Outlook South Asia Responsible Tourism Summit 2018

Outlook Responsible Tourism Summit 2018

The 2017 Summit Report can be downloaded here 

The South Asia Edition

 ‘Staying Ahead—Vision 2020’    

January 19-20, 2018

New Delhi

Come help us build a sense of community, and draw strength from it, across India—and South Asia.

In the third edition of our Responsible Tourism Summit 2018 & the Indian Responsible Tourism Awards, a regional partner of the WTM Responsible Tourism Awards, London, our focus will be wider. Not only will we include best practices from India, but we’ll also highlight the best and the brightest examples from some of our neighbouring countries in South Asia—Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Maldives. The idea, as always, is to gather knowledge and share it widely. To learn from some of the pioneers of sustainability in our region, and better our own business models. To bring real change and counter the forces of climate change and mindless mass tourism models, we ought to find common solutions to common, quintessentially South Asian problems.

  • The Outlook Responsible Tourism Summit is the only platform in India that addresses the socio-economic and environmentally sensitive issues impacting tourism for both private and public stakeholders.
  • Not only do we try to understand and overcome challenges that are India-specific, we also bring in global and now, regional voices, including some of the best-known international experts of responsible tourism, to create a roadmap for the future. We help practitioners map global trends and orient their business models accordingly—to stay relevant and responsible in an ever-changing industry.
  • Our intention is to gather first-hand knowledge on the subject of responsible tourism (challenges and possible solutions) and share it widely through traditional media and digital communication channels.
  • We are also hoping to move towards the mainstreaming of responsible tourism practices by reaching out to and engaging a wide range of travellers through our digital and social media channels throughout the year.
  • We are also trying to empower smaller tour operators and hotel/homestay owners by helping them acquire relevant skill sets.
  • We also celebrate and recognise best practices in India through our Indian Responsible Tourism Awards, chaired by Dr Harold Goodwin, one of the most respected names in the world of responsible tourism. Winners are nominated directly for the WTM Responsible Tourism Awards, London.

Outline Conference Programme 

Staying Ahead: Vision 2020

January 19-20, 2018

New Delhi

Day 1

  • Pre-conference activities
  • Welcome note
  • The big four: Challenges luxury businesses in South Asia must overcome to stay relevant, stay responsible in 2020
  • A success story in sustainable luxury & the road ahead
  • Dinner


Day 2

 Keynote address

  • The Himalayas & responsible tourism: What Nepal, Bhutan, and India can do together
  • 10 minutes, 10 slides: Case studies across South Asia
  • The debate: Can corporate tourists be responsible tourists?
  • Lunch + Networking
  • Focus group discussions
  • Ask the experts: A chance to interact with some of the best minds in the business
  • The Indian Ocean & Responsible Tourism: How can tourism in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh & the Maldives protect and optimise marine resources?
  • The future of heritage: From minor palaces to art deco homes, how can privately-owned built-heritage structures be safeguarded?
  • Indian Responsible Tourism Awards, 2018
  • Dinner

For further information contact  soity@outlookindia.com


Outlook Publishing India Pvt. Ltd. brings out six titles, including the flagship Outlook India that has been published weekly since 1993. It counts amongst its editors some of India’s most outstanding journalists. The group’s travel publication, Outlook Traveller has for 16-odd years championed slow, green travel in India through stories about new initiatives and inspiring travels.

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Responsible Tourism Summit – South Asia January 2018

Staying Ahead 

Maintaining competitive advantage through Responsible Tourism sharing experience from across South Asia: Delhi 19-20 January 2018.

2018 will see the third Responsible Tourism Summit in Delhi and the prestigious Responsible Tourism Awards which are presented at the Summit. This year the Awards and the Summit are being extended to include:

Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and the Maldives.

The countries of South Asia share many of the same challenges:

  • Overtourism
  • Impact of climate change and tourism in the Himalayas and the Indian Ocean
  • Reaching out to the right travellers and spreading awareness
  • Cost of conversion to sustainability
  • Dealing with weekday slumps, pricing and policy issues
  • Preservation of built-heritage
  • Encouraging neighbourhood and micro-tourism


Outlook India has decided, therefore, to invite some of the pioneers of sustainability in our region to learn from their experiences, and better our own business models.

To bring real change in the region and counter the forces of climate change and mindless mass tourism models, we ought to find common solutions to common, quintessentially South Asian problems.

Outlook India  has been publishing Outlook Traveller, one of India’s oldest and most successful travel magazines and guides for 17 years. The last three, in particular, have been devoted to identifying, recognising and supporting responsible tourism businesses across India.

For details and to express interest email Soity Banerjee soity@outlookindia.com

The 2017 Summit Report

The 2015 Summit Report 

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Paul Miedema remembered at WTM Africa

Industry mourns responsible tourism activist

Paul Miedema founder of Calabash Tours and a leading activist for Responsible Tourism was recognised as in the Responsible Tourism Awards in 2004.
In 1990 Paul participated in The March for Hope, a protest March of white people to the townships. “I knew then, and still maintain, there is an energy and spirit in the townships that is life changing. I just want to share that with as many people as possible.”

Paul died earlier this year and his untimely passing and his major contribution to the development of the Responsible Tourism movement globally was remembered and recognised again at the African Responsible Tourism Awards at WTM Africa today.

The category sponsor for Best for Engaging People and Culture, Transfrontier Parks Destinations, dedicated the category to Paul “one of Africa’s most dedicated Responsible Tourism champions.”

Nomandla Xakatha of Coffee Shack Backpackers acknowledged Paul’s contribution to the development of their enterprise in his speech as one of the Overall winners.

He was missed and remembered at WTM Africa this year.

Paul was out peopleandplaces partner and our latest newsletter is a tribute to him.

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Africa Responsible Tourism Awards presented at WTM Africa

In a special ceremony at World Travel Market Africa 2017, a hard-hitting documentary on the plight of lions in tourism and a small backpacker lodge with ample impact were announced Joint Overall Winners at the African Responsible Tourism Awards 2017 in Cape Town. Blood Lions and Coffee Shack took the coveted position of Overall Winner from a selection of finalists gathered from around Africa.

Says Harold Goodwin, Chair of the Judging Panel. “All of those longlisted should be recognised as having made a significant contribution and be proud of what they have achieved.  As in the World Responsible Tourism Awards, the judges looked for winners who might educate and inspire others, challenging the industry to achieve more by demonstrating what can be done by businesses and organisations to realise the ambition of Responsible Tourism. That ambition is simply put:  to use tourism to make better places for people to live in. This also benefits the industry: great places to live are great places to visit.

