Leading a rethink of tourism
Mainstreaming sustainable travel means working together globally on all levels
ITB, the world’s biggest tourism fair, has an extensive portfolio. As such, we have the opportunity to bring sustainable thinking into the tourism industry and raise awareness among all relevant stakeholders, especially tour operators, carriers, policymakers and the public.
As we bear some responsibility, we dedicate an entire hall to responsible tourism at the fair. Additionally, we address sustainable topics at our ITB Convention with special dedicated formats, for example, the Corporate Social Responsibility Day, the Responsible Destination Day, the Tourism for Sustainable Development Day plus three Empowerment Days. We also push topics such as social entrepreneurship or gender equality in tourism and subjects such as indigenous cultures and animal welfare.
Moreover, throughout the year, we participate in events around the globe and work with international associations to ensure a broad approach to tourism that benefits everyone – people, nature, business. Our commitment to the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s Global Code of Conduct, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism and our cooperation with governments, non-governmental organizations and universities make our approach holistic.
How do you go from awareness to action?
We lobby hard to stress the importance of sustainability in tourism within the industry itself. There is huge potential in switching to sustainable ways of doing business. But not all relevant players see it that way yet.
Turning awareness into action is not only in our hands but also in the public’s. It is in the consumers that we put our faith, especially the young generation. Their changing demand makes me hopeful. I believe we have achieved a slight shift already – even relatively conservative businesses realize that our planet has limited resources.
How can overcrowded tourist destinations go the sustainable way?
What we need is to rethink destination management. How can you achieve constant growth in a limited space? Social accounting should be part of any destination: based on measuring how much damage you cause and how much the community really benefits, each destination can make new decisions for their own good.
Defining these changes benefits a participatory approach, bringing together the communities and host governments in the planning phase. Smart digital visitor management, including pre-registration as well as seasonal or dynamic pricing or exploring lesser-known neighbourhoods, help along the way. Travellers should learn to avoid peak seasons if possible and look for real encounters rather than mere sightseeing. Moreover, aviation fuel is not yet subject to tax and cheap flights are accounting for rising tourism numbers and ‘over-tourism’. Destinations should show leadership and control all necessary decisions.