Responsible TourismThe pandemic is driving people to connect with nature, but will it help build back better tourism? Travel leaders from Singapore, Australia and Spain weigh in.

Planet, people, profit: Can we make tourism sustainable?

By
|
Destinations in Asia Pacific are relooking former tourism practices, and now, putting our people and the planet first, and prosperity will follow.
Destinations in Asia Pacific are relooking former tourism practices, and now, putting our people and the planet first, and prosperity will follow.

As the pandemic rolls on and hopes for 2021 international travel fade into a fog of lockdown uncertainty, destinations are finding the time to recalibrate their tourism offerings and reset for a post-Covid world.

We must embrace sustainability in all its forms, we must showcase the positive work of the industry and [stress the importance] of people, planet, place and profit.– Phillipa Harrison, Tourism Australia

Destinations whose key tourist sites have been trampled by eager visitors pre-Covid, are now saying, “enough is enough”, let’s put our people and the planet first, and prosperity will follow.

Gregg Wafelbakker, general manager international, Tourism New Zealand, says: “We have been given an opportunity to create a tourism system that is world leading - one that truly gives back more than it takes to our people and home.”

New Zealand’s tourist hotspots have been under pressure from the impact of large numbers of visitors, and now the country’s tourism minister, Stuart Nash, has flagged all that is about to end.

Part of a NZ$200 million (US$143 million) government stimulus package will be devoted to helping businesses and communities to break their dependency on international tourists.

“The reality is that we have a responsibility to take an intergenerational view of the role of tourism in New Zealand. It can’t go back to how it was,” Nash said.

He is supported by others in the industry who believe that a change of approach will bring an improved visitor experience that’s not at the expense of people nor planet.

Keith Tan, chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) recently urged Singapore’s tourism industry not to “waste a crisis” by hunkering down and waiting for the storm to pass.

We want to be known not just as a sustainable urban destination, but as a great location for companies to testbed sustainable tourism solutions.– Keith Tan, Singapore Tourism Board

STB is developing an industry roadmap for destination sustainability. “Ultimately, we want to be known not just as a sustainable urban destination, but as a great location for companies to testbed sustainable tourism solutions,” Tan added.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is also developing a strategy under its six-year national development plan, BCG, which stands for ‘Bio Economy’, ‘Circular Economy’ and ‘Green Economy’.

“This will reverse the notion of ‘More for Less’ to ‘Less for More’, which will help Thailand revive its tourism industry by creating a more sustainable high-value foundation of responsible tourism and best supply management,” said Tanes Petsuwan, TAT’s deputy governor for marketing communications.

Marco Groten, general manager of the Grand Hyatt Bali and area vice president Hyatt Indonesia, says the pandemic has been challenging, but Hyatt hotels in Indonesia had used the downtime to improve sustainability and productivity.

“It has been a wake-up call for Bali to diversify by focusing on retirement programmes, opening up for overseas education for foreigners, and developing medical tourism and many other creative ideas.”

Monica Sanchez, director, Spain Tourism Board – Southeast Asia, Australia & New Zealand, said Spain had been working towards a sustainable tourism model for the past decade.

“Covid-19 has accelerated that process and provided the opportunity to design and implement strategies with a new mindset,” she added.

Spain’s Transformation and Resilience Plan 2021-2023 targets the three pillars of sustainability: socio-economic, environmental and territorial.

Aspects of the plan include reducing concentration of demand in major cities, redistributing income, and favouring territorial cohesion.

Australia’s tourist industry has been badly hit by bushfires and the Covid-19 pandemic but Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison says “our country’s strengths have grown stronger than ever during the crisis”.

She cites Australia’s nature and wildlife, its aquatic and coastal attributes and the country’s safety and security, adding, “it’s now more important than ever” to talk about sustainability.

“We must embrace sustainability in all its forms, we must showcase the positive work of the industry and [stress the importance of] people, planet, place and profit.”

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI