The challenges of sustainable tourism: Interview with Dr. Anna Spenceley

Booking.com update logo

Dr Anna Spenceley is an author and tourism consultant with over 20 years’ international experience, and an expert in sustainable and responsible travel. She is also the chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group, a board member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). Anna sits on the Travalyst Independent Advisory Panel, and is a signatory to Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency.

Picture anna

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the travel and tourism industry over the next few years when it comes to sustainability?

I think the biggest challenge is mainstreaming sustainability into all tourism – whether it is a business trip to Tokyo, a camping holiday in France, a conference in New Zealand, or staying with family in another part of the country. I want to see a transition to us integrating good purchasing decisions into our consciousness – so that it becomes the usual way of travelling – and ensuring that there is sufficient volume of accommodation and tours practicing sustainable approaches available to meet that demand.

Where do you think the industry is doing well in terms of sustainability, such as reducing environmental impact, reducing overcrowding and keeping local communities safe and intact? And where do you think it needs to improve?

There has been real progress in addressing waste in the hotel and restaurant sector – particularly with regards to food and single use plastic. There are new and improved tools to support animal welfare. Popular destinations are finding innovative and creative ways to manage overtourism, including using mobile phone apps, local licensed guides, fee systems, dispersing visitors to a broader range of attractions, and using GSTC-recognised certifications. For local communities, there are good efforts made in some destinations, and by some travel companies and local authorities, but these tend to be patchy and fragmented. More needs to be done to safeguard local people’s livelihoods and their cultural heritage, outside of the UNESCO World Heritage Site area of influence and protection.

How can we encourage people to continue to travel while also ensuring we protect the planet and the people on it?

We need to give people more options, more meaningful and trustworthy information, and tools that they can use to make good travel decisions. The frameworks that Booking.com and its Travalyst partners are collaborating on provide an ideal entry point to this. Ensuring that the information has credibility, while being showcased by champions such as the Duke of Sussex, will really help to make this change. This needs to be coupled with support from governments and financial bodies to provide supportneeded by tourism businesses to transform their business models. Good planning and policy frameworks coupled with proactive regulations that galvanize thriving tourism industries, and encourage innovation, and maximize localemployment, entrepreneurship and associated benefits. The education and not-for-profit sectors can also providesupport to ensure credibility, and provide guidance, tools and training where needed. There is clearly an increasing demand for sustainable travel, and we need to support this trend.

What are the biggest opportunities for industry collaboration to create positive change for travel and tourism?

I think collaboration in itself is part of the biggest opportunity. Working together to tackle the big questions, and putting aside commercial competition when it comes to addressing bigger-picture challenges such as climate change, waste, nature and culture conservation, gender equity and poverty. For example, big hotel groups andmajor tour operators can make a massive difference want to see a transition to us integrating good purchasing decisions into our consciousness – so that it becomes the usual way of travelling – and ensuring that there is sufficient volume of accommodation and tours practicing sustainable approaches available to meet that demand.

Where do you think the industry is doing well in terms of sustainability, such as reducing environmental impact, reducing overcrowding and keeping local communities safe and intact? And where do you think it needs to improve?

There has been real progress in addressing waste in the hotel and restaurant sector – particularly with regards to food and single use plastic. There are new and improved tools to support animal welfare. Popular destinations are finding innovative and creative ways to manageovertourism, including using mobile phone apps, local licensed guides, fee systems, dispersing visitors to a broader range of attractions, and using GSTC-recognised certifications. For local communities, there are good effortsmade in some destinations, and by some travel companies and local authorities, but these tend to be patchy and fragmented. More needs to be done to safeguard local people’s livelihoods and their cultural heritage, outside ofthe UNESCO World Heritage Site area of influence and protection, by nurturing and forging market linkages with smaller enterprises and entrepreneurs in destinations where they work. This supports local economies, families, and ensures that they will continue to welcome visitors long into the future.

What does the future hold for travel and tourism? Are you optimistic?

I’m always optimistic. Where we can turn big and scary challenges into simple and practical steps that we can all use to improve how we travel – such as traveling light, with trust, slowly and carefully – then collectively we can make major changes. People like Greta Thunburg have shown quite vividly that one committed champion can inspire millions towards action – and also that when youth collectively take action, their parents and grandparents listen. However, there is much to be done, and we cannot be complacent, or only rely on others to do good. We have to all take personal responsibility in our own lives, and encourage our families, those we work with, and for, to take positive action and support sustainable tourism.

 

Source: Booking.com (2020) Sustainability update 2019

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s