies, and ultimately sustaining the ecosystems on which we all depend
Venezia Unica launches the #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign
Venice’s tourism board, Venezia Unica, has launched a responsible tourism campaign aiming to influence and improve tourist behaviour. The #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign is operating a carrot and stick approach to communicating to tourists about how to experience the city known as La Serenissima.
The ‘stick’ approach involves highlight several already in place regulations designed to penalise inappropriate behaviour. These range from €100 for littering, messing around or attaching “love locks” to monuments and bridges; €200 for not wearing a shirt or only wearing swimming trunks, and€400 for defacing buildings, street furniture or trees.
Meanwhile, the ‘carrot’ is promoting alternative ways of seeing and experiencing the city, highlighting off the beaten track attractions, and introducing visitors to genuine local food and tradespeople. The campaign is being displayed on signs and posters in 10 languages around the city.
Tourism and the SDGs: Goal 10 - Reduced Inequalities
How can tourism contribute to SDG 10, which seeks to “Reduce income inequality within and among countries”?
There is no doubt the industry is a significant contributor to the global economy, with WTTC stating that: “In 2016, Travel & Tourism directly contributed US$2.3 trillion and 109 million jobs worldwide. Taking its wider indirect and induced impacts into account, the sector contributed US$7.6 trillion to the global economy and supported 292 million jobs in 2016. This was equal to 10.2% of the world’s GDP, and approximately 1 in 10 of all jobs.”
However, while this benefits those employed, there is concern that the wider impacts are not as powerful as they might be, as shown by the analysis from Griffith University and University of Surrey. Earlier this year a team of researchers led by Surrey’s Graham Miller and Griffith’s Susanne Becken launched the Global Sustainable Tourism Dashboard, which looks to analyse WTTC, UNWTO and other reliable data sources to measure as accurately as possible tourism’s impact and contribution to the UN’s 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals. They found that in 2016, the 14% of the world’s population who lives in its Least Developed Countries received just 5.6% of global international tourism expenditure, which translates to just US$62 billion of the US$1.4 trillion spent on tourism.
According to the researchers, one reason for this is the phenomenon known as Leakage, whereby countries need to spend a significant amount of money on imports in order to service tourism, meaning that much of their potential revenue leaves the country rather than being able to help their own people. In India, this represents about 40% of tourism spend, rising to 80% in Mauritius. According to Becken: “Governments can reduce leakage by thinking strategically about procurement, emphasising local business development, integrating supply chains and investing in education and training to prepare workers for tourism jobs.”
A further related issue that has not been widely explored is how tax structures can further hinder local development by favouring imports. For example, a 2012 report into Jamaica’s tax system and its impact on tourism according to the report into tax in Jamaica reported that: “One aspect of tourism used for development, that has not been fully explored, nor attempted to get the tax policy to be consistent with that, is where incentives are provided to hotels for imports. As an hotelier, it is easier to import a bed with zero duty and zero GCT than to buy the same bed from a local manufacturer as that would require paying all the duties the manufacturer would have paid.”
Accessible Tourism Interview - Magnus Berglund - Accessibility Director - Scandic Hotels
Magnus Berglund is the Accessibility Director at Scandic Hotels since 2003. He created a unique program for the 224 Scandic hotels which has put Scandic in a leading position in the tourism sector for accessibility for guests with special needs. He speaks to WTTC in the final installment of our year long series of interviews with pioneers in Accessible Tourism.
WTTC: One of the first things you did when implementing Scandic’s accessibility policy was to buy two wheelchairs and have all staff members spend two hours in them. Is this something you still practice at Scandic?
Magnus: Before we implemented our Accessibility Standard around the hotels, we had to figure out a way to get the team members to engage within the subject. Even though being in a wheelchair is just one of many disabilities, it’s a great way to experience life from that perspective, getting people talking about the issues and to start paying attention to these questions. At the Scandic head office in Stockholm we got everyone to spend time in wheelchairs - they were going around the office for three months.
This is something we still practice when opening up or taking over new hotels around our operating countries, as I travel around to educate in accessibility questions. Here the team members get to learn all about different disabilities and our standard. Much of the time is focused on what each team member can do to improve accessibility in their particular department. They get an understanding that making hotels accessible is not just about expensive technical solutions and practical matters; it’s about believing in care and consideration. It’s for example being able to see if the guest can reach the cups when getting coffee in the breakfast area, and getting the housekeeping staff to place the bathroom shower nozzle in a reachable height if the guest is in a wheelchair.
WTTC: Your accessibility page includes such things as food intolerances, free wifi and online check out. Can you explain why this very broad definition of access?
Magnus: In September 2015, we received feedback from guests about our breakfast, which called for a larger variety. For example, for hotel guests who are sensitive or allergic to certain foods. About 4 months later, we launched the “breakfast for all” concept, offering a buffet that can be enjoyed by most vegans and people with allergies as well as those who tolerate lactose and love bacon. This year we also launched a new meeting concept where a new food and beverage concept has been developed to suit everyone, regardless of allergy or other preferences. The result is a delicious experience for more than just a few people. Making guests informed about the online checkout possibilities, so you can jump the queue, and that free Wi-Fi is accessible wherever you are staying is just two things we offer that’s getting our guests staying smoother and close to hassle free. It’s something we promote all over the website.
WTTC: Even your guide dog Dixi has an instagram account! How did this idea come about, and what is its purpose?
Magnus: Dixi has been a given part of the Scandic team for four years. She has her own team member card and even a spot next to our President & CEO with a personal nameplate at the Scandic head office in Stockholm! When we got a new Director of Human Recourses that suggested an Instagram account for Dixi, it was a no brainer. It’s a great and easy way of getting the accessibility issues out to team members and guests. Who doesn’t love to follow her during her days as a service dog? Her intelligence and dedication to her job always surprise you. You can see what she’s up at @dogatwork!
