Global leaders debate how tourism can be a force for good

TRAVEL and tourism CEOs have been implored to measure the industry’s effectiveness not just in dollars and cents, but its impact on natural resources and local communities.

Mark Malloch-Brown, former deputy secretary-general of the United Nations and chairman, Europe, Middle East and Africa, of business advisory firm FTI Consulting, pointed out that travel and tourism has the ability to bridge the gap between the rising middle class who are the consumers and those that have been left behind, which are likely to be the destinations.

“Just 10-20 per cent of tourist spending stays in the country of destination. We’ve got to look at how we can up that number…(how we can have) more local employment, better wages, so that we raise that dollar and impact,” he said.

To allow consumers to hold the industry accountable, Malloch-Brown added that hotels, for example, could go beyond informing guests that part of their payment has gone towards a charity but show how much of their money will stay within the local economy, what the supply chain is like in terms of whether goods and services are sourced domestically, and the property’s impact on the environment.

Agreeing, economist DeAnne Julius, non-executive director of Roche, Jones Lang LaSalle and Deloitte, suggested: “Perhaps prepare a metric that helps to compare across companies (the portion of spend that actually stays in the country visited).”

Bjorn Lomborg, director of environmental think tank, Copenhagen Consensus Center, also challenged businesses to not take the easiest way out. “I don’t blame hotels for wanting to say we’re green because that makes all their customers feel better…(but) you should be more concerned about what actually has the greatest impact, and that’s by far indoor and outdoor air pollution.”

Disputing practices such as 100 per cent recycling and 100 per cent organic products, Lomborg explained: “(Companies) should be asking the question: Do we have one big thing that’s actually outdoing all the green things that we’re trying to do? For instance, do we have an oil back-up generator that’s incredibly polluting? Maybe that’s worse than all the good things we’re doing.”

Reflecting on the current travel agency landscape, JTB president and CEO, Hiromi Tagawa, said: “There are too many harvesters but no sowing of seeds. We need to nurture for the next generation. Sustainability isnt just about selling the product…it’s our responsibility to protect nature and people’s lifestyles, which is what we’ve been doing in Okinawa with its traditional arts, for example.”

WTTC’s annual Global Summit brings together over 1,000 delegates to discuss issues facing the industry. Hainan is this year’s host for the 14th edition, which runs from April 24-25, and is themed Changing world, new perspectives.

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