Tourism for Tomorrow Newsletter February 2018

Who are the Finalists for the Tourism for Tomorrow Community Award?


&BeyondEver since launching its luxury safari company with the creation of the Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal region, &Beyond has known that it was essential for its own success to protect the biodiverse wilderness areas that form the basis of its business. Likewise it knew this could not be done without the support of the communities who neighbour these parks and wild lands. Through its non-profit Africa Foundation, and the Shared Value Model is operates by, &Beyond has set up sustainable community development projects in 56 communities throughout South Africa, Southern Africa and East Africa. These cover a wide range of needs, including classrooms, clinics, centres for orphaned and vulnerable children, vegetable gardens and craft markets. 

Global Himalayan Expedition

GHETourists partaking in one of Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) Impact Expeditions leave a remarkable legacy of their visit behind - a solar powered microgrid. Over the last five years, GHE has taken over 500 international travellers to 50 previously off grid villages, each located high in the remote Himalayas. Once the grid is set up, GHE hands ownership to the local community, and then trains up village members to run sustainable homestays or to work as cooks and guides, providing not only clean electricity but also meaningful employment and opportunity. Furthermore, the introduction of solar power enables the villages to get rid of their old kerosene oil lamps, bringing both health benefits and so far meaning that 235 tonnes less CO2 has been emitted into the atmosphere.

Sustainable Development Institute

Sustainable Development InstitutHidden away in the heart of the Amazon central basin, the World Natural Heritage Site that makes up the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve is the largest reserve in the world to protect flooded areas. Floating in the middle of it all is the Uakari Lodge, a remarkable ecolodge and conservation initiative that uses tourism to introduce visitors to the region’s wonders, while protecting its biodiversity and providing meaningful employment and income to 10 surrounding communities. Over the years, 11,000 guests have stayed in the lodge, supporting the livelihoods of some 400 community members, with each $1 generated by lodge creating $5 for the local community in wider benefits. These benefits are set to grow even further- by 2022 Uakari’s owners aim to hand over full ownership and management of the lodge to the local people. 

Who are the Finalists for the Tourism for Tomorrow People Award? 

Cayuga Collection

Cayuga CollectionHotel management company Cayuga runs nine sustainable luxury hotels and lodges in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama, only working with projects that share its vision of responsible tourism and are 100% committed to sustainability. This commitment can be seen through the practices it implements across them all. Single use plastic are banned from all their properties. All the staff are locals, and all are employed all year round including during low season. A company doctor programme has been set up for staff and children, incentivising private doctors to relocate to the beautiful rural areas where their lodges operate - and thus also improving the quality of healthcare in the region in general. As a sign of how confident Cayuga’s owners are in their model, and how eager they are to share their vision of sustainability, they have been running behind the scenes tours showcasing their eco initiatives to their guests since 2004. 

Tree Alliance

Tree AllianceTree Alliance is a growing collection of vocational training restaurants set up to provide opportunities in hospitality for disadvantaged young people, and now helping 32,000 young people each year. First established by Friends-International in Phnom Penh in 2011, it now operates nine restaurants in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Ethiopia, with around 200 students being trained up at any time. Training lasts around two years, and as well as the practical skills, there is also social counseling, literacy/numeracy and life-skills education. These commitments ensure 90% of graduates are in employment within one month of completing their course, and all graduates receive follow up support for at least a year. As the restaurants are also popular with tourists looking for a more meaningful connection and eager to leave a positive mark on the communities they visit, TREE Alliance’s restaurants generate over US$ 2.6 million in sales every year- with all profits reinvested into their training programs.

Heritage Watch 

Heritage WatchHow can young people be inspired to preserve their ancient heritage? Launched in 2003 in response to a worrying escalation  in looting of archaeological sites in Cambodia, the non-profit NGO Heritage Watch has developed a simple, yet effective response. In 2015 it launched its  Heritage for Kids programme in the community around the temple of Banteay Chhmar, a place where looting was so bad that one night an eight metre section of temple wall was stolen. Through the new pilot project they are making it easy for teachers to integrate heritage preservation and care for the environment into the school curriculum. They have developed education tools including lesson plans, a comic book and other training materials, supported by  site visits to temples and museums. Following a successful pilot programme in Banteay Chhmar, the group is now working with the Siem Reap regional government to roll the programme out to the wider region and across Cambodia, because while the programme’s are locally specific and tailored to educate and inspire the communities about what is close to them, the template is easily replicable and adaptable across Cambodia and even further afield.  

