Friday, 14 November 2008

Sustainable Travel & Tourism - can travel change its ways before it's too late?

Today's travel industry, media and consumers have some serious issues to get their heads around
Firstly, the majority of travellers are pondering the affordability of travel full-stop. Can we really afford to dream, escape, explore as much as we'd like or are used too?

Facing up to the reality of that question, the industry has had to become even more savvy, focusing on low-cost alternatives to their more indulgent travel experiences. They're also having to take 'baby steps,' as a representative of a well-known car rental company put it, to maximise dwindling PR and Marketing budgets via social networking sites, blogs and web 2.0 applications. Rather than splash out on glossy print ads, they're having to investigate how to up their brand's presence for free, online.

So we are faced by the reality of smaller travel companies and independents that are fighting for their financial life and clinging on by their fingertips to stay connected to the changing online world.

They have to face these issue right now, and that's before we even touch on the immediate need to start saving Planet Earth.

Let's park web 2.0 for a sec to focus on facing the long-overdue strategic solutions needed to enable sustainable tourism across the board
Again, the industry is dragging its heels on this. Nearly 30 years ago, I remember receiving a Friends of the Earth hardback annual from an environmentally-aware Santa. Acid rain, global warming and the threat of extinction have haunted me ever since. The areas of the travel industry that I've worked in haven't been operational enough to take a management stance over providing low-impact accommodation or initiatives in the local community, where the focus now needs to be. But I must have some peers who are decision makers, hoteliers, local government planning officials and construction companies. Don't they see that building golf courses on the edge of Marrakech or seabed dredging in Dubai isn't healthy or sustainable in the slightest? What are they doing to ensure that travel and tourism doesn't continue to contribute to the destruction of natural and local life?

I can't fathom how 30 years have slipped by and the message of eco-awareness is still having to be hammered home? And why the travel industry had a World Responsible Tourism Day this week, in 2008? Better late than never, of course.

I'd put this to all decision makers in the travel industry
You think the Credit Crunch is a problem? Are alarm bells ringing because you don't have a blog? Why not squeeze one more thing, beyond these concerns, into your business plan for the next ten years. Make it a genuine, measurable and committed plan for Sustainable Tourism. Take everything that you heard at World Travel Market's World Responsible Tourism Day on board: today, this year, not in another 30 years.

Here's three reasons to celebrate World Responsible Tourism Day
- The pleasure and pain of Mark Edwards' environmental call to action Hard Rain
- The BBC's Stephen Sackur's understandable confusion with Minaz Abji's linguistics, when he described the sustainable tourism agenda in regards the hotel business as a Tsunami. Minaz, - Executive Vice President, Host Hotels & Resorts, a company that partners with Marriott®, Ritz-Carlton®, Westin®, Sheraton®, The Luxury Collection®, Hyatt®, Fairmont®, Four Seasons®, Hilton®, and SwissĂ´tel® - we were all left wondering this: why the negative connotation?
- Sri Lanka tourism's pledge to be carbon neutral by 2018

Hard Rain
pulled at the industry's heart strings, while WTM chairman Fiona Jeffery took on the travel industry's purse strings, commenting,

“Businesses suffer from the misconception that responsible tourism strategies can mean taking a hit on profits."

“If responsible tourism activity is integrated with a well orchestrated business plan, it can have a positive impact on overall performance and has resulted in some highly successful businesses reaping the benefits of responsible tourism."

“A clear signal has now gone out to the world that responsible tourism must be at the top of the agenda, but this definitely does not mean the industry has to forgo profits.”

“Businesses suffer from the misconception that responsible tourism strategies can mean taking a hit on profits."