Are we loving it to death!!! By Linda Pereira
Back in 1994 Sir Colin Marshall, CEO of British Airways, gave an interesting definition of the Tourism and Travel Industry: ” It is essentially the renting out, for short-term lets, of other people’s environments, whether that is a coastline, a city, a mountain range or a forest. These products must be kept fresh and unsullied, not just for the next day, but for every tomorrow.” Very true words they were and definitely, way ahead of their time.
I am a very privileged person. I have a career which allows me to travel all over the world, and there is very little I have not seen. Yet every time I visit a destination there is still something new to surprise me and create a sense of wonder as to just how beautiful our world is. I guess that I have always been a good traveler. And what do I mean by that? I absolutely love people: I love the differences, the uniqueness, the eccentricity the pure sensual experience of coming ace to face with someone who is different from me, believes different things and can expand my horizons by showing me a new perspective. And I have always been like this ever since childhood. I also love places, history and the wonder of why things are the way they are. But most of all I love trees and rocks. I cannot pass a tree or a rock without touching them hoping that somehow all the wisdom and history they have witnessed over the ages will magically transfer to me through contact!
So I guess that instinctively I have always traveled with respect hoping that what is left when I leave is as clean and perfect as possible so that the next traveler who comes that way may have the same experience as me.
And so I brought this philosophy to my company and to my Professional life as an international meeting planner and speaker. Happily today with Al Gore and others we are finally facing the need to become aware of how much harm we are doing to our environment, how much harm we are inflicting on local populations who grow poorer every day even though we visit them and stay in luxurious hotels while outside the door starving children rustle through the hotel garbage for the food we chose not to eat the night before.
The notion of Responsible Tourism was formulated for the first time in 1999 by the WTO (World Tourism Organization) when they adopted the principles of the “Global Code of Ethics for Tourism”, which promotes Responsible, Sustainable and Equitable Tourism.
They put forward 9 articles; all of them speak for themselves and deserve our attention:
Tourism’s contribution to a mutual understanding and respect between peoples and societies
Tourism as a vehicle for individual and collective fulfillment
Tourism, a factor of sustainable development
Tourism, a user of the cultural heritage of mankind and contributor to its enhancement
Tourism, a beneficial activity for host countries and communities
Obligations of stakeholders in tourism development
Right to tourism
Liberty of tourist movements
Rights of workers and entrepreneurs in the tourism industry
When speaking about Responsible Tourism, many different interpretations and definitions can be cited.
Responsible Tourism minimizes the negative economic, environmental and social impacts: it should benefit local people and improve their working conditions also by involving them in the decisions.
Responsible Tourism should definitely contribute to the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage and should forge more meaningful connections with the local people.
Last but not least, Responsible Tourism should be culturally sensitive and engender respect. Responsible Tourism has of course many variants such as Eco Tourism, Agro Tourism and Sustainable Tourism.
At CPL Events we started working with Responsible Tourism over 20 years ago. Every event we organize w ego a long way to educate our clients. We take a Corporate Responsibility Oriented approach to forging relations with the communities that live in the host destination. This is particularly the case when the standard of living of the host community is markedly below that of our conference delegates or incentive travel participants. The apparent luxury and extravagance that are evident in some events stand out in stark contrast to the abject poverty and chronically disadvantaged conditions in which the local inhabitants live. We make sure our clients are encouraged to invest time and money in the communities in partnership with charities or non-profit organizations operating in the destination. We include elements in the programs that are designed to make a real difference to the disadvantaged members of the local community. For us this has become a matter of routine. In destinations such as Mozambique, Romania, Cape Verde, the Azores and Brazil we have invited guests and delegates to make a contribution to the local communities through fundraising campaigns and voluntary work. For example, during the free day of the event, delegates are invited to devote their time to helping build a local school, to planting a garden or to raising Money to equip a school gymnasium. And these deeds need not necessarily be confined to the country where the conference is taking place. During a recent congress in Australia, the delegates raised Money to buy books for a school library in the neighboring war-torn country of East Timor. When we took a group of people over to Morocco to plant olive trees for the local community. The meetings with the local people, the positive interaction and the feeling of satisfaction at the end of a job well done opened up a whole new way of looking at the incentive business. Incentives can be so much more than a week in a 5-star hotel on a beach in an idyllic location. Of course those incentives have their place in the market and they definitely will continue being in demand, but times are changing, people are increasingly aware of the need to have not only respect for our planet but even more for the people who inhabit our planet.
It is important to take people away from their cozy daily lives and confront them in a positive way with the needs in other parts of the world.
Responsible tourism does not have to be about hardship in basic accommodation, but it is about visiting people in their own country, city, village and having a positive exchange with them whilst helping to make their lives better. It is about choosing to eat locally produced food, choosing locally owned restaurants, opting to buy only certified local handicrafts and about respecting local customs and local communities.
I guess we can all just travel, play golf, sightsee, go to the spa and then go home…but would that memory just be a little bit sweeter if we knew that we had left a little of ourselves behind and somewhere someone would remember our brief passing through their lives and their city…for the right reasons!
The bottom line: we can ALL make a difference, for ourselves, for our clients but also for the children of the world…our future world!
CASE STUDIES: GREAT EXAMPLES OF TOURISM RESPONSABILITY FROM ROUND THE WORLD
Pledge of a Nation
Morocco has sent a bold message to the world by saying that as a government they are totally committed tot he environment. Morocco believes that pushing for a sustainable agenda is not only good for its population but also for its visitors. The country is reaching out ambitiously to attract tem million visitors by 2010. It aims to do that without causing damage to its culture, social well-being, natural heritage and natural resources. These ideas embrace with equal strength the principles of keeping Morocco’s finest traditions intact. The objectives in building basic infrastructures are to stimulate income-generating activities and Professional training for the locals which will increase quality of life and contribute to excellent tourist experiences. And without causing any damage to the rural landscape and heritage. This is a highly acclaimed example of responsible tourism which other countries are now copying and which UNESCO has complimented. Morocco believes that tourism can promote closer ties, peace and understanding and co-operation to defend ethics, the environment and equality among nations.
Hotel Punta Islita in Costa Rica has turned responsible tourism into an art form. And some of the results hang majestically on the walls around the world. The initiative is Islita Open Contemporary Art Museum launched in 2003. It’s a collaboration of established national and international artists with local counterparts to produce murals and sculpture using the village in Costa Rica as its canvas. This innovative project is not only a joy to behold but also showcases how creativity is a catalyst for hope, enthusiasm, enterprise, environmental awareness and rich interaction between guests and locals. More than 20 micro businesses have sprung up from this initiative.
Spreading the Light!
Recently a congress held in Cape Verde on Renewable Energies developed an initiative with the local council and donated a percentage of its profits for the purchase of over 20,000 energy saving light bulbs to be donated to the city. This idea became so popular that every event that now takes place carries an initiative which will compensate for the carbon footprint cost of flying to this island destination.
In an upcoming post you can read what Linda recommends about responsible travel, meetings and more.
Linda Pereira is the International Liaison to Women in Ecommerce and the Travel Editor for WE Magazine for Women. Her company CPL Events is one of the most respected travel, tourism and translation companies in all of Europe. If you are in Europe or plan to travel to Europe at any point, be sure to visit her website at www.CPLEVENTS.pt and tell her you heard about her company on the WE Magazine website.