Sustainable cities focus: Abu Dhabi

Sustainable cities focus: Abu DhabiLast year WTTC published a series of reports looking at the impact of travel and tourism across several of the world’s leading cities. This year, the Tourism for Tomorrow newsletter is going to explore key sustainability challenges and initiatives happening in several of these cities and other leading urban areas around the world. This month: Abu Dhabi. 

Abu Dhabi faces more sustainability challenges than most cities. In 2010, research by the Abu Dhabi Environmental Agency found that 85% of UAE's population would be affected by rising sea levels caused by climate change, as well as 90 percent of its infrastructure. Water is also a huge issue for the desert city, where only 1 percent of their water consumption can be supplied by rainfall. As a result, desalination is used to produce almost all the rest, yet this process demands a great deal of energy, exacerbating climate change. Meanwhile Abu Dhabi’s ongoing population growth and industrialisation means that, according to a 2014 environment statistics report from the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi, water consumption from 667 million cubic metres in 2005 to 1.126 billion cubic metres in 2014. Likewise, because the lack of rainfall makes agriculture almost impossible, the UAE is one of world’s the largest importer of food staples.

At the same time, Abu Dhabi is also seen as a potential centre of sustainability excellence, thanks to the ongoing Masdar City project. Developed by the British architectural firm Foster and Partners, Masdar is a planned city designed to run entirely on renewable energy and to be a hub for cleantech entrepreneurship. Located 17 kilometres east-south-east of Abu Dhabi, it already hosts the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency. Eventually, the city aims to be home to around 50,000 people. However, development has been much slower than originally hoped for, with fewer than 2,000 people currently employed in Masdar, and just 300 students of the Masdar Institute living on site in 2016.

Likewise, efforts to develop ecotourism and other responsible tourism products have mostly been focussed outside of the city, for example around the garden city of Al AIn, once a vital oasis on the caravan route from the UAE to Oman, and this month hosting PATA’s annual Adventure Travel and Responsible Tourism Conference and Mart

Tourism and Sustainable Development: Interview with Saskia Griep, Better Places

BETTER PLACESDutch tour operator Better Places is one of the very few in the world that commits to offsetting all its customers’ carbon costs from their journeys. WTTC speaks with their founder, Saskia Griep about the impact this could have on greener development if rolled out wider across the industry.

WTTC: There's a lot of confusion about carbon offsetting, with some companies advocating it, and others labelling it a distraction, or even damaging. Can you explain your position?

Saskia: We see carbon offsetting as one part of a bigger picture in terms of our climate action activity. Recognising that air travel is the most environmentally harmful component of overseas travel, and unquestionably the largest share of the total environmental footprint of our business activity, we place particular importance on measuring and reporting these emissions, as well as trying to reduce them through awareness raising amongst our clients and suppliers and giving practical advice. Having measured and compared international flight emissions using the award-winning CARMACAL carbon calculator, we report the results on our website, empowering travellers to choose the least polluting option. Next to providing detailed data about flight emissions, we use the tool to report the typical carbon footprint of an entire trip, meaning destinations can be compared at a glance, as well as via user-friendly infographics, designed in-house, providing complete transparency. We use the emissions data calculated to compensate for ALL CO2 emissions resulting from our business activity by investing in a Gold Standard compensation project.

All customers receive a “Welcome home” certificate explaining how Better Places compensated for the CO2 emissions resulting from their holiday.

These actions combined constitute our innovative ‘Travel with Transparency’ carbon management initiative, with offsetting just one of its four key objectives: 
1. to accurately measure and report the carbon emissions resulting from our clients’ holidays;
2. to reduce the carbon footprint of our business through encouraging behaviour change amongst clients, staff and suppliers;
3. to contribute to environmental/social improvement programmes by compensating for all carbon emissions resulting from our business through investment in a Gold Standard-certified climate protection project;
4. to trail blaze, whilst actively supporting industry partners to follow.

WTTC: Can you tell us how your approach to implementing Carbon Offsetting works, and how you have ensured that it is delivering the impacts you seek?Looking at the 17 SDGs, are there particular goals that you consider tourism is best able to support?

