More industry stakeholders now recognize what practices are effective for their sustainability journeys. In the overall industry, however, gaps persist and there’s still a lot more work to do to put these strategies into practice. That was what we heard this week from industry leaders during our sustainable tourism summit.
The rhetoric has been been louder for more sustainable, green travel, as the winding down of the global pandemic signals a new start for many tourist destinations and travel companies. On Wednesday, Skift sought to parse through what is real, and what are just words, to offer some concrete solutions to the industry with its Skift Sustainable Tourism Summit online. Destinations actively being more inclusive of marginalized communities was certainly one major takeaway. Others included the superiority of science-based carbon targets over carbon offsets, unsustainable labor practices, action on climate change remains inadequate and sustainable stances can win over investors.
Much of Action on Climate Change Remains Weak
Many industry suppliers still are not serious about combating climate change. Only 10 out of the 1,100 airlines and 20 out of over 400,000 hotels have joined the UN’s Race to Zero campaign, Skift Senior Vice President of Research Haixia Wang shared in a presentation.
A lot of industry efforts remains talk and surface level. “Half of companies, maybe even a little bit more, still hasn’t done anything,” said Intrepid Travel chairman and co-founder Darrell Wade told us. “At the World Travel and Tourism Council, there is a good number of companies talking the right way and a certain number that are really committing, but not enough companies putting rubber on the road.”
Sustainable Tourism Is Everyone’s Business
Successful sustainable tourism requires historically marginalized communities be involved in how destinations are managed, maintained and marketed to visitors. There’s a greater recognition than before to ensure communities benefit as well as have a greater say in the tourism that flows to their areas.
Destination Greater Victoria CEO and President Paul Nursey said his organization learned from its past mistakes on how to collaborate with Indigenous groups. The Songhees, an Indigenous people of Greater Victoria, have historically been marginalized in Canada. In fact, Greater Victoria’s flagship hotel is built on Songhees’ traditional climbing bed, according to Nursey. In the 1990s, their areas suffered from overtourism.
Fast forward, the Songheese now take the lead in tourism to their lands. “Through tourism and the visitor economy, they are reclaiming their identities through walking tours and canoe tours,” Nursey said. “They have chosen to deliberately that tourism will be a force for good and part of claiming who they are.” Destination Greater Victoria provides marketing, research and other kinds of support to the Songheese and moves in “lockstep and to make sure it’s their stories to tell and it’s not ours.”
VisitScotland CEO Malcolm Roughead told us he worked with destination stakeholders to develop a visitor management plan that enables “fragile, rural” communities to benefit economically and environmentally from the tourism they receive. “Without those communities, we wouldn’t have a product to offer,” said Roughead.
In some countries, however, communities remain excluded. In fact, many are treated condescendingly. “Communities are always wiling but most the time they are excluded,” said Sustainable Tourism and Travel Agenda Founder and principal consultant Judy Kepher Gona. “They are told they don’t understand.”
To read all takeawayes, visit Skift.
This is an excerpt from an article by Dawit Habtemariam, originally published by Skift.