WRTD 2011 Review
What’s grinding poverty where children frequently die of starvation and disease, got to do with travel and tourism?
Where happiness is another sunny day and a pristine beach?
It was a direct challenge to the industry, laid down by Fiona Jeffery, Chairman of World Travel Market and pioneer of responsible tourism at the opening of WTM World Responsible Tourism Day 2011.
“Not having enough to eat magnifies the effect of every disease with the estimated proportion of deaths in which starvation is an underlying cause being roughly similar for diarrhea, malaria, pneumonia and measles”, said Jeffery.
“Conversely, malnutrition can also be caused by diseases, reducing the body's ability to convert food into usable nutrients.
“Geographically, more than 70 percent of malnourished children live in Asia, 26 percent in Africa and 4 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“So what’s this got to do with us, you might ask? What’s it got to do with travel and tourism,” she added.
“We’re in the happiness business, selling dreams and making customers’ wishes come true. In fact, it’s got quite a lot to do with us?”
She went on to say that despite the efforts of some wonderful people and organisations, the number of hungry in our world continues to rise - not fall.
“Yes, progress is being made by some countries, but it’s not nearly enough.” said Jeffery, before introducing the 2012 WTM World Responsible Tourism Day opener and Guest of Honour, Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation UK.
The Man in the Mirror
The late Michael’s Jackson’s blockbuster hit ‘Man in the Mirror’ memorably summed up the message of WTM World Responsible Tourism.
Speaking prior to officially opening the day, Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation UK, said that the song famously underlined that if you want to make change… then look at your face in the mirror.
“That idea has formed the basis of our work, “she said, “transforming thousands of people’s lives and securing fair trade sales in the UK alone that top £1bn.”
But, she also recognised just how ‘stormy’ life was at the moment for business.
” It’s tough for the public”, she said, “so it’s tough for your businesses, and it’s pretty desperate for too many of the communities and workers who depend upon tourism for their livelihoods.
“But maybe, just may be, tough times can give us the chance to rethink radically?
“Maybe business as usual just won’t do?
“And now is in fact the ideal time to be really brave and innovative
“And to take this vision, this germ of an idea you have here in responsible tourism and to take it right to the heart of all your businesses”.
World Travel Market staged a three-day programme of seminars, workshops, presentations and debates on responsible tourism. Although the focus was on the actual day, marked by more than one hundred businesses and organisations, supporting the concept and displaying the official WRTD logo on marketing and sales material, responsible tourism events also took place on Tuesday and Thursday.
Press conferences, releases, promotions, competitions and trade fairs were also organised on WTM World Responsible Tourism Day throughout the world by industry professionals who were unable to travel to London for the actual day.
The Final Call
Decisions need to be made ‘yesterday’ if the industry is to alleviate the economic, environmental and cultural stresses of tourism in many destinations. That’s the view of environmental writer Leo Hickman, author of the controversial book ‘The Final Call’ which takes a negative view of the industry.
Speaking at WTM World Responsible Tourism Day’s controversial ‘Hot Seat’ with BBC World’s news presenter Stephen Sackur, he acknowledged that the growth of the industry was an unstoppable force.
”I am not arguing for a cap on tourism, but if the industry is to absorb that growth, then some very big decisions need to be made – yesterday,” said Hickman.
He added that there is only a “tiny corner” of travel and tourism that is undertaking brilliant work on sustainability while the remainder of business continued without thought of the future.
“I came to World Travel Market in 2005 which inspired me to write the book. Coming back here today completes the circle”, he said.
Hickman’s book takes a critical look at how tourism has already changed the world for the worse and the negative impact it will have if it continues to grow unchecked in the coming years.