WTTC: Your 135 point checklist and online training is openly accessible to anyone, regardless of whether they work at Scandic. Do you see your Design for All approach as extending beyond your own operations into influencing wider society and business?
Magnus: Working with accessibility questions since 2003 has resulted in having an unprecedented position within the area. We’ve realised that we truly can make an impact when getting the word out about these issues. It’s clearly a hot topic in Europe, and we regularly receive requests to hold talks on our work in Swedish and international contexts. This is hardly surprising, as there are around 65 million people with some form of disability in Europe, and that is a huge market. We see our accessibility work as an investment, constantly improving the standard of what we can offer!
New app helps travellers and locals find accessible places in India
A Delhi-based start-up has launched a smartphone app to help people find accessible restaurants, tourist attractions and other public spaces across India. According to its founder, Sameer Garg, Billionables is “India’s first Access Guide for persons with disabilities. The app can be filtered according to categories such as whether Braille or sign language is available, and whether there is step free access.
“A lot of organisations in India provide skill-based training, conduct accessible tours, run accessible cabs, and provide facilities like ramps and washrooms,” explained Garg. “but this information is not compiled and listed anywhere.” Currently the app features information on Delhi, Rajasthan and Goa, but as the information is crowdsourced, Garg hopes it will rapidly cover the country.
Vail Resorts promises to eliminate negative environmental impacts by 2030
Vail Resorts is launching an ambitious effort to eliminate the environmental impact of its operations by 2030. Called “Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint”, the plan commits the world’s largest mountain resort operator to zero net emissions, zero waste to landfill, and zero net operating impact to forests and habitat within 13 years.
Vail Resorts recently became the first tourism member of RE100, a global collaborative initiative of influential companies committed to using 100% renewable electricity. It will look to achieve net zero emissions by reducing electricity and natural gas use; investing $25 in energy-saving projects, such as low-energy snowmaking equipment, green building design and construction; and purchasing 100% renewable energy equivalent to Vail Resorts’ total electrical energy use.
Beyond this it will work with utilities and local, regional and national governments to bring more renewable energy to the grids where the Company operates its resorts; invest in programs such as tree planting to offset the use of other types of energy; and engage with the company’s vendors and suppliers to identify and collaborate on opportunities for them to reduce their emissions and environmental impact.
To achieve its 2030 goal of “zero waste to landfill”, Vail will improve its recycling and composting program; work engaging with its supply chain to reduce packaging and to source recyclable and compostable products; and increase awareness and engagement with employees and guests through signage, labeling and training.
Finally, in order to reach zero net operating impact to forests and wildlife habitat, the company will plant or restore an acre of forest for every acre of forest displaced by the Company’s operations; and partner with and fund local organisations focused on the health of forests, habitat and wildlife.
"We’re delighted to welcome Vail Resorts to RE100, as our first member from the tourism industry,” said Sam Kimmins, Head of RE100 at the Climate Group. “Vail Resorts is demonstrating clear leadership in its commitment to source 100% renewable electricity – a key step in helping the company reach net-zero emissions by 2030. We look forward to others following this example.
Expedia announces changes to Wildlife Animal Attraction booking
Expedia has announced that activities involving certain wildlife animal interactions will no longer be bookable on its online travel sites. The site will also launch a new initiative committing the company to improving education for travelers about animal welfare. Starting later this year, it means that travelers searching for animal-related activities will be presented with detailed information about the implications of specific activities offered through Expedia on a new Wildlife Tourism Education Portal.
According to Expedia, the new Wildlife Tourism Education Portal will provide clear communication as to whether an activity involves animal interactions, with a direct link to learn more about wildlife tourism and animal welfare, supported by wider education concerning animal welfare and links to ways travellers can get more involved. Expedia is working with a range of global animal welfare and conservation groups to ensure the validity of the advice and information the new portal will provide, including The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance and Born Free Foundation
"Expedia's decision shows real leadership by one of the travel industry's most influential players," said Daniel Turner, associate director of tourism, Born Free Foundation. "Tackling the risks to animals, people and the natural environment while, at the same time, improving the tourism experience, are not mutually exclusive."
Elsewhere the dating app Tinder recently called on its users to stop using “tiger selfies” in their profiles, following an open letter to the company’s bosses on World Tiger Day this July 29 from Ashley Fruno, the Associate Director of Campaigns at PETA Australia, which highlighted how these animals are of ten “caged, dominated, and tied down or drugged” before their picture is taken. According to an official statement from Tinder to its users: “It’s time for the tiger selfies to go. More often than not, these photos take advantage of beautiful creatures that have been torn from their natural environment.”
First Chinese responsible travel guide launched
One of China’s leading online travel operators has launched a responsible travel guide targeting Chinese visitors heading abroad for holidays. According to QYER, the guide is the first in China to offer Chinese tourists detailed guidance on how they can travel responsibly. Among the issues it addresses are the need to protect local ecosystems, wildlife and plants, and how to positively contribute to local cultures and economies. In addition, expert advice on domestic and international wildlife trade regulations as well as on other key conservation topics has been provided by TRAFFIC, WWF and FSC.
“Tourists should be well informed as to which souvenirs or wildlife products violate international laws and contribute to the loss of local species or habitats,” said Chenyang Li, Project Manager at TRAFFIC, at an event to launch the guide. “It is vitally important that Chinese nationals travel sustainably and minimise their impact on local ecosystems throughout both Asia and Africa.”
Written and edited by Jeremy Smith
Tourism for Tomorrow in the news : A selection of news articles from last month