Tourism for Tomorrow Newsletter December 2018

Sustainable cities focus: Madrid

Madrid2According to WTTC's City Report, nearly 10 million people visited Madrid in 2016 – higher than in any previous year this century. Earlier this year the city was also found to be the most sustainable in Spain, alongside Vittoria in research by the Observatory of Sustainability and AIS Group. The report analysed the 52 provincial capitals using 59 indicators relating to four specific topics: general; economic; social; and environmental and transparency and cooperation.

The Spanish capital city is becoming a healthier, more relaxing place to live in and explore, as city officials have declared that the 472 hectares of the city centre are now off-limits to traffic, except for local residents and public transportation. Officials say that the new regulations will reduce emissions by 40%. Non-residents with appropriate energy labels may enter and park their vehicle in a public parking lot, and exceptions are made for people with reduced mobility, ambulances, taxis, private-hire cars, delivery vans and electric vehicles. Meanwhile the city is instigating changes in several downtown streets that will increase space for pedestrians by nearly 22,000 square metres.

Also in 2018, the international architecture and engineering practice Arup published a report looking at how Madrid could develop green urban environments that support the health and wellbeing of its residents while addressing climate change. The report, Madrid + Natural, contains research which found that areas in Madrid which utilised green roofs benefit from temperature reductions of up to 4.5°C during the summer. "Increasing tree cover, flood capacity and providing greener streets and spaces are key elements of green networks, and can have positive effects on the economic and social cohesion of neighbourhoods," commented Tom Armour, Landscape Architecture Group Leader at Arup. "Research shows that tree-lined streets can encourage people to seek alternative modes of transport and pursue healthier lifestyles; leading to an increased sense of community belonging." 

Furthermore, a recently announced plan for an urban regeneration scheme in the city could see Madrid pioneering sustainable city design in the years to come. The Madrid Castellana Norte development looks to redevelop a part of Northern Madrid by connecting newly developed green areas with existing ones to create an extensive grid of park and green bike paths, connecting the city with the forest of El Monte de El Pardo. 

Thomas Cook makes plastic reduction pledge 

Thomas CookThomas Cook launched a pledge on plastics in November, committing the company to remove 70 million single-use plastics – equivalent to 3,500 suitcases - within the next 12 months. The company reported research that found 90 per cent of its customers cared about plastics as an issue, with two-thirds saying they would be more likely to use a travel company which is serious about reducing the use of plastic items. 

Thomas Cook is therefore establishing a pilot scheme in Rhodes to trial sustainable alternatives to plastic products, trialling new materials as alternatives to plastic within a destination community to assess whether there is an opportunity to adopt them more widely. The company also announced another new pilot project whereby the sustainable design firm Wyatt and Jack will repurpose broken and discarded plastic inflatables, lilos and children's swimming armbands into bags and holiday accessories.  

To achieve its aims, Thomas Cook has been working throughout 2018 with the Travel Without Plastic Initiative, which partners with hotel groups and other travel companies to reduce and replace plastic in their supply chain, offering various services ranging from a toolkit to a dedicated Plastics Account Manager for large hotel chains.

"It's fantastic to see a mainstream tour operator like Thomas Cook make such a strong pledge to reduce unnecessary single-use plastics," Joanne Hendrickx, founder of Travel Without Plastic, told WTTC. "Doing this across a range of business segments is a great opportunity to positively influence thousands of staff, customers and suppliers into thinking differently about single-use, and we hope that many more operators will follow their lead."

UNWTO Report Enables Inclusive Tourism, Destinations' Contribution to SDGs

UNWTOA new report by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) investigates the capacity of tourism to integrate disadvantaged groups into its operations, and proposes a model for designing truly inclusive tourism destinations. Titled "Global Report on Inclusive Tourism Destinations: Model and success stories", the report examines how new approaches to inclusive tourism can secure tourism's long-term sustainability and highlights the need for greater focus on these topics by the sector.

The report features success stories from a variety of stakeholders around the world, ranging from the Gauteng Tourism Authority and Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, to VisitScotland and the State of Michoacán, Mexico. Drawing on their many different approaches, it outlines a path towards inclusion that UNWTO says is adaptable, modular and scalable, and if followed could facilitate the transformation of tourism towards socially and economically inclusive models. 

"As globalisation, interconnectivity and a growing middle class leads to ever more people travelling, the world will continue seeming to get smaller and inclusion will become even more of a priority," said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, adding that the report "will serve as an important tool for the tourism community to create and promote inclusion in destinations, and a valuable reference for all tourism stakeholders in developing best practices for a more inclusive sector".

