Travel Foundation General News

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 

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.

Salad Days

Travel Foundation team visits The Severn Project

The team get a look at some of the packaged produce

The team get a look at some of the packaged produce

During the first week of September all the Travel Foundation’s destination programmes coordinators convened at our Bristol HQ – it’s always lovely to see them! One afternoon we took time out from our busy schedule to be inspired by the work of The Severn Project – a ‘Bristol born and bred’ social enterprise and Community Interest Company.

The organisation’s organic urban farm grows salad leaves on around 8.5 acres – giving a new purpose to previously disused land, and providing employment opportunities for local people recovering from drug and alcohol misuse, and those with a history of offending or poor mental health.

The result is fresh, fresh salad leaves which are supplied to local restaurants, alongside real social benefits for employees and the wider community.


The TF team with Severn Project founder, Steve Glover (2nd from right)

With so many of our overseas programmes focusing on local supply chain and linking the tourism and agricultural industries, our extended team found the visit (and especially the chance to quiz founder Steve Glover) deeply insightful and inspiring. No doubt they’ll be taking some tips back to their respective corners of the globe to implement in existing and future programmes.

Founded in 2010, The Severn Project now supplies 80 customers in Bristol on a weekly basis and is currently in discussions with some well-known UK retailers – so watch out for their produce in a chiller cabinet near you soon!

Dear diary…

Two weeks in the life of a volunteer

Every year, we work with TUI UK & Ireland to run Project Discovery – a volunteering programme that matches employee skills to Travel Foundation project needs. TUI employees apply for posts, cross their fingers, and the lucky ones get to immerse themselves in all things sustainable for a week or two. Designed to plug a gap in resources, volunteer experiences can often help to fulfill research needs for TF projects. For the first time, Project Discovery volunteers have travelled to a snowsports resort, organised by experts at Crystal Ski Holidays who added a touch of logistical magic!

Rosie and RobThe first volunteers of 2015, Robert Ansell (Assistant Product Manager) and Rosie Stanyer (Distribution Training Consultant), were “so excited when we found out we’d been selected to take part in the first Project Discovery to visit one of TUI’s specialist destinations – the French Alps”.

Thermals at the ready, off they headed tasked with finding out more about sustainability issues in the snow. They outline the mission for their trip below…

“Once we arrived in the ski resorts we were on a fact-finding mission to investigate what sustainability looks like in the resorts of La Plagne and Les Arcs. Our two weeks in the mountains involved everything from self-guided orientations around the resorts to formal meetings with the town mayor, piste management companies and the tourist authority. The brief allowed us the flexibility to follow leads as we came across them and we ended up learning a great deal about the sustainable practices and considerations that go into running an alpine resort.”

Here are some highlights from Rob’s diary…

Day 1: St Pancras à Les Arcs

A very early start for a Saturday! Met Rosie at St Pancras at 08:30 to begin the trip and spent the day getting to know each other on the 9hr Eurostar ride. Got excited when passing Disneyland and even more excited when it started to snow as we approached the Alps. We discussed the approach to the meetings and what we wanted to get out of them.

The 8 hour journey flew by surprisingly fast and travelling by Eurostar the whole way was very comfortable. It’s definitely a viable, as well as more sustainable, alternative to flying.

DCIM100GOPRODay 4: Mayor, SAP & Tourist Office

Went across to La Plagne for a morning meeting with SAP quality managers and an afternoon one with the Mayor, the head of the tourism authority and the head of SAP. Was clear that there was a sense of pride in their home, a desire to do what they could to prolong it and they were all happy to talk about the work that they’re doing.

Day 5, 6 and 7:

A brilliant day of skiing with the ADS quality manager in Les Arc. She showed us a behind-the-scenes view of the area, stopping on runs to point out sustainability initiatives. Lots of writing up to do from meetings, fresh snow outside but we wanted to get it all down on paper while it was still in our minds! We met with various Crystal reps in the area to gather feedback based on their interactions with customers and time on the mountain.

A big highlight of the trip was going on a guided ski tour around Les Arcs with the resort’s Sustainability Manager. This experience really brought sustainability to life for us as we were able to see a range of piste management activities first-hand. Not only was our guide a great ambassador of sustainable practices, but the sheer number of initiatives that are in place to protect the surrounding ecology put the snowy slopes in an entirely different light for us. The best part about the whole experience was meeting local people and seeing just how invested they are in protecting the resorts from the negative effects of tourism; as far as they’re concerned they’re just protecting their homes.

Day 11: Time to hit the pistes!

Snowboarding! First day off and spent every minute of it enjoying the pistes. Rosie went DCIM100GOPROparagliding which was breathtaking, even just to watch, let alone how she must have felt!

Day 12 and 13:

Sat down with the Resort Team Manager and his rep team leaders. They had a good amount of experience between them, both from multiple seasons here and elsewhere so their comparison to other resorts was invaluable.

The information gathered by Robert and Rosie will feed into making improvements to the Greener Snowsports tool, help tour operators to work with snowsport resorts, and help businesses to operate more sustainably.

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.

From the four corners of the earth

Travel Foundation Staff

At the beginning of September, the Travel Foundation welcomed Overseas Coordinators from Cape Verde, Turkey, Jamaica and Mexico to our Bristol offices for the 2014 Programme Managers’ Meeting.

During the three day programme, workshops ranged from the new Travel Foundation strategy, to communicating our work from each destination. Overseas Coordinators shared their experiences measuring social impacts when faced with challenges such as low literacy rates, or cultural restrictions in asking for financial information.

Case studies on destination partnerships in Cape Verde and Cyprus stimulated discussion on what future partnerships might look like and how they might work. Training on problem solving and dealing with difficult situations helped us share learning from different projects, and each member of the programmes team, both in the UK and overseas, left with their own personal actions from the event.

Feedback from our Overseas Coordinators was incredibly positive:

“Overall it was a very meaningful, refreshing and enjoyable time being with all my colleagues!”

“I will definitely keep in touch with my overseas colleagues more and try to share best practice”.

To build on the success of the event, we’re hoping to create more opportunities for Overseas Coordinators to share experiences and ideas with each other, through online groups, webinars, and face to face meetings.