World Tourism Day Puts the Focus on More Interesting and Greener Travel
Today marks World Tourism Day, a UN World Tourism Organisation initiative, which calls on the global tourism industry to consider its role in various pertinent issues. The focus this year is on tourism and sustainable energy and powering sustainable development.
Institutionally, Cape Town is a leader in responsible tourism. In 2002, representatives from tourism sectors across the board in 20 countries attended the Cape Town conference on responsible tourism in destinations, the first of such forums, at which a declaration for responsible tourism was agreed upon.
In 2009, the City of Cape Town adopted the responsible tourism policy and action plan, which committed to adopting responsible tourism to bring about a positive economic, social and cultural, transition towards a sustainable future for the tourism business. In the same year, Cape Town won the "best destination" award at the 2009 Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards, becoming the first city to be awarded this title.
As the tourism world's spotlight falls on its role in addressing the challenges of climate change, it is sobering to think that, according to UN World Tourism Organisation, the sector is responsible for 5 percent of the planet's total carbon emission - 4 percent of this is attributed to transport, and particularly air travel, and the remainder is a mix of accommodation, tourism services and activities.
In light of this, adopting responsible and ethical business practices is no longer a nice to have but a need to have. Although customer demand for responsible or green travel is still relatively weak, more and more people question the acceptability of flying long-haul for leisure purposes.
Cape Town's vulnerability as a long-haul destination and our ability to offset the negative impact of long-haul travel on the environment with authentic responsible in-destination experiences are serious considerations in our forecasting and planning. As a whole, tourism is highly adaptable, when compared with, for example, the industrial sector. Tourism responds swiftly to consumer demand and change in economies, expectations and behaviour. To be ahead of the next curve we need to make our stake in responsible tourism. Fortunately, Cape Town's tourism sector is already moving in that direction.
Businesses have realised that change of this sort can start "at home" and does not necessarily imply big capital outlays. For hotels this can include simple actions such as human resource development, guest education, the installation of human sensor air-conditioners that stop operating when the guest leaves the room, heat pump sensors or solar panels that reduce energy consumption. Many have realised savings in operating costs by working smarter and being more responsible.
Unfortunately "greenwashing" is still rife and a lot more can be done to guide the industry in its understanding that tourism's transition to sustainability has to be about more than marketing. …