Guest Post

Tourism growth – an opportunity and a challenge.

As we start a new year, so much of the news about the tourism industry is about its growth.   Bookings for 2016 are expected to grow and ABTA recently announced that the number of overseas holidays booked  in 2016 is up 10% year on year.  Meanwhile, this year the cruise sector will introduce 27 new ships.  In fact, despite occasional shocks, tourism has shown virtually uninterrupted growth over the past 6 decades, it’s now one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world.  By 2020, the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation) predicts that a staggering 1.36 billion tourists will be travelling abroad and that by 2030 tourist numbers will be double what they were in 2010.

Village Routes, Cyprus, 2010, copyright Georgina Cranston, wine tastingThis is undoubtedly good news for the industry and more tourists means economic advantages and opportunities, including tax revenues and jobs, for countries receiving visitors too.  But with all this growth, how can the industry protect the quality of the customer experience, which thanks to the rise of peer to peer websites empowering us all to share our experiences with each other, has never been more vital to a company’s reputation?

The elements that go into a good holiday include a warm welcome from local people, a clean, beautiful environment, a feeling of relaxation and of being safe and secure. Holidaymakers also increasingly value the knowledge that their visit is benefitting the destination in some shape or form.

Looked at another way, all these elements for a good holiday are also what also goes into making a sustainable destination.  In short, a great place to live, work and visit.

As tourism continues to grow, getting these elements right becomes ever more challenging as it involves the whole gamut of organisations that have a stake in the holiday product – including destination authorities, tour operators, hotels, excursion providers and more.  The Travel Foundation was created to work with all these parties, bringing them together to support a shared vision for better destinations and in turn better holiday experiences.  We do this by increasing access to market for local people, supporting destinations to share their local heritage, food and culture and developing ways for tourism to fund conservation and protect biodiversity.

2016 ushers in the official launch of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and its sustainable development goals which include tourism.  With the industry’s growth set to continue, it’s heartening to see this recognition of the important role sustainable tourism can play in improving people lives and protecting the environment.  And it highlights a significant opportunity  for the industry and destination governments to re-think how tourism works for the benefit of the destination and the holidaymaker.

Gina 222Written by Georgina Davies, Communications Manager.

Crafting a sustainable future in Sal

debora-abu-rayaToday’s blog is a guest article from Débora Abu-Raya, who is based in Sal, Cape Verde. Débora joined the TF team in July 2013 and has since been working to build our programme of work on the Island of Sal. Today, Débora updates us with the latest from the Cape Verdean Craft project. The project aims to increase the awareness, provision and competitive nature of the Cape Verdean craft offering in Sal, increasing sales to tourists to improve the livelihoods of artisans and help create a more unique tourism product. More on the project here.

As a Cape Verdean, I want to see tourists shopping for locally made crafts, and taking something home that is unique to the islands. Aside from the romantic notion that a little bit of Cape Verde will be spread around the world, it’s vital that local businesses are able to benefit from tourism, and that as a destination we’re providing a unique, quality experience, in order to protect our future in tourism.

Craft producer SalCape Verdean craft producers and vendors haven’t had it easy since the growth of tourism on Sal. Initial research showed that imports, lack of knowledge, lack of diversity of products and poor access to market have all contributed to a difficult market place. On top of that, there was very little communication between producers, vendors, regulatory bodies and the ministries. We were left asking questions such as…who could help? How could we help to protect the future of Cape Verdean craftspeople in Sal?

With backing from the Destination Council (you can read more on that here), we pulled together a strong group of influencers from both public and private sectors that would help us address some of the issues, and more importantly, co-ordinate efforts and take ownership in the long term.

A year on, I was so pleased to organise a workshop for local craftspeople, being run by two designers from M_EIA (University Institute of Art, Technology and Culture in Cape Verde). It focussed on meeting customer demand and customer service. Leão Lopes led the 5 day workshop, and recognised that due to the lack of formal training, traditional craftspeople in Cape Verde were getting lost in the market. We collaborated to design the training course to address issues found in the initial research.

