On the Record – the 6th World Responsible Tourism Day at WTM

Building on 20 years of work on sustainability this year was the 6th World Responsible Tourism Day at World Travel Market Fiona Jeffery, Chair of World Travel Market, explained why Responsible Tourism is so important during the formal opening of World Travel Market last Monday:

“WTM World Responsible Tourism Day …. builds on almost 20 years of work and campaigning by World Travel Market and is about ensuring that we retain a healthy, thriving industry.

Responsible tourism is not a straightforward subject, nor is it one that can be addressed with an instant cure-all formula.”

The Speakers’ Corner sessions on the floor of show enabled many more people to speak and brought a new audience, those speakers who supplemented WTM’s advertising of the events through their own social media networks drew the larger audiences.

The new Responsible Tourism Buy It badges were much in evidence all week at WTM this year. Over 200 companies are registered for and using the WRTD supporters logo.

The panels on Tuesday and Thursday were well attended and this year there was more participation from the audience. In one or two panels there was some real cut and thrust – take a look at the Child Protection and Responsible Volunteering panels.

Martin Brackenbury, chairing the panel on Progress in Responsible Tourism looking back to the 2002 Cape Town declaration reported that Taleb Rifai, the Secretary General of the UNWTO, felt that
“if the writers of the Statutes of the UNWTO had thought of the phrase ‘Responsible tourism’ at the time of their inception, it might well have been used as it encapsulates the mission of UNWTO: To promote tourism as a vehicle for peace and understanding; to create populations that are prosperous, but keep their cultural identity; to ensure the places remain attractive to tourists and nothing is done to damage the environment; and each stakeholder and participant in tourism takes responsibility for the consequences of their actions.”

Wednesday, World Responsible Tourism Day, was marked as far away as Australia. At World Travel Market Charlie Mayhew , Founder & Chief Executive of Tusk, opened the day with a powerful presentation and the need for the industry to assist with the conservation of elephants and rhino in particular.

This was followed by the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards ceremony, Hot Seat with Wolfgang M. Neumann, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating officer of The Rezidor Hotel Group and in the WTMWRTD debate about whether the industry is doing enough to reduce carbon pollution and combat climate change.

You can find all the WRTD videos and presentations over the three days of the programme at http://www.artyforum.info/wtmwrtd2012.html

Fiona Jeffery, in her welcome on WRTD, marked the 10th anniversary of the Cape Town Declaration which “underlined Responsible Tourism as creating better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.”
“The declaration set out a framework for the industry to follow – reducing negative economic, environmental and social impacts; improving the lives of communities, so often left struggling at the ‘bottom of the pile’; involving them in decisions that affect their lives; and making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage.

“When we launched WTM World Responsible Tourism Day with our friends at UNWTO, together we wanted to make that difference.

“To change the way that the industry did business, to promote the business case for responsible tourism, driving prosperity for all the stakeholders and ensuring that as an industry, we ultimately hand over our world to the next generation with our heads held high.

“We want to communicate, educate, provoke healthy debate and, above all, be inspired by events such as the presentation of the Responsible Tourism Awards… “ which takes place on WTMWRTD during WTM each year.

As Fiona said “WTM World Responsible Tourism Day is a ‘melting pot’ for ideas, often confronting controversy and making everyone think a little more deeply about the future sustainability of our industry.”

Fiona went on to point to the importance of transparency

“Every year, more people jump aboard the responsible tourism ‘wagon’, but the challenge for the industry is to ensure that those companies and destinations who claim to be responsible – are just that.
As an industry, we need honest, transparent information about what they’re doing and what they’ve achieved – and so do customers.”

That is a challenge we shall return to next year.

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Harold Goodwin