Tourism for Tomorrow Newsletter February 2017
Tourism toolkit launched to help industry fight wildlife trafficking
The US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, in partnership with WildAid, World Wildlife Fund, and the US Fish & Wildlife Service, has released a digital toolkit that aims to provide travel and tourism companies with resources they can use to engage travellers in the fight to stop wildlife trafficking. The toolkit includes educational pamphlets, public service announcements, infographics, and films that highlight the importance of ending demand for illegal wildlife products with beautiful and powerful imagery.
Three leading travel trade associations have also committed to boosting awareness of the toolkit. The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), American Society for Travel Agents (ASTA), and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) have all released the digital toolkit to all of their members, encouraging a wide variety of travel companies to utilise its contents. “Our planet’s wildlife is disappearing at a devastating rate as poachers meet consumer demand for exotic wildlife products,” said ATTA president Shannon Stowell. “Much of this trade takes place abroad, where travellers may encounter unfamiliar objects and be unaware that they are contributing to the problem. By educating travellers and tour operators about what to watch for, commitments like these can ensure that consumers make educated purchasing decisions and help stop the demand for illegal animal products.”
Over the past year, the Alliance’s network of partners has expanded across the corporate and non-profit sectors, including leading companies in travel and tourism, e-commerce, communications, non-governmental organizations, and other sectors. Any travel company that is not part of the above associations and that would like to use the toolkit should first complete a membership application form to join the Alliance.
Who are the Finalists for the Tourism for Tomorrow Innovation Award?
On September 27, 2016, the UNWTO announced that the theme for World Tourism Day, and for the following 12 months, would be ’Tourism for All - promoting Universal Accessibility’. While much of the industry continues to make considerable progress on this issue, few have embraced the challenge and opportunity as innovatively as the Spanish company Native Hotels.
Native was set up by two journalists, so it is little surprise that much of what sets the company apart is its focus on the importance of communication for ensuring as universal and inclusive access as possible. Guests at their network of hotels have access to vibrating watches with alerts and messages for deaf customers, while signage packs and door signs in Braille help the visually impaired navigate through the hotel, its rooms and bathrooms. Even the tagline beneath the company’s logo on their website is rendered in Braille rather than standard Roman characters.
They are now launching a uniquely accessible online platform for the travel industry, which Native says is the only web platform that offers total accessibility, and allows users with any kind of disability to use a computer to make their holiday choices. Already available in six languages and English Braille, it can be used by anyone, even if they are unable to see the screen, touch the keyboard or speak to the computer - so long as a person can blow onto a microphone, they can use the platform.
Furthermore, the platform is available online, rather than limited to any specific computer. So users can access it using any computer, anywhere. Once on the platform, they can compare a range of hotels standards of accessibility for people with different disabilities, indicating each accessible element at the hotel and room. For tourism to ensure it delivers its benefits to as many people as possible, everyone needs to be able to discover what is within their reach. Native’s new platform brings that world closer for many more.
The world’s coral reefs perform many essential roles. They are home to the fish that provide the food - and often livelihoods - for nearly 100 million people. They also act as barriers against the worst impacts of storms, protecting the beaches and the millions of people who live around and rely upon them.
The Nature Conservancy has embarked on an ambitious project to persuade the governments of the importance of investing in their protection. Their work uses the latest crowdsourcing and data mapping techniques to quantify for the first time the total and local value of the world’s reefs to tourism, in the hope that national governments where reefs play a significant role will do what it takes to protect an industry that brings in vital international investment.
Scientists at The Nature Conservancy, along with the University of Cambridge, the World Resources Institute and the Nature Capital Project, have devised an entirely novel approach to filter and stratify the baseline tourism and travel information, and to pinpoint the exact value and location of reef-related tourism. To do so, however, they needed to break the barriers between traditional data-driven academic research and the emerging fields of crowd-sourced and social media-related data.