Andrea Monteiro from LAlambicIt’s rewarding to see a year’s worth of research, planning and future-proofing reaching the local craftspeople. On the day, I spoke to craft producer Andrea Monteiro who said “This training helped me to have a more critical look into my work and to be aware to the need of constant innovation. We had an excellent trainer, who obviously knows very well the craft and design areas/sectors in Cape Verde, and that lead me to know more about what’s happening in other islands with craft and to get more info about designers that I can work with.”

The project is due to finish in December, and I don’t want to jump the gun, but I think we’re almost at the point where we can answer my earlier questions…

Who could help? Input is needed from many parties, and to list all those involved would be too long (you can read that here!) but to make this project work we needed, and got, buy in from all sectors – public, private and NGO.
How could we help protect the future of craft in Sal? Our approach was to first understand the issues, then bring together the people who influence those. Of course, upskilling the producers and vendors was important, but without a supporting network, it wouldn’t have a lasting effect.

Making the most of Mo Bay…

Annette Coral in JamaicaWhat’s it like working on sustainable tourism projects in a popular holiday destination? In today’s blog piece, we gain insight from Coral Purvil-Williams (Jamaica Project Research Assistant, right in picture), and Annette Tingle (Jamaica Programmes Coordinator, left in picture), on the latest TF activity in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Coral is based in Montego Bay, and Annette in Kingston on the other side of the island. Whilst always in contact, Annette and Coral get together on a regular basis for meetings with stakeholders and project participants to ensure the smooth running of the Travel Foundation’s activities in Jamaica.

Last week, Annette and Coral spent three days together in Montego Bay, having been asked to provide feedback on a customer day trip by an excursion provider. Making the most of their joint time in town, they were also due to meet with the Rastafari Indigenous Village, and research Montego Bay hotspots (and those that are lesser known!) for new customer communication and staff training materials.

Who better to hear from on how their time was spent than from the Mo Bay resident herself, Coral…

“On Tuesday afternoon, after getting some administrative work out of the way in the morning and collecting Annette, our job was to meet with the excursion provider, before participating, ‘secret shopper’ style, in one of their Montego Bay shopping excursions. The idea was to provide feedback and recommendations relating to the amount and level of information provided by the tour guides, the quality of each stop and opportunities for participants to meet local people and purchase Jamaican drinks, snacks and souvenirs. Following on from the tour, we collated all our feedback and sent it on to the excursion provider.

Richmond Hill - View over MoBayOn Wednesday, we visited ‘Ahhh… Ras Natango Gallery & Garden’ as we are thinking about including it in some new promotional materials about what to do and see in Montego Bay. The drive there was a great experience; we meandered along narrow roads, up some 2000ft, into the mountains while watching the pace of life in rural Montego Bay. Our time there was spent interacting with other guests and meeting with the owners.

After a quick lunch we were on our way to our next appointment at the Rastafari Indigenous Village (RIV) but unfortunately we received a call to say they were unable to accommodate us. This often happens when dealing with operational businesses; they need to react and respond to day-to-day activities which calls for us to remain adaptable and flexible. So, instead of meeting the RIV community we squeezed in a meeting at the Tortuga Rum Cake factory (which will be added, along with the gallery and gardens, to TF materials and potentially the excursion provider’s new tour) and completed the day with paperwork and planning! Annette will be back next month to meet with RIV…

On Thursday, we were up pretty early prepping for our scheduled meeting with the Sustainability Director for Karisma Hotels and Resorts at their Azul Sensatori hotel property in Negril. Following previous collaboration between TF and Karisma in Mexico, on the Jungle Jams project, the hotel group is interested in opportunities to get involved in sustainability work in Jamaica. This meeting was lengthy but productive – five hours later, it was quite a scramble to get Annette back to the bus station for her transfer back to Kingston – we now have some interesting options to consider!

As a result of our mystery shopping exercise and our site visits, the excursion provider has said that our feedback will be used to…

“enhance the quality of the (existing) Mo Bay shopping trip for our customers and to make it more sustainable for the community…” It was also mentioned that they are now “thinking of developing a (new) exclusive shopping trip for Montego Bay and I will use your recommendations when putting it together”.

