As an industry, you could say we are lucky. We are now in a very fortunate position to ensure tourism is rebuilt in a responsible and sustainable way, with the holistic well-being of the destinations we visit being placed at the very heart of tourism’s new future.
In the lead up to 2020, the tourism industry was increasingly booming, which sadly, led to many unintended consequences. Negative impacts included the likes of environmental degradation, tourism dollars skipping the local economies, mass tourism and overcrowding, and the change of local traditional culture to accommodate tourists. These key fundamental issues demand a reassessment of how organisations and businesses operate within the industry. And whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has further devastated the tourism industry in recent years, it now presents a new opportunity, to unite our perspective on how our recovery efforts can focus on a sustainable future for tourism.
The Future of Tourism is a coalition made up of various non-governmental organisations, whose purpose is to shift the current trajectory of the tourism industry towards sustainability. Their global mission is to place destination needs at the centre of tourism’s new future.
“Long-term resilient social, economic, and environmental recovery and regeneration will require all sectors of industry to rethink how tourism works, who it works for, and how success is defined.”
– Joint statement from the CEO’s of the organisations who represent the Coalition.
A set of 13 Guiding Principles have been presented by the Coalition to display a clear vision of the path we can follow to work towards a sustainable future of tourism. These principles are clear cut ways for organisations and businesses in the tourism industry to ensure that people and places impacted by tourism are protected over the long-term. The principles are as follows:
- See the whole picture
Recognise the destination as a whole, including not only business, but ecosystems, natural resources, traditions, cultures, communities and infrastructure too.
- Use sustainability standards
Understand the internationally approved minimum criteria of sustainable tourism practices for the industry and destinations.
- Collaborate in destination management
Ensure tourism is developed through a collaborative management structure, involving the government, private sector and civil society organisations representing a diverse community.
- Choose quality over quantity
Improve the travel experience and sustain the character of the destination, by opting for high quality visitation over high quantity of visitors.
- Demand fair income distribution
Keep tourism revenues within local communities by setting policies that prevent unequal tourism benefits.
- Reduce tourism’s burden
Account for all the costs in tourism, including local tax burdens. environmental and social impacts..
- Redefine economic success
Go beyond measuring your business just on growth in GDP. Measure economic success on metrics such as distribution of incomes, small business development and enhancement of sustainable local supply chains.
- Mitigate climate impacts
Invest in green infrastructure and reduction of transport emissions from land, sea and air travel.
- Close the loop on resources
Eliminate disposable plastics use and implement reusable and recyclable alternatives.
- Contain tourism’s land use
Discourage tourist resorts from moving beyond concentrated areas to help retain geographical character, local access, critical ecosystems and a diverse economy.
- Diversify source markets
Encourage domestic tourism which may be more resilient in crises such as pandemics, and can raise the perceived value of the local’s own natural and cultural heritage.
- Protect sense of place
Protect and benefit natural, scenic and cultural assets by encouraging sustainable tourism and business policies and practices.
- Operate business responsibly
Encourage tourism businesses and enterprises that support these principles through their actions and develop strong local supply chains that allow for higher quality products and experiences.
Soulful Concepts is committed to these guiding principles because we believe in creating a new trajectory for a sustainable tourism industry. We invite others to become a signatory and join the movement, at https://www.futureoftourism.org/join. Data collection from the application goes towards helping the Coalition tweak the support provided to signatories, ensuring as many organisations as possible can contribute to the new vision of sustainable tourism.
Whilst the pandemic has required the tourism industry to pause over recent years. We now have an opportunity to restart the industry with a vision of a sustainable future. Together we can make sure ecosystems and cultures are preserved, alongside economic growth and improved wellbeing for local communities. We look forward to collaborating with other like minded businesses and individuals to ensure the Future of Tourism guiding principles become a reality.