Tourism for Tomorrow Newsletter March 2017

Climate change, disruption, and destination degradation the core issues facing industry, says WTTC report

A new report released this month by WTTC lays out what industry experts consider to be the biggest challenges facing tourism, and how best it can address them. Created with sustainability consultancy SalterBaxter, the report ‘Understanding the critical issues for the future of Travel & Tourism’ surveyed senior leaders in the industry along with key global experts. It identified the three key issues as climate change, destination degradation, and disruption.

CIAccording to the report, tourism needs to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future by making the business case clear, and raising awareness of how to set and meet meaningful targets grounded in climate science. “In the future the sector may be more exposed to criticism as a ‘dirty’ sector, as other sectors move to cleaner energies while aviation remains dependent upon fossil fuels, commented Randy Durband, Global Sustainable Tourism Council. “The travelling public and media scrutiny might increase if there is a perception that ‘other industries are doing more’. That means that the industry should do everything it can on the ground to reduce emissions and other harmful environmental and social effects. Land transport and hotels need to step up to mitigate that risk to the overall sector.”

When it comes to destination degradation, the arguments are clear, says the report. With more than one billion international tourists travelling the world each year as well as billions more domestic travellers, maintaining the integrity of the destinations we visit is fundamental to tourism’s long term survival and validity. “Our industry is dependent on destinations with beautiful natural and cultural resources. The industry relies on the beauty of destinations,” said Tiffany Misrahi, World Economic Forum. “The goal is for our industry to be supportive of local communities, and one way we can do that is by incorporating sustainability into the bottom line”.

The third issue is disruption, with the report commenting that while the industry’s growth forecast is 4% per year for each of the next ten years on average, this conceals the fact that tourism faces a growing number of possible shocks, ranging from terrorist attacks and political instability to an increasingly nativist and populist political climate.

The report can be downloaded here.

WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Finalists - the People Award

The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, China Hospitality Education Initiative (CHEI)
According to a recent AT Kearney report, there are around 2.5 million hotel rooms in China. Yet while the industry is worth around $45billion, it still has plenty of room to grow - whereas in the USA there are 20 hotel rooms per 1000 people, in China there are just four. Already huge, this sector will continue to expand.

This means China will need to train a lot of men and women to work in its ever growing numbers of hotels. And as the country continues to become more appealing to international visitors, so its hotel staff would benefit from gaining greater understanding of international hospitality and the people who frequent it.

The China Hospitality Education Initiative (CHEI) is a charitable project of The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, designed to meet this burgeoning need. Its goal is to enhance hospitality education in China to better prepare students for meaningful hospitality and tourism careers, and in so doing to improve the socio-economic status of the country’s youth.

Working with global industry and academic advisors, CHEI has designed a unique portfolio of programs to help hospitality and tourism educators gain industry knowledge; hands-on experiences in operations; advanced teaching resources; and business community connections. Where Chinese hospitality teaching has traditionally focussed more on theory, CHEI ensures that the practical application, conversational English and soft skills needed for career success are addressed in depth, while also making sure that students — and their parents — fully understand the industry and the opportunities it presents.

Throughout the year, CHEI visits all partner schools and works closely with teachers and administrators to select and customise the programs that will best meet their needs. Results indicate that hundreds of teachers are enhancing their teaching methods, incorporating CHEI resources into their classrooms, and having a positive impact on students’ readiness for careers. Meanwhile, CHEI’s industry partner, Marriott International, engages senior leaders, general managers, HR professionals and other associates at 69 hotels in mainland China to assist with various aspects of the program’s development and execution.

The results have been overwhelmingly positive. On partner school surveys, 99 percent of teachers and 100 percent of administrators indicated they are satisfied or very satisfied with CHEI programs. Thanks to CHEI, China is developing a generation of hospitality workers ready to meet the challenges and opportunities the sector’s ongoing growth will bring.

Desert & DeltaDesert&Delta
Botswana’s remarkable wildlife has long been a lure for travellers from across the world attracted by its low impact, luxury safaris. Until recently, however, most of the country’s camps and lodges were run by foreigners, who often had more experience with international hospitality and guest needs. In a country of vast distances and few alternative job choices other than mining, this limited the opportunities for economic development for Botswana’s young.

