Addressing key issues of Climate Change, Water Scarcity, and Child Protection on World Responsible Tourism Day 2013

Published on : Thursday, November 7, 2013

wtm-world-responsible-tourism-day-2013Perhaps the most important comment of the largest day of responsible tourism action in the world – World Responsible Tourism Day – was the last one, made by WTM’s Responsible Tourism Advisor Harold Goodwin as he closed the debate on water. He observed that far more people were in the audience for marketing responsible tourism, than turned up to the three events addressing Climate Change, Water Scarcity, and Child Protection. But, he told everyone: “Tui won the overall Responsible Tourism award this year precisely because they had the courage to take on an issue like Child Protection and put in the mainstream.”
Earlier, Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director of WTM, opened World Responsible Tourism Day with a reminder that not only is the London event the largest responsible tourism initiative in the world, it is also supported by actions taking place all around the planet, and declaring: “Responsible Tourism should be in every boardroom.”
The opening event was a roundtable on tourism and carbon pollution, chaired by BBC HARDtalk’s Steven Sackur, and which Press called: “The key issue for the industry.” Johan Lundgren, Deputy Chief Executive of Tui Travel claimed it wasn’t just a matter of doing the right thing, that it made business sense. “Cutting carbon emissions increases our competitive advantage and saves us millions,” he said. He also criticised long term sustainability and emissions targets as being too easy to ignore, stating “Targets need to be for short term, to incentivise organisations and penalise bad behaviour.”
Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Tourism for South Africa, said: “It is indefensible that we continue to conduct ourselves as we did in the past,” but added that it was essential for developing countries not to be penalised for damage that was mostly the fault of richer countries like the US.
There was little agreement on whether taxes could provide the solution, with Jumeirah Group CEO Johan Lundgren commenting: “Have you ever seen a government that spends the tax its raises on the things it needs to be spent on?”
The other major debate of the day was on water, with the motion being: “This house believes that the tourism industry will not do enough to achieve appropriate reductions in water usage without regulation by national governments.”
Richard Reed from Prestige Purchasing brought vital perspective from outside tourism, revealing that according to Accor, 86 per cent of hotel water use is in food and drink, once you include embedded water. It takes 70 litres of water to grow an apple. 185 litres of water to make bag of crisps. 2400 litres to make a burger, he revealed. But, he said: “Hotels don’t look at embodied water in food products when choosing what suppliers to work with,” adding that the industry’s approach to the water crisis was like “standing on beach looking wrong way when a huge wave comes in.”
Inge Huijbrechts, Vice President Responsible Business, The Rezidor Hotel Group, argued that a better solution than legislation was to incentivise good practice and that: “If we wait for legalisation it will take too long to make changes, and the business case strong enough anyway.” Mark Watson from Tourism Concern disagreed, saying: “Hotels are good at doing things that save them money, like towel washing, but make little effort to lead on sustainability issues otherwise.”
As Harold Goodwin commented in closing the debate, a notable exception was the winner of the overall Responsible Tourism award. TUI Nederland won the prize for its work combatting child sex tourism in Brazil. They have run shocking poster campaigns in Dutch airports, choosing to use the space not to promote their hotels but to highlight the seriousness of the issue. They have also trained 150 vulnerable young children with tourism skills, and half are now working in tourism rather than as prostitutes. Receiving the award, Elise Allart, sustainable development manager, TUI Netherlands, called to the industry as a whole to work with them. “Child sex tourism is a complex issue where root causes need to be addressed to make a difference,” she said. “This is a huge problem and we need huge partners to solve problem.”

Source:- WTM


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