What this meant was turning to tourists to provide the data, through a combination of innovative datasets that included hotel rooms, general photographs, underwater photographs, dive centres and dive sites. Using these they were able not only to render and improve crude national statistics, but also to cross-validate their ideas with independent datasets – for example using hotel locations alongside photo-intensity to independently show tourist spread at national levels, and using dive-sites and locations of underwater photographs to show locations of coral reef visitation.
They found that 72 million trips are supported by the world’s coral reefs each year, making these fragile and beautiful organisms a powerful engine of coastal and marine tourism. In total they represent an economic value to the world of $38 billion each year. With such results, the Nature Conservancy’s has clearly proven the economic value of the coral ecosystems to tourism. Now they plan to expand their methods out to measure other forms of nature-based tourism. Those working to prove the value of sustainable tourism have long sought to get solid figures to back up their arguments. Thanks to groundbreaking work of the Nature Conservancy, they may not have much longer to wait.
Many of the world’s most idyllic island destinations, from French Polynesia to the Maldives, rely on tourism for much of their economy. And their tourism relies on the images these islands evoke in travellers’ minds of palm fringed beaches, pristine seas and healthy coral reefs. Yet the traffic this tourism creates also threatens the purity of this beautiful environment.
Transport around and between these islands, whether from resort to resort or to explore lagoons on sightseeing and snorkelling trips, is done mostly by boat. Conventionally these boats are diesel powered, which means both tourists and aquatic life are disturbed by their fumes and the noise from the engines, and the associated CO2 emissions pollute the ocean and the air.
Soel Yachts’ new solar powered SoelCat 12 offers a cleaner, quieter alternative. Just released at the end of 2016, the SoelCat 12 is a 39-foot-long catamaran that can seat up to 24 people and cruise at speeds from six to 15 knots. When cruising at six knots, it is 100% powered by the 36 solar panels that cover the entirety of its roof. At higher speeds, the vessel is boosted by a pair of 60-kilowatt-hour lithium batteries. And when in harbour or not in use, the boat can be plugged into the resort’s power network and operate as a floating solar array, supplying the resort with additional clean energy.
SoelCat’s first customer is The Okeanos Foundation, who is leasing the SoelCat 12 to a hotel group operating three 5* hotels in Bora Bora and Tahaa. And as the boat has been designed to be packed into two 40ft cub containers, it can be easily transported to locations around the world, since it is not just remote islands and atolls that could benefit from these cleaner, quieter boats. Whether protecting the medieval architecture of Venice, providing green transportation to cities like New York or Sydney, or getting tourists closer to nature without disturbing it, Soel Yachts offers a chance for smooth solar sailing where the sky is not the limit, but the solution.
Who are the Finalists for the Tourism for Tomorrow Environment Award?
A web search for volunteer trips to work with elephants, tigers and other iconic species will bring up hundreds of possible results. But beyond the glossy images and promises of adventure, it can be difficult for potential recruits to know whether their time and money is well spent. Since 1999, Biosphere Expeditions has worked to distinguish itself in a crowded field and provide ethical, transparent, and effective volunteering trips that truly deliver on their claims.
The organisation’s ethical principles define the way it operates - a non-profit, Biosphere works on a non-growth model, instead focussing on delivering steady sustainability through an average annual turnover across all operations over the last five years of around half a million pounds - from which all surplus is reinvested into its conservation. Over the last 17 years, that has meant 1.5 million pounds going directly into conservation projects worldwide, and over half a million pounds into local projects and communities as in-kind donations.
These principles are as clear in the details as in the overall vision. All its trips offer only vegetarian food, and no bottled water is allowed - Biosphere relies instead on filtration and purification systems to use locally available water. Waste is minimised and any highly toxic items such as batteries are distributed amongst participants to be taken back to countries where they can be recycled. All carbon debt created by the expeditions is offset via Climate Care in the UK, and participants are encouraged to do the same for their individual travel itineraries to the in-country expedition assembly point.