In this International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the industry needs to recognise that we need to be a lot more transparent about credibly reporting the positive impacts that businesses in the tourism sector have on peoples’ livelihoods and well-being – we need to up our game and prove the claims we make. This year’s global Responsible Tourism Awards will be announced next month – in this International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, there is a particular emphasis on the SDGs.

The judges were mindful of the Awards made in previous years in Africa and in the World Responsible Tourism Awards, of which these African Awards are a part. The Gold and Silver Award winners should be particularly proud of what they have achieved; they have been recognised as being leaders in a Responsible Tourism movement where more is expected each year.

If when reflecting on the winners of these and the World Responsible Tourism Awards you know of others you feel should be recognised then please encourage them to enter, the judges can only choose from amongst those who enter and complete the extensive application process. We encourage them, and other businesses, to continue to take responsibility for increasing the positive and reducing the negative, impacts of tourism; to communicate what they are doing to use tourism to make better places and to consider entering the Responsible Tourism Awards when there is an appropriate category for their business or organisation.”

Speaking before a packed audience of over 100 tourism professionals, media, ministers and officials, Heidi van der Watt, managing director of Better Tourism Africa pinpointed what makes the Award winners the leaders in responsible tourism in Africa:

Our winners have a vision that extends beyond the commercial – linking business success with the wellbeing of local communities and the longevity of their environments. They want to make profits with principles, communicate balance sheets alongside beliefs, and won’t undermine passion in the pursuit of professionalism. They are resilient, determined, humanising advocates for their destinations. They are the future of tourism in Africa.”

The Awards were sponsored by the Wesgro. Tim Harris, Chief Executive Officer of Wesgro, said:

“As the proud headline sponsor of the inaugural African Responsible Tourism Awards, Wesgro is delighted to pay tribute to this year’s inspirational winners. As the official Tourism, Trade and Investment Promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape, we continue to show our commitment to responsible tourism development both in our province and on the African continent.

We are pleased to recognise the vision of the Award winners for providing leadership in their respective sectors throughout Africa, and effectively contributing to growing tourism in a sustainable mannerToday, we celebrate their commitment and achievements.

Read below for the full list of this year’s winners, or log on to www.africanresponsibletourismawards.com to read their stories or watch videos from the Overall Winners.

A photo library of winners images is accessible here.

Overall Winners – Blood Lions and Coffee Shack

supported by Wesgro

overall winners of 2017 african responsible tourism awards, blood lions and coffee shack backpackers

This year there were joint overall winners Blood Lions and Coffee Shack.

The ambition of the Responsible Tourism Awards is to educate, inspire and challenge. The Blood Lions campaign demonstrates how awareness raising and engagement can achieve change, successfully engaging the industry though its “Born To Live Wild” campaign. Coffee Shack demonstrates the major positive impact which a small business in a remote rural area can have.

Best Accommodation for Social Inclusion

supported by Better Tourism Africa
Gold winner: Coffee Shack Backpackers (South Africa)

Contact: David Malherbe I Email: wackypt@iafrica.com I Twitter@CoffeeShackBP I www.coffeeshack.co.za

Coffee Shack, winner, 2017 African Responsible tourism awards, best accommodation for social inclusion

Judges’ reason for winning:  Coffee Shack Backpackers is a small establishment with a huge heart and a considerable impact on the Tshezi community living in this remote corner of the Eastern Cape. From the first informal project equipping Pato Junior School in 2002 to bringing on board Tshezi Community Trust shareholders in 2005 to the creation of Sustainable Coffee Bay in 2009, the inclusion of the community in a meaningful manner has been part of the story of Coffee Shack Backpackers from the outset.  Today,  Sustainable Coffee Bay runs an Early Childhood Development centre, a high school and tertiary education assistance fund, a project supporting ex-mine workers to access provident funds, and sponsors the local soccer and netball league, to name but a few. Coffee Shack Backpackers pays above the minimum wage, encourages reception staff to travel through a travel bonus scheme, and has invested in two local businesses both of which are run by disabled community members and supply services to the backpackers.  As the saying goes “strong medicine comes in small bottles”.

Silver: The Backpack (South Africa)

Contact: Lee Harris I  Email: lee@backpackers.co.za Twitter: @thebackpackcpt I www.backpackers.co.za

Judges’ reason for winning:  Set at the edge of Cape Town’s city centre and the foot of Table Mountain, the Backpack could quite easily do very well without doing any good.  However, making a difference and creating opportunities for better lives is how the team at the BackPack live and work. The BackPack is commended for the breadth of their approach to fair employment conditions for their staff.  Entry salaries of 2.5x the minimum wage give all staff a solid starting point on which to build higher levels of education, building a home, starting up a small business, all which are financially supported by the business. Emblematic of fairness in its dealings, products in the community gift shop display both the price charged and the amount paid to the producer.  Key deposits, clothing, and time donated by guests are channelled to a bursary scheme and sport (soccer and rope-skipping) project that diverts youth away from gang­sterism and drug- and alcohol-use.  With bio-degradable cleaning products, solar geysers, photovoltaic panels, colour-coded recy­cling bins, a worm farm and a ban on plastic bottles, the BackPack also ticks a multitude of responsible tourism boxes.

Silver: Wilderness Safaris Damaraland Camp (Namibia)

Contact: Tarryn Gibson I Email: tarryng@wilderness-safaris.com I Twitter@WeAreWilderness I http://www.wilderness-safaris.com

The innovative partnership between Wilderness Safaris and the community of Torra Conservancy was a pioneer within the Namibian context at the time of its creation.  The people of Torra Conservancy community own 40% of Damaraland Camp located in the remote Kunene region of north-west Namibia.   Over and above the financial benefits of the Joint Venture, the people in Torra Conservancy have gained the following: improved planning skills; insights and capacity for collaborative action; improved knowledge of their rights; broader vision for their community; and committee members on the Board are empowered to make decisions and are involved in business management. Community empowerment has led to further expansion of the business with the community raising funding to build the adventure camp.  The value of the partnership and the economic impact of the project is on record through independent academic research.

Best for Engaging People & Culture

supported by Transfrontier Parks Destinations

Gold: Ilha Blue Island Safaris (Mozambique)

Contact: Pete Allsop I Email: pete@ilhablue.com I Facebook: Ilha Blue Island Safaris I www.ilhablue.com

ilha blue, winner, 2017 african responsible tourism awards, best for engaging people and culture

The judges wanted to recognise the deep and diverse cultural experiences offered by Ilha Blue on the African World Heritage Ilha de Moçambique. Ilha Blue offers an exotic mix of Makhuwa, Swahili, Arabic, Indian, and Portuguese cultures through low impact small group tours by bicycle, sea-kayak and Swahili sailing dhow. The judges particularly valued the diverse local voices presented by Ilha Blue as an alternative to the colonial narrative, the presentation of local indigenous knowledge, with local guides presenting their perspectives and stories through experiences creating entrepreneurial opportunities and ensuring that local people shape and have a stake in tourism to their place.

