Review of WTM World Responsible Tourism events

  • Published by Vedat
The Employment in Travel and Tourism: the Responsible Tourism opened the World Responsible Tourism events for 2013, with lively discussion and disagreement on the second day of World Travel Market 2013 (Tuesday 5 November).

Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association, said that in UK, one in every four new jobs in recession generated was in tourism. She went on to tell people about a scheme called the Big Hospitality Conversation which seeks to match young people with job vacancies in tourism. "Our target is to create 60,000 opportunities for young people by end 2014," she explained.

However, Kevin Curran, Chair of the Unite Union Central London Hotel Workers Branch, said the London hotel sector was one of most profitable in world, yet he claimed that there was not one collective bargaining agreement between any hotel and employees in London, and that none of them are paying London Living Wage. Curran said the sector was "not accessing potential to earn even more", adding that there is a "huge gap between brand's CSR reports and workers daily experiences."

Ufi Ibrahim later challenged Curran's views, saying all members of industry pay national minimum wage as they are obliged to by law, and the London Living Wage is a voluntary scheme.

Later in the morning it was standing-room only at the packed panel discussion on disruptive innovations found amongst Responsible Tourism approaches to maximising local economic development. Jose Dominic, CEO of India's CGH Earth, presented a disruptive innovation for sustainable luxury. CGHEarth's hotels are devoid of the usual luxuries such as plasma TVs and air conditioning, yet still sell as luxury. Hotels are built of local materials, guides are former poachers who know the forests well. According to Dominic, "luxury is not the built ostentation, but the experience - where consumers’ interests do not overwhelm the needs of the planet or the community."

Richard Hearn of Village Ways, which originally started work with communities in Foothills of Himalayas, was inspirational as he explained how Village Ways community-based model has been designed to be replicable to any similar destination, ensuring rural villagers working with tourism are able to "evaluate guests just as they would a crop." Village Ways now work with 27 communities in India, Nepal and Ethiopia. He described his trips as "Great holidays for purposeful travels" and "privileged access to remote beautiful places".

Glynn O'Leary from Transfrontier Parks Destinations explains his South African company's models for developing community tourism in Southern Africa, restoring run down community lodges and businesses so as to bring community development and ownership to remote areas. He explains that it is not about artificially preserving communities as tourist attractions, and that: “If tourists want to see the Bushmen as they were 100 years ago, they have arrived 100 years too late".

Justin Francis, CEO of and organiser of the WTM Responsible Tourism Awards opened the panel on "Communicating Responsible Tourism". He said "responsible tourism is a pipe dream unless we can turn goodwill and good intentions into bookings".

Responsible tourism communications consultant Sarah Holloway said travel companies trying to improve responsible tourism communications need to "Start from where your customers' values are". Jo Hendrick, Sustainable Destinations Manager, Thomas Cook UK & Ireland agreed, saying the best way to move responsible tourism agenda forward was to remove the jargon of sustainability from conversation. She revealed that by using a new 'local' label instead of a 'sustainable' or 'responsible' one, the number of people who went on Thomas Cook local community-based excursions while on holiday went from 29,000 in 2012 to 37,000 in 2013.

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