10 things I learned from WTM 2014 and its responsible tourism programme

10 things I learned from WTM 2014 and its responsible tourism programme

Having sat in almost every single seminar and event throughout the four days last week, I had plenty of chances to learn from some of the leading experts in the Industry. Here are 10 key facts and figures I learnt, and where possible a link to a video of them at WTM this year.

 1) Elephants could soon be gone from Africa

Colin Bell said that due to the escalating poaching crisis, the continent was losing 30,000 elephants a year to poachers, translating to 1 every 15 minutes. So bad has poaching become that it is now worth $18bn a year worldwide, with much of the money going to fund organised terrorism. The problem will continue to get worse, said Bell, if tourism industry doesn’t reform. “We are at tipping problem with tourism, but if it embraces its communities then tourism can be the sole provider of the solution,” he commented.

 Watch Colin Bell at WTM 2014 here: 

2) Anyone can have an adventure holiday

Joint winner of the main award at the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2014, Brazil’s Parque dos Sonhos is a remarkable inclusive resort in Brazil visited by able-bodied and disabled people alike, where all share in the activities, including canopy walks for the blind, ziplines for paraplegics, and white water rafting for quadriplegics. This made good business sense, too, as occupancy rate was 87% for 7 days a week, year round.

Watch Jose Francis Fernando at WTM 2014 here:

3) Orphanages should not be part of tourism

According to Bill Bell, Head of Child Protection at Save the Children, 80-90% of children in orphanages have actually got a parents. The orphanages operate as businesses, giving money to impoverished parents. ‘Orphanage tourism should be completely discouraged,’ he said.

4) Energy saving devices alone are not the way for tourism to address climate change problems

“Energy saving devices deliver savings, but they are not the answer, because the reality is that total emissions from the sector have gone up despite the fact that businesses keep adding technological solutions,” said Rebecca Hawkins from Responsible Hospitality Partnership.

Watch Rebeca Hawkins at WTM 2014 here:

5) Water is a big issue for tourism

Fran Hughes from the International Tourism Partnership said that research by her organization earlier this year found that for most hotels, water is considered a less important risk than health and safety and labour rights. Yet, she explained: “Demand for water will outstrip supply in 1/3 world in 16 years.” She said that investors increasingly look at water risk, whether from flooding or drought and that companies therefore need “quit seeing water risk as a sustainability issue, and see it as a core business risk”.

Watch Fran Hughes at WTM 2014 here:

 6) Coral reefs matter

Coral reefs absorb up to 90 per cent of wave energy, but rising sea temperatures and levels have destroyed corals and are wiping out beaches in places like Jamaica, Mexico and Barbados, putting livelihoods at risk,” said Rachel McCaffery from Intasave.

 Watch Rachel McCaffery at WTM 2014 here:

7) Brits care about animals abroad

Everyone knows British people like animals, so no surprise that 1 in 4 UK holidaymakers had an animal experience as part of their holiday according to ABTA research. They care about these animals welfare too, with 52% of British adults saying they’d be put off revisiting a country if they saw animal mistreated.

8) TUI is doing well with sustainable tourism

The world’s largest travel company TUI showed its increasing commitment to sustainability. I learned that 50% of the company’s UK travellers now go to hotels with Travelife accreditation, and TUI recently ranked first in FTSE 100 for environmental reporting. “We have a duty to our clients to make sure the destination is attractive and a duty to the destination to maintain its standards,” said Garry Wilson, Managing Director, Purchasing at TUI.

Watch Jane Ashton from TUI at WTM 2014 here:

 9) Cycling is booming for middle aged men in US

The World Travel Market Global Trends Report 2014 outlined certain key trends that developers of responsible tourism should pay particular attention to: cycling is now competing with golf for popularity amongst middle age men in the US, which is good news for those looking to create low carbon, slow tourism experiences

Watch the launch of the Trends Report here:

10) Peer to Peer dining is increasingly popular

Peer-to-peer dining websites – where you book to eat in locals homes or to be guided to favourite restaurants – are increasingly popular, showing the growing potential for intimately connected experiences based around unique local foods and culinary customs.

Watch the launch of the Trends Report here:


Jeremy Smith is a writer, speaker and sustainable tourism consultant. He is co-founder of Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, an initiative that supports tourism organisations in declaring a climate emergency and working together to reduce their carbon emissions in line with the Science Based Targets. He is the author of Transforming Travel - realising the potential of sustainable tourism (2018), and co-founder of Travindy.com, the travel industry sustainable tourism website news site. He consults widely on sustainable tourism strategy and communication, with recent clients including Bruges Ommeland, GSTC, English National Parks, Tripadvisor, the Travel Foundation, and the European Travel Commission. He is a member of Travalyst’s Independent Advisory Board and was a member of Rotterdam’s International Advisory Board in 2019, helping develop a new vision for the city’s tourism.


  1. alinedobbie says:

    Jeremy thank you; I will read through all this with great interest. We too enjoyed our two hectic days on Tuesday & Wednesday at WTM and found it very productive.

  2. Hi Jeremy, I could only attend for two days but it was good to meet you outside of cyberspace. Do you know if the Q&A sessions for each seminar will be uploaded as in previous years? Colin Bell got asked some very good questions and delivered some very informative answers in the Better Wildlife Tourism – Whose Responsibility session.

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