Silver: Maboneng Arts (South Africa)

Contact: Siphiwe Ngwenya I Email: ngwenya@maboneng.com I Twitter: @maboneng_arts I www.maboneng.com

Since 2000 the rapper Siphiwe Ngwenya has been turning township homes into exhibition spaces from Johannesburg to Cape Town, believing that the home is the epicentre of all culture. Maboneng Township Arts Experience’s objective is to turn townships into tourism towns by using the art which already exists in the townships to attract domestic and international visitors. This approach enables visitors to meet locals in their own homes, to experience the wealth of their culture, provides market access for emerging artists and additional household income for artists and the Gallery Homes, celebrates cultural diversity and provides opportunities for cultural integration for hosts and guests.

Best for Habitat & Species Conservation

supported by Cape Nature
Gold: All Out Africa (Swaziland)

Contact: Ginger Green I Email: marketing@alloutafrica I Twitter: @alloutafrica

all out africa, winner, 2017 african responsible tourism awards, best for habitat and species conservation

Judges’ reasons for winning: With references from universities in Swaziland and Florida attesting to All Out Africa’s contribution to both research and education on habitats and species the judges were particularly impressed by All Out Africa’s social-entrepreneur approach to solving the problem of insufficient ecological information and capacity to enable successful conservation. Over the last 12 years All Out Africa has enabled 500 international volunteers to contribute meaningfully to conservation through data collection and supported and trained over 100 local students in field-based conservation and ecological research, With activities in Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa they have supported the education of 15 local students at MSc level and more than 1000 undergraduate students from both local and international universities.

Silver: Wildlife ACT (South Africa)

Contact: Galen Schultz I Email: galen@wildlifeact.com I Twitter: @wildlifeact I

Judges reasons’ for winning: Both of this year’s winners in this category have demonstrated that volunteering tourists can when professionally managed. As one of Wildlife Act’s referees wrote: “They have set and maintained the highest levels of integrity in an industry that is often characterised by unscrupulous operators that abuse the goodwill and naivety of volunteers.” The judges were impressed by the range of habitat and species conservation work that Wildlife Act had contributed to by working with partners from Ethiopia to South Africa.

Best Partnership for Poverty Reduction

supported by Africa Ignite
Gold winner: Isibindi African Lodges

Contact: Penny Rice I Email: marketing@isibindi.co.za I Twitter: @IsibindiAfrica I www.isibindi.co.za

isibindi africa lodges, winner, 2017 african responsible tourism awards, best partnership for poverty reduction

Judges reasons’ for winning: The judges were looking for true partnerships that truly whittle away poverty in local areas. At Isibindi Africa Lodges, partnerships extend way beyond run-of-the-mill charitable giving (although there is plenty of that too). Rental for community-owned land and tourism lodges, employment of local people, purchases of vegetables, crafts, and laundry and recycling services from local small producers, create sustainable income for four communities and hundreds of people in deep rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal.  To widen the spread of the benefits of tourism, Isibindi recently launched a special mechanism ITHUBA (“opportunity”) – a dedicated community engagement programme – to establish greater partnerships with communities and replace individual lodge efforts with a structure that allows resource sharing. Next up, a training facility focussing on lodge hospitality offering internships and a career path at Isibindi lodges for successful graduates.

Silver winner: Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge

Contact:  Richard Ndiga Email:  rndiga@serena.co.ke Twitter: @serenahotels  www.serenahotels.com

Judges reasons’ for winning:  A partnership with Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge, International Labour Organisation, African Pro-Poor Tourism Development Centre, and Tech for Trade has given a new lease on life for the women of Kimana’s Women’s Group. This group of HIV+ infected and socially affected small scale women farmers has become the main supplier of fresh vegetables and herbs to the lodge. Ownership of their own land, working capital to bridge credit periods and strengthened business skills and quality assurance ensure consistency and quality of supply, and have won the women additional clients. Serena Hotels plan to replicate this supply chain model in Tsavo and Mara Parks, which will expand the empowering benefits of long-run income, food security and improved health and nutrition to more households.

Best Responsible Event

supported by BulkSMS
Gold winner: MTN Bushfire (Swaziland)

Contact: Tamanda Mbendera I  Email:  coordinator@bush-fire.com Twitter: @BushFireFest  I  www.bush-fire.com

bushfire festival, winner, 2017 african responsible tourism awards, best responsible event

A three-day festival held annually in the scenic Malkerns Valleys of Swaziland attracting 25,000 participants from across the globe (in 2016 from 62 countries) to enjoy and experience a rich texture of arts, cultures, crafts, food markets. Over the last 10 years the festival has grown in international recognition and used its cultural and economic success, the festival creates employment for 1200 Swazis making a significant contribution to the local economy. The festival’s call to action #BRINGYOURFIRE,  has stimulated a personal and collective commitment to social programmes: the Schools Festival (2000 Swazi students and teachers annually), the Arts Round Table (that brings together international and local artists) funding for Young Heroes (an Aids Orphan support programme) and BoMake Rural Projects which benefits rural Swazi women. Bushfire sparked the FireFest Route, which now involves Azgo (Mozambique), Zakifo (Durban, SA) Africa Day (Johannesburg, SA) and Sakifo (Mother festival to Zakifo, held in Reunion Island.)

Silver: Tour de Tuli (Botswana, South Africa & Zimbabwe)

Contact: Tarryn Gibson Email: tarryng@wilderness-safaris.com Twitter: @WeAreWilderness www.tourdewilderness.com

The Nedbank Tour de Tuli is an annual four day mountain bike tour that takes 350 participants through 250km of protected wilderness in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa with the primary aim of raising funds for Children in the Wilderness (CITW). The judges recognised the skill and commitment which has created a signature event raising, in 2016, R4 million (US$295 700up from 2015’s total of R2.5 million (US$185 800), largely due to additional sponsorship raised by cyclists, amounting to some R1.5 million (US$110 900). Wilderness Safaris’ CITW is an environmental and life skills educational programme, some of which funds activities in their camps, focused on developing a generation of rural decision makers inspired to conserve wildlife.

