Celebrating, debating and developing leadership in Responsible Tourism

WTM responsible tourism badges
The Responsible Tourism programme at WTM 2014 was the biggest yet and best attended

The Responsible Tourism Programme at World Travel Market in London, Sao Paulo and Cape Town each year is about leadership. In London panels, debates and the Stephen Sackur interview are all designed to bring out the issues, to discuss solutions and to encourage more responsible business. Since the first Responsible Tourism events at WTM in 2007, we have sought to inform, educate and challenge. The programme now extends over all four days of the London show and it is established in Sao Paulo and Cape Town. We are seeking to harness the influence of World Travel Market, as an international business forum, to encourage the industry to drive the Responsible Tourism agenda forward.

This year we had a panel on Monday, with standing room only, with tour operators discussing with representatives of Barcelona and Calvia how they could work in partnership together to manage tourism better. The first panel on Tuesday was able to see some economic impact data of the kind we have come to expect in judging the Awards. The ‘debate’ on Child Protection on Wednesday set the agenda for the travel and tourism industry and WTM (watch this space, the report of the outcomes of that panel will come shortly).  The session on river and lake cruising established some new links between the Travel Foundation and boat operators, where there is much work still to be done.  The panel on employment conditions on Thursday morning raised the issues of low wages, migrant labour, the London living wage and in-work welfare benefits; and put them on our agenda. All the audio and video recordings of the Responsible Tourism sessions at WTM are now on the legacy webpage.

How can tourism address poaching in Africa, discussed at World Travel Market 2014
Charlie Mayhew, Colin Bell and Steven Sackur debate poaching at World Responsible Tourism Day 2014

The World Responsible Tourism Awards are announced on the World Responsible Tourism Day each year on the Wednesday of the London show. It is preceded by the Stephen Sackur interview where a key issue is addressed with Stephen probing for information, a definition of the problem and a solution. This year the challenge of poaching and the trade in ivory, horn, skins and bones was probed and a solution suggest by Colin Bell. Colin argued that the travel and tourism industry needs to put more money into funding the protection of the species on which the safari industry depends. You can watch the interview online.

Just like the Responsible Tourism Programme of panels, interviews and debates the Awards are designed to push the agenda and be a catalyst for change. The detailed reasons for the decisions which the judges made are available on line. We change the categories a little each year, new this year were the people with disabilities and the animal welfare awards, and the winners were cutting-edge.

World Responsible Tourism Day official supporter at their stand
More and more companies, both large and small, are realising the importance of acting responsibly, and the benefits it brings them too.

Over the last twenty years we have developed a great deal of knowledge about how we can make our industry more sustainable. The point is to take responsibility and ensure that tourism contributes to sustainable development. The Gold Award for Thomson Airways is a classic example of the essential process: establish what the negative impacts are; identify solutions; implement the best solutions you can and monitor and report the outcomes of your actions.

Thomson Airways “have accepted responsibility, set targets for carbon reduction, and then delivered on them. Over the past three years, Thomson has improved its airline carbon efficiency by 7.4%, achieving average carbon emissions of 69.5g per Revenue Passenger Kilometre (RPK). This has been achieved through a mixture of on-going efficiency planning, direct routings, adjusting maintenance regimes, adapting on-board operations to reduce weight carried, and investment in cutting edge aviation technology. They have demonstrated what can be achieved, using current approaches, to improve carbon efficiency. TUI has demonstrated that marginal gains in fuel efficiency deliver reduced carbon emissions  now – they set short term targets and meet then.”

They chose to act now, using all the available technologies, they set targets and exceeded them – they have not waited for a solution of be found in the future, they have understood the imperative to take responsibility and act now.

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Harold is WTM’s Responsible Tourism Advisor, he puts together the flagship Responsible Tourism programme at WTM London which attracted 4000 participants in 2020 and the programmes run at WTM Africa, WTM Latin America and Arabian Travel Market. Harold has worked on 4 continents with local communities, their governments and the inbound and outbound tourism industry. He is Managing Director of the Responsible Tourism Partnership and chairs the panels of judges for the World Responsible Tourism Awards and the other Awards in the family, Africa, India and Latin America. Harold works with industry, local communities, governments, and conservationists and undertakes consultancy and evaluations for companies, NGOs, governments, and international organisations. He is also a Director of the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he is an Emeritus Professor, and Founder Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism promotes the principles of the Cape Town Declaration which he drafted.

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