In 2001, Desert & Delta Safaris embarked upon an ambitious programme to train up local people so that they could manage their camps. Its Citizen Management Training Program is a year-long programme comprising a detailed in-house designed curriculum, as well as a variety of courses conducted by external companies. A significant portion of the course focusses on the sustainable management of the company’s lodges.

On completion of the course, participants work in the camps as trainee managers where they learn the practical skills required from current managers. Successful candidates are then offered full-time management jobs within the company, or alternatively they seek employment with other lodge operators.

So far, the citizen management training programme has trained and developed over 20 local managers, at a cost to Desert and Delta of BWP 100,000.00 (nearly $10,000) per student, since the company covers all the costs to ensure there is no financial barrier to entry. Many of these newly trained managers continue to work at the company, while others have furthered their careers as lodge managers within other organisations in Botswana. As a result, while its goal was to have all its camps managed by Botswana citizens by 2014, Desert and Delta achieved this by the end of 2013.

The programme has been a success with guests too. Since the company started operating camps with only local managers it has seen much more engagement between tourists and locals while on safari. Since the managers are steeped in their country’s culture, they are much more able and eager to share their love and knowledge of it with guests. Furthermore, their commitment to running the camps as sustainably as possible runs far deeper, since the place they are looking after really is home.

Streets InternationalStreets international
Prepared according to one of its trainee’s recipes, the Wok Shrimp in Wonton Rolls at Streets Restaurant Cafe in Hoi An are something special. Yes, all the ingredients come from selected local markets. And all the waste from preparing and cooking the dish is used to feed local pigs. But what makes it most remarkable is that the trainees behind the recipe –were all previously from a vulnerable, orphaned, trafficked, out-of-school, or otherwise disadvantaged background.

Set up in 2009, Streets International runs an 18 month residential program, including aTraining Centre,Restaurant Café, Noodle Culinary Center, and Bakery Cafe in Hoi An, Vietnam. To date nearly 250 young trainees have learned hospitality, culinary, English, life skills lessons and apprenticed there. Each trainee is provided with study materials and full daily living support, including nutritious meals, supervised housing, clothing, uniforms, active social support, monthly allowance, health examination and basic medical care. For most of them, this is the first and only real chance to transition from poverty and life on the streets to the dignity of self-sufficiency that comes with a successful career in the hospitality industry.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing, however, is that 100% of the trainees have had gainful employment upon graduation. Streets has forged partnerships with the likes of Hyatt, Intercontinental, Healing Hotels Consortium,La Residence, as well as specialty boutique resorts, such as The Nam Hai, and leading travel companies, including G Adventure and Trails of Indochina. It’s thanks to these partnerships that all of its graduates have secured starting positions at five-star resorts and hotels. Not only does this help them on the path to self-sufficiency, it enables them to support their families and the communities they come from.

Streets International also runs many tours – especially the Oodles of Noodles Tour developed with G Adventures/Planeterra and the Market Tour. Both are guided by Streets Trainees, taking more than10, 000 visitors each year to experience authentic culinary experiences, while providing the trainees with excellent opportunities to practise their English and interact with international guests. Where many of these youth knew nothing other than the streets, now they make their living sharing their unique knowledge with people visiting Hoi An for the first time.

Tourism and the SDGs: 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
How can tourism help ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all?

From towel reuse signs to key cards that turn off all the lights in the room when you leave, tourism has long invested in measures to reduce its energy consumption. But while these are necessary steps, the only way they help ensure access to clean energy is by taking less of what has already been produced. Considering that the average tourist’s daily consumption dwarfs that of most local people around the world, there is still some way to go for tourism to really help with SDG7. However, several companies are investing in more significant and radical approaches to energy consumption, which in the diverse positive approaches might light a sustainable way ahead. 
 
WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow award winner Soneva became carbon neutral in 2014, has established the Maldives’ largest solar installation and has taken the additional step of offsetting all of its guests flights - which they acknowledged make up 80% of the CO2 emissions for which it is responsible. Through the Soneva Foundation, the company has invested in carbon projects that to date have mitigated 388,599 tonnes of CO2, improving the lives of more than 185,000 people. In particular, one of its main projects, the Myanmar Stoves Campaign, which brings clean cook stoves to people in the country, is about to become the first Gold Standard Foundation certified carbon project in Myanmar. 

