Six of the world’s leading sustainable tourism organisations aim no longer “to be side-lined” by mainstream travel but to put sustainability at the core of Covid-19 recovery efforts.
The six launched the Future of Tourism Coalition last week and Jeremy Sampson, chief executive of the Travel Foundation, said: “We don’t want to be just a bunch of side-lined organisations shouting in the wind about things that need to happen.”
The Travel Foundation joined Sustainable Travel International, the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), the Destination Stewardship Center, Green Destinations and Tourism Cares in setting up the Future of Tourism Coalition.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly Roadmap to Recovery webcast, Sampson said: “As non-governmental organisations [NGOs], most of us have been around for 20 years and been having this discussion pretty much for the entirety of our existence.”
He insisted: “We don’t want to be side-lined anymore. We want a strong voice.”
Sustainable Travel International chief executive Paloma Zapata said: “We need different metrics to measure success [in tourism]. It can’t just be volume, volume, volume and not take stock of the cost of creating that volume.
“Tourism encompasses everything from the infrastructure impact to community impact, nature, the environment and ecosystems.”
Sampson suggested that prior to the Covid-19 pandemic: “There was some real progress in people understanding that the industry could not continue in the way it was.
“We had some quite large tourism companies approach us in January and February and say, ‘Our customers are asking what we’re doing?”
He suggested the travel industry had failed to support NGOs to the extent that some other sectors had.
Sampson said: “Look at other industries and you see well-supported ‘third sectors’ which provide tools, solutions, research and advocacy. It’s high time we had this [in travel]. The sector needs it.
“There is a need to support the development of solutions and the dissemination of research and good practice and this is something the industry has not supported well over the years.”
He added: “It needs to start with an awareness of the challenges tourism faces.
“Our report last year on The Invisible Burden of Tourism highlighted the gap in information most destinations have on the negative impacts of tourism and the costs of servicing tourism.”
Sampson insisted: “It’s important to recognise what the industry is going through. Jobs have been lost, livelihoods have been lost.
“We work in countries that are extremely tourism dependent and the economy is contracting in ways that are unimaginable.
“Understandably, there will be a desire to get things going again and to get the economy back up.
“But what the problem was before, and what the problem will be again, is that destinations do not have the capacity, the tools or the mandate to deal with the implications of growth.”
He said: “The root issue is making sure we understand the implications of growth and the impacts of tourism and have solutions in place to be able to do things differently.”
Zapata added: “We are not saying ‘You need to invest more in something that is not going to give you returns’. It’s quite the opposite. If you do things correctly, you can have better experiences and better destinations.
“Now is the time to build more sustainable businesses and destinations that are able to withstand shocks – because more of these shocks will come. Climate change and future pandemics are real threats.”