I am just back from speaking on the first World Hospitality Day at the 51st Annual Congress of the International Hotel and Restaurant Association in Interlaken where there was a panel on Changing Frameworks for Sustainability. There are some serious problems associated with the word sustainability, we have not managed to define in ways that enable us to measure. There are many in business who will argue that if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it – and I am inclined to agree. One of the great advantages of the large corporates having engaged with the sustainability agenda is that they have begun to set targets, measure their performance and report on progress. Staff have KPIs which relate to their contribution to achieving the targets. I argued in Interlaken that it is time to stop talking about the abstract and vague aim of sustainability – time to ban the “S” word.
It was in 1968 that we first saw that dramatic first colour image of Earthrise that came back the Apollo 8 mission. It is too easy to forget that we inhabit a finite earth, a natural spaceship. Most of us subscribe to the view that we hold the earth and our environment in trust for our children, it is an important principle but is doesn’t change the way most of us live our lives, the idea of sustainability is important but it is inoperative. We use the idea to justify business as usual; it rarely impacts on the way we behave.
So if we ban the “S” word where does that leave us? If we start with the specifics it immediately becomes clearer about what we can do about it. If water is an issue we can respond by reducing consumption, using it more efficiently. We know that most plastics are not biodegradable – we can recycle and reuse or shift to using biodegradable plastics
We can increase the local economic benefits which arise from tourism by buying locally produced goods. We can campaign against child sexual exploitation and for human rights. By determining local priorities, the things which matter locally to people and their natural and cultural environment, and responding we can make a difference. When we respond we take responsibility and as Denis Wormwell, Chief Executive at Shearings Holidays, pointed out at one of our conferences “responsibility is free, you can take as much of it as you can handle”.
On 3rd and 4th April the 8th International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations comes to Manchester and we’ll be discussing the issues of carbon and climate change, local economic development and human rights with a host of industry speakers. These include: Elise Allart, Manager Sustainable Tourism TUI Nederland; Jane Ashton, Director of Group Sustainable Development at TUI Travel PLC.; James Berresford, CEO of VisitEngland; Caroline Brown, ABTA UK Leisure and Tourism Group Chairman and Commercial Director of Shearings Holidays; Andy Cooper, Director of Government and External Affairs, Thomas Cook Group; Justin Francis CEO, reponsibletravel.com; Tony Gates, Chief Executive, Northumberland National Park; Dr Jon Lamonte, Chief Executive of Transport for Great Manchester; Peter Lane, Chair of British Destinations Executive; Stephen Miles, Founder Hotel Future The National Hospitality Training Academy; Simon Press, World Travel Market, Paul Simpson, Managing Director, Visit Manchester; Nikki White, Head of Destinations and Sustainability, ABTA.
Travel and tourism are what we make them, we can change the way we travel and holiday to make better experiences for consumers, better business for companies and better places to live in for people. We can make tourism better, in Manchester the debates will be about how to do it.
(Click on the logo or http://www.crtmmu.org/rtd8/ to find out more and book your place at the conference.)