These activities form part of TF’s project aimed at improving visitor circulation and spend in Montego Bay. TF are in the process of developing communications tools for visitors and training sessions for tourism staff which celebrate and promote the unique qualities of Montego Bay.

Tourism through a lens…

Last month we asked Chris Willan, professional photographer, to capture our activities in Jamaica and Mexico. It’s the first time Chris has shot for us in these locations, so we asked him to share his experience. He’s back from his trip and here’s what he had to say…

The brief arrives from TF. What’s your first thought? Be honest!

You always have a huge shopping list! It was a massive brief, but I like a challenge, it’s good to get out of your comfort zone. I’ve shot in both locations before, but Mexico was more of an unknown for me, I’d not really been off the beaten track before so I was really excited about going to some of the villages and visiting a pearl farm. When you first said Cancun I just thought of hotel strips, I could not have been more surprised. It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable trips I have done in a long time. It has everything, you just need to know where to find it.

You visited the Rastafari Indigenous Village in Jamaica, what do you think holidaymakers will enjoy most? Arlene

Having arrived via a beautiful tropical garden, Arlene greets you, and introduces you to the concept behind the village, and then you have to go barefoot through the river to reach the village. It’s only ankle deep and is a lovely experience. You’re given a stave and encouraged to celebrate water and the life it gives, which is very important in Rastafari culture. It’s a great sensory experience – most people don’t do that on a daily basis! Throughout the day you learn lots about the Rastafari lifestyle, and the Emperor Haile Selassie I from Ethiopia, and why it became a way of living and a religion. I actually knew a fair bit about this because I was born in East Africa and my father has a picture of me next to the Emperor Haile Selassie I when he was on a state visit to Uganda!

You spent some time in Montego Bay, did you find any hidden charms?

I find as a traveller the most charming things are the real things, real life happening. I prefer quieter places to reflect and my favourite place here was Dump-Up Beach, one of the few public beaches left; it’s where the locals gather. I just liked sitting down there watching people play football, and seeing families gather. It had a real community feel, and I really like seeing people enjoying the place naturally, when you know it’s not a spectacle for tourism. It has a feel that it’s ‘real’ Jamaica.

In Mexico, you visited two communities in the Yucatan peninsula, one making jam and the other honey products. What are their surroundings like?

HoneyFirstly, I visited the jam making community in Chumpon. The indication that we’d arrived was an enormous tree in the centre of the village – their Trafalgar square! My first thought was that there isn’t very much there, a little shop, and some houses varying in their construction, some modern and some very traditional. There’s quite a lot of contrast – modern cars parked outside very traditional houses, and the jam factory is modern and well equipped. One thing that really stood out with this group was that they were so grateful to the project because it would mean that their children wouldn’t need to leave the village to go and work in hotels in Cancun. They could continue with their traditional way of life, and they really appreciated that they could continue to live this way. The village that’s home to the group making honey products had a very similar feel, again a big tree marking the centre. A lot of the village seemed very engaged with the project, and they were very welcoming and accepting. It was a really enjoyable experience, but I was a bit against the clock! Sometimes you need to put a bit of gasoline on the fire to get the shots you need. There is so much to learn from the Mayan culture, they’re great to listen to and it leaves a lot of questions about how we live today.

You met a lot of people during your time overseas. Who sticks in your mind, and why?

YuriYuritzin Flores, TF’s programme manager in Mexico. She has an aura around her that just says she is the perfect person for the job, I have never seen anyone so welcomed by so many people in so few days. She’s hard working, was concerned with everything going smoothly, constantly sending messages to update everyone if we were running late etc. She was the stand out personality – you can often feel like the lone warrior in sustainable tourism, but through her you realise there is actually an army of people out there concerned with the same thing.

PaulineIn Jamaica, it would have to be Pauline at the craft market in Mo Bay. She took me under her wing and made sure I was ok, she got me some food, we had a laugh together and everytime I went past the market she’d give me a big wave and made sure everyone else made me welcome too. She made me feel like I was travelling with my mum – if anything was wrong I knew I could go to Pauline and she’d make it all ok!