As an organisation whose main focus is the gathering of data to support essential conservation, Biosphere is committed to transparency about its own operations, publishing a report for each expedition, which shows in a clear and transparent way the income and expenditure for each trip, the percentage of income spent on the project, as well as any research and conservation outcomes and recommendations.
The data on Biosphere itself also supports its approach. Over the last 17 years, the organisation has delivered over 150,000 hours of voluntourism wildlife conservation & research, helping projects as diverse as the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (the world's largest conservation area); a national park in the Ukraine that is a stop-off point for many migratory birds; and the creation of a protected area in the Altai where snow leopard now thrive. In all, data gathered by volunteers on its expeditions have helped create protected areas across four continents, while its conservation recommendations and policies have been adopted in countries all over the world.
No one had ever successfully released a jaguar back into the wild before 2016. That year, the Caiman Ecological Refuge, a pioneering Brazilian ecotourism enterprise located on a cattle ranch in the Southern Pantanal, rewilded two orphan jaguar cubs back into the wetlands on its vast ranch. Where once such a project had been considered impossible, it was now the subject of a documentary narrated by Sir David Attenborough.
The Caiman Ecological Refuge was set up to achieve what had once seemed impossible. From the beginning its mission has been to reconcile three very different activities in one place - extensive cattle ranching, ecotourism and wildlife/habitat conservation projects.
The jaguar reintroduction was the latest success in its ongoing Onçafari Project, increasingly seen as leading force in jaguar conservation. As a mark of its success, jaguar sightings by lodge guests have risen from 35% in 2013 to 72% in 2016. Its other great conservation success has been its Hyacinth Macaw Project, which had quadrupled the Pantanal’s population from 1,500 in 1990 to 6,000 individuals by 2015. The result - the species is no longer considered endangered.
While delivering such tangible benefits to conservation, the 53,000 hectare property is also a fully functioning cattle ranch, employing around 150 mostly local people. Each year it hosts the Caiman Lasso Festival - one of the most important cultural events in the region, which helps preserve and raise awareness of the Pantaneiro traditional “cowboy” lifestyle. At the same time Caiman is committed to its staff, providing free benefits such as housing, lodging, meals, school, transportation, life insurance, dental care, medical emergency room and sport facilities.
It is also looking after future generations, with its Rural School, Educational Centre and Naturalist Kids Programme offering environmental education to local school children. With such efforts, Caiman hopes to share its love for the Pantanal’s nature with the region’s young people, so they too might grow up inspired by where they live and want to conserve its biodiversity and surroundings.
So rich in life are the reefs around Raja Ampat that WWF has described them as a ‘species factory’. Part of the Coral Triangle, located at the northwest corner of Indonesia’s West Papua province, the archipelago of more than 1500 islands spreads over 40,000 km² of land and sea. It is home at least 1,400 tropical fish species — many unknown elsewhere, and over ten times the number of hard coral species found in the entire Caribbean. Some of these corals, scientists have discovered, appear more resistant to the increases in ocean temperatures caused by global warming, meaning the ‘species factory’ offers hope for restoring other reefs that have been devastated by coral bleaching.
In recent years, however, eastern Indonesia has seen significant dramatic population growth, increasing pressure on the reefs from a range of threats including longlining and dynamite blast fishing, shark finning, logging, mining, and oil exploration. Back in 2005, the founders of Misool Eco Resort began both to create their resort, and to persuade local people of the merits of creating a no take zone around their island to preserve this unique natural environment. Leased directly from the local village, their first No Take Zone encompassed 425 sq km of reef surrounding the resort island in Southeast Misool. Five years later, community leaders from a second village asked Misool to help create a second conservation area, meaning the No-Take Zone grew to include the islands of Daram, bringing the total No-Take Zone to 828 sq km. That year, Misool Eco Resort and Shark Savers also successfully petitioned the Raja Ampat government to declare Raja Ampat a shark and manta sanctuary.
