It was standing room only at the opening event of the responsible tourism program, “Partnerships for Better Tourism in Destinations.”
“We have a duty to our clients to make sure the destination is attractive and a duty to the destination to maintain its standards,” said Garry Wilson from TUI, explaining that his company increasingly works with its hotel partners to develop best practice through implementing sustainability standards such as Travelife. 50% of the company’s UK travelers now go to hotels with Travelife accreditation.
He criticized what he called “responsible gesture tourism”, where hotels do little more than take their guests to a local bar to buy handicrafts. Rather, he said, hotels have such significant demands in terms of energy and resource use that their approach needs to be much more integrated, from local sourcing or waste management to energy use. This doesn’t need to mean a heavy financial cost, he explained, citing the example of one of TUI’s hotels in Crete that has saved 200,000 euros over the last two years through implementing sustainability measures. “There are tangible benefits through a responsible approach to tourism that can led to tangible commercial benefits,” he added.
Chairman of Sunvil Holidays Noel Josephides was concerned that the growth of Online Travel Agencies means many don’t have the same connection to destinations as their traditional counterparts. Instead their relationship is little more than “scraping” content from other websites. “They don’t consider they should take any responsibility for destinations,” he said. “I don’t see how destinations can keep up when OTAs are growing so fast without a connection to them.”
His worries were reflected in the changes observed in his own destination by Cristian Alfaro Park, Head of the Tourism from Calviá, Mallorca. He explained that the changing ways people buy holidays means that: “where once 90 per cent came on typical package, now it is 35-40 per cent”. Reflecting on the demonstrations against tourism that took place in the last year in Catalunya, Patrick Torrent, Executive Director, Catalan Tourist Board, said: “It’s important we take this seriously, and ask different questions. We need to co-ordinate tour operators and mass media to raise awareness about our plans for our destination’s development.'”
“From developed to developing destinations, everyone needs partnerships because co-operation and collaboration is key to tourism” added Márcio Favilla L de Paula, Executive Director for Competitiveness, External Relations and Partnerships at the World Tourism Organization. “We need collaboration so people understand that value of tourism goes much beyond our sector.” Martin Brackenbury, Director, Classic Collection Holidays, observed that: “It would help if governments didn’t change ministers who are effective too often.”
Earlier in the day the World Travel Market Global Trends Report 2014 outlined several key trends that developers of responsible tourism should pay particular attention to, as they show that the sort of experiences responsible tourism often focusses on are increasingly being integrated into the mainstream. For example, cycling is now competing with golf for popularity amongst middle age men in the US, good news for those looking to create low carbon, slow tourism experiences.
Another trend is the growth of peer-to-peer dining websites, with one website – www.eatwith.com – using the tagline ‘experience life like a local’. Added to this, the fact that Tripadvisor purchased La Forchette earlier this year shows the growing potential for intimately connected experiences based around unique local foods and culinary customs.
Finally, the report stated that efforts were being made to rebrand parts of the Middle East as a design destination, with international and local events being held to ‘help revive Arabic culture and authenticity’ through developing tourism inspired by regional routes and traditional crafts.