Sustainability helps meet customer demand for unique experiences

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Malcolm Dunn and Isis Iglesias

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?

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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?

image-9Isis – “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.

Giving the honey coop a buzz

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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

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Building consensus in Croatia

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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 OfficerTom Armitt

 

Blue Wave is surging forward in Fethiye

IMG_0840Turkey’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.

IMG_0876We’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.

Find out more about Blue Wave here >

_MG_7410Written by Jane Rowan, Destination Programme Officer, Travel Foundation.

What sparked my interest in sustainable tourism

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.gardens irrigating efficiently

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_web

– Clare Fussell, Destinations Programme Manager 

The magic of tourism – selling ‘The Nothing’

DaliaBlog1First 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’.

daliablog4One 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’!

Dalia GomesWritten by Dalia Gomes, Programme Co-ordinator, Cape Verde.

Read more about the Travel Foundation’s work in Cape Verde.

Relationship building in Croatia – can we make the perfect match?

IMG_0259Last month, I started work as the Programme Coordinator for the Travel Foundation in Croatia.

My role is to, amongst other things, embed activities that will improve the integration of new and refurbished hotels into the local tourism and community environment.

I will be using the recommendations made from the impact assessment report (I was part of the team that researched and developed it), and my aim is to maximise tourism benefits and minimise negative impacts of tourism, as these places are very small tourism destinations who now have the potential to be receiving higher visitor numbers than in previous years.

IMG_0215.jpgIf you wish to enjoy a small, rustic and typical villages on the Dalmatia coast, you need to visit the picturesque villages of Igrane and Zivogosce! These villages are the focus of the project, and I will supporting tourism organisations to embed sustainability within their policies and practices so they can benefit more from tourism. I’m really excited about this opportunity!

I have developed small working groups to focus on the recommendations made in the impact assessment report to enable me to work towards the goal to develop positive and sustainable working relationships between the hotels and local communities in Igrane and Zivogosce.

The meetings, so far, have been very open and constructive, and discussions between partners representing public, private and non-governmental institutions have been fruitful in bringing us closer to our goals. It is nice to see progress where key decisions are based on a consensus between partners.

It is a huge success, that after one month of implementing activities, cooperation between partner organisations has been very open, and we’re on our way to building a great relationship.

Next, I plan to confirm joint activities and responsibilities that will see the recommendations being put into place. I’m looking forward to working on this project, and looking into the possibilities of rolling similar initiatives out on a national scale. I look forward to reporting on the progress I make soon!

Ane SindikWritten by Ane Sindik, Programme Coordinator, Croatia

More information on the Croatia Programme >

Best practice now common practice for 15 Fethiye hotels

taste of Fethiye logo300After five years support, we’re almost ready to stand back from the Taste of Fethiye project in Turkey. The project is now on the verge of being handed over to local organisations. FETAV (Fethiye Tourism, Education, Environment and Culture Promotion) have already taken over organisation of the Taste of Fethiye Craft Fairs, and we’re busy working on agreeing responsibilities that will be handed over to local organisations who will continue to run the Taste of Fethiye brand in future.

LD6H2217The wholesalers that were involved in the project from the beginning are still working with almost all the Taste of Fethiye farmers, which is hugely important to ensure future success. We also had a great increase in involvement from hotels last year, which had a great influence on production and sales.

 

Fifteen hotels are still purchasing Taste of Fethiye produce, which tells us after all these years of hard work, purchasing local fresh fruit and vegetables from Taste of Fethiye has become a part of their day-to-day business practice.

 

So, it seems that it IS possible to integrate small, local suppliers into the mainstream tourism supply chain. Myself and Vicky are currently working on an impact assessment report for the project, and I look forward to sharing all that stats with you soon.

SemsiProfileWritten by Semsi Toprak, Programme Co-ordinator, Fethiye (Turkey)

Read more about the Taste of Fethiye project.

A cleaner side to Cape Verde…

Santa Maria is among the best beaches in the world, according to the TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice awards 2016. Crystal clear water, fun waves and golden, soft sand are some ingredients that make this beach so special. Surrounded by international standard hotels and beach clubs, Santa Maria attracts many holidaymakers and locals. If you are looking for tranquility, this is it! But don’t get tricked, at the “Reef” surfing spot you can also ride waves and have breathless experience!

