Tourism for Tomorrow Newsletter October 2018

Interview with Caitlin Hicks, consultant for Tourism for Tomorrow 2018 Innovation Winner Virgin Atlantic 

Virgin Atlantic

Holly Tuppen talks to Caitlin Hicks, a consultant for Tourism for Tomorrow Innovation winner, Virgin Atlantic, about big business doing good. 

What does winning a Tourism for Tomorrow Award mean to Virgin Atlantic?

However large your business or organisation, being recognised for years of hard work is an incredible feeling. Inspiring suppliers and partners to follow our lead and make fundamental changes to the way they do business there have always been challenges, but, if you can say you are a finalist and a winner, then that’s fuel for the fire and motivation to help others understand why sustainability is good for business.  

Tell us a little bit about the project? 

Virgin Atlantic are aware that climate change and emissions are the biggest challenges that their sector faces, but there are also a considerable number of other social and environmental issues that matter enormously to their customers and crew. With 5.5 million meals served to passengers every year, catering is a distinct area where the airline can make an impact. 

To get started, Virgin Atlantic approached the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) to audit their inflight catering operations and develop a comprehensive list of sustainability standards to which caterers should adhere. The SRA and the Virgin Atlantic inflight team then worked with all their catering companies across the globe to build awareness, understanding and compliance with a range of issues including Fair Farming, Sustainable Fish & Seafood, Deforestation & Biodiversity, Animal Welfare, Transparency and Waste. 

It’s been wonderful to see catering companies embrace these ideas and get proactive about finding new solutions: Caribbean caterers switching to fully sustainable fish, the UK catering company updating its procurement policy based on the standards, and Nigeria hitting the ground running with aluminium recycling thanks to Lagos’ entrepreneurial spirit.

What have been the main challenges with implementing the framework?

With slim sector margins, cost efficiency is deeply ingrained in airline business culture, and anything that looks like it will add to costs is viewed with suspicion. By re-engineering menus, we have been able to trade up on sustainability by switching to alternative cuts of meat or cutting back on expensive proteins and maintaining costs, but this is not always possible, and sometimes it simply costs more to do the right thing. 

The other challenge is the constantly shifting landscape of new menus, new products, new suppliers, and new caterers.

What’s next for Virgin Atlantic and the SRA framework?

Virgin Atlantic wants to be a leader in this space — they are very driven by the idea that when businesses choose a supplier, they are endorsing that supplier’s behaviour and actions and that by choosing carefully they can make a significant impact. Food is a hotspot for the notion of sustainable supply chains, and Virgin Atlantic are keen that the approach they have developed for inflight catering could be rolled out to other airlines across the world.

Written by Holly Tuppen

Sustainable cities focus: Singapore


This month the WTTC city focus looks at Singapore. The city state has seen tourism grow steadily over the last decade, according to WTTC’s recent city report. With international arrivals increasing every year, the sector generated US$12.4 billion in 2016 - more than double the volume in 2006. This trend is set to continue, with revenues predicted to double again to US$24 billion by 2026.

In 2015 Singapore unveiled its Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, an action plan whose sustainability goals for the next two decades include the aim of becoming a Zero Waste Nation. Today, the city boasts about 47 per cent green cover, with over 80 per cent of households having no more than a 10-minute walk from a park. By 2030, the city also aims to have 700km of cycle paths and 180 km of ‘Nature Ways’ - green corridors along roadsides that have been developed to connect areas of high biodiversity to urban areas.

The city continues to face pressures from urbanisation. According to a September 2018 article in Eco-Business: "Singapore’s urbanisation rate is estimated at 1.5 per cent a year, with concrete replacing forests in natural areas such as Bukit Timah and Lentor. Secondary forest is making way for an eco tourism hub in Mandai, while a new train line threatens Singapore’s last patch of primary forest in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve."

To address these pressures, the city is also investing heavily in greening measures for buildings. For example, an incentive scheme from National Parks Board pays for half of the installation costs if building owners add greenery to high-rise buildings.

Natural Habitat Adventures Creates World’s First Zero Waste Travel Adventure 


The US based travel company Natural Habitat Adventures has created a trip to Yellowstone that it says will be “the world’s first zero waste trip”. The company aims to fit all waste produced on the trip into a single small container at the end, nearly eliminating the need to send any materials to a landfill or incinerator. 

The company has devised various strategies to limit trash: providing travellers with a zero waste toolkit that includes personal reusable items such as water bottles, mugs, cutlery and tote bags; transporting packed meals in reusable containers; recycling single-use packaging including hard-to-recycle items through TerraCycle; composting napkins and biodegradable food waste; and buying food in bulk. Waste reduction begins even before the trip starts, with travellers receiving digital versions of all pre-trip materials including forms to complete and the daily itinerary.

“One way we’re dedicated to protecting the planet is to inspire the travel industry to become more sustainable,” said Natural Habitat Adventures Founder & President Ben Bressler. “Our goal is to continually raise the bar on conservation, and our first zero waste adventure will show that it’s possible to reduce our environmental impact while providing an exceptional experience for our guests.”