Over in Italy, Podere Patrignone is a ‘Carbon Positive’ boutique Tuscan farm estate. Thanks to its 20KW solar farm and 50KW biomass furnace burning sustainably harvested wood from its own forests, not only does it need no additional energy sources, it actually produces a surplus, which it can then sell back to the grid. The Luxury Pumpkin Island off Queensland takes this approach to a larger scale, laying claim to be the first Carbon Positive island in Australia. Likewise the luxury Indian hotel chain ITC says it has been Carbon Positive for over a decade, with much of the power at its hotels generated by its own wind turbines, and an extensive programme of tree planting further mitigating its remaining impact.

Another approach to being Carbon Positive can be seen with one of this year’s Tourism for Tomorrow finalists, Soel Yachts, whose new solar powered boats, when cruising at six knots, are 100% powered by the 809 solar panels that cover the roof. 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. 

Chepu Lodge - winner of the WTTC Innovation award in 2014 - goes about matters another way still. The remote lodge is completely off grid, so on the one hand has no way of feeding surplus back into the grid, but at the same time, as it generates its own energy, controlling its use is critical. Every element of energy use is monitored, and guests are kept informed of how much they are using, and what their limits are - with reward at the end of their stay (trees are planted in their name) to thank them for staying within their limits. If guests go home having had a wonderful time, but also more mindful of their own energy use and the impact of their actions, then its work as an ambassador for change has been a success. 

Interview with Srin Madipalli, CEO of Accomable

Accomable

Booking website Accomable has been described by Wired magazine as the Airbnb of Accessible Tourism. It aims to provide an online platform for people to advertise their holiday accommodation, and to facilitate direct contact between visitors to the website who are seeking accommodation for those with mobility needs, and the property advertisers on its site. WTTC spoke to its co-founder, Srin Madipalli.

WTTC: Can you explain how Accomable works, and what sets it apart from other sites?
SRIN: Accomable is an online travel platform which helps disabled and elderly people find adapted hotels and holiday rentals. Our website only hosts adapted hotel rooms and accessible properties and clearly lists all of their specific adaptations to ensure you find a place to stay that suits your needs, quickly and easily. Unlike other sites we verify each and every one of our 1000 plus properties has the accessible facilities it promises. 

WTTC: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in growing it?
SRIN: As a marketplace, Accomable's initial task was to get vendors to come on board. The ideal target was hotel chains as they offered big brand names and a huge inventory of accessible rooms which would help Accomable to grow quickly. But the team quickly realised this wouldn’t be possible. The contracts and legal groundwork could take years to finalise. So we decided on a change of tack, and started contacting smaller, independent vendors instead. 

This worked far better. Smaller operators didn’t come with layers of paperwork and were often delighted to have their accessible facilities showcased. It also enabled Accomable to specialise in more unique and unusual properties, such as eco-lodge cabins, luxury lodges and countryside B&Bs, which would appeal to disabled and elderly travellers across the market, and we quickly gained popularity. This had a knock-on benefit of showing bigger chains that we were here to stay, and in 2016 we were able to partner up with major international hotel chains including IHG, Carlson Rezidor, and Hilton.

WTTC: How have the mainstream booking engines and OTAs responded? Are any of them adopting any of what you offer or improving their functionality for accessible tourism? 
SRIN:
Mainstream booking sites have long offered an 'accessible tickbox', so disabled travellers can filter out non-adapted properties. The difficulty is that it's very hard for major booking sites to check and guarantee that property actually has the accessible facilities it promises. They rely on the vendor to know if their property is accessible, and many simply haven't been trained to evaluate their property properly. 

One of the reasons I started Accomable is because I was tired of booking holiday lets which said they were accessible only to arrive and find there were steps to the main entrance! Our team now checks via video and camera technology to ensure all of our properties are accessible with tonnes of detail and pictures of the equipment and access available.
 
WTTC: As properties seek to make themselves properly accessible, what have you learned that you would advise them in terms of things to avoid or make sure they do?  
SRIN:
If you're thinking of converting your property to make it fully accessible it's definitely worth speaking with an expert first. They will be able to guide you on things like the appropriate width or doorways and specialist equipment from hoists to grab rails in the bathroom. I think it's definitely worth the investment. A YouGov survey showed more than 10% of people in the UK count themselves as having some kind of mobility issue, and the disabled travel market has been calculated to be worth around $18 billion, and is currently hugely under-served. 

