Tourism for Tomorrow Newsletter August 2018

Interview with Tourism for Tomorrow 2018 Destination Award Winner Glenn Mandziuk,Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association 

Glenn Mandziuk

Tourism for Tomorrow Destination winner, Glenn Mandziuk, tells us about Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association’s (TOTA) sustainable journey. 


What motivated TOTA to implement a sustainable management plan? 

The journey started in 2009 when the marketing organisation for the Okanagan became a destination management company. The board had to reassess what the organisation’s purpose was and look at the destination more holistically. We quickly learnt that 80% of revenue from tourism was earnt in just 45 days. The Okanagan was primarily known for ‘fun and sun’ around the lakes and residents in those communities were tired of the rubbish and overcrowding associated with mass tourism. The situation wasn’t only environmentally unsustainable; it was economically unviable; businesses couldn’t rely on year-round income, and therefore the workforce was short-term and temporary. 


What have been the most critical aspects of the plan? 

Being inclusive and getting others to commit to our vision have been vital components. To ensure our impact was widespread we dropped the membership fee and developed a regional strategy for all 90 communities. After spending 18 months consulting community groups, we had to get over 1,800 businesses to agree to our sustainable vision formally. Many thought this wouldn’t be possible, but we did it. The next step was to ensure that everything we did was through a sustainable lens; signing up to the Biosphere certification scheme provided concrete indicators to work towards. 


On TOTA’s marketing platform, we only celebrate those businesses getting it right, which has hammered the message home quickly. Utilising ‘Big Data’ — aggregated cell phone and digital data — to spread tourism evenly across the region, understand what areas to promote when and target the ‘right type of tourist’ has been a crucial part of our marketing strategy. 


What successes are you most proud of? 

The income belt curve throughout the region is flattening — now 80% of revenue is being earnt in 120 days (up from 45). Our dream is to get to 200 days. TOTA has stopped promoting ‘summer fun’ and has developed new projects and programmes to promote the shoulder season and low-impact experiences. Our Signature Experience Program, including farm-to-fork weekends, has been very successful. On the back of our Indigenous Stories program, the life-expectancy of the Osoyoos Indian Band has gone up by 20 years, and employment is at 100%. The resort includes North America’s first aboriginal-owned winery, a 5-star camp and cultural centre. 


What advice would you give to other destinations wanting to follow suit? 

You’ve got to remove all barriers to entry. If you want to implement true sustainability, your vision must work for everyone and they each should play their part. It’s also important to challenge preconceptions of how to do business, where to get income from and whom to promote. Sometimes the only real way to make a change is to unpick the existing framework and start with a clean slate. Sustainable management involves long-term vision.  

Written by Holly Tuppen

Sustainable cities focus: Edinburgh


This month, our review of tourism and sustainability in some of the world’s leading cities looks at Edinburgh, which each August plays host to the Edinburgh Festival, the world’s largest festival of arts and culture.

Edinburgh is said to be the greenest city in the UK, with 49.2 % of its area given over to green space. Many of the city’s best known tourism businesses are working towards greater sustainability. Situated right in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, The Sheraton Grand Hotel has a Green Tourism Business Scheme Gold Award. While the G&V Royal Mile won the Sustainability Award from the Scottish Hotel Awards - it has three beehives on its roof producing honey for the guests and its own hydroponic system in the lobby growing herbs and spices for the restaurant. Meanwhile, the Edinburgh International Conference Centre is a signatory to the Zero Waste Scotland Hospitality and Food Service Agreement, and its Plan-it green™ team works with event organisers to make sure their shows are as sustainable as possible.

With its centuries of heritage, easy access to the landscapes of Scotland, and the fact it plays host to some of the world’s most attended festivals, the city is also hugely popular with tourists, with 3.85 million visiting last year, a rise by more than half a million in the past five years, making it the UK’s second most popular city with tourists. While the city’s tourism industry is reckoned to support 34,800 jobs and be worth around £1.46 billion to Edinburgh’s economy, this growth is also seeing concerns rasied about overtourism.

The city is looking to capitalise on its popularity, and has a target of boosting visitor numbers by a further third by 2020 and generating an additional £485 million. At the same time the Scottish capital is considering ways to protect the assets that make it so attractive, ranging from spreading the festivals out across a wider part of the year, to the introduction of a day-tripper tax as part of its tourist levy scheme. In total it is estimated tourist taxes could raise £15m a year for the city. “Edinburgh has grown to become one of the world’s most appealing visitor destinations,” says Robin Worsnop, chair of the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group. “As the city garners more attention from around the globe, we’re working to ensure there is a balance and that the whole city benefits from our visitors.”

World's northernmost town creates own responsible tourism guidelines


In July the Svarlbard town of Longyearbyen became the first in the Arctic to launch its own community specific guidelines to ensure tourism is conducted responsibly. The small Arctic community of around 2,100 people, located further north than any other world’s northernmost town, has issued a set of 11 guidelines for tourists on how to be considerate visitors.

