I have just attended the WTM in London this week on the 6th to the 8th November in London.
It has been fantastic…There was so much to learn. Personally I focused on two areas: 1) what contribution does tourism make to the UN global goals for sustainable development; 2) what is out there in terms of suppliers, Tour operators and tourists’ facilities that can be considered ‘sustainable’.
Sustainability is most often defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. There are three main pillars: economic, environmental and social. These three pillars are informally referred to as people, planet and profits.
I have attended 3 days of conferences and seminars on several topics. Between one talk and another, I was visiting the Tourism office of different destinations around the world….
In three day I have been to the colourful Caribbean:
I certainly did not miss the vibrant Cuba…
I traveled all over the overwhelming African Continent…
…taking pics from the magical Kenya…
Moving on to the intense Asia/Pacific & Indian Ocean (Colors & sounds from Sri Lanka):
And spiritual Middle East:
Three days daydreaming, and celebrating the wonders and the beauty of our world…
There was though something terribly oppressive that was disturbing my happiness, some darkness shading the sunlight…I felt at the very same time DELIGHTED and TRULY SAD…continuously hearing the heavy truth: how much we are abusing our planet.
I attended three days of presentations around different topics all connected with tourism:
During the first day the topic that most left me speechless was to learn the facts and figures on plastic and its detrimental impact on our planet.
Before starting this short journey with me on the topic,
TAKE A DEEP BREATH…
spend 2 minutes watching this video: BBC Earth
and then carry on reading below.
The world cranks out more than 300 million tons of plastic each year. More than 40 percent is used once, sometimes for less than a minute, and discarded. But plastic persists in the environment for centuries. With global production of plastic increasing exponentially, the amount of plastic finding its way into the ocean is likely to get much bigger.
More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year. Let me give you just a small example, considering only ONE plastic item: the bottles.
According to the Container Recycling Institute, 100.7 billion plastic beverage bottles were sold in the U.S. in 2014, or 315 bottles per person. 57% of those units were plastic water bottles: 57.3 billion sold in 2014.
The process of producing bottled water requires around 6 times as much water per bottle as there is in the container!
Plastic pollution doesn’t just hurt marine species. … When animals eat these plastic pieces, the toxins are absorbed into their body and passed up the food chain. As plastics break apart in the ocean, they also release potentially toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), which can then enter the food web.
The below reality is what is now happening to our oceans…Its hard to take responsibility for it when comparing to the previous breathtaking images from the BBC:
Oxygen, water, food and climate: our Oceans are not an optional extra for us, or for everything else on Earth. Yet we pollute, over use, and carelessly treat the blue 70% of our planet…
One important point emerged throughout the day: the importance of creating shared-value partnerships, based on a clear business need. There are some successful stories of few Corporates and Companies that have looked to engage with non-profits as a means to achieve specific strategic aims.
The motives for this differ between companies and include environmental considerations, a desire to assist local communities and association with an issue that is specific to their businesses. Others still have used such relationships as a means to engage their employees, or to utilise the knowledge of the non-profitparticularly around social challenges that are critical to developing and working in new markets. Just to mention a couple of them:
Just a drop (The foundation) has reached over 1.3 million people in over 30 countries since we began in 1998. Their sustainable projects provide support to communities, such as through the construction of hand-dug and drilled wells, pipelines, sand dams, rainwater harvesting systems and latrines, and health and sanitation programmes.
The projects and solutions are sustainable and designed and developed to last, for maximum benefit to the communities they serve. Their approach ensures community-ownership, which is key to a project’s sustainability.
Euromonitor International is the world’s leading provider for global business intelligence and strategic market analysis, with more than 40 years of experience publishing international market reports, business reference books and online databases on consumer markets. Just a Drop have worked with Euromonitor since 2015 and this has enabled them develop a project in India and Nicaragua, often in very remote locations – support which changes people’s lives.
Another example of a potential positive shared-value partnership is with Water-To-Go project (WTM presentation).
Water-to-Go is a company that launched an innovative product line given by the GO! Bottle. It fits everyday use such as commuters, gym users, sports people and anyone concerned about their health. The intention is to use this product instead of buying expensive bottled water, and thereby reduce the damage to the environment created by single use plastic bottles. Clean water is guaranteed through a filtering system that:
• Remove chemicals in your tap water such as chlorine and fluoride
• Take out contamination from untreated water sources either at home or abroad
• Stop viruses, bacteria and water borne cysts entering your digestive system
• Keep you free from BPA
The company has fostered partnerships with a large number of campaigning charities, some of the more recent ones ranging from the Marine Conservation Society and the Travel Foundation to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Child Aid Gambia.
On a final note, there are many serious issues that are threatening our future, yet there are more and more signals that we are slowly becoming increasingly aware with concrete initiatives that bring us optimism.
I would end with a paragraph close to my heart that I wrote when I was trying to ‘voice’ what TRAVEL represents for me:
Some time back I discovered a secret, that I was committed to spread over.
The inspiration came from my travels…
Each time I returned from a trip I was a better version of ”myself”. My footprint was leaving a ‘sustainable trail’…
The secret is to have with me the following:
- A large dose of kindness to knock down barriers;
- A mindfulness attitude, to fully embrace each moment of each experience with gratitude;
- Unlimited curiosity and passion for learning with a genuine enthusiasm and appreciation for new things;
- Last but not least: an open, sharing mindset …to connect with locals and people I meet along the way;
On the other hand, I DO NOT have:
- Any type of prejudice, images from the media, others’ opinions, fears or any of those ‘layers’ that make my heart unreachable.
The result is a treasure chest full of names, faces, colors, conversations, fun and knowledge one won’t find in reviews or books. This becomes my ‘heritage’ from each trip: a gift that travels with me through time via its memories.
Only a conscious respect for our planet will reflect in the planet protecting us and future generations to come.