NEPCon and Travelife announce new certification collaboration 

NEPCon and TravelifeNEPCon, the world's largest non-profit mission-driven certification body, has launched a new collaboration with Travelife Accommodation and Travelife for Tour Operators to boost the uptake of sustainable tourism certification. The partnership allows hotels that are certified within NEPCon Standard for Sustainable Tourism to earn full Travelife Gold Certification to promote their achievements. At the same time under the agreement, both Travelife companies now recognise NEPCon audit findings, thus providing opportunity for certified businesses to obtain two certifications by going through one audit.

NEPCon (Nature Economy and People Connected) is an international non-profit organisation that works to build capacity and commitment for mainstreaming sustainability. The Estonia based group recently acquired RA-Cert, the certification unit of Rainforest Alliance. As well as RA-Cert, they are the accredited certifiers for sustainability schemes such as FSCTM, PEFC, RSPO and SBP. "NEPCon is excited about this collaboration with both Travelife for Accommodation and Travelife for Tour Operators. We are confident that it will offer great opportunities for our certified clients and for the overall tourism industry," says NEPCon Innovations and Development Director, Hando Hain.  

IUCN publishes guidelines on Tourism in Protected Areas

IUCNThe IUCN has released a new report "Tourism and Visitor Management in Protected Areas". Launched at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s November conference in Egypt, it draws together best practice from around the world to support the management of protected areas. As many of these areas face rapid growth in tourism demand, clear guidance is essential so that development happens in concert with the areas' primary conservation objectives.

The guidelines are an initiative of the IUCN WCPA Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist (TAPAS) Group. TAPAS is a network of over 500 volunteers committed to promoting sustainable tourism in protected areas as a tool in achieving the long-term conservation of nature and associated ecosystem and cultural values. "The collaborative and iterative approach we adopted has generated meaningful and practical guidance for practitioners working sustainable tourism in protected areas across the world," commented Dr. Anna Spenceley, Chair of the TAPAS Group and co-editor of the publication. "We are immensely proud of this achievement, and incredibly grateful to all the contributors who participated in our journey, including numerous authors, reviewers, designers and editors."

Palau bans 'toxic' sunscreens to protect its coral reefs 

PalauPalau has become the world's first nation to ban sunscreens that many researchers believe are killing off coral reefs and damaging marine environments. The new law is part of the Palau Responsible Tourism Policy Framework which requires that all visitors to Palau "become part of the solution to the environmental challenges in our pristine paradise."

The law commits Palau to immediately stop importing reef-toxic sunscreen, but retailers have until 1 Jan 2020 to sell their remaining inventory. From that day the law will ban the sale and use of all sunscreen skincare products that contain the following ingredients: Oxybenzone (benzophenone-3) Ethyl paraben, Octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate), Butyl paraben, Octocrylene, Benzyl paraben, 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor, Triclosan, Methyl paraben, and Phenoxyethanol. Many of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors, found to be toxic to juvenile stages of many wildlife species, including corals and fish.

"This short but important bill has the potential to make a lasting impact on the environment here," President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr, wrote in a letter accompanying the legislation. "As more and more people come to visit our pristine paradise with their own eyes, we cannot relinquish our responsibility for these islands." 

The US state of Hawaii passed similar legislation earlier this year that goes into effect in 2021.

Caribbean Tourism Organization announces disaster risk management guide for region's tourism

CaribbeanThe Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) is to publish a disaster risk management (DRM) guide for the region's tourism sector as part of its objective to foster a culture of preparedness in destination management. Aimed at tourism businesses and policymakers, the 2019 publication will help guide the tourism sector's preparedness, response and recovery from the many natural hazards that threaten the region.

The manual will provide guidelines for climate change mitigation and adaptation, showcase regional and international best practices in comprehensive disaster management, and present strategies for effective response protocols before, during and after a disaster.

"The current and future impacts of climate variability and climate change which includes an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, flood and droughts, among others, make it imperative that countries, particularly the regional tourism sector, be equipped to adequately prepare for, respond to and recover from climate related hazards," commented Amanda Charles, the CTO's sustainable tourism development specialist.

The upcoming handbook is part of a wider project titled Supporting a Climate Smart and Sustainable Caribbean Tourism Industry (CSSCTI). Further initiatives in the CSSCTI scheme include creating a compendium of Best Practices in Sustainable Tourism; delivering an ongoing regional tourism education and awareness campaign through social media and a televised video series; and undertaking a feasibility study to inform the needs related to climate services in tourism.

Written and edited by Jeremy Smith

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