Salli Felton, CEO of The Travel Foundation in the U.K., shows how mass tourism can get out of hand. There’s a solution, she says: Measure success in terms of impacts, not arrivals. The tools for doing so already exist. But does the will to use them? Continue reading →
When exactly does tourism become ‘too much’ for a destination? I set off to the Tourism Eco Forum in Barcelona to find out…
Cheap flights, mega cruise ships, overcrowding, the rise of the sharing economy – contributing factors to a situation where locals don’t feel at home in their own cities.
Barcelona and Venice are two prime examples; both have thrived from tourism, but now sit divided. ‘Must-sees’ on the global tourism circuit, their popularity has caused pressures that have led many residents to question whether the economic contributions of the visitor economy are really worth it.
Both cities were represented at the Forum, with destination management organisations (DMOs), tourism departments and ministries from across Europe, alongside international tourism experts from organisations including the GSTC and UNWTO. A series of panels and workshops throughout the day aimed to share perspectives, create dialogue and inspire collaboration.
After listening to and contributing to various panels and discussions, both inside and outside of the conference programme, I determined three common threads that can be useful to aid the creation of sustainable urban destinations:
- A clear vision for tourism that is shared by all stakeholders – governments, citizens, businesses – and a move towards a model of destination management, rather than destination marketing
- A recognition that tourists must contribute (through taxation or otherwise) to measurably and transparently improve infrastructure for locals and visitors alike
- A legislative environment that balances market forces with supporting local residents, services and businesses; inspiring regeneration and avoiding ‘over gentrification’
Of course, it’s always good to discuss such issues at high-level meetings, but the real change happens when destinations start ‘walking the walk’. That’s why I was extremely heartened to find the Forum ran in parallel with the Vilamon Responsible Tourism Festival, which sought to engage hundreds of locals with the initiatives running in and around Barcelona to make tourism more inclusive, to address issues caused by tourism and to give the public a voice in how tourism should be shaped in their city – ¡Hurra!
By Graeme Jackson – Head of Partnerships
High season on the Island of Sal is during the winter in Europe, when people seek to enjoy our year-round sun and warm welcome. But Cape Verde has another peak season, one with a more local flavour – summer time!
It is estimated that more Cabo Verdeans live abroad than in Cape Verde itself… and it is during the hottest months of the year that many of our diaspora return to visit friends and relatives.
Interestingly, this homecoming event also happens for another species – Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) which, like many islanders, leave their birthplace to travel the world, but always come back – females will often return to the beach where they hatched to lay their eggs.
Cabo Verde is the 3rd most important nesting site for Loggerhead turtles in the world and the only significant nesting one on the eastern side of the Atlantic. This species is considered endangered by the IUCN, threatened by hunting and loss of habitat.
As ecotourism is becoming increasingly popular in Europe, nature tour options such as turtle watching are growing. However, the lack of supervision, linked to poor scientific knowledge of the target species by some guides and tour operators, has generated adverse impacts on the turtles and consequently on the tourist experience – threatening the sustainability of the activity itself.
The Travel Foundation has partnered with Projecto Biodiversidade (a local conservation NGO) and is developing a tool to help providers deliver ecotourism excursions in a sustainable way. The project includes best practice training, and will lead to the implementation of a Nature Guide certification scheme.
The Travel Foundation has met with the National Directors of Tourism and of Environment who have embraced the idea and promised total engagement. A joint operational plan will be developed with the input of all stakeholders.
It is estimated that by the end of this year´s nesting season (June to October), about a thousand nesting female turtles will have laid eggs in more than 4,000 nests on Sal, and that about 246,000 baby turtles will hatch.
This is great news, but if we factor in about 20,000 tourists participating in turtle watching excursions, translating into an estimated half a million Euros of income, then the business case for protecting turtles is clear!
Written by Dalia Gomes, Project Co-ordinator, Cape Verde.
With a mission to train 250 craft traders in Montego Bay we felt our best approach would be to train local trainers to undertake the delivery. In doing so the expertise would stay in Jamaica with the potential to allow replication in other resorts.
Travel Foundation’s work on this programme is extremely awesome. I think it’s a great opportunity for the craft traders to be involved in something that will help them to be much more aware. I think it will broaden their horizons, and they will be able to use the skills that they gain in their day to day work. I don’t think there’s anything that tops this programme right now based on what I’ve seen and experienced so far. I think the craft traders who apply what they learn here will do extremely well in their business. So hats off to a great programme Travel Foundation.