To learn more about The World’s First Zero Waste Adventure, visit



Tulum to become Mexico’s first sustainable tourism zone 


Tulum, a popular tourist destination on the Caribbean coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, will be designated the country’s first sustainable tourism development zone (ZDTS) this October, according to the the Secretary of Tourism of Quintana Roo. 

Marisol Vanegas Perez said the new scheme would enable the area to implement a range of sustainable tourism initiatives with a focus on the green economy. In recent years Tulum has seen its tourism industry grow at a rapid pace, but without a focus on preserving its natural and cultural heritage.  

Although Tulum will be the first such place in Mexico to be so designated, officials have already suggested that another popular destination, Isla Mujeres, was also being considered. 

HICAP Announces Winners of 2018 Sustainable Hotel Awards 


The organisers of the annual Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific have unveiled the winners of the HICAP 2018 Sustainable Hotel Awards. The awards have three categories - sustainable design, climate action and positive community impact. The winner of the Sustainable Design category is The Peninsula Beijing in Beijing, China. The Peninsula Beijing completed its extensive renovation in July 2017, becoming Beijing’s first BREEAM-accredited renovated hotel. The Climate Action category was won by Six Senses Fiji Resort in Malolo Levu Island, Fiji. Powered by one of the largest solar installations in the southern hemisphere and backed by Tesla battery packs, 100% of its energy – including its desalination needs – are met by renewable energy. The winner of the Positive Community category was El Nido Resorts in Palawan, Philippines. Its ongoing success has been marked by engagement with community partners, such as having local fishermen as guides for traditional fishing methods instead of professional tour guides.

Fair Trade group to develop criteria for Greater Kruger Area tourism

Fair Trade Tourism

A Fair Trade Tourism (FTT) consortium has been awarded a tender to develop responsible tourism criteria for the Greater Kruger Protected Area (GKPA). The GKPA includes not only the Kruger National Park, but its surrounding protected areas, such as the Manyeleti, Makuya, Letaba Ranch, Mthimkulu, Timbavati, Balule, Umbabat, Klaserie, Thornybush, Sabi Sand, MalaMala, Kapama, Makalali, the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region and Vhembe Biosphere. 

For its winning bid, FTT assembled an expert team of consultants including FTT’s MD, Jane Edge; FTT Programme Manager, Ana Lemmer; Lisa Scriven of Levelle Perspectives; Steve Collins of the African Safari Lodge Foundation; Annie Sugrue and Dorah Marema of the Luhlaza Foundation; as well as Julian Sturgeon, a Rural Development Consultant. As part of their work, the group will develop an assessment tool to ensure compliance with criteria aligned to South Africa’s Minimum Standards for Responsible Tourism.

“We are excited to be playing a role in the long-term development of the Greater Kruger, with its landscape-level vision and focus on local community empowerment,” said FTT’s Jane Edge. “Implementing responsible tourism standards will play an important enabling role in helping to realise this vision.”

Tourism Concern, long term advocate of Ethical Tourism, shuts down 

Tourism Concern

After nearly 30 years, Tourism Concern, the UK-based non-governmental organisation, has announced that it is closing due to financial reasons. A notice on the organisation’s website states that “Following a report from our Treasurer, the trustees of Tourism Concern have taken the difficult decision to close the charity.”  

According to Tourism Concern, the charity has struggled financially for a number of years, with funding from charitable foundations no longer available and income from membership fees being insufficient. 

Next year would have marked the organisation’s 30th anniversary. It remains unclear whether members and other people will continue to be able to access several decades of research and information, nor how its role in advocacy and community outreach will be continued. 

GSTC Annual Conference heads to Botswana


The annual Global Sustainable Tourism Conference (#GSTC2018) will take place in Maun, Botswana, December 7th-10th. The event will play host to international and domestic tourism stakeholders involved in the development and promotion of sustainable tourism; including public sector, hotels, tour operators, academia, development agencies, NGOs, consultants, and more.

This year the focus is on addressing topics based on the Kasane Call to Action to accelerate sustainable consumption and production (SCP). These include Achieving Sustainable Destination Management, Certification as a Driver of Sustainable Tourism, Reaching the SDGs through the GSTC Criteria, and Market Access for Responsible Tourism Businesses.

Speakers include Prof. Graham Miller, Lead Judge of WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards; Dr. Anna Spenceley, Chair, IUCN WCPA Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group; Heidi Van Der Watt, Director, Better Tourism Africa, and several more.

Learn more and register:

PATA workshop to teach sustainable policies and practices for hotel operators 


This December, PATA is running a workshop in Langkawi, Malaysia with the theme ‘Going Green: How to Run A Sustainable Resort.’ The 2.5-day training session focuses on the tools, resources, and business practices required to accelerate the adoption of eco-friendly policies and practices among hotel operators.

The workshop will be led by sustainability experts from the award-winning Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa (FLGK), which has been championing sustainable practices and environmental protection for the past 13 years. Through the workshop, FLGK will share examples of practical, easy-to-adopt ‘green’ practices that can be applied at hotels and resorts through an interactive training programme.

Learn more about the workshop and register at

Written and edited by Jeremy Smith

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