Last week , in Manchester, Britain’s leading Responsible Tourism practitioners met to discuss the challenges we face in the 21st century. Leading industry figures were there to hear about the issues and to see and discuss some of the responsible tourism solutions being taken by the industry, and by destination managers, as they endeavour to make tourism more sustainable. We heard from people willing to take responsibility for making tourism better for local communities, tourists and their and our environment.
Leading climate scientist Kevin Anderson of Manchester University talked about the scale of the challenge we face in tackling climate change and the need to make changes now, on a dramatic and continuing scale. Kevin quoted the Brazilian philosopher and politician Roberto Unger: “at every level the greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack the clarity and imagination to conceive that it could be different.”
During the conference we heard many inspiring examples of change made by people who understand the challenge and whose actions are making a difference. Simon Press, of World Travel Market, spoke about the importance of Responsible Tourism to Reed Exhibitions and about the way that the Responsible Tourism programme is going global and running throughout the year as he programme is extended from London to Sao Paulo and Cape Town.
Claudia Cortes from Honduras spoke about the challenge of conserving the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System which stretches for 900km – Claudia will also be on the wildlife panel at WTM Latin America. Claudia “gets it”, it is about the environment, our environment, local economic development, human rights and social inclusion. We have to take an holistic view.
Paul Britton of Thomson Cruises showed how by changing the operating routes and schedules of their cruise programme they had been able significantly to reduce emissions and to reduce costs: good for business and the environment. Elise Allart, TUI Netherland, talked about how she worked with her colleagues, NGOs and the Dutch police to address the issue of child protection and the cases that are pending prosecution as a result. Paul and Elise, like many others at the conference, have made a difference and they are continuing to do so. They have seen a problem and a solution, seen that it could be different and they have made it different. Elise will be in Sao Paulo with some of her colleagues at WTM Latin America and the video of her presentation at RTD8 will be on the conference website soon.
There were senior industry people at RTD8, Jane Ashton from TUI, Nikki White from ABTA, Martin Brackenbury, Andy Cooper from Thomas Cook, John de Vial, Jason Freezer form Visit England, Stephen Farrant from the International Tourism Partnership, Manda Brookman form CoaST and Justin Francis from responsibletravel.com. RTD8, like the WTM Responsible Tourism events, is where the mainstream industry and the activists for Responsible Tourism meet and learn from each other. The objective is to educate, inspire and challenge; to encourage and support people who are making a difference and to scale it up.
The conference took place over three days in four venues. VisitEngland partnered with us in the first day which was held at the Gorton Monastery, a phoenix which has arisen from the ashes thanks to the vision, perseverance and commitment of a few and the leadership of Paul Griffiths. Paul sang there in the choir and seeing it derelict and burnt out determined to resurrect it for the community and for posterity; heritage matters. He saw a need, had the vision to see a different future and made it happen. Gorton Monastery was an inspiring venue in which to launch the conference – the future will be what we make it.