– Cavelle Gordon
An hour into the training we knew our strategy was the right one. Let’s just say Jamaicans’ do not have the same ‘reserve’ as us British! Their delivery is loud and powerful with an energy as strong as the imminent Hurricane Mathew about to hit the island. They train like preachers in a gospel church with joy echoed by the participants in the room. And of course this can be the only way to do it with a target audience of Mo Bay craft traders, used to communicating in the local patois with their characteristic brassy banter.
This was fun training at its best with our formidable team of six – Cavelle, Cheryl, Marlene, Maxine, Natalie and Shelley. They revealed how filling a jar with coins could reinforce the learnings and lowering a bamboo stick with the whole group can demonstrate the importance of team work.
With modules including knowing the customer, business skills and working as a team, the trainers are set to deliver the programme to the craft traders over the next six weeks – barring any hurricanes!
I honestly believe that this is a great programme and will definitely impact positively the craft traders to maximise their profits because all the information we’re giving to them is actually practical information that they can build on and improve themselves. By improving themselves they will also improve earnings for their family members. For me it was amazing, a really great experience. It has taught me so much more and I’ve been a trainer for 9 years and I thought I knew something about training but this training for craft traders has taught me so much more. I will take this information and skills I learnt here to better and perfect my craft. For learning to happen and to be effective you need to have trainers that engage you and that push you to make a change. And this is what happened in this training. I am extremely grateful for being here and for being given the opportunity to be a part of this training programme.
– Natalie Ellis
The last 3 days have been amazing; I have personally enjoyed the programme, drank it in. If you, yourself buy into it, then delivering it then becomes a little easier and I will say that I will put my best foot forward to do my part in the whole basis of what you [Travel Foundation] are trying to achieve.
– Cheryl Kelly
Our aims for the training are to enable the market traders to earn a living from tourism by increasing their income from sales and improving the experience for tourists.
Written by Julie Middleton, Head of Sustainable Practice
Malcolm Dunn, Customer Service Manager (TUI), and Isis Iglesias, Contracting Manager (TUI), were chosen as volunteers through TUI and the Travel Foundation’s skill-match volunteering programme, Project Discovery. They spent two weeks in Cyprus researching how to maximise the local economic benefit of TUI’s excursion programme.
Having spent two weeks talking to customers, excursion providers and seeing what the island has to offer, Malcolm and Isis landed back in the UK with fresh ideas about what a sustainable excursion looks like, and we asked them to share their thoughts.
For you, what is the most important element of a sustainable excursion?
Malcolm – “For me, the most important element of a sustainable excursion is the positive legacy it leaves. Whether this is to the environment or the local people, there must be some element of positive benefit that leaves a lasting difference. If the future is kept in mind, the impact from sustainable excursions will be felt further, for longer and by more people.”
During your research, what did customers want from an excursion?
Isis – “Customers want to have enjoyable and unique experiences. Sustainable excursions usually have a more carefully designed itinerary which takes into account the impact of an excursion so that it treads lightly on the environment and provides benefits to local people, and in some cases helps to preserve culture and heritage. In this sense, creating more sustainable excursions can be seen as a recipe to creating more unique excursions, and customers will see the value in this.
During the customer interviews we conducted while in resort, we came across an important sector of the people who explicitly mentioned they would be more likely to book the excursion if they knew it was sustainable. There is an opportunity to communicate the ethical side of our excursions, and make a connection between our customers and our brand values.”
Malcolm added, “Overall, the customers we interviewed all want value for money with their excursions. If explained in the right way, sustainability can become a key selling point for excursions, ensuring that customers feel they are getting value themselves, as well as giving back.”
If you were to write a checklist for ensuring future excursions are sustainable, what would it include?
Isis – “I would like to see suppliers setting targets for themselves to meet, within the environmental, economic and social spheres, because they need to be realistic targets for them to be able to start making changes. We could then help them make continuous improvements towards becoming sustainable. Step-by-step this would help to change the entire excursion programme.”
Malcolm – “To ensure an excursion is sustainable, we must take into account the people that are impacted – are they benefitting from the excursion on their doorstep? If not, how can we ensure they are?”
