Ten years of promoting responsible tourism at WTM

Ten years of promoting responsible tourism at WTM

Today World Travel Market celebrates the 10th anniversary of World Responsible Tourism Day with a programme that assesses the past, present and future of efforts to make the industry more sustainable.

The day opens with what is always one of the most popular events each year – the Roundtable Interview. However, whereas in previous years this has drawn crowds eager to hear how leading industry figures are looking to address the challenges confronting their respective sectors, this year the focus is shifted onto those men and women who have been working specifically to grow responsible tourism itself.

This year’s panel sees a group of global pioneers in RT gather together to look at some of the biggest success from the past years, and to ask what more can, and needs to be done. A truly global panel, they bring a vast breadth and depth of experience. Dr Auliana Poon is the Managing Director of Trinidad-based consultancy, Tourism Intelligence International.   She also led the team that developed the tourism policy and strategy for the new South Africa back in 1996 and is credited with developing the concept of ‘Responsible Tourism’ as a fundamental premise of the South Africa tourism policy and growth strategy in the early 1990s. Harold Goodwin is WTM’s Responsible Tourism Advisor, and Founder Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism. Jane Ashton is Director of Sustainable Development, TUI Group, which is the world’s largest travel company, and also the only tourism group listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) World, and ranked equal 1st in the Carbon Disclosure Leaders Index in both FTSE and DACHs regions in 2015.

Now the Joint Secretary, Culture, Government of India, Dr Venu V was previously Tourism Secretary in Kerala between 2006 and 2011, and the driving force behind Kerala Tourism’s rural and responsible tourism initiatives. Adama Bah is the Director of the Institute of Travel and Tourism of Gambia. In 2004 he was the inaugural winner of Responsible Travel’s Award for “The person who has contributed most significantly to responsible tourism”. And finally is Justin Francis, CEO of responsibletravel.com, one of the first companies to dedicated itself to promoting a more responsible way to see the world, and the man in charge of the annual World Responsible Tourism Awards, which will presented straight after the roundtable concludes.

But this is not just a day to reflect on what has already happened. More than ever before, this year’s responsible tourism programme provides opportunities for anyone to get involved in discussions about what we do next. Today sees three ‘RT Conversations’ – open forum sessions with no prepared speeches, where anyone interested in the topic is welcome to gather on the Responsible Tourism stand and share best practice, argue about the direction of travel, or make new contacts and friends. The sessions for today look at three essential issues: Climate Change, Refugees and Accessible Tourism.

This jam packed day has much more happening throughout the afternoon. There’s a session looking forward to the fact that 2017 is the UN’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, exploring how our industry can do what is necessary to help achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals agreed in Paris last year. There’s also a debate on human rights, a panel on building resilience, and in another first for this year, towards the end of the afternoon WTM welcomes Doug Lansky to give a keynote address that will look at how tourism ensures local people are not left behind. Anyone who has seen one of Doug’s talks on Youtube will know they are not to be missed.

Finally, the day ends with the chance to meet up with old friends and new at the annual Responsible Tourism Networking evening and the chance to join everyone at WTM to celebrate a remarkable first 10 years of its flagship responsible tourism programme.

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Jeremy Smith is the editor of sustainable tourism news site Travindy.com. His new book, Transforming Travel - realising the potential of sustainable tourism - is published this December by CABI. As well as writing a fortnightly blog for WTM's responsible tourism website, he works with responsible and sustainable travel businesses, developing their communications, brands, marketing and digital & social media strategy. He is co-author of Rough Guides' only guidebook dedicated to responsible tourism, Clean Breaks - 500 New Ways to See the World. Before that he was editor of The Ecologist, the world's longest-running environmental magazine. His own website is www.jmcsmith.co.uk

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