This year for the 6th time we organised the ANTOR 2021 Annual Conference in partnership with Ezy Virtual Events. Themed around “Regenerative Tourism and Transformative Travel”, the event featured a line-up of keynote speakers, and thought leaders in their field, who kindly gave their time to address the ANTOR membership in a series of sessions that got everybody thinking…
Founder of Earth Changers, Vicky Smith gave an inspiring presentation about the way travel and tourism are going through transformations reflected by various consumer surveys. Here is what we took away with us:
Tourism gathers 1.5 billion global consumers, equating to 10% of the world GDP and 1 in 5 of all new jobs created. Whilst these numbers are impressive it is not necessarily the situation for all places. Some destinations experience serious social impact due to over-tourism such as bad behaviour, cultural lack of respect, and damage to infrastructure, be it cultural heritage or even environmental heritage which is a source of concern for the local people, local fauna and flora as well as the environment.
Tourism should be about giving to the destinations and their hosts, rather than taking away from them. As an industry, we should be asking ourselves how over-tourism is impacting the destinations. Today, tourism only accounts for 8% of global emissions. Whilst it is a relatively small contributor, tourism is growing fast, especially aviation, and according to the current pace, by 2030 aviation could represent 27% of global emissions which is a major cause for concern, especially since travel as an industry has not engaged very well with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set up in 2015 by the United Nations. Whilst 64% of the people interrogated in a survey say that they are worried about climate change, only 50% of travel companies have actually engaged with SDG13 on climate change. There clearly is room for improvement.
A BDRC survey analysing consumer motivation when booking a holiday back in 2017 and 2018 could give the wrong impression and suggests that sustainability was not a priority as it ranked 25th, way behind the weather, costs of the holiday, safety, history and culture, beaches, etc. However, when consumers were surveyed about their major global sources of concern, the results showed that generally speaking, sustainability was very high on their list since the main reasons listed included pollution, deforestation, climate change, extinction of species, sustainability of food production, a rise of natural disaster and loss of biodiversity.
A recent survey organised by Booking.com highlighted that 83% of travellers interrogated found that sustainable travel is vital. 72% stated that we must act now in order to save the planet for future generations. 61% said that COVID had made them want to travel more sustainably in the future. A further 53% of the panel stated they get annoyed if somewhere they are staying stops them from being sustainable (i.e. not providing recycling facilities) and 49% believed there aren’t enough sustainable travel options.
The covid pandemic has exposed and woken up the world to weaknesses in our systems and society. There is however a silver lining: an unprecedented opportunity to build back better. And this is backed up by the mood of the nation:
84% of the people surveyed have expressed that the preservation of cultural heritage is crucial
84% want to reduce general waste,
83% want to reduce energy consumption (i.e. turn off the air-con, lights),
79% want to use a more environmentally friendly mode of transport (i.e. walking, cycling or using public transport),
76% want to ensure that the economic impact of the industry is spread equally,
73% want to have authentic experiences representative of the local culture,
69% say that they will avoid popular destinations and attractions to make sure they aren’t contributing to overcrowding.
About Vicky Smith
Vicky has headed up destinations abroad, marketing, and e-commerce for tour operators, travel agents, media and NGOs in mainstream tourism, ski, tours, volunteer tourism and sustainable tourism accreditation. She's a published academic in responsible tourism, qualified safari guide, charity challenge leader, and charity trustee for sustainable development in Madagascar. She also helps develop the Global and European Ecotourism Networks and was Ambassador for the UK Government DeFRA’s Year of Green Action, 2019.
Vicky's startup Earth Changers is a curated collection of the best positive impact, sustainable tourism for people to find & book trips that truly change the world, which won Travelmole UK Best Responsible Travel & Tourism Website, 2019 in a public vote.