Inside this No Take Zone, all fishing, shark finning and harvesting of turtle eggs and shellfish are prohibited, enforced by a 15 person Misool Ranger Patrol that patrols between the resort and three remote Ranger Stations. Meanwhile, research programmes such as the Misool Manta Project are monitoring the health of local marine populations, while community schemes range from direct employment of 75 local community members, a recycling project, and the Lamakera Program, a 5-year program to end the illegal hunting of mantas and sharks by providing alternative livelihoods to marginal communities.
The results speak for themselves. Illegal fishing activity has been reduced by 86% inside the No Take Zones. As a result, fish biomass has increased by over 250% in the last 6 years, and in some areas, the increase has been over 600%. The world’s coral reefs continue to face unprecedented threats, but thanks to Misool’s work at the ‘Species Factory’, there is hope for restoration and renewal.
Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals - Goal 3: Good Health & Well-being
For most people, going on holiday is closely linked with seeking to improve our health and wellbeing. We get away to rest from the stresses of work and daily life, heading off to spas and wellbeing resorts, and switching off our distractions and taking in fresh air, exercise and time for ourselves.
Time spent in nature is itself extremely good for our wellbeing. The world has changed so much from a few decades ago, that just 21% of today's children regularly play outside, compared with 71% of their parents. Research published in 2010 showed that being outside in nature for just 20 minutes in a day is enough to significantly boost vitality levels. Whether we go to the beach, ski, or like hiking in forests, parks and mountains, most of us spend much more time than this outside each day when we are on holiday
The best responsible and sustainable tourism companies, however, go further than just improving the health and wellbeing of their paying guests. They look to improve it for the communities where they operate too.
Expediciones Sierra Norte won a Tourism for Tomorrow Award in 2016 for the walking trails and community tourism it runs, and these support the preservation of the 2,000 plant species that serve as a storehouse of indigenous knowledge for traditional healers from the local communities in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. As well as offering authentic tours into the slums of Dharavi, 2015 WTTC winner Reality Tours runs acupuncture clinics and promotes a sense of wellbeing and esteem among local people through the likes of a community centre, a girl’s football programme and a cricket academy. Grootbos - a winner in 2015 - doesn’t only supply the guests at its five star South African property with fresh, organic produce grown on site. It also runs a GreenBox planting system that enables over 200 local households to produce their own healthy, organic food too.
Likewise companies like Soneva show how working to preserve the natural environment is central to promoting health and wellbeing. Through the savings it has made by banning bottled water at its properties, it has been able to help 600,000 people have access to clean and safe water and sanitation. And through its environmental levy, it has provided clean cooking stoves to thousands more people across the world.
At their largest, such efforts to support people’s health and sense of wellbeing can extend across an entire destination. Parkstad won the Destination award in 2016 for turning round the fortunes of a rundown former coal mining district now seen as an all-round destination and place to enjoy activity holidays and nature. And the Slovenian capital Ljubljana won the same award in 2015 for a scheme to create an ecological zone in the city centre, which as of 2012 was closed for motorised vehicles. Since then pedestrian areas have been increased by over 600%, and by 2020 the city plans for public transport and non-motorised traffic to make up two thirds of all transport. Whether you are a tourist or a local, such schemes make the city a more pleasant, healthier place to live in and get around. Furthermore, the sense of civic pride and engagement that comes from living in a place with fresh air, calm spaces and a vibrant cultural life is itself a huge boon to personal wellbeing.
Accessible Tourism Focus - Interview with Anna Grazia Laura from ENAT
The European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) was established in January 2006 to make European tourism destinations, products and services accessible to all travellers and to promote accessible tourism around the world. We spoke with its president Anna Grazia Laura, about the challenges of developing accessible tourism across the continent.
WTTC: What do you see as the relationship between responsible tourism and accessible tourism?