Best Responsible Tourism Campaign

supported by Cape Town Pass
Gold: Blood Lions (South Africa)

Contact:  Pippa Hankinson Email:  hancobb@iafrica.com  Twitter: @blood_lions www.bloodlions.org

blood lions, winner, 2017 african responsible tourism awards, best responsible tourism campaign

The judges were looking for a campaign with a clear target, able to report its impact and to demonstrate that it had contributed to making tourism more responsible. From its launch in 2015 there was a clear focus “to stop lions being bred for the bullet.” With a powerful documentary film at the heart of a campaign which used social and traditional media to engage the industry, voluntourism, the public, government (local, national and international), professional hunters and the scientific and conservation community with a simple and compelling message: “THINK before you VISIT, CUDDLE, WALK, VOLUNTEER or SHOOT.” Otherwise, you might unwittingly be contributing to canned hunting. The campaign is able to report with clear metrics on the traction it has gained and the impact it has had.

Silver: there was no Silver in this category

Best Tour Operator for Impact in Urban Areas

supported by Marine Dynamics
Gold winner: Uthando (South Africa)

Contact:  James Fernie Email:  jamesfernie@uthandosa.org  Twitter: @UthandoSouthAfr  www.uthando.org

uthando, winner, 2017 african responsible tourism awards, best operator for urban impact

Urban community farms and 2 recipe books, educare centres, music and dance academies, domestic animal care, senior centres and a book that tell the stories of elders, arts and crafts hubs – the list of initiatives in Cape Town’s townships touched by UthandoSA is almost endless. UthandoSA’s urban philantrophic tours and partnership with the Belmont Mount Nelson Hotel capture the hearts, imagination and support of guest and the tourism industry, generating funds for a diverse array of projects. In the 2016 / 2017 fiscal year, Uthando is set to exceed R3 million transferred to 45 community projects – a remarkable impact for a tour operator with only 2 permanent employees.

Silver: there was no Silver in this category

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South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Tourism speaks at the African Responsible Tourism Awards


Welcoming Remarks By Deputy Minister, Elizabeth Thabethe

African Responsible Tourism Awards

Cape Town Convention Centre

20 April 2017


Program Director

MEC Alan Winde

Mr James Vos, Member of the Portfolio Committee on Tourism

Mr Tim Harris, Wesgro CEO

Prof Harold Goodwin, Char of the Judges

Mr Bongani Dlamini, Swazini Tourism

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


Still fresh in my third week of assuming the portfolio of Deputy Minister of Tourism it is my distinct pleasure to welcome you all, from near and far, to the Third African Responsible Tourism Awards here in the southern most City of Cape Town.


Join us for an exciting evening of celebrating achievements which is the annual culmination of consistent and dedicated hard work of all role-players in this important field of responsible tourism. We indeed salute them and already wish them luck for possible consideration for the WTM awards later this year in London.


Although the focus at times tonight may fall on the well-deserved awardees, let us remember that we are all collectively winners as we strive to give life to the principles of responsible tourism in our daily lives. Be this as travelers within South Africa or around the globe, or as conscientious suppliers, service providers and stakeholders in the tourism value chain.


It is encouraging that the United Nations has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development as this is another recognition of the importance of global tourism and its contribution to greater awareness about diversity of humanity, and importantly, its contribution to economic upliftment of marginalized communities and world peace. This should provide all of us with a rare opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to sustainable development and raise consciousness about responsible tourism to our stakeholders and partners.


Program Director, allow me to place all this in context. In 2012, the National Department of Tourism developed the Responsible Tourism Strategy that would promote sustainable development, growth and promotion of tourism in South Africa.  The strategy is a tool of inspiration towards responsible tourism implementation and serve as a map to guide the sector along the way. The National Responsible Tourism Strategy is a response to the National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) objective ‘To promote responsible tourism practices within the sector’. The NTSS has been reviewed and will in due course be gazetted for comment.


Some of the National Department of Tourism programmes to support responsible tourism:

  • The South African National Minimum Standard for Responsible Tourism (SANS 1162), launched in September 2011, is a detailed set of requirements aimed at establishing a common understanding about Responsible Tourism, and a basis for the harmonisation of tourism sustainability certification in South Africa.
  • Tourism and Resource efficiency Programme, is aimed at supporting tourism businesses to conserve and manage water, energy and waste in tourism. The department will be supporting use of energy efficiency technologies through the Tourism Incentive Programme.
  • The community participation programme promotes and supports implementation of Universal Accessibility in tourism, and recently published the Operational Guidelines for Community Based Tourism.


However we should actively ensure that in all our endeavors, not only Mother Nature but also our communities benefit directly and tangibly from our enduring efforts as responsible tourism practitioners.


The NDP aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. As the Tourism sector in South Africa, we can contribute to the realization of these goals by ensuring that we create meaningful and sustainable opportunities for poor and marginalised communities throughout the tourism value chain.


With its unique natural and cultural landscapes, Africa offers many opportunities for responsible tourism. It is encouraging to see that tourism organisations are already growing tourism in a manner that preserves, respects and benefits African destinations and African people. With the growing trend and demand by the modern traveller for real and authentic holiday experiences, Africa has an opportunity to use the Responsible Tourism approach to develop new products and experiences which respond to this consumer demand, and in so doing reduce poverty, and improve livelihoods.


Program Director, I would indeed be failing in my duty as Deputy Minister of Tourism if I did not enjoin you to take time off your busy schedule to savour the tourist offerings in Cape Town. However if possible, do consider extending your explorations further afield in the province and the rest of our vibrant and beautifully welcoming country.


Enjoy the evening!


I thank you.

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1st Indian Responsible Tourism Awards     Announced 19th January 2017


The India Responsible Tourism Awards are part of the World Responsible Tourism Awards family which in addition to the global awards and India includes awards programmes in Ireland and Africa. The family of awards share the same processes and criteria. Each nominated business or tourism organisation makes a short submission which answers the fundamental question, what is it that you have done that warrants consideration for the particular award? From these nominations a longlist is drawn up, and a detailed questionnaire specific to each category is sent to each entrant. The questionnaires require that detailed evidence is provided along with two independent references. At this stage some applicants withdraw daunted by the information required. Others withdraw recognising that they are not perhaps as responsible as they thought. Two judges look at each of the categories, analysing the questionnaires and supporting data, checking websites and references and report to the full panel of judges, on judging day, on their shortlist, informed by the questionnaires and the references. The final judging takes the better part of a whole day and there is open debate and challenge around the table. These are tough awards to win.

The ambition of the Awards is to surprise and inspire the tourism industry and tourists by what it is possible to achieve with responsible tourism. We also want to challenge the sector, the competitors of the winners, to do more – competition can drive the adoption of better practices. The judging criteria are common across the whole family of Awards.

