Tourism for Tomorrow Newsletter August 2019

IHG to end use of bathroom miniatures in all its hotels


InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has announced plans to remove all miniature bathroom amenities from all its properties by 2021. According to the company, this would mean 200 million less miniatures per year, across 100 countries.

The company says it will increasingly shift over to plastic-free alternatives such as refillable ceramic dispensers. “It’s more important than ever that companies challenge themselves to operate responsibly,” said IHG’s chief executive Keith Barr. “We know it’s what our guests, owners, colleagues, investors and suppliers rightly expect.”

The company has already committed to removing all single-use plastic straws from its operations by the end of 2019, removing 50 million single-use plastic straws from its waste stream each year as a result.

“We welcome IHG’s commitment to move to larger size toiletries as part of their efforts to reduce plastic waste,” said Jo Hendrickx, founder of Travel Without Plastic, which has worked with the company on reducing the use of plastics in its supply chain. “The challenge in coordinating the logistics of such an approach across a global portfolio should not be underestimated, and we hope that it will serve as inspiration for other large organisations to follow their lead”.

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Interview with Awamaki, Tourism for Tomorrow 2019 Winner


Holly Tuppen talks to Kennedy Leavens, founder of Awamaki, winner of this year’s Tourism for Tomorrow Social Impact Award, about responsible community-based travel experiences.

Awamaki provides rural Quechuan weaving cooperatives in Peru with the training and design expertise needed to broaden their market. The extra income earnt is often used to send children to school, improve community facilities, and prevents urban migration. On the back of this, Awamaki’s small-scale trips offer travellers an intimate and sensitive Quechuan experience.

HT: Why did you choose to work with the Quechuan weavers?
: We had been living in Peru working for a non-profit for two-years and saw first-hand how venerable women in rural Quechuan communities are. When the non-profit organisation collapsed, the women kept asking us to come back. There were two challenges we wanted to help the women overcome. One was that their centuries-old textile culture was declining because its value was shrinking. The other was that women were being driven into cities for work, leaving villages to fall into ruin.

I also think that income in the hands of women is the best way to lift communities out of poverty. When women make money, they often choose to spend it on education and community improvement. So far, we haven’t been proved wrong.

HT: How have you created a sustainable income stream for the weavers?
: We’ve focused on increasing the value of the textiles. Firstly, we’ve worked with a team of international designers and developed an online platform to increase sales potential. The weavers have enjoyed this process because it pushes their skills and knowledge. The more contemporary designs are sold online, while traditional designs are sold to tourists. Secondly, we’ve worked hard to ensure the artisans go on to set up independent businesses. Lots of handicraft cooperatives or groups feel ownership over the artisans, but we want ours to be independent. We, therefore, focus on training – giving the women what they need to set out on their own. It’s a bit like a new business incubator.

HT: Where does tourism fit in, and how do you ensure these experiences are responsible?
: We run small scale experiences, so there’s never a danger of overwhelming a village. The sessions revolve around learning more about the weaving and experiencing Quechan life. The households feel empowered because tourists pay to have lunch or stay in their homes, and the weavers enjoy demonstrating their skill. Tourists are strictly briefed on when photos are allowed or not, keeping questions professional, and being mindful of politeness in someone’s home.

HT: What have been the main challenges?
: There’s a fine line between providing support and leading the charge. We want to help the women make money from their traditional skills, but we also want them to stay in control and do what they think is right. In some of the villages, men have been put out by what we’re doing. Thankfully, this has mostly been resolved by the community – for example, the women provide the income, and the men build the new community centre. Everyone has to be involved and feel ownership of the progress.

HT: What three bits of advice would you give to others looking to create responsible community experiences?
KL: Don’t go in with an international mindset. Always work with what skills are available on the ground, because only then is your business truly sustainable. Also, your starting point should be what the community wants to share, rather than telling them what you think visitors want to see.

As travellers, we often want to bottle up culture, preserving it like it’s in a museum, but for tradition to stay vital, it needs to change and adapt. It’s essential to think about this when designing community travel experiences – culture shouldn’t be asked to stand still just for the benefit of tourism.

Dutch tour operator and UK travel agent join Climate Perks low-carbon travel scheme


Two pioneering responsible travel companies have signed up to a new travel initiative called Climate Perks. Created by the UK-based NGO 10:10, which focuses on solutions to the climate crisis, Climate Perks is a new pilot scheme where employers commit to give their staff two extra days paid leave if they choose to travel on their holidays overland or sea, rather than fly. These days would be ‘journey days’ rather than annual leave, so that all employees are entitled to the same amount of annual leave, however they travel.

