Tourism for Tomorrow Newsletter February 2019

Who are the Finalists for the Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Stewardship Award? 

Grupo Rio da Prata, Jardim and Bonito, Brazil

Grupo Rio da Prata

Grupo Rio da Prata is a ranch-based tourism experience in Brazil’s Mid-West offering day visitors snorkelling, hiking, horse-riding and education activities. 

Founded in 1995, Rio da Prata was the first organised tourism experience in Brazil’s Mid-West. What started as a simple ranch experience, designed to help visitors get closer to nature, today combines three eco ranches, two Private Reserves of Natural Heritage, and welcomes over 67,000 tourists a year. Nature has been at the heart of the operation from the outset; conservation management plans and a control on visitor numbers ensures minimal environmental impact. Reforestation projects with NGO partners have planted over 50,000 trees. The project has had a positive impact on visitors, the environment, and local communities; 70 per cent of visitors to Rio da Prata experience ecotourism for the first time, by working with state representatives, laws now protect the Prata and Formoso rivers, and the tours are the primary source of income for 90 local self-employed guides. 

Masungi Georeserve, Philippines

Masungi Georeserve

Masungi Georeserve is a geological park offering adventure and education activities one-and-a-half hours’ drive from Manila.  

Before restoration efforts began, this limestone region 45 kilometres east of Manila was devastated by illegal logging, land speculation and quarrying. Recognising the fragility of the ecosystem, in 1996 the government partnered with private developers to ensure the land was managed sustainably. In 2015, the Masungi Georeserve Foundation was formed to spearhead geo-tourism efforts in the region to provide financial stability and education. Thanks to its success, creating low-impact structures and trail experiences, in 2017 the government expanded the conservation area from 400 hectares to almost 3,000 hectares — the first of its kind in Philippines. The impact of geotourism in Masungi on the local economy is more than US$ 1 million per year.

St. Kitts Sustainable Destination Council, St. Kitts and Nevis 

St Kitts SDC

St. Kitts Sustainable Destination Council is an advisory body to the Ministry of Tourism for St. Kitts, the larger of the two Caribbean islands that make up St. Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies. 

From the moment St Kitts shifted from sugar export to a tourism economy in 2005, the Ministry of Tourism pursued sustainable development to create a "Pro Planet, Pro-People" tourism plan. To realise this plan, the St. Kitts Sustainable Destination Council (SDC) was established — a public-private entity promoting collaboration. Initiatives led by the SDC are holistic, focusing on sociocultural, economic and environmental sustainability. Membership includes stakeholders from outside and within tourism to ensure total cooperation; to date, 100 people have been trained with the help of Sustainable Travel International. The SDC’s early intervention approach, orchestrating environmental education from as early as primary school, is already showing changes in the consciousness of the local population. Because of the SDC’s commitment to making St. Kitts "Good for Us; Better for All", 80 per cent of residents believe tourism is more positive than negative. 

Who are the Finalists for the Tourism for Tomorrow Social Impact Award?

Awamaki, Peru


Awamaki is a non-profit registered in the U.S. and Peru creating economic opportunities for women in Peru’s remote Quechua communities.  

Kennedy Leavens founded Awamaki in the belief that income in the hands of women is the best way to lift communities out of poverty. Located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas of Peru, Awamaki works with Andean woman’s artisan cooperatives to develop their technical and administrative skills and connect them to an international marketplace. This "Impact Model" incubation programme is funded by Awamaki and is delivered with local partners in Quechua. The process allows indigenous women to create independent businesses without dependence on charity. From the sale of products, artisans double their average annual income, which is often the difference between poverty and upward mobility. A second component to Awamaki’s work is a Sustainable Tourism programme offering visitors immersive experiences and the chance to understand the Quechua culture in an impactful, non-exploitative manner. 

Intrepid Group, Australia


Intrepid Group is the world’s largest adventure travel company offering more than 2,700 itineraries across every continent. 

For more than 30 years, Intrepid has been creating travel experiences to ensure that tourists benefit the places they visit; a commitment rewarded by becoming the industry’s largest certified B Corp. Its latest socially-minded target is to activate ten new community-based tourism products by 2020. The first of these products is the Myaing Community Based Tourism initiative in Myanmar. Homestays are illegal in Myanmar under current government regulations, making it hard for rural communities to benefit from tourism. After ActionAid introduced Intrepid to the villages of Myaing, where income is scarce outside of the agricultural season, Intrepid got to work designing a lodge and visitor experiences. To prove its commitment, Intrepid worked with ActionAid and the community to design a community lodge and visitor experiences. The government has since invited others to see how they might replicate the initiative. 