  1. Quantifying achievements
  • is a priority
  • look also for clear methodologies for measurement and improvement
  1. Being a good influence
  • must both do good work themselves & use their influence to ensure that their suppliers do too
  1. Previous winners
    have real improvements on previous years been made?
  • progress is essential to ensure Awards are dynamic
  1. New and innovative
  • is genuinely a new approach or something different
  • stands out from the crowd
  1. Real impact on poverty reduction
  • better quality of life overall
  • linkages with community members
  1. Sustainability of enterprise/initiative
    longevity and sustainability of the project.
  • replicability
  1. Customer service experience
  • delivers excellent customer service, with educational opportunities to learn about the destination, its people and environment
  • responsible tourism ethos & achievements communicated clearly & easily accessible via website/social media
  1. References
  • minimum of 2 independent references
  • gives evidence in support of an application for a specific category
  • is written by a range of credible referees
  • vary in length


The panel of judges is chosen for their breadth of experience and their independence of mind – the winners are debated. Many of the candidates are known to one or more of the judges, interests are declared, they can engage in the debate and are often questioned by other judges – but they cannot vote.


Harold Goodwin (Chair of the Panel), Emeritus Professor, Director, International Centre for Responsible Tourism; MD, Responsible Tourism Partnership, and RT Advisor, WTM London
Ananda Banerjee Author and award winning wildlife conservation journalist
Suman Billa, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism
Steve Borgia Honorary President, Eco-tourism Society of India
Emma Horne Founder, Emma Horne Travel
Jaya Jaitly Founder & President, Dastkari Haat Samiti|
Akhil Kapoor Convivium Leader, Slow Food India (Delhi Chapter)
Sheema Mookherjee former Publisher Lonely Planet India and Proprietor, Salban – The Kanha Homestay
Ratish Nanda Projects Director, Aga Khan Trust for Culture, India
Aman Nath Chairman, Neemrana Hotels
CB Ramkumar Board Member, Global Sustainable Tourism Council, and Founder-MD, Our Native Village
Dr Venu Vasudevan, Principle Secretary, Kerala Tourism
Belinda Wright Executive Director, Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) and Proprietor, Kipling Camp


Best Responsible Tourism Property

Gold Winner: Farm of Happiness or ‘Aanandache Shet’ www.farmofhappiness.com

The concept is simple, a homestay on a 20 acre organic farm. Tourism is an additional income stream for the farm, a farm diversification, a way of bringing attention and some

glamour to agriculture, providing an introduction to the concept of natural farming and eating consciously; a way of providing an authentic taste of rural life for an urban population which has lost connection with the land. The judges were impressed by the way in which the ethic of responsibility informs all of their practices and its impact in engaging with urban youth and local youth who see a more promising future in agrotourism and organic farming. The organic practices on the farm, the traditional stay facility, the ‘no-alcohol’ policy, the hard core local cuisine are steps towards using tourism to encourage locals and tourists alike to be guardians of their environment and the local culture.

Silver Winner: Atali Ganga www.ataliganga.com
The Aqua Terra Alternative Lifestyle Initiative (Atali) is an activotel with stunning views of the Ganga, a destination which combines smart accommodation with safe adventure. They source locally, have used local stone to construct the property, minimise water consumption, carefully manage waste, employ only from the Indian Himalaya regions, contribute to local schools and provide pre-arrival guidelines for guests to avoid any embarrassment caused by behaviour, dress or conduct.

Silver Winner: Dewalokam http://dewalokam.in/
An organic farm with ayurvedic herbals and a variety of native fruit plants. Dewalokam offers an experience of rural village life as the guests of the Dewalokam staff (7women and 11men) from 16 different families in the village, all of whom benefit from the enterprise.

Best Contribution to Wildlife Conservation

Gold Winner & Joint Overall Winner:
Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust
The snow leopard is a red list globally endangered species with between 200 and 600 individuals thought to occur in the higher reaches of the Himalayas encompassing the northern areas of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. The judges were impressed by its Himalayan Homestay initiative which creates livelihoods for local people, offsetting and compensating livestock losses, increasing the stake of local people in conserving wildlife through wildlife tourism, reduce human wildlife conflict and promoting coexistence, reversing a centuries old tradition of hunting snow leopards and wolves.

Since 2002 over 130 families have been trained to offer 165 homestays in 40 villages across Ladakh. . There are eco-cafes in 9 villages, selling local food products, and handicraft programs  in 32 villages, in which rural women are trained in making soft toy-animals, which the homestay visitors take home as souvenirs. The Trust also promotes ‘voluntourism’, where homestay operators host volunteers working on Trust conservation programs in the villages. 10% of all homestay income goes into village conservation funds used by villagers for tree planting, garbage cleaning and maintenance of their cultural heritage such as mani walls, chortens and sacred juniper stands. Ulley and surrounding villages voluntarily freed 16 sq miles from livestock grazing for the betterment of traditional pastureland for the endangered Ladakh urial and Asiatic ibex. The Trust has sought to maintain traditional Ladakhi values, particularly by serving Ladakhi food to guests and by housing guests in existing traditional rooms of Ladakhi houses rather than constructing new dwellings, contributing to maintaining a living culture. The model is being considered for replication in five countries.

Silver Winner: Madras Crocodile Bank Trust & Centre for Herpetology (Croc Bank) www.madrascrocodilebank.org

Snakes and reptiles have traditionally been killed on sight. The Croc Bank consists of a large reptile park near Chennai and several field projects run by the Trust all designed to conserve reptiles and amphibians including crocodiles and snakes. The reptile park functions as a zoo, spread over eight and a half acres of land, with over 2500 reptiles, it has close to half a million visitors/year, making it one of the most popular tourist attractions on the East Coast Road. The work of the Trust is largely funded by revenues from their zoo, the zoo furthers the Trust’s awareness and behaviour change work through education delivered throughout the zoo – this is conservation funded by a tourist attraction.

Best for Cultural Immersion

Gold Winner: The Blue Yonder  http://theblueyonder.com

The company was launched to promote the River Nila in Kerala as a destination. Blue Yonder has used the rich cultural heritage of the valley to bring visitors to celebrate the river, enhance local pride in the river and the people who live along it, and to create sustainable livelihoods. Each initiative is designed to be sustainable with local demand, tourism increases earning capacity and brings recognition. The musical trail started in 2004 with 4 beneficiaries, it now supports 850+ students and more than 15 teachers, while offering varied experiences to travellers. All the travel experiences offered are developed through community consultation and co-creation. “The sense of ownership and responsibility on each travel experiences make all the difference in terms of delivery and interaction with the travel community.”