Every good photographer needs to keep their energy up with some good food. What dishes shone in Jamaica, and in Mexico?

In Jamaica my best meal was rice and peas and goat curry in the market in Mo Bay. There isn’t much meat in a goat curry, and you will get told off if you don’t suck the bones! It’s spicy and definitely very Jamaica. The fresh juices were also great. I sat eating it on a broken chair with lots of people around me doing the same, it made me feel like I was at a family dinner.

In Mexico everything is great, but I’d have to choose the handmade tortillas I had in Chumpon. Everyone ate communally in a central building with a thatched roof, and the tortillas came with a paste made from roast pumkpin seeds, tomatoes, shallots, fresh cheese (which is like cottage cheese in the UK), and sauces, all washed down with Pitahi juice. It was absolutely delicious. For me though, food isn’t just about taste, it’s about experience, and getting to eat with the locals, and watching them prepare it from scratch was great.

Down to the nitty gritty…Jamaica – favourite picture? Just one! And why?

DumpUpDump-Up Beach, it was the end of the day and I knew within 20 minutes they’d be no light left for the rest of the day, the light was good and I got the perfect shot of locals playing football on the beach.

IslaMujersSame goes for Mexico…

Again, it was the end of the day and I was waiting for the sun to go down over Isla Mujeres and I was watching some pelicans flying around. I often think the ‘end of the day’ pictures sum up how your day went. The sunset gave a feeling of calm, and the energy was coming from the Pelicans – it really summed up how the trip had gone.

That’s why you become a photographer. The camera has given me a passport to an amazing life, taking pictures is the first and last thing I think about every day, and at 51 I’m still looking forward to my best years. With photography you can get better as time goes on, the experience gives you the understanding you need to get a great picture.

Work experience at the Travel Foundation

Rebecca's work experienceThis week I’ve been on my work experience at the Travel Foundation. On my first morning I was asked to complete an induction quiz which had me talking to all the staff members here to find out about them and their job role. The activity involved lots of laughing, and made me feel really welcome.

I’ve enjoyed the variety of tasks that I’ve been set, including data analysis of a training questionnaire, research on a water project, and creating some new content on a Greener Accommodation tool for the website.

All of the tasks have helped me to recognise where my degree fits into the real world of work, and have shown me the importance of charity work within the tourism sector.

In September I go back to the University of Southampton to start my third year in Environmental Science, and I feel my time at the Travel Foundation has helped me understand the areas that I’d like to focus my independent research on.

Rebecca Keens, Student Volunteer at the Travel Foundation

Would you eat that?

Imagine you are a hungry sea turtle that cannot tell the difference between a real jellyfish — a nutritious treat — and a floating plastic bag that very much resembles a jellyfish. Fooled by the illusion, you swallow the plastic bag — a deadly mistake. The plastic makes you feel so full that you unwittingly starve yourself to death!medasset poster

The plastic in our seas is killing hundreds of thousands of sea turtles and other marine animals each year, as they often mistake it for food. To raise awareness about this startling statistic, MEDASSET, an organisation that has been promoting safe and responsible waste disposal throughout the Mediterranean since 1998, created the “You See the Difference. A Turtle Does Not” campaign in 2012.

Millions of tourists visit the Mediterranean each summer, causing real problems for coastal communities, which are asked to manage waste well beyond their capacities. In response, MEDASSET, with support from various sponsors, placed giant posters at the Athens and Berlin Airports, hoping to directly target travelers about this enormous environmental issue.

Over the last two years, the response to the poster has been phenomenal. It has been placed in permanent exhibitions at prestigious museums and aquariums and gone viral on Facebook.

At the Vienna Natural History Museum

At the Vienna Natural History Museum

The best part of the campaign, however, is that it is truly international: it has been translated into twelve languages and adopted by like-minded organisations everywhere from Alaska, to island nations in the Indian ocean, to Costa Rica, to Australia, and all over the Mediterranean, MEDASSET’s field of activity.

It’s a tool that works, and we are glad we can share it and raise awareness about this global issue.

Jenny Ioannou, Head of Communications, MEDASSET