What happens next? The research will help feed into TUI’s excursion product development, shape customer and staff communications, and the learnings could also be spread to other destinations.
Yesterday, I had my first ever Skype call with the Much Kaab honey cooperative in Mexico. The group has only recently had the internet installed so I was bracing myself for some technical difficulties. To my pleasant surprise, the whole group appeared on screen with full video and audio. They looked happy, focused and prepared.
They described how they are taking ownership of their business. For example they are planning to travel from their small village to meet with a hotel manager to explain why their prices have gone up. I asked what they’d say, and without hesitation they replied:
“Because they are now made from all natural ingredients, which are better for the environment and for your customers. It also allows us to make a living from this business.”
As the call progressed I noticed something different about them, compared to last year. They seemed more confident in themselves and in interacting with me. They seem to have taken control of the business and been empowered by becoming more independent, since our direct support ended last year.
Their hard work is starting to be rewarded financially too. They told me that their main hotel client, the Grand Park Royal Cancun Caribe, following a consultation with guests, has doubled the number of rooms featuring Much Kaab products, therefore doubling their orders of shampoo and soap each month.
As a result the group has been able to pay each of its eight members a regular salary for the past three months. Things are looking positive, as that same hotel chain has plans to embed this policy of local procurement into their business and also stock Much Kaab products in their hotel on the island of Cozumel.
It’s very motivating to see the results of this pilot project, yet at the same time I am aware that this is just one group in one community and that there is potential to connect lots of other small local businesses to the tourism supply chain.
The Travel Foundation’s new strategy, and the programme of work we’re developing in Mexico, is to work at a more strategic level, in order to have a wider impact in the region.
By Terry Brown, Destinations Programme Officer
One of the characteristics of a holiday that can make the experience so rich and enjoyable is that it is made up of so many different factors – the accommodation we stay in, the food we eat, the places we go to, the attractions we see.
This can bring complicated challenges for those of us working towards more sustainable tourism, as these different aspects of the tourism product are often owned, provided by, or managed by different organisations across both the public and private sectors – such as hotels, tour operators, local councils, restaurants and bars.
As a result, many of our projects involve, and are reliant on, a diverse range of stakeholders and our new programme of work in Croatia is no different. Across two villages in Split-Dalmatia, we are supporting the different stakeholders involved in tourism to work together to improve the impacts of tourism on the local community and environment. In particular, we have been working to bring together organisations from the public and private sectors, including local tourism boards, hotels, small, local businesses and regional government bodies.
Getting people in a room together to discuss an agreed set of topics may seem to be a quick and easy task, but it can often be one of the most time consuming and challenging parts of a project.
In Croatia, we have worked hard to resolve the barriers that were preventing these different organisations from working together and we are happy to report that the ongoing workshops and meetings are enabling them to find a common vision for their destination. Ane Sindik, The Travel Foundation’s programme co-ordinator in Croatia said:
“We have come to the point where stakeholders have become more open and are able to solve problems together. They understand that collaborative working can increase tourism income, improve customer satisfaction and ensure that tourism does not have a negative impact on the region.”
From now on, the stakeholders will be working jointly on a number of tourism development activities including cultural heritage valorisation, youth employment and sustainable excursion development projects.
By Thomas Armitt, Destination Programme Officer
Turkey’s Gulf of Fethiye and surrounding coastline is one of the most popular sailing areas along the Turkish coast. Walking along Fethiye’s harbour you have what seems as an endless choice of boats offering daily excursions to explore the 12 islands in the bay. It really is a boating paradise with crystal clear water, green pine forests that meet the sea, and quiet beaches. If your bucket list is anything like mine, there is nowhere else to be – you can swim with turtles in crystal clear waters in the morning, and explore the ancient ruins of inland Fethiye in the afternoon.
I’m very excited to report that six months into my new role at the Travel Foundation, the momentum of Blue Wave educational activities are surging forward. A key objective of this project is to improve the understanding and awareness of threats to the marine environment from marine tourism. Blue Wave partners meet this week to finalise the content for the Bay of Fethiye education map, and once printed it will be distributed throughout the sector. The map will provide tourists with information about the region, and tell them how they can help to protect the marine environment on their boat trip.
We’re also developing and finalising content for the ‘Sustainable Practices for Sailing Yachts and Motorboats’ guide. This guide will be printed and distributed to local marinas and boat owners, to help them understand how they can improve their practices.