Silver Winner: Rural Pleasure www.ruralpleasure.com

Rural Pleasure is a social enterprise which delivers hands on experience of village level activities: ploughing, seeding, picking fruits & vegetables, crop harvesting, tribal dancing & paintings, swimming in the river, milking cattle, bullock cart rides, village trails, cutting wood, mud flooring, fishing, forest hikes. They encourage tourists to participate in the chores of villagers which give them an insight into their values, customs, culture, behaviour, attitude and lifestyle. Livelihoods are generated for villagers through the provision of lodging and board, guiding, housekeeping, performances by local artists and the sale of art, craft and agricultural produce. In Dangs, Warli Art was in decline but young people are now practicing it. Seven houses have been decorated with Warli Art, more than 750 travellers has been immersed in cultural activity and the tribes have earned close to Rs98,000.

Best for Community-based Homestay

Gold Winner: Biksthang Heritage Farmhouse www.biksthang.com

Biksthang is an ancestral 18th century house which has been developed by the family into a “destination”, bringing tourists to a remote and undeveloped village. The aim was to preserve the legacy of an ancestral property, restore the dying agricultural heritage and give visitors a genuinely authentic  experience of the rich culture, tradition, history and cuisine of west Sikkim. Biksthang is leveraging the cultural assets of the village and rural area to create sustainable livelihoods though local sourcing for the homestay, handicraft sales to tourists, guiding and transport services. The ambition is to encourage young people to stay in the village and to see that there are opportunities for them there too. One of the referees wrote of the owner “Dekyi has effectively created a safe space for curious minds to learn about a disappearing legacy, immersed in nature, in spirituality, without compromising on authenticity and the freedom to choose how best to engage with it.”

Silver Winner: Daragaon Village Retreat, Gurung Homestay www.sikkimvillagehomestay.com/

This is a family owned and run homestay with seven rooms in Darap Village home to Limbu people originally from Tibet. The judges were impressed by the way in which the opening of one homestay offering a village and birdwatching experience has resulted in the formation of an association and the development of more locally owned homestays which has brought an additional income stream to the village, raising living standards.

Silver Winner: Kabani Community Tourism  www.kabanitour.com

Kabani (the other direction) is a non-profit  community association which since 2005 has been opposing destructive mass tourism and promoting a model which benefits local communities and avoids most of the negative impacts. In 2014 they created a social enterprise to promote community tourism initiatives to create additional incomes for famers in order to help reduce farmer suicides. The judges were impressed by the way in which Kabani has worked with farmers, fisher folk and women entrepreneurs to create B&Bs in 8 villages involving 450 villagers.

Best Innovation by a Tour Operator

Gold Winner & Joint Overall Winner: Planet Abled  http://planetabled.com

The premise is simple people with disabilities also have an equal right to recreation, leisure and travel. Planet Abled is about converting specially-abled tourists into travellers and creating a platform for inclusive tourism, providing people with disabilities the freedom to travel India no matter what their disability is, to experience something unique, safe and enjoyable. Planet Abled works with people who face a wide variety of challenges, not just the visually impaired or wheelchair enabled, to enable them to holiday or travel with friends and family. They work to provide mainstream itineraries and to avoid the ghettoization of travel for people with disabilities.

Planet Abled focusses on the individual capabilities and active senses or its clients, the tour is customized for each and every individual so that they don’t miss out on anything and can have a whole experience of the new place or culture they are visiting with family and friends or alone.  Travelling in groups each traveller gains a first-hand experience of interacting with people with other disabilities and abilities, a blind person gets to interact with a deaf and mute person, a wheelchair user gets to understand the challenges facing a blind person. Planet Abled is creating an environment of inclusive tourism and spreading awareness amongst the volunteers who then become ambassadors for inclusion and accessibility in their respective communities.

As one of the referees wrote “The reason I keep going for as many Planet Abled tours as I can is that I am treated as truly equal. No discussion of disability, no hero-worship, no china doll treatment. I am just me…. everyone pays the same rate and these are competitive with the industry. I have shopped around and can testify to this. A heritage walk in the regular market costs Rs. 500 per head. The Planet Abled custom walk that I had them arrange for me, and some friends, cost the same. So, the traditional position where everything for the disabled is expensive is no longer valid”

Silver Winner: Grassroutes Journeys www.grassroutes.co.in

Grassroutes Journeys offers an experience of off-grid, rustic and authentic holidays with rural people and tribes an opportunity to experience age-old Indian traditions and lifestyles. Their objective is to reduce rural migration to cities, to conserve biodiversity, revive local arts and craft and change the aspirations of both the villagers and the guests. They work with 500 families in 10 villages and report a 30% increase in average annual household income for those families through 6,000-8,000 days of employment in the tribal villages in which they work.

Best Built Heritage Conservation

Gold Winner: Arco Iris http://arcoiris.in/

Arco Iris (“rainbow,” in Portuguese and Spanish) is a Colonial Portuguese Manor dating back two centuries, it had been abandoned for 40 years before being restored by a family from Bangalore   The original plan had been to create “a cosy holiday home for friends and family” realising that what they had created was too large for occasional visits, the family “relocated to Goa, turned our house into a boutique homestay and invited travellers from all around the globe to experience our very own cloud nine.” The judges were impressed by the way in which the decision to restore a ruin had resulted in a sustainable boutique homestay, tourism being used to maintain cultural heritage which otherwise would have been lost.


The India Responsible Tourism Awards will be organised again next year. If you think that your business or organisation is better than those awarded here remember that the judges can only select from amongst those that apply and who provide the evidence. If you can do better, or know others who do, then apply for next year’s Awards.  Contact soity@outlookindia.com

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Wild Atlantic Way and Overtourism

Fáilte Ireland is  doing a substantial amount of work monitoring the environmental impacts on the Wild Atlantic Way and they are beginning to look at the economic impacts.

Fáilte Ireland  recognises that there are significant congestion problems – both existing and emerging – at certain points and destinations along the Wild Atlantic Way and they are planning to tackle these in a systematic way with the relevant Local Authorities over the coming years. In some cases the solutions will be simple and in others they will be more complex.

Fáilte Ireland is recognising is that they are not tackling these issues to satisfy some external sustainability agenda, but rather to ensure the durability of the Wild Atlantic Way itself and to maintain its own ‘production capability’.

They are presently compiling the monitoring reports for 2016. These are aimed at focusing both Failte Ireland and the Local Authorities on the impacts that are taking place on the ground and the risks of unmanaged tourism – ‘over-tourism. Fáilte Ireland is talking to the Local Authorities about how to manage and mitigate the impacts that are identified – and avoid them in the future. It is intended to put in place a concerted system across all the Local Authorities for managing the unintended consequences of tourism arising from the Wild Atlantic Way. The 2015 monitoring results are available on line and the methodology is evolving.





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Does Volunteering in an Orphanage Create a Demand for Child Trafficking?

Australian legal scholar Kathryn E van Doore shares a summary of her recent article, “Paper orphans: Exploring child trafficking for the purpose of orphanages,” which appeared in the International Journal of Children’s Rights.

