Way back at the end of the last century it was evident that sustainable tourism was failing to deliver, there was too much greenwashing and not enough action. John Swarbrooke wrote the seminal textbook on sustainable tourism in 1998, he has just published his critique of why that approach failed.
Alongside the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, 280 delegates from 20 countries came together to review emerging practices in South Africa and the UK and through the Cape Town Declaration started the Responsible Tourism movement. The conference called “upon countries, multilateral agencies, destinations, and enterprises …to take responsibility for achieving sustainable tourism, and to create better places for people to live in and for people to visit.”
The Responsible Tourism Awards have since 2004 recognised businesses and destinations that have taken responsibility, made tourism more sustainable and increased its positive impacts. Next year WTM London will be reviewing two decades of Responsible Tourism practice. This year we are launching a Platform for Change drawing together and debating the tried and tested solutions developed over the last twenty years and challenging others to adopt them.
The platform will expand to include more issues and challenges across the spectrum of sustainability challenges. We are launching with the aviation fuel issue. In March 2020, the respected German consultancy Roland Berger forecast that if other industries decarbonise in line with current projections, aviation could account for up to 24% of global emissions by 2050 unless there is a significant technological shift. The problem is not flying it is the dirty fuel. It takes 15 years to get a new plane into the sky, we need to support efforts by Airbus and others if we are not to risk severe restrictions on aviation a decade or two from now.
On climate change, President Biden is clear about urgency. He has pointed out that “… scientists tell us that this is the decisive decade – this is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis… the world beyond 1.5 degrees means more frequent and intense fires, floods, droughts, heatwaves, and hurricanes – tearing through communities, ripping away lives and livelihoods, increasingly dire impacts to our public health…. We can’t resign ourselves to that future. We have to take action, all of us.” Now we’ve seen the wildfires and other consequences for human health, other species, and the environment in the pacific northwest. It is no longer an academic debate about the science of climate change – the change is upon us and we need to adapt to it.
This is true too for so many of the challenges on the sustainability agenda. As the Oxford academic, Kate Raworth has explained “Humanity’s 21st-century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet. In other words, to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials (from food and housing to healthcare and political voice), while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems…” If it is humanity’s challenge it is our challenge too.
The Platform for Change will feature many of the businesses and destinations which have been recognized in the Responsible Tourism Awards from 2004 to 2022– will you be amongst them? There is still time.
- Decarbonising Travel & Tourism,
- Sustaining Employees and Communities through the Pandemic,
- Destinations Building Back Better Post-COVID,
- Increasing Diversity in Tourism: How inclusive is our industry?
- Reducing Plastic Waste in the Environment and
- Growing the Local Economic Benefit.
Iain Harris of Coffeebeans Routes based in South Africa explains why they applied for an award and what it meant to them to win.
You can apply for an Award or encourage a business or destination to do so by nominating them. Apply or nominate here.