NTO chiefs underline continued commitment to develop tourism responsibly

From taking guidance from sustainability experts to promoting home-stays and local experiences that benefit natives, more and more NTOs are devising their strategies to focus on responsible and sustainable tourism practices.

Speaking at the ongoing PATA Annual Summit & Adventure Mart 2023 in Pokhra, Nepal, Raki Philips, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), said the NTO had hired Australia-based EarthCheck to help Ras Al Khaimah create a sustainable and responsible tourism roadmap.

More NTOs are devising their strategies to focus on responsible and sustainable tourism practices

“We are looking to be the first certified sustainable destination in the Middle East by 2025. Thirty per cent of the new infrastructure developments taking place in Ras Al Khaimah have green spaces,” Philips added.

Abdulla Mausoom, tourism minister for the Maldives, also shared that the country intends to adopt a community-based tourism model.

“We recently launched our fifth Tourism Master Plan. Our aim is to make the Maldives the world’s leading sustainable tourism destination. We are making sure that the benefits of the tourism sector reach to the local community and the ecosystem is protected,” Abdulla said.

As part of its responsible tourism strategy, Azerbaijan is aiming to introduce products and experiences that are authentic to the destination. “It’s not about artificially creating and developing tourism products but to utilise the resources Azerbaijan has, be it mud volcanoes or mountains or sea,” said Florian, Sengstschmid, CEO, Azerbaijan Tourism Board.

Nepal on the other hand is looking to preserve the culture of ethnic groups and provide job opportunities to local population as part of its responsible tourism approach.

“Apart from sensitising travellers and locals about the fragile geography we have in Nepal, we are focusing on promoting home-stays at places where ethnic groups reside. The idea is to offer livelihood opportunities to the young population who otherwise is migrating to other places and to also encourage them to practice their real culture,” said Dhananjay Regmi, CEO, Nepal Tourism Board.

For sustainable tourism efforts to be successful over the long term, Kevin Phun, founder & consultant, Center for Responsible Tourism Singapore, said public-private partnerships are needed.

In a panel discussion held during the Halal in Travel – Global Summit on May 30, Phun pointed to successful examples set by both Singapore and Australia. In Singapore, the Singapore Tourism Board works closely with travel agents and private companies to offer sustainable tourism experiences, which are appreciated by travellers. Over in Australia, public and private sector players have joined forces to conserve the Great Barrier Reef.

Fellow panellist, Nisha Abu Bakar, co-founder of World Women Tourism, pointed that out sound efforts in sustainable tourism development will enable destinations to attract tourists who are environmentally conscious as well as curious travellers.

However, Asma Ghazouani, a sustainability consultant at Engie Impact, opined that sustainable tourism fulfilment also requires travellers to play their part. Travellers should be educated on sustainable tourism practices, and destinations could share such information through welcome package booklets. At the same time, destinations should provide sustainable tours and activities to enable travellers to make responsible choices.

She further stressed the importance of accreditation and certification when it comes to sustainable tourism claims, as claims without sound backing “could amount to greenwashing”. – Additional reporting by S Puvaneswary

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