Kathryn writes:

“My research argues that the recruitment of children with biological families into orphanages for the purpose of orphanage tourism should be regarded as a form of child trafficking under international law. The reason that this has not been regarded as a form of child trafficking previously is because to meet the legal requirements of trafficking, the purpose of the act of recruitment must be exploitation. Exploitation is defined as, at a minimum, prostitution, sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. Thus, the argument that recruiting a child into an orphanage is child trafficking has not been an easy fit, and has not been made legally until now.

I argue that the effects on children of orphanage tourism should be regarded as a form of exploitation. Whilst volunteering in an orphanage is usually regarded as an admirable activity, in fact it causes children a lot of harm. Children in orphanages are often trained to perform traditional dancing and forced to perform for visitors and volunteers. Some children are sent out to beg for funds in bars at night or hand out flyers advertising their orphanage.[13] Some orphanage operators have deliberately kept children malnourished to attract more sympathy and thus more money.[14] Even where orphanages are well run, over sixty years of research tells us that the very process of institutionalization is harmful to a child’s development.[15]

Orphans and orphanages have become a business in some developing nations. My argument is that like any business, the demand for the product, in this case, orphanage tourism, has driven the market. To satisfy the demand, children are taken from families with the promise of education or returning in the future, and manufactured or produced as paper orphans to reside in orphanages and solicit funding. The aim of my research is to illustrate that this unnecessary separation should be categorised as a form of trafficking, with the demand driver for such trafficking into orphanages being orphanage tourism.”

Read more 

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How should we understand Airbnb? Good or Bad?

The Airbnb consumer proposition is appealing to significant market segment, but by no means all. Garry Wilson Managing Director – Product & Purchasing, TUI Group pointed out at WTM this month that operators like TUI are in a different market place offering a different fully integrated product to consumers. Nathan Blecharczyk, one the founders of Airbnb, argues that the willingness of people to stay in the home of a stranger demonstrates the demand for personal connections while travelling and that Airbnb enables travellers to “experience a place like you live there”  What we’ve demonstrated is there’s an immense appetite to travel more authentically and immerse yourself in culture… as opposed to having a commoditised experience.. ” Airbnb offers a significantly differentiated product and they are extending that differentiation, bringing hosts and guests closer together: “….going for a bike ride on their favourite bike route or doing a game of Frisbee, something as simple as that …. connecting with real people having a good time, that’s something not currently available in the professionalised world of hospitality.” more

In November Airbnb launched Trips. Tourists will be able to create itineraries as well as book accommodation via the Trips upgrade to the Airbnb app. more 

This year’s Industry Report for WTM London included the results of a poll of 1,145 British holidaymakers, all of whom had taken at least a seven-day summer holiday overseas, or in the UK, in 2015. Only 12% of UK holidaymakers reported that they had used Airbnb and of those only 60% said that they would use it again. Of those who have not used it 30% have no intention of doing so. This does not suggest that Airbnb has been as disruptive as some commentators have suggested. more

From a resident’s perspective, it is more complicated.

The experience of a neighbouring homeowner or tenant having occasional house guests, whether they are paying for the privilege or not, is very different from living next to a licensed or unlicensed property wholly let for significant parts of the year – particularly if your neighbourhood is perceived as a great place to party. If the property is owned by a non-resident even the rental income will almost certainly not enter the local economy and it is highly unlikely to be taxed. Unlicensed property rentals are in some cities and resort areas a significant part of the black economy.

If you are running a business and successfully avoiding tax on your income you are likely to favour Airbnb as your route to market. As you are unlikely to be present at the same time as your paying guests you do not suffer the noise or the unruly behaviour experienced in areas like Barconeleta or Kreuzberg.

If you are a local person with noisy and disruptive neighbours you are likely to protest and demand that the local authorities act to protect the quality of your life in your neighbourhood – and ensure that the property owners who are making significant money from letting out whole properties are paying tax.

A resident may be more sympathetic to a neighbour who has friends to stay or paying guests. Your neighbour is there to ensure that their guests treat the shared neighbourhood and its residents with respect. Income earned from housing paying guests may enable people to pay the rent and stay in an area where housing costs are rising. If you like your neighbour and his or her guests are not disruptive, you are likely to be sympathetic.

However, if the number of people sub-letting in your neighbourhood is growing and if more and more properties are being wholly let for weeks at a time, with mounting levels of disruption and inflation in rental costs you are likely to be hostile.

Airbnb is growing fast and its “implied valuation at its most recent funding round was $30 billion; the market capitalization of Hilton Worldwide Holdings is $22 billion. Airbnb’s 2.3 million-room inventory is bigger than the three largest hotel chains — Hilton, Marriott International Inc. and InterContinental Hotels Group Plc — combined.” source

Cities are developing new forms of regulation to differentiate between whole property lets through Airbnb or other distribution channels and the occasional renting of spare rooms to guests to provide a supplementary income and help out with the rent – that is the sharing economy. Unlicensed properties rented out for large part of the year are not. These properties may or may not be licensed and if the owner is never or rarely resident there may be health and safety issues.

Cities will respond to regulate those renting out property through Airbnb in diverse ways, dealing with the issues which arise in particularly cities and neighbourhoods, planning, zoning, licensing, taxation, building regulations and a host of other regulation and management strategies are available and are likely to be deployed when issues arise. The major driving force in most cities is the housing shortage and rising rents.

Berlin: since May 2916 private tourism rentals are being limited by a new law Zweckentfremdungsverbot – prohibiting improper use. Homeowners are permitted to rent out only spare rooms rather than entire homes. more

Barcelona has fined homesharing websites Airbnb and Homeaway 600,000 euros ($633,600) each for advertising and renting out apartments to tourists without a license. Airbnb and Homeaway were identified as repeat offenders having illegally advertised 3,812 and 1,744 properties respectively. An additional nine rental sites are expected to also face fines up to 30,000 euros for failing to follow regional tourism laws. The Mayor argues that “It shouldn’t be possible that thousands of apartments are operating without a license, illegally, without paying tax and at the peril of neighboring residents,” Airbnb is appealing. more

Dublin:  there are reported to be 2,000 Dublin properties available on Airbnb’s website alone. Frank McDonald, chairman of Temple Bar Residents’ Association, cited one instance where a two-bedroom apartment advertised for sale through Daft.ie for €425,000 had a declared income of €79,000 through Airbnb in the previous year. Rising rents are making families homeless and the city is accommodating them in hotel rooms. “… if you look up the Daft.ie website, you will find that there’s only 1,200 to 1,300 apartments for letting to live in in the city at the moment. … And yet there’s well over 2,000 available for short-term holiday use. That is something that is, in my opinion, a deeply antisocial phenomenon at a time when the city has a housing crisis.” more