Nikoi Island, Indonesia

Nikoi Island

Nikoi Island is a luxury island resort with 15 beachfront villas less than three hours by boat and car from Singapore. 

Designed long before eco-luxury became a buzzword, Nikoi Island is an exemplary sustainable resort on a 15-hectare island in the South China Sea. From the offset, its founders have challenged the notions of luxury standards to benefit guests and community alike. All beachfront villas were built using local materials, labour and techniques, and have been designed to reduce energy-guzzling norms such as air conditioning. A fixed menu reduces food waste, and 90 per cent of ingredients are sourced from Nikoi’s 7-hectare permaculture farm on Bintan or local markets. Together with its sister property, Cempedak Island, Nikoi employs 250 people, only three of which are expatriates (senior management is Indonesian); training opportunities guarantee staff satisfaction and progress. Since 2016, The Island Foundation has consolidated Nikoi’s improvement of local communities; seven learning centres have been established training over 2,300 students and 1,100 teachers.       

jetBlue report mines social media to prove value of reefs to tourism 

Coral Reef CaribbeanThe airline jetBlue has released a new report highlighting the connection between natural resources and tourism in the Caribbean. Published in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, it reveals that the region is the most tourism dependent place in the world, and shares new data on the benefits that coral reefs provide to the travel industry and the region’s economy.

Titled Estimating Reef-Adjacent Tourism Value in the Caribbean, the new report, which was also supported by Microsoft and the World Travel & Tourism Council, employed machine learning and artificial intelligence to quantify the significant value that reefs contribute to the Caribbean economy through reef-adjacent activities, such as sailing, diving and snorkeling.

Social media content was analysed using Microsoft’s machine learning tools, studying more than 86,000 social images and nearly 6.7 million text posts for identifiers that indicated reef-adjacent activities. The social media metrics were then layered with traditionally sourced data from government agencies and the tourism industry, such as surveys from visitor centers, sales figures reported by travel-associated businesses and economic data from government accounting systems.

Overall, the research found that the value of reef-associated tourism is estimated at more than $7.9 billion annually from over 11 million visitors. This accounts for 23 percent of all tourism spending in the region. The top 10 percent of highest-value reef areas each generate more than $5.7 million and receive 7,000 visitors per square kilometre per year.

"This study proves the relationship between healthy coral reefs and tourism, and the overall financial stability of the Caribbean," said Sophia Mendelsohn, head of sustainability and environmental, social governance, jetBlue. "It’s time for conservation organisations like The Nature Conservancy and the tourism industry to work together on solutions to conserve the region’s resources."

China imposes limits on Everest trekkers while it deals with rubbish

EverestChina will reduce the number of climbers attempting Everest from the north by one-third this year so as to allow an essential cleanup operation to take place on the world's highest peak. According to the country’s state media, less than 300 climbers will be permitted to attempt to climb the mountain from the Chinese side, and even then they will be limited to setting off in the Spring. China has established a series of stations to sort, recycle and break down rubbish that is removed from the mountain, ranging from tents and food packaging to oxygen tanks.

Meanwhile, on the Nepalese side of the mountain, climbing expeditions are being urged to gather their waste in bags so that it can be removed more easily by helicopter.

Half a million Marriott International hotel workers trained to spot signs of human trafficking 

human traffickingMarriott International marked National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month by announcing that it has successfully trained 500,000 people who work in its hotels how to recognise potential cases of human trafficking, and how to respond. Examples of the visible and hidden warning signs that Marriott shares with its hotel staff include: Minimal luggage and clothing; Multiple men seen being escorted one at a time to a guest room; Individuals who can't speak freely or seem disoriented; Guests who insist on little or no housekeeping.

To develop and test its human trafficking awareness training program, Marriott spent nearly a year collaborating with ECPAT-USA and Polaris – two leading NGOs specialising in combatting human trafficking. The company arranged for the program to be translated from English into 16 additional languages and also made sure it could be taken either online or in a classroom setting, so it can be accessed and understood in the 130 countries and territories where Marriott operates. The instruction is also broken down by role because the signs that a front desk clerk sees may differ from those that a housekeeper or bartender sees.

