The World Responsible Tourism Programme is now in its eighth year at WTM. There were 12 events over all four days of the show with 55 speakers, attracting 2000+ participants, exchanging knowledge and debating how best to achieve sustainability in travel and tourism. The WTM London programme is the largest Responsible Tourism event of the year and it plays a major role in setting the agenda. Most of the sessions are videoed, for a few we have only sound recordings, over the next week or so they will go up on the web.
For the first time this year there was a panel on Monday, and it was standing room only to hear major tourism operators discussing with destination managers the challenges of seasonality, overcrowding and the negative social impacts of mass tourism. These are issues to which we shall return next year.
There were six sessions on Tuesday, the session on how to communicate Responsible Tourism to increase sales was, not surprisingly, standing room only. Increasing the Local Economic Impact of Tourism attracted a lot of interest and the panellists were able to provide both detailed advice about how to do it, and data on what could be achieved. The panel has moved on now from discussing the theory to looking at the results.
The panel on Reducing Energy and Water Consumption drew the smallest audience despite the fact that the latest IPCC report on global climate change had been published only a few days before. Increasing apathy faced by the challenge of mitigating and adapting to global warming is a growing problem. The next major conference on climate change is in Paris 30 November to 11 December 2015. At WTM next year, in the run up to the conference, we’ll be discussing what the travel and tourism industry can do to address the challenge.
In the panel on social inclusion we addressed the issues of low income and disability which exclude so many from taking a holiday and we heard about some reasonably priced opportunities for people with disabilities to engage in adventure activities with their able bodied friends and family. The session on social inclusion attracted a good audience, as did child protection which attracted many more participants than in previous years. The child protection panel, with participation from Save the Children, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the UK Border Force, as well travel industry professionals, mapped out an agenda for the next few years, the session was very well received – we shall be coming back to the child protection issue and what the industry can do to take responsibility in 2015.
The sessions on wildlife tourism and animal welfare were lively as was the Stephen Sackur interview with Colin Bell, formerly of Wilderness Safaris, and Chris Mayhew of TUSK – well worth watching online now. There was standing room only for the World Responsible Tourism Awards with a dozen or so Ministers of Tourism present and many senior industry people. If you weren’t there you can watch the ceremony online. The judges deliberate long and hard over their decisions – if you want to understand why they made the decisions they did, download the judges’ reasons here.
For the first time we addressed river cruising and set the agenda on what the industry can do to take responsibility for making freshwater cruising more sustainable. There were some useful connections made during the session, so we shall wait to see where they lead. We made more progress too this year in the panel on labour conditions in the industry, and we shall be returning to this issue next year. After several years of looking at volunteering we finished by looking at what advice should be given to people looking to volunteer abroad. We have made some progress over the last three years but there still a lot of bad practice to be countered and discouraged, so we shall be returning to the issue at WTM Latin America in April.
We shall shortly begin planning for the Responsible Tourism Programme at WTM London in 2015…