Anna Grazia Laura: They are strictly related. Responsibility in tourism means the respect of both the destination, its citizens and tourism providers and the recognition of the rights of each customer, regardless of their condition, to enjoy tourism and leisure time. Both concepts do not exist if they are not linked to the same vision of an ethical, respectful and inclusive tourism offer. The concept of responsible tourism entails that everyone should be considerate of the destination’s welfare and preservation and no “responsible “ tourist should deny it: a tourist with a disability is no different from any other tourist and is consequently responsible towards any offer that he/she will be able to enjoy.
WTTC: What are the main challenges for Europe right now in improving accessible tourism?
Anna Grazia Laura: The main challenge is still the lack of a “destination” vision at all levels. There are many initiatives from different bodies, both public and private to improve and give visibility to the initiatives and results of single components of the tourism service chain (hotels, restaurants, cafes, museums, green areas, etc) but an overall destination strategy will involve agreeing on a roadmap and plans that will have a medium- long term time frame. There are many declarations, manifestos and documents at European level, both from the EU Parliament, the Commission and other relevant bodies, aiming to reach full inclusion goals by year 2020. However 2020 is approaching at an imposing speed and the 3 years that are still in front of us, would probably not be enough for sound results. In Europe a common definition of accessibility criteria is still lacking and there are very few possibilities that a common basis will be achieved in the future. Some positive approaches are being made through the ISO system, such as the ISO Working Group 14 on "Accessible Tourism for All”, established recently under ISO Technical Committee 228 Tourism Services, to help develop the intended Standard on Tourism for All. ENAT has been accepted as a Liaison Organisation to assist in this work. Participating in this working group will allow us to offer our advice and the opinions and experience of our members to make a constructive contribution to the Standard. Another significant challenge is to make all EU member states share the same opinion of accessible tourism and the recognition of the visitors’ needs and rights. Good will is often not enough for a satisfactory development of accessible products and proposals, but the Commission has been very active from this point of view, launching calls for proposals to sustain innovative projects to allow inclusive participation for all.
WTTC: Which countries are leading the efforts and being most proactive? Can you give any examples of best practice that really inspire you?
Anna Grazia Laura: Let me say at once that all European countries are committed to improve accessibility, even if, as I said, with different approaches to the concept of full inclusion.
Many activities are focused on providing information for customers with access needs, as the lack of reliable and updated information on the possibilities to reach and enjoy a destination is seen by the vast majority of tourists as a major difficulty when planning their holidays.
The support of international organisations, such as UNWTO, with whom ENAT has signed a memorandum of understanding, has enabled us to offer the Tourism Industry valuable manuals on Recommendations on Accessible Tourism and on Accessible Information in tourism.
Some best practices were outlined in the brochure that the UNWTO launched in Bangkok, to celebrate the World Tourism Day 2016, where the main topic was Accessible Tourism.
Let me mention also the “Learning Group”, which was created on the initiative of some National Tourism Organisations and ENAT to bring together regional and national tourism boards, to share experiences, build a common understanding and set concrete goals for the improvement of tourism destinations towards accessible and inclusive tourism. I believe that through this kind of collaboration between tourism organisations we can reach further and move faster towards the goalof responsible, inclusive tourism for all.
GSTC releases Industry Criteria for destinations, hotels and tour operators
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) has recently released the GSTC Industry Criteria, designed to serve as the global baseline standards for sustainability in travel and tourism. The criteria, which have been under development for most of 2016, are used for education and awareness-raising, policy-making for businesses and government agencies and other organization types, measurement and evaluation, and as a basis for certification.
