This year at WTM London, we are addressing some of the major sustainability challenges and asking who can do what about them. We need businesses and destination governments to step and take responsibility for making the choices that will make our sector sustainable. We have panels with industry experts considering what we can do to address decarbonisation of the sector, aviation, the challenge of building sustainable hotels, ensure water security, develop resilient destinations, conserve wildlife & biodiversity, reduce plastic waste and manage sites so that they are not damaged by overtourism.
There are two widely recognised existential threats to our species, to us: climate change and biodiversity loss.
Professor Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre at the University of Manchester was the opening speaker on World Responsible Tourism Day in 2015.
Five years on we have invited him to consider how well we are doing.
Every year that we delay making significant change allows the threat to grow and makes the solution more expensive in financial, economic and social terms. The challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss are still growing fast.
This year we have two panels looking at greenhouse gas emissions, both moderated by Tanya on World Responsible Tourism Day.
Wednesday 6th 11:15 Decarbonising Travel and Tourism: is the industry doing enough?
Our panel will share with you their views about how we address the challenge of reducing our carbon emissions – we cannot continue to leave it to others. We have brought together a panel which includes a city, a tour operator, a travel agent, an airline and the hotel sector.
Wednesday 6th 14:30 – 15:30 The Future of Aviation
The aviation industry has been described as the Achilles heel of the industry. There are challenges in all sectors of travel and tourism, but the elephant in the room is aviation. Airlines emit 80% of our industry’s greenhouse gasses and air travel is growing at 5% per year. As other industries reduce their carbon emissions aviation will account for ever-larger shares of global emissions. We have brought together a panel of experts to share their views about the prospects for the decarbonisation of air travel.
Tuesday 14:45 – 15:45 What can the travel industry contribute to the conservation of wildlife and habitats?
This year’s wildlife and habitats panel reflects the wide range of ways in which tourism can contribute to conservation. Ol Pejeta has a new Technology lab focused on wildlife conservation, and they are working to make a Northern White Rhino. Blood Lions campaigns with the industry against the lion trade. Tom Moorhouse will talk about the role of sanctuaries and their role in conservation, does tourism have anything to contribute? The Galapagos Conservation Trust is working to tackle plastic pollution, and World Animal Protection is campaigning against cetacean captivity. What more can the industry do to throw its considerable weight behind the conservation of habitat and species?
Monday 12:30-13:30 The Challenge of Building Sustainable Hotels
The hotels we are building now will presumably still be in business in 2050. We know that retrofitting sustainability is much more expensive than designing it in now. Our panel includes industry leaders from the International Tourism Partnership, BC Hospitality Group and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts addressing the challenge. How, when the major hotel brands no longer own the hotels they operate, can we ensure that more of them are built to the highest operating standards for sustainability? Whose responsibility is it?
Monday 16:15 – 17:00 Managing Crowded Sites
With increasing visitor numbers in ever more parts of the world, we need to find solutions to challenge of managing visitors so that the resource, natural or cultural, is not degraded, and to maintain high levels of visitor satisfaction. We have presentations from Park Güell in Barcelona, one of this year’s finalists in the World Responsible Tourism Awards, and community and management perspectives on the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland, recognised as one to watch last year. Both cases present replicable solutions to difficult sustainability challenges
Tuesday 10:15-11:00 Water Security, an issue for business and the community
We have destination managers from Kerala in India and South Africa talking about how to manage the challenges of floods and potable water shortages and two experts reviewing what accommodation providers can do to reduce their water consumption
Tuesday 12:45 – 13:45 Cities: Tourism, Sustainability and Resilience
Urban tourism is growing rapidly, fuelled by budget airlines and the increasing popularity of city breaks. The role of the DMO is shifting from marketing to management. Our panel will share the solutions they are developing drawing on their experience in Barcelona, South Africa and Finland.
Tuesday 15:45 – 17:00 Plastic Waste – what should the industry do?
Seven experts and practitioners will share with you practical solutions to drive down and eliminate single-use plastics throughout the sector. What might your business do to help your neighbours and the local communities tackle this persistent and poisonous waste product with a half-life of 450-800 years that when it degrades in sunlight the remains pass into our food chain.
The Responsible Tourism programme at WTM London focuses on solutions to the challenges we face in making our sector more sustainable and more resilient. My next blog will look at the other 11 Responsible Tourism sessions at WTM London this year. The biggest Responsible Tourism event in the world held annually in November. Focused on solutions and designed to help businesses and destinations thrive in increasingly difficult circumstances. Register for free today.