I'd also advise people to look at what other properties are doing to make themselves accessible. There's an idea that disabled friendly properties will look clinical or boring but that certainly doesn't have to be the case. The Calf Shed is a gorgeous conversion in the Wiltshire countryside that worked with the Spinal Unit of the local hospital to create a beautiful accessible space but there are also modernist hotels, eco lodges, and glamping sites, all of which have undergone some minor changes to make them accessible to all.

Research reveals adventure travellers motivated by quest for transformationATTA Jordan

Adventure travellers’ main motivation when making their travel plans is a desire for transformative experiences, according to new research from the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) conducted in partnership with researchers from East Carolina University. The researchers surveyed subscribers to Outside travel magazine in the autumn of 2015, and then spent most of the following year analysing over 1000 written submissions. Those responding to the survey said their main motivations for engaging in adventure tourism were that they were looking for a “life-changing experience”, “personal growth and challenge”, “accomplishment and achievement”, and “gratitude and mindfulness.” 

Writing about the findings in Adventure Travel News, Christina Beckman, who leads ATTA’s AdventureEDU program, commented: “This is what motivates many people to continue working in the field: the feeling of contributing to something worthwhile, the opportunity to provide a service that can transform how people view themselves and others, and the chance to inspire people to take action on issues important to all of humanity, such as the environment, social justice, and poverty alleviation.”

ATTA’s next major event is AdventureNEXT Near East, the first adventure travel conference to take place in the Middle East. It runs from 15-17 May in Jordan.

Berlin Declaration on Transforming Tourism launched at world’s largest travel fair

Some 30 civil society organisations from across the world launched a declaration at ITB which proposed how tourism can be improved so as to achieve the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of a just, inclusive, and equal world. The group expressed concern that the current dominant tourism model won’t be able to support the necessary transformation of the world envisaged by the 2030 Agenda, and therefore published the Berlin Declaration. Its three core principles are human rights and self-determination of communities, fair distribution of economic and social benefits, and a positive and beneficial experience for travellers and hosts alike. The declaration can be read and signed here.

Elsewhere during ITB, the winners of the 2017 National Geographic World Legacy Awards ranged from an individual ecolodge to an entire country. Slovenia won for Destination Leadership; Cayuga Collection for the Earth Changers category; the City of Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, for Sense of Place; The Lodge at Chaa Creek, Belize, for Engaging Communities; and North Island, Seychelles, for Conserving the Natural World. “The time is now for action on a global scale,” commented the judges’ coordinator Costas Christ. "Sustainable tourism development is crucial for the future of travel and for the planet. The travel and tourism industry is based on promoting and selling culture and nature holiday experiences and as such, needs to take a bigger role in protecting the very resources that their business depends upon."

Thankfully the signs of the growth he called for were visible throughout the event this year, with Hall 4.1b, the venue for Adventure Travel & Responsible Tourism, fully booked for the first time. The breadth of events taking place was also a testament to the sector’s growth, ranging from sustainable astronomy to birdwatching, food tourism and travelling the Trans-Siberian Express in a responsible way. "There is an increasing awareness in society about the need for a more responsible approach,” said David Ruetz, Director of ITB Berlin. “We want to support companies in their efforts to design tourism products and services that are economically, socially, and ecologically responsible."

Booking.com launches Booster - an accelerator programme for sustainable tourism startups

Startups aiming to develop sustainable tourism companies were invited to pitch to Booking.com throughout February. Looking to unearth and support early stage companies, its new accelerator programme, Booking Booster will now identify, mentor, and fund a select few innovative startups from across the world committed to having a positive impact on tourism and the planet.

A three week programme will take place in Amsterdam during June, where the 8 to 12 chosen companies will be guided and mentored until the end, when they pitch for grants of up to €500,000 from Booking.com. In addition, Booking.com experts will be available to mentor these startups for 6 to 9 months.

The programme is the latest initiative of the Booking Cares Volunteer Programme, where the company’s employees partner with local organisations working on sustainable tourism initiatives worldwide.


Written and edited by Jeremy Smith

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