The guidelines, developed using a template created by the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) and partners, cover a wide range of topics. They encourage visitors to talk with locals, but to ask before taking photos and to respect people’s privacy. Likewise visitors are invited to support the community through shopping locally but are reminded that there is no tradition for bargaining in Svalbard. They are also advised which side of the road to walk on if there’s no pavement.

The guidelines were created by Visit Svalbard, Port of Longyearbyen and Svalbard Cruise Network with funding from NORA (North Atlantic Cooperation). It is hoped that more towns and villages in the region will follow Longyearbyen’s lead.

“AECO has created general community guidelines that provide travellers with useful dos and don’ts when visiting Arctic communities,” said Frigg Jørgensen, executive director of AECO. “We also created a template that allows communities to create their own tailored guidelines, and we are happy to see Longyearbyen become the first town to make this a reality.”

New UNWTO online tool promotes tourism role achieving sustainable development


The UNWTO has launched a new online tool designed to promote greater engagement from the tourism sector with sustainable development. Developed with the support of Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), is a co-creation space that allows users to access a wide range of resources, to add their own initiatives, findings and projects, motivate discussion and collaboration, and share content related to tourism and sustainable development.

The platform’s three main features act as a call for action. Learn, Share and Act, the three levels of interaction at, aim not only to educate but also to encourage conversation and collaboration towards a sustainable tourism sector. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are UN goals that aim to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and solve climate change by 2030.

The platform was launched during the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development ‘Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies’ during an event co-hosted by UNWTO and the One Planet network. “Tourism plays a vital role in many, if not all, of the 17 Goals,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili at the launch.“Tourism has come of age as a cross-cutting economic activity with deep social ramifications, and the Tourism for SDGs Platform is providing the global tourism community with a space to co-create and engage to realise the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

Tourism for SDGs Platform - Introduction video

New documentary explores threat of overtourism 

Crowded Beach

A new documentary launched in July claims that the issue of overtourism has reached a critical point. Crowded Out: The Story of Overtourism was written and produced by travel company Responsible Travel. It documents the issue of overtourism as seen through the eyes of local people in hotspots such as Venice and Barcelona as well as further afield in places such as the Gili Islands.

It also features commentary from well known tourism experts. Elizabeth Becker, author of Overbooked, says: "you are up against some very powerful, wealthy interests who don't want this change." Megan Epler Wood, Research Director Harvard and Cornell, describes overtourism as a "global emergency."

Justin Francis, CEO and founder of Responsible Travel, presents and narrates the film and believes: "This is a key moment in tourism's history,” says Francis. ”We're witnessing, for the first time on such scale, direct conflict between governments and local people as residents take action and make their voices heard… Governments must now listen to, and collaborate with local people.”

View the film here.

Jamaica to host tourism resilience summit


Jamaica will host a resilience summit with key global stakeholders and thought leaders on September 13 at the University of the West Indies, Mona. The date was selected to commemorate hurricanes Irma and Maria, two of the most devastating weather systems to have affected the region.

The resilience summit, to be held under the theme ‘Tourism Resilience through Global Synergies’, will seek to assess existing and emerging disruptions related to tourism management globally; examine the risk of these disruptions to the global tourism product; and identify a synergetic strategic and operational framework for mutual partnerships between and among major governmental, non-governmental and business entities to address as well as develop mitigation strategies for these global disruptions.

“This summit forms part of my ministry’s efforts to build resilience within the region and globally,” said Jamaica’s tourism minister Edmund Bartlett. “Resilience building has become even more crucial in a world that is hyper connected and as such more susceptible to climate change, epidemics and pandemics, terrorism and cybercrime.” 

Fair Trade Tourism publishes guidelines for tourist interactions with captive wildlife 

Fair Trade Tourism

South Africa’s responsible tourism certification body Fair Trade Tourism (FTT) has published a set of Captive Wildlife Guidelines, which aim to assist the travel industry to make decisions about which captive wildlife facilities to support and which to avoid. Developed after consultation with nearly 200 organisations and 40 publications, the guidelines are based on five pillars – legal compliance, wildlife conservation, animal welfare, visitor safety and transparency. They discuss issues around specific wildlife species in captivity, such as elephants, lions, cheetah, wild dog, dolphins and whales, ostriches, crocodiles, primates and birds, and include a questionnaire to help tour operators to assess captive wildlife facilities themselves. 

FTT says global research conducted by Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit indicates that up to four million tourists who visit captive wildlife attractions per year are contributing to animal welfare abuse and declines in species’ conservation, yet 80% of them are unaware of their negative impacts.

“Issues around captive wildlife are firmly in the global spotlight and have the potential to negatively affect Brand South Africa”, says FTT MD Jane Edge. “Many animal welfare groups are lobbying to have the captive wildlife industry shut down and this pressure is likely to grow. FTT recognises that the industry is here to stay but that good practice standards and guidelines are urgently needed to weed out dangerous or exploitative practices. We encourage the tourism sector to use our guidelines to make discerning choices, thereby helping to improve standards and the overall image of South Africa,” she said.

FTT’s guidelines will be issued free of charge to FTT certified businesses, members and approved tour operators. Any other business can purchase the guidelines for a subsidised fee of R250. Contact to obtain a copy.

Written and edited by Jeremy Smith 

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