At the World Travel & Tourism Council 2015 Global Summit in Madrid today, Sustainable Travel International (STI) unveiled an industry-wide campaign, entitled “10 Million Better,” to monitor and scale up social and environmental benefits from travel and tourism.
The 10-year initiative convenes leading tourism corporations, organizations and destinations around the globe with the goal of tracking and demonstrating improvements in the lives of at least 10 million people and their families by 2025. Improvements to be monitored include growth of income and opportunity, and better protection of destinations’ natural, cultural and heritage sites.
“There is a new readiness and urgency to act together,” said Sustainable Travel International CEO Dr. Louise Twining-Ward. “For the first time, the tourism sector has a UN Mandate to act. A big shift is now needed towards more sustainable production and consumption patterns. The time is now for the industry to come together with a clear vision and focus its enormous economic power on solid goals and metrics for improving lives.”
STI announced “10 Million Better” during a panel discussion today at WTTC’s “Tourism for Tomorrow” awards event, which featured Twining-Ward; along with Brian Mullis, Chairman of the Board and founder of STI; and strong>Inge Huijbrechts, VP of Responsible Business at Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, who is among the industry leaders serving as campaign ambassadors.
Other campaign ambassadors include representatives of leading travel companies such as Delaware North, Intrepid Travel and the Soneva Group. The campaign is also endorsed by the Sustainable Travel Leadership Network and Sustainable Destination Leadership Network, two STI-led collaborations that represent brands including Globus, Finnair, Royal Caribbean and United Airlines that are committed to advancing the industry's sustainability efforts.
“Collectively, our industry has the power to influence the protection of the environment, promotion of economic equality and preservation of the social well-being and cultural traditions of communities around the globe,” said Jerry Jacobs, Jr., co-CEO of Delaware North Companies, Inc. “Not only do we believe that acting responsibly on behalf of the environment and communities is the right way forward, from our perspective it's the only way forward. We’re wholly committed to ensuring travel and tourism continues to do better by our world."
Travel and tourism is the world’s leading economic driver, representing 9.5 percent of the global economy and generating 1.1 billion arrivals last year and 1 out of 11 jobs worldwide. It’s poised for explosive growth over the next decade, and represents vast resources for improving lives and generating livelihoods globally while protecting destinations.
Sustainable travel and tourism are growing especially fast, but so are the industry’s energy, water, land and food use, and therefore its environmental, climate and social impacts. As a result, the business imperative to tackle sustainability issues and the stakes of sustainability-related risks are intense.
Adverse impacts from unmanaged growth can include overcrowding, pollution, biodiversity loss, cultural homogenization and increased economic inequality. But if properly planned and responsibly executed, tourism can also powerfully incentivize protection of natural and cultural resources and enable destinations to prosper.
“Non-sustainable tourism won’t continue to exist,” said Dr. Ted Manning, advisor to STI, president of Tourisk, Inc., and lead architect in the development of the UNWTO program on Indicators of Sustainable Development for Tourism. “If you allow your natural and human capital to decline over time, you will not be able to stay in business. Earlier iterations of sustainability indicators were about sensitizing destinations to their impacts. Today it’s about managing key risks and surviving.”
The UNWTO identifies destination monitoring as a key element of sustainable tourism management. It helps to both manage business risk and to protect the environmental, economic and social fabric of destinations. But like other industries working to integrate sustainability goals, travel and tourism has lacked adequate tools to track its impacts reliably, measure and communicate progress in an accountable way, and realize tourism’s larger potential for positive change.
The new campaign aims to change that, in part by creating and distributing an accessible, open-source impact-monitoring tool that companies and destinations can help develop. It is designed to overcome existing barriers to monitoring and reporting, and balance data relevance with technical feasibility and financial viability.
“Organizations need to graduate from simply reporting their investments in sustainable or ethical practices to tracking their actual impacts on environmental quality, livelihoods, education and training, well being, and so forth,” said Nick Desolino, member of STI’s Board and an Energy & Sustainability Adviser at KPMG in the UK. “But they need objective tools to quantify and report on them. Sustainable Travel International is helping to provide those tools, beginning to aggregate the data and engaging the industry in the common cause of using it to leverage the good we can do together.”
Another travel provider that’s taking initiative when it comes to preserving the health of popular tourist destinations is JetBlue, which in December released a report correlating the health of ecosystems in the Caribbean with the health of its bottom line, essentially making the business case for embedding sustainability into its operations.