To further increase its impact, the company has also made the training available to academia and the wider industry through the American Hotel & Lodging Association Education Foundation, where the proceeds of the training bought by other lodging operators go back to support ECPAT-USA and Polaris.

Intrepid to reward agents who book the most sustainable tours

IntrepidIntrepid has launched a three month incentive scheme for its agents in the Americas to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Running until April 30th, the company's largest Purpose-Driven Agent Incentive to date rewards agents for "selling, leading and travelling with purpose." 

During the three month campaign, agents receive one Purpose Point for every client booked on one of Intrepid Group's 2,700 sustainable tours, with the top 30 agents receiving monthly prizes focused on Intrepid's sustainable travel experiences around the globe. At the end of the three months, the top 10 agents will win a free trip to Nepal, led by Intrepid Group cofounder Geoff Manchester and Shayna Zand, the company’s head of business development for the Americas.

"This is more than an incentive," said Zand. "It’s a celebration of the work that so many agents are doing to highlight sustainable tourism and the chance for travellers to help better the lives of people and conserve our planet."

Youth Career Initiative Celebrates It’s 5,000th Graduate 

YCINilantha Sampath has become to the 5,000 person to graduate from the Youth Career Initiative (YCI), following a ceremony in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He is the latest graduate of the programme having completed his training at the Hilton Colombo Residences. Like other YCI students, Nilantha faced a challenging start in life. Aged three, he was taken into the care of SOS Children’s Villages where he has lived ever since.

The launch of YCI in Sri Lanka in 2018 gave Nilantha new hope and the chance to experience life in an international hotel. Selected for the programme by the Hilton Colombo Residences, Nilantha embarked on a learning journey with mentors across a range of departments alongside attending classes in English, problem solving and communication. With his experience and newly acquired skills, Nilantha has been able to make his first step on the career ladder, securing a job as a commis chef at a four star hotel in Colombo. 

The YCI programme is a partnership with the global hotel industry to help young people improve their skills and secure employment. Currently active in 22 countries and 38 locations around the world, the programme includes Four Seasons, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, NH, Oberoi, Radisson, Soneva and Taj as hotel partners. The YCI programme achieved a 78% employment rate among its graduates last year. 

GSTC Asia-Pacific Sustainable Tourism Conference

GSTCThis month the 2019 GSTC Asia-Pacific Sustainable Tourism Conference will take place in Chiang Mai, Thailand, from February 27th to March 2nd.

The 2019 GSTC Asia-Pacific Conference will address the following themes:

1. Smart Destination Management
Destination Managers are increasingly applying new technologies to assist them with many aspects of their complex jobs in managing tourism destinations. "Smart Destinations" refers to data-driven decision-making and management of destinations.

2. Quality Tourism: Delivering Sustainable Quality Experiences
This track considers both the private sector and public sector destination managers offering more sustainable or responsible products and services.

3. Tourism Protecting Wildlife
The business of travel can either provide protection to wildlife by funding activities that create incentives for residents and governments to enforce protection laws and ethics, or it can cause much harm to wildlife. Awareness-raising is key, and this track will cover issues of importance to everyone involved in travel and tourism.

Speakers include:
Mr. Weerasak Kowsurat, Minister of Tourism and Sports, Thailand; Dr.Chuwit Mitrchob, Deputy Director, DASTA; Janice Lao, Director of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels; Lee Poston, Communications Director, WWF - Greater Mekong; Hazel Quek Xue Fang, Senior Executive, Corporate Responsibility, Hilton; Dr. Arnel Yaptinchay, Director, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines; Natalie Kidd, Managing Director, PEAK DMC; Willem Niemeijer, CEO, YAANA Ventures; John Roberts, Director of Conservation, Minor Hotels; Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach, Global Wildlife and Veterinary Advisor, World Animal Protection; Dr. Pakkanut Bansiddhi, Center of Elephant and Wildlife Research, Chiang Mai University; Mam-Jaranya Daengnoy, Director, The Thailand Community Based Tourism Institute; and many more...

The GSTC conference will bring together 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.

Learn more and register by February 20th:

Written and edited by Jeremy Smith

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