Already though, a Blue Wave partner is sharing best practice by opening up their training sessions to smaller marina boat crew. It’s great to see the boating community in the region collaborating to help protect the marine environment, the very thing their business depends on.
Written by Jane Rowan, Destination Programme Officer, Travel Foundation.
The weather was scorching and I’d spent the day cooped up in the backseat of a car bumping along dusty roads in Accra, the capital of Ghana, meeting project stakeholders.
All I wanted was to relax with a nice cold beer and take a refreshing shower. But I couldn’t – there wasn’t any water available at that time of the day.
Water shortage was a big problem in Accra, leading to the authorities restricting access at certain times, and it was a problem made worse by the development of a new golf resort which used gallons of precious water each day to keep its greens, well, green!
It seemed so unfair to drive past acres of lush grass, closed off to all but visiting hotel guests and the wealthy elite, whilst parts of the city struggled to have enough water for daily life.
It was the first time I’d experienced first-hand the negative impacts that tourism could have on communities that often don’t have a say in what developments spring up around them, and who often don’t see any benefits trickle down.
This experience sparked my interest in making tourism more sustainable and developers more responsible for the destinations they work in. That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited to have recently joined the Travel Foundation and be working on projects that bring about real change in destinations.
During my first weeks in the job I’ve been inspired by stories about the lasting impact we’ve had around the world: providing access to tourism markets for local Turkish farmers, encouraging sustainable excursions around the islands of Cape Verde, and providing local women with the opportunity to sell natural honey products to hotels in Mexico.
These programmes don’t only benefit the local communities, but provide models for how sustainable tourism can be done – and these models can be replicated by the travel industry worldwide.
The enthusiasm and energy of the team both here and in destinations around the world is amazing, and I’ve been really impressed by the thorough, evidence-led approach taken with each programme. It’s great to see new opportunities on the horizon such as potential projects to reduce the carbon footprint of tourism in the Caribbean and Africa, and I can’t wait to get stuck in!
– Clare Fussell, Destinations Programme Manager
First I would like to introduce you to Tourah, my new travel buddy! She is a Cape Verdean rag doll that will accompany me while I explore Sal, Cape Verde, and the rest of the world! Last week I went on a half day Island tour that is on sale to TUI customers.
I have been to this island many times on business trips and know many of the main tourist attractions, but it was different and interesting to see Sal through a tourist lens, while observing the curiosity and excitement of the other visitors. It was sad, though, to witness some issues that hinder the quality of our tourism destination. I saw challenges for the destination’s decision-makers – in particular, the training of craft vendors in customer service and product quality. The Travel Foundation have already made a start on this (read more here), but Sal’s tourism stakeholders need to come together and agree a strategy for the future. Hopefully, we can leverage support through the Destination Council.
On the positive side, the tour took me to places I knew, but through paths I have never been. There were two moments of the journey that made me recall a conversation I had the previous weekend with my uncle at São Vicente (another Cape Verdean island, where I am originally from). He is a businessman, owner of two restaurants and a guesthouse, so I love listening to his thoughts on the tourism sector. The other day he said something very interesting:
“Dalia, when Cape Verdeans realise that one can sell ‘The Nothing’, then they will finally start making money from tourism”.
In fact, during the tour I saw two places where the guide sold ‘The Nothing’.
One was when we went to a place where all you could see was dirt and rocks, and still the guide was able to make the stop fun by telling the tourists that piling up five rocks would bring good luck – so a moment was created for wishes and photos. The other place was at Terra Boa – where the landscape is basically flat dry landscape, but the guide surprised us all when we were shown the remarkable ‘nothing’ – a mirage! That is when my uncle´s wise words came to mind.
Tourism is such an amazing versatile sector that can take whatever shape, taste, smell one wants and therefore any country can take part in it – be it rich, poor, big, small, green, dry, cold, hot! If you think of tourism as an iceberg, the tangible aspects are only the tip of it, the major part, the grounding roots, are all intangible assets – friendly atmosphere, welcoming host communities, curious stories, unforgettable experiences… creative and beautiful ‘nothings’!
Written by Dalia Gomes, Programme Co-ordinator, Cape Verde.
Read more about the Travel Foundation’s work in Cape Verde.