Built on decades of prior work and experience around the world, and taking into account the numerous guidelines and standards for sustainable tourism from every continent, the criteria are the minimum, not the maximum, which businesses, governments, and destinations should achieve to approach social, environmental, cultural, and economic sustainability. Since tourism destinations each have their own culture, environment, customs, and laws, the criteria are designed to be adapted to local conditions and supplemented by additional criteria for the specific location and activity. Several well known standards are already recognised by GSTC as adhering to the criteria, include Fair Trade Tourism, Earthcheck and Green Globe. Full lists of recognised certification standards for industry and destination can be found here for hotels and tour operators, and here for destinations.
“The GSTC Industry Criteria forms a private sector ‘umbrella’ set of Criteria which can be applied to any future subsector-specific Criteria,” says GSTC CEO Randy Durband. “It opens the path for us to create baseline standards for other sub-sectors beyond hotels and tour operators.”
To date, two sets of GSTC Criteria have been developed: Destination Criteria and Industry Criteria. In the coming months the Industry Criteria will be translated into many languages.
UNWTO Awards recognise innovators in tourism and sustainability
Guanajuato’s State Ministry of Tourism, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Govardhan Ecovillage and the Dutch Travel Trade Association were the winners of 13th Edition of the UNWTO Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism. They were chosen from nearly 150 initiatives from 55 countries that applied.
Govardhan Eco Village (GEV) won the category of ‘Innovation in Non-Governmental Organisations’. Spread over 70 acres in Wada near Mumbai, Govardhan Eco Village is the first Indian NGO to win a UNWTO Award. It was recognised for its work in using responsible tourism to reduce poverty and provide sustainable livelihoods in one of the poorest tribal regions of India. “We hope to utilise this honour to spread the message of peace, harmony and sustainability to benefit those who are the most deprived and need our help the most, said Gauranga Das, President of Govardhan Eco Village. “The project has successfully linked tourism initiatives at the Govardhan Eco Village with providing a sustainable life to the local tribal communities in villages, thereby creating a model for empowerment and development of the local people.”
The State of Guanajuato, Mexico won the Public Policy and Governance category for its work developing sustainable tourism in the region. "Sustainable tourism is an indelible part of our region's cultural landscape,” said Fernando Olivera Rocha, Secretary of Tourism for the State of Guanajuato. “That symbiotic relationship is what we protect and celebrate as we work to develop tourism that enriches and supports our state's economic development, provides a better quality of life for our citizens, and respects the environment and local culture."
Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group won the Enterprise category for its Adding Color to Lives project, which is an urban art project for at-risk youth sponsored by Park Inn by Radisson. Through the project disadvantaged youth collaborate with a renowned street artist, Joel Bergner, to create large scale urban murals in their local neighbourhoods. “From a single individual to our surrounding communities — and expanding to points across the globe — it creates a ripple effect of positive change, allowing us to add color to the young people’s lives,” said Inge Huijbrechts, Vice President, Responsible Business. “The long term connection between our more than 140 Park Inn by Radisson hotels worldwide and local youth-at-risk also contributes to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 8 on Providing decent work for all.”
Finally, The research and technology category was won by the Dutch Travel Trade Association ANVR for its Carmacal carbon calculator, which also won WTTC’s Tourism for Tomorrow Award for innovation in 2016. The calculator is the first of its kind to measure the full carbon impact of a tourism journey, factoring in travel and accommodation into its measurements.
Sustainable Tourism Incentive Scheme launched by Travelindex
Online tourism media and marketing company Travelindex has launched a new sustainability incentive program: Sustainable First. Travelindex says the program aims to recognise those individuals, companies and organizations making significant contributions to the environmental, social and economic welfare of the planet and its inhabitants.
“The recognition methodology used at “Sustainable First” is based on a 3-tier patented Travelindex algorithm and the Sustainable Recognition Index,” explained Bernard Metzger, Founder of Travelindex. “They include crowd wisdom, self-assessment and expert opinions. Travelindex will work closely with recognized and reputable organizations in the fields of development, tourism, environment and sustainability.”
Written and edited by Jeremy Smith
Tourism for Tomorrow in the news : A selection of news articles from last month