London: Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has raised the possibility of an ‘Airbnb law’ over “concerns” that the rental service may be affecting the availability of long-term rentals in the capital. In his letter to MPs, the Mayor  said that he “supports the right of people to benefit from renting out their homes for short periods” – but this “must be balanced against the need to ensure that Londoners are not adversely affected”. “If boroughs are finding that the legislation needs to be revisited to make sure that we find a better way of balancing the benefits of the sharing economy with the protection of local residents and the retention of housing for long-term use, then I will be happy to work with them and discuss with Government whether any changes may be needed.” more

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) claims that landlords are taking their flats off the open market, and advertising them instead on holiday websites like Airbnb. The RLA says 41% of properties advertised on Airbnb in the capital are multiple listings – involving one owner advertising several properties. “Given the pressures faced in the capital it is important that properties advertised as being available for more than 90 days a year are genuine holiday lets with appropriate planning permission,” said RLA policy director David Smith. “Otherwise, as well as taking rental stock off the market for those looking for somewhere to live, they are also putting tenants in a vulnerable position without all the protections offered by a tenancy agreement.” more


New York: Airbnb is contesting new legislation which would enable the state to fine people who advertise vacant apartments in a multi-unit building for 30 days or less. Fines could be as high as $7,500 for repeat offenders, threatening Airbnb’s operations in the state. Residents are allowed to rent out a room in their house or apartment as long as they are also staying there. more

San Francisco: Airbnb started in the city, there is now conflict between the city and Airbnb over enforcement with city moving to fine Airbnb for all the unregistered properties it markets. Airbnb denies that it should be responsible for checking that all the properties it lists are registered. more and the detail

Nathan Blecharczyk co-founder of Airbnb argues that it is part of the solution to rising rents because it helps make them affordable: “Airbnb can make it more affordable to have an apartment in London by making sure it’s fully utilised, whether renting your extra bedroom, or when you’re away on a trip and getting extra bucks to subsidise your rent.” more

Airbnb, good or bad? It depends on the circumstances and the ability of local authorities effectively to regulate.


WTM November 2016 Disintermediation and Destination Management   Video

The growth of budget scheduled airlines, Airbnb and a host of other intermediaries enabling travellers and holidaymakers to engage directly without the services of a tour operator or registered and regulated accommodation provider in the destination is the latest ‘revolution’ in travel. How much has really changed? What are the implications for hotel companies and registered accommodation providers? How can these tourists and new tourism service providers best be managed in the destination?

Interviewer: Martin Brackenbury
Garry Wilson, Managing Director – Product and Purchasing at TUI Group
James McClure, UK & Ireland General Manager, Airbnb
Anja Hartung Sfyrla, Head of Business Development, VisitDenmark
Jordi William Carnes, General Manager of Turisme de Barcelona.
Nikki White Wright Director of Destinations and Sustainability at ABTA


Possible deregulation of property rentals in the UK 

There have been reports in Spain about the protests against Airbnb in New York

Reviews of Tom Slee’s What’s Yours is Mine: Against the Sharing Economy  trenchant critique of the sharing economy. more 


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Whose destination is it?

At WTM London this year we ran 25 events over the three days. It was the 10th anniversary of World Responsible Tourism Day and there were two brief films for the opening. The first looked back over the 10 years and the second looking forward at the major challenges. 

The challenge of overtourism came up in many of the sessions, there is increasing concern that in a significant number  of destinations we are running up against the environmental and socio-economic limits to growth – there will be several panels on this at WTM London in 2017. One of the outcomes of the conversations on the Responsible Tourism Stand this year was an agreement amongst a number of destinations in Europe and Asia to work together and share ideas about how to tackle the challenge.

The word “respect” came up repeatedly in the panels and during the conversations on the Responsible Tourism Stand. Central to the concept of Responsible Tourism is the aspiration to use tourism to make better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit – in that order. Great places to live are great places to visit. There were three sessions discussing how to make the interactions between local people and tourists better. Better experiences for the hosts and guests and  respect, mutual respect, came up frequently.

The key policy question for government is whether the place and its residents will use tourism or whether the tourism industry will use the place. Sir Colin Marshall, when Chair of British Airways launching the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards in 1994 pointed out that tourism and travel industry is “…essentially the renting out for short-term lets of other people’s environments, whether this is a coastline, a city, a mountain range, or a rainforest”. The industry collects the rent whilst rarely contributing to maintaining the asset.

The travel and tourism sector is 11% of global GDP and yet it looks to government, national and local, to fund a proportion, often a large proportion, of the marketing costs. Although there are places where the contribution from the public purse is small, for example, the budget for Barcelona’s destination marketing includes only 5% from the public purse. This is rare, too rare

Despite the scale of the sector and its profitability, destination marketing is largely funded by local taxpayers many, most, of whom will not benefit from tourism and may regard the use of their public space by tourists and day visitors to be an inconvenience and an irritation. The maintenance of public space for tourism, whether that is Trafalgar Square or St James’s Park in London or the market square and streets of vernacular architecture in “chocolate box” towns and villages, has to be funded – and tourism businesses contribute no more than the businesses which do not benefit from tourism. Similarly rarely does even half of the local population benefit directly from the tourism they subsidise. The local authorities have to clean and maintain the historic core of Venice which benefits tourism businesses as far away as Bologna and Innsbruck. The tourists take their trophy photos and enjoy the public spaces for free – at the expense of residents and the non-tourism businesses. Only 10% of visitors to Venice pay to enter the Doge’s Palace, and that is the most popular paid for attraction, Venice is free.

Where the funded attractions are outside the centres of cities, towns and villages, there may be little or no benefit to the local economy from the public expenditure. It is rare for an attraction to forego the revenue that can be captured from the sale of souvenirs and food and beverage, denying other local businesses any opportunity to benefit from the tourism that public funding has helped attract. Match funding is increasingly popular but this can exacerbate the problem, distorting the way a place is marketed – and the place does not “belong” to tourism. It is not for tourism to shape and communicate the identity of a place.

When I was handling incoming groups I arranged a tour of Kent apple farms for a group of Polish apple growers. They wanted to visit London for one day – I was shocked by their choice of the itinerary for their experience of London: Buddy Holly at the theatre, lunch in Chinatown and a visit to the Trocadero Centre at Piccadilly Circus, souvenir shops and amusement arcades – few Londoners ever went there. Such a limited view of London – with considerable effort I did persuade then to take a ride on the open top bus tour and see some of the sights. Their image of London was impoverished by the marketing messages they had received from popular media and the London marketers.

The content and funding of destination marketing matters – the destinations belong to those who live there and fund their maintenance.



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Harold Goodwin