Santa maria beach cleanA way to show love to a place is by giving back, and this is how Revolusal (Sal´s Surfing Association) decided to celebrate their 9th anniversary last weekend. They organised a two-day event at the Reef spot where their members, children and beach-lovers participated in several water sports and environmental education activities.

The Travel Foundation was pleased to support the beach clean-up race where children and adults, residents and holidaymakers, collected about 400 kgs of litter that were on the beach and in the seawater! I loved watching the kids running enthusiastically to get their gloved hands on rubbish and also appreciated the holidaymakers that took 40 minutes of their sunbathing time to help us clean the beach – it is heartwarming to see people visiting my country, caring for it as well.

CV beach cleanHappy kids, positive atmosphere and a truck full of waste were the results of the event. It was disturbing to see the items/rubbish collected, especially those found in the water. More than ever, I’m certain that Sal´s beaches are areas that need special attention in order to guarantee sustainability of this beautiful tourism destination.

Beach cleans are very important, but prevention is a key ingredient as well. Beach-users (visitors and locals), excursion providers, hotel and tour operators need to have responsible attitudes towards the resource that is the very reason of their visit/ business. Travel Foundation will continue to support Revolusal’s commitment to keeping Sal’s beaches clean, and we will work together with other destination partners to improve beach user experiences.

Santa Maria now has a cleaner face. If you do pay it a visit, don’t forget: leave no litter …only your footprints on its soft sand.

*POST UPDATE 01/06/2016*

Last Saturday we supported another beach-clean. This time we joined the Project Biodiversity and other stakeholders in celebrating the World Turtle Day (23rd May). Some 115 volunteers, mostly from the civil society, joined efforts in cleaning the Serra Negra Beach, which is a Natural Reserve located on the southeast of Sal Island. The great teamwork certainly paid off, as they were able to fill up about 68 trash bags! Boy will the turtles be happy next time they come around – that beach has the highest density of nesting Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) in the island. Kudos!

Dalia GomesWritten by Dalia Gomes, Programme Co-ordinator, Cape Verde.

Read more about the Travel Foundation’s work in Cape Verde.

 

INTERESTED IN ORGANISING A BEACH CLEAN?

Get involved with this year’s Make Holidays Greener campaign, which is all about keeping beaches clean. Find out more >

What’SUP with our Blue Wave project?

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Semsi Toprak paddle boarding in the Fethiye-Gocek Special Environmental Protection Area

The Blue Wave Project takes place in the Fethiye-Gocek Special Environmental Protection Area located in southwest Turkish Mediterranean coast. A working group consisting of cross sector representation from all the stakeholders (marinas, bays, private boat operators, NGOs, local authorities) Chamber of Shipping, TURMEPA – environmental NGO, D-Marin- a private marina group and the Travel Foundation are responsible for delivering the project and co-ordinating activities. The project aims to improve the level of sustainable practices carried out within the sector and amongst tourists, creating a cleaner and more appealing tourism product.

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Around the coast there are around 40 bays or islands that visitors can enjoy. One of the main reasons why tourists visit is to enjoy the beautiful marine environment, with most tourists taking a least one boat trip during their stay. However, the increasing popularity of marine recreation threatens to destroy the very thing that supports the economy of the region – the environment.

Last week I went on a four day solo stand-up paddling (SUP) board tour around Fethiye-Gocek bays and Islands. This was the first time that a person was making a multi-day SUP excursion around that coast, and the idea was to spread the word about the Blue Wave Project to tourist boats and establishments on bays and islands. I paddled about 30 miles; talking to tourists, boat operators and restaurant owners on the way, while demonstrating one of the lowest impact ways of sea travel.

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People were mostly interested in how I was able to carry all I would need including the food that would last four days on a paddleboard. This is one of the ways to demonstrate how minimalist you should think while sailing or traveling with a motor boat. You are there with hundreds of other species sharing the same environment, and being solo and interacting with all that marine and land wildlife made me feel like a real outsider.

 

SemsiProfileWritten by Semsi Toprak, Programme coordinator, Fethiye

Read more about Blue Wave.