Saskia: We calculate the CO2 emissions of each holiday component per destination (flights, in-country travel, accommodation, excursions). Because we feel voluntary carbon offsetting is not having sufficient impact, Better Places compensates, at our own expense, for all our clients’ holiday activity, including their independently-booked international flights. We do this by investing in a project in Ghana that enables the production and distribution of modern, fuel-efficient cooking stoves at subsidised prices to private households. The project is developed by South Pole Group and certified by the Gold Standard. It delivers far more than carbon emission reductions: their impact encompasses improved human health, livelihoods, ecosystem services as well as food and economic security of communities, directly contributing to the fulfilment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Through accurately measuring the CO2 footprint of our business activity and compensating for the totality of our own as well as our customers’ emissions, we are playing a significant role in climate mitigation. Since January 2016, we have financed the avoidance of 18,000 tCO2e (representing 6,201 travellers) through investment in a Ghana cookstove project.

As well as raising awareness amongst travellers about CO2 emissions, we have so far positively impacted the lives of 8,228 people (1,646 households) in Ghana through more efficient stoves and their knock-on additional benefits, such as skills development, job creation and capacity building throughout the supply chain. Thanks to our support, 40 local people have jobs for which they receive above-average wages.

Apart from investing in the cookstove project, we are investigating how we can contribute to innovation in the fuel efficiency of flights and the development of bio-fuels as a cutting-edge form of carbon offsetting through collaboration with potential partners such as KLM, Schiphol Airport, GoBioMiles and SkyNRG. 

WTTC: Your approach has recently been adopted by 13 other Dutch companies. How did that come about, what is the potential impact, and do you see this as an approach that could be more widely adopted?

Saskia: Since November 2016 our mother companies, Riksja and Erlebe, have followed our example of offsetting their clients’ carbon emissions;  The Dutch touroperators Association (ANVR) has just started (as of january 2018) offsetting in a similar way together with a group of their member organisations, demonstrating the scalability of the initiative. We believe we have also set a benchmark in terms of transparently communicating our carbon footprint and we expect to stimulate other tour operators to create similar infographics to communicate carbon emission information. 

Norway announces plan for all-electric short-haul flights from country by 2040

NorwegianAll short-haul flights Norwegian airports should operate on 100% electrical power by 2040, according to the state-owned operator, Avinor. The company intends for all flights departing its airports of 90 minutes or less to take place on fully electric aircraft, which will include destinations in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Domestic air transport currently accounts for 2.4% of Norwegian greenhouse gas emissions.

It's first step towards this goal has been to order an Alpha Electro G2 electric two-seater aircraft from Slovenian aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel. The aircraft, which has a range of 130km and can remain airborne on a single charge for around an hour, is said to be the first of its kind approved for commercial series production. Avinor has also stated that it intends to be testing a 19-seater electric aircraft by 2025. “Avinor’s vision is to have all domestic air traffic electrified by 2040. We are taking a leading role in electrifying the aviation industry in Norway, in close cooperation with authorities, airlines and aircraft manufacturers,” Avinor CEO Dag Falk-Petersen said. 

PATA launches campaign on wasting food in tourism

PATA buffetPATA, along with its project partner, Scholars of Sustenance (Thai-SOS) and knowledge partner Futouris, has launched the BUFFET Campaign to raise awareness of food waste in the tourism industry. Standing for ‘Building an Understanding For Food Excess in Tourism’, the BUFFET Initiative has launched recently with a practical web portal containing a wide range of guidance and resources for industry looking to reduce its food waste. Although designed primarily for hoteliers in Asia-Pacific region, the resources have universal applicability and there is much that companies anywhere in the world will find useful. 

PATA is now seeking to engage further with hotels who would like to reduce their food waste to landfill, hotels already implementing food waste solutions, potential partners and sponsors, as well as those who would like to help us in raising awareness and building a better understanding for food excess in tourism. “With significant growth expected in the industry and especially the Asia Pacific region in the near future, greater waste can be expected,” PATA CEO Dr. Mario Hardy said. “Our aim is to curb that waste by bringing the tourism and hospitality sectors together to reduce our impact on the planet by reducing our industry’s food waste to landfill. Reducing food waste will reduce the cost for operators in the industry while benefiting the environment at the same time.”

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New Impact Travel Alliance event series focusses on SDGs

FEB 27 ITAThe New York-based Impact Travel Alliance (ITA) has announced plans for a series of events using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to bring three global issues to the forefront of discussions within the travel industry in 2018. The first issue, SDG #11: sustainable cities and communities, will be addressed in a series of co-ordinated events it is running on Feb. 27. Taking place in Kathmandu, Chicago, Toronto, Tucson, Austin, Marrakech and New York City, each event has been organised by the ITA’s local Hub to address the relevance of SDG #11 in a localised way, bringing travel industry professionals and travelers together to focus on innovation in each city. 

