Responsible Tourism at WTM Africa has global relevance

Responsible Tourism at WTM Africa has global relevance

We can learn much about tourism in Africa – celebrating diversity and inclusiveness, growing the cake to create more value for neighbouring communities, living with and benefitting from biodiversity (some of it dangerous), and the importance of transparency. One of the few benefits of a virtual programme is that we can have speakers from around the world on the panels at WTM Africa and that they can be shared worldwide.

The Responsible Tourism programme at WTM Africa can be accessed here 

You can register for the event here

Last week’s blog was about storytelling and the importance of narrative in understanding, and misunderstanding, our world; we are a storytelling species. We have much to learn from Africa about storytelling and the celebration of diversity. Keith Henry is Métis and President of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada. He reminds us about the ownership of culture and that it belongs to those who live it. We should not turn it into a museum exhibit, that living cultures evolve. Keith so clearly nails it: “if it is about us, it must be with us, and it cannot be without us.”

From the outset, the Responsible Tourism Movement has valued transparency, asking that people claiming to have taken responsibility explain what they have done, and why, and crucially report the outcome and impact. Only thus can greenwashing be minimised. In the first panel with speakers from Canada, Chile, India and South Africa we discuss Progress in Responsible Tourism

What solutions can we point to that make tourism better? Solutions that have been tried and tested and proven to deliver results? How much progress have we made? What should be our priorities for the next decade? How can we achieve more?

  • Niki Glen CEO, Africa Ignite, Namibia
  • Shannon Guihan, Chief TreadRight & Sustainability Officer, The Travel Corporation, USA
  • Tim Harris CEO Wesgro
  • Manisha Pande Managing Director Village Ways India
  • Eugenio Yunis, Former Director of Tourism and Sustainable Development UNWTO

Sisa Ntshona talked about the challenge of managing tourism during the pandemic as it ebbed and flowed and the importance of domestic tourism with many people discovering or rediscovering their own country. When tourism stops, people realise how much they too benefit from it. Many businesses had to lower their rates in a situation where some business is better than no business. Tourism became more accessible to domestic tourists, an opportunity to reignite the love of a country for domestic travellers. As elsewhere around the world, rural areas attracted more visitors but sometimes lacked the infrastructure to manage increased numbers, while city ‘business’ hotels suffered more from low occupancy.

Sisa reports that Responsible Tourism has been reignited in South Africa as destinations have stepped up to take the lead in managing tourism, recognising that the more responsible destinations have a competitive advantage. South Africa is recalibrating how it shows itself to the world, enabling domestic and international tourists to immerse themselves in the local cultures and discover the hidden gems. Inclusiveness is becoming more important – we all have a story to tell and “inclusion does not come at the cost of exclusion.”

What role for certification? Continues the discussion begun at WTM Virtual in November last year about how certification can empower travellers and holidaymakers to make more informed choices and drive sustainable tourism development. Reflecting on the last two decades, what have we learnt about what works and why? How can we increase the effectiveness of certification in delivering sustainable tourism? The international panel includes Kelly Bricker from GSTC, Andrea Nicholas from Green Business, Olivia Ruggles-Brise from Greenview and Lee-Anne Bac from BDO Advisory Services. Fair Trade Tourism is the only label that conveys a commitment to socio-economic inclusion and that shares Responsible Tourism’s commitment to fairness, transparency, and respect.  Lisa Scriven from Utopia Africa talks about Fair Trade Tourism’s experience with GSTC.

One of our panels tackles the question How can tourism create more value for local communities? Inclusion and reducing poverty are as crucial as tackling climate change and biodiversity loss as post-COVID we struggle to realise the Sustainable Development Goals’ aspirations. We’ve brought together a panel of practitioners from Africa and India to share their experience of how best we can create sufficient value to raise local people’s living standards in the areas that attract tourists.

  • Adama Bah, Founder, Institute of Travel& Tourism, The Gambia
  • James Fernie, Director at Uthando, South Africa
  • Rupesh Kumar, State RT Mission Coordinator, Government of Kerala, India
  • Glynn O’Leary CEO, Transfrontier Parks Destinations, South Africa
  • Salifou Siddo CEO: SME TradeLinks

Africa offers some of the very best opportunities to see charismatic mega-fauna on land and in the sea. Our panel continues the discussion started at WTM Virtual in November about the relationship between biodiversity and tourism, addressing the question Friend or Foe? Our panel is moderated by Shaun Vorster, Advisory Board of World Tourism Forum Lucerne & Professor Extraordinaire, University of Stellenbosch Business School and comprises:

  • Dr Luthando Dzib, Co-Chair Multidisciplinary Expert Panel of Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Service
  • Professor Emma Archer, Associate Professor in Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Pretoria, South Africa
  • Paul Simkin, Founding member of Nkwichi Lodge, Mozambique
  • Michael Lutzeyer, Owner of Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa
  • Richard Anthony Vigne,  Managing Director, Ol Pejeta Conservancy Group, Kenya

Gorilla Highland Experts is a responsible travel membership service offering unique online resources and events enabling people to enjoy the Gorilla Highlands region shared by Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo — virtually or in-person. Storytelling is the foundation of their work. The experts are “people planning to visit the Gorilla Highlands, people who have already been and want to stay in touch, and people who are just looking for quality relaxation”.

They have been reflecting on how they feel about ecotourism and sustainability and found them both wanting:

In the name of sustainability, development organisations have often implemented strategies in poor countries that they think have ecological benefits, but that are detrimental to local communities. Those strategies then often prove to be harmful to the forests and the animals in the long run as well. When the first national park Yellowstone was created in 1872, indigenous people had to move out and make place for tourists and visitors to enjoy the ‘unspoiled nature’. Ironically, the removal of the indigenous population led to an ecosystem imbalance. After hunting was forbidden, the park rangers had to start killing game animals because the population got too high. So the park still needed to be constantly managed by people.

As we choose to focus on responsibility, it reminds us to continuously consider the implications of our actions. To not just follow the dominant discourses on what is considered ecologically sustainable, but to stick around and see what we can do in the long-term, to ’embrace the difficulty’ as we have called it before. It is about positive actions that we can take to help the planet and all its residents, gorillas and humans alike.

Read their blog and listen to their discussion here.

The WTM Africa programme can be accessed here, where it will be available post-show.

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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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