The two travel companies signing up are Better Places, a Dutch international tour company, and Travel Matters, a UK-based travel agent. “In the year that the world has finally recognised climate change is very real, we see our support to Climate Perks as being a positive step,” Karen Simmons, CEO of Travel Matters told WTTC. “As m fcva UK-based travel company, we can encourage our clients to consider alternative methods of travel to aviation when they visit European destinations. Climate Perks offer an interesting solution for employers and employees alike. We will help the organisation build awareness about their scheme through our communications to our clients.”

According to research commissioned by 10:10, some 50% of 18-44 year olds would rather work for a company that supports sustainable holiday travel options. As awareness of the climate impacts of flying increases, initiatives like Climate Perks offer employers an opportunity to support their staff and their efforts to reduce emissions. Speaking with WTTC, Saskia Griep, CEO of Better Places, said that since the company is a certified Bcorp, “it is important that we have employment conditions that support our mission.”

Companies and organisations interested in signing up to the programme can find out more information and register their interest on the Climate Perks website.

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Sustainable Travel International announces partnership to protect Mexican reefs

Mexican Reef

US-based NGO Sustainable Travel International (STI) has launched a strategic partnership with Mexico’s National Protected Area Commission (CONANP) to promote the conservation of the Mesoamerican Reef.

Stretching 600 miles along the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, the Mesoamerican Reef is the world’s second largest reef system. More than 12 million people visit Mexico’s Caribbean coast each year, many diving, snorkelling, swimming, or simply enjoying the beaches which the reef protects. Economically, it is estimated that the reef supports the livelihoods of nearly 2 million people and generates $6.2 billion in annual economic returns.

However, an array of threats, including climate change, unsustainable fishing and pollution mean that the reef’s survival is at risk, with over half in poor or critical condition, according to the 2018 Healthy Reefs report. Last year, scientists discovered a rapidly spreading coral disease outbreak called “Síndrome Blanco” affecting more than 20 coral species on the reef. Around 30% of affected coral species have already died.

The new partnership between CONANP and STI seeks to engage the region’s growing tourism sector to help protect the reef and the communities it serves.  One pilot solution is STI’s Natural Environment Marine Observers (NEMO) program, a citizen-science program that empowers visitors to contribute to the conservation of the Mesoamerican Reef by collecting data for marine scientists and funding reef conservation expeditions,

“Conserving a marine destination as expansive and biodiverse as the Mesoamerican Reef is no small task,” says Paloma Zapata, CEO of Sustainable Travel International. “We realized that there is a tremendous untapped opportunity to engage the people who are out exploring these places in protecting them. Through this partnership with CONANP, that’s exactly what we aspire to do - link tourism and conservation to chart a new course for the Mesoamerican Reef.

Canada bans keeping whales and dolphins in captivity


Canada's national Parliament has passed legislation banning the keeping and breeding of whales, dolphins and porpoises in captivity. It also bans imports, exports and live captures.

There are limited exceptions. The Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act allows for those animals already captive to remain so, and for animals to be temporarily confined for purposes of rescue, rehabilitation or licensed research. The Canadian government will levy fines of up to 200,000 Canadian dollars if establishments contravene the new regulations.

There are only two facilities remaining in the country that keep captive cetaceans - Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and the Vancouver Aquarium in British Columbia.

“Governments and tourism businesses are increasingly reviewing the evidence for the welfare case for whales and dolphins in captivity and it's leading them to a simple and unavoidable conclusion - it's wrong,” Dylan Walker, CEO of the World Cetacean Alliance, told WTTC. “It's now only a question of when, not if, this practice will end. We congratulate change makers like the Canadian Government and Virgin Holidays [which announced it will no longer sell tourism experiences involving captive whales and dolphins in July 2019]. We anticipate many others will follow in the coming months.

KLM anniversary campaign encourages tourism and travellers to 'Fly Responsibly'


The Dutch airline has marked its centenary year by launching a new campaign titled ‘Fly Responsibly’, in which it encourages other airlines and tourists to focus on travelling in ways that reduce their impacts on the climate.

The campaign - by Dutch creative agency DDB Unlimited - kicked off with the publication of an open letter in various major newspapers - including the UK’s Guardian, the US’s New York Times and Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.  It is supported by a website that highlights various sustainability focussed initiatives by the Dutch operator, and encourages travellers to either offset their emissions or travel by alternative and less polluting forms of transport.

Response to the campaign has been mixed. Some criticised the initiative for focussing on offsetting as a viable solution to aviation’s rising emissions, while others commended the company for openly acknowledging the need to reduce flying, with the website focussing particularly on replacing unnecessary business trips with online meetings and travelling by train for short haul journeys. Writing in Forbes, Davide Banis said: “the campaign is certainly a point of no return for the aviation industry. A major airline admitted that aviation pollution is a problem of paramount importance for the whole sector, and there's no way back.”

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Written and edited by Jeremy Smith