For example, in Toronto, the Hub is launching an Instagram challenge to highlight projects underway to make Toronto a leader in sustainability. In Marrakech, the ITA team is working with local NGOs to develop plans to rebrand the nearby city of Zagora. And in New York City, the Hub will highlight hidden gems that are innovative examples of sustainability in the city. A second multi-Hub event series on May 8 will focus on SDG #1: no poverty, and the third will be held on Aug.7. 

“ITA’s mission is to improve our world through business and leisure travel,” said Impact Travel Alliance Executive Director Kelley Louise. “We believe that innovations and changes in the travel industry can be instrumental in reaching these goals by 2030 and we’re here to push our industry forward.”

Tourism companies and destinations begin to act on plastics

Beach plasticRecently the issue of plastic waste has seen its profile rise dramatically, in no small part thanks to the David Attenborough Blue Planet TV series. It was also a major focus in the responsible tourism programme at World Travel Market London in November 2017. This year has begun with various companies in the travel industry announcing initial measures to address their impact, which if rolled out across the industry and across a wider range of products, could have a significant effect on the natural world upon which so much of tourism depends. 

Safari operator Asilia has announced that all its camps will no longer use plastic straws, replacing them with a biodegradable alternative with immediate effect. The company banned cling film several years ago and last year ensured all lunch packs issued to its guests were contained in biodegradable packaging. It has also been announced that the islands of Mallorca, Menorca, and Ibiza will ban all single-use plastics by 2020. 

Other operators have also announced plastic initiatives at various scales and timelines. Marriott International has ended the use of plastic straws in all its UK hotels. Ryanair has announced its flights will be plastic-free by 2023. P&O Cruises and Cunard have said they plan to abolish single use plastics from their ships by 2022, while Royal Caribbean International says it also intends to eliminate single-use plastics from its fleet, though it gave no indication of how long this might take. 

ECPAT and Marriott partner to fight human trafficking 

ECPAT-MARRIOTTThe anti-child trafficking policy organisation ECPAT-USA has announced a new partnership with Marriott International to address human trafficking and exploitation in all forms. Marking National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Marriott International last month signed ECPAT-USA’s Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct (known as The Code), an industry-driven responsible tourism initiative aiming to provide awareness, tools, and support to the tourism industry in order to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.

Signing the code is the latest development in a partnership between Marriott and ECPAT-USA that spans several years. Back in 2011, they co-developed training to help hotel employees notice signs of human trafficking; and more recently they, together with the American Hotel and Lodging Association, have shared comprehensive human trafficking training with the wider hotel industry.  And in January 2017, Marriott made human trafficking training a mandatory requirement for its on-property workforce in more than 6,500 properties. 

“Everyone has a role in fighting human trafficking and preventing child sexual exploitation,” said David Rodriguez, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Human Resources Officer, Marriott International. “At Marriott International, we are training all of our associates on how to identify the indicators of human trafficking and partnering with ECPAT-USA and the broader industry to stop this crime from landing at our front doors and in our communities.”

As a member of The Code, Marriott International will implement the following six criteria: Establish a corporate policy and procedures against sexual exploitation of children; Train employees in children’s rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation and how to report suspected cases; Include a clause in further partner contracts stating a common repudiation and zero tolerance policy of sexual exploitation of children; Provide information to travelers on children’s rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation of children and how to report suspected cases; Support, collaborate and engage stakeholders in the prevention of sexual exploitation of children; and report annually on the company’s implementation of Code-related activities. Other major hotel groups already signed up to the Code include Hilton, Hyatt, AccorHotels and Wyndham Worldwide.  

New look Green Hotelier Awards launched

Green HotelierThe annual Green Hotelier Awards, which seek to discover the world’s most sustainable and socially responsible hotels, have changed their categories for 2018.

The move aims to align the awards with the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) call for hotels to focus their sustainable, environmental and socially responsible actions on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “We wanted to reflect ITP’s call to action to the hotel industry to work together to achieve the Global Goals, and we can use the Green Hotelier Awards to show hoteliers how their sustainability actions and initiatives are doing just that,” said Green Hotelier Editor Siobhan O’Neill.

The Awards are open to hotels, resorts, eco-lodges and B&Bs of any size, anywhere in the world. The closing date for entries is Friday 23rd March 2018.

Written and edited by Jeremy Smith

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