World Travel Market (WTM) London 2018 opening session of Responsible Tourism Programme focused on ‘Business Taking Responsibility for Security, Health and Safety’.
Simon King, Founder of the South Africa-based organisation Park Doctor, said that for tourism to deliver a positive impact in the communities in which it operates, companies need to change the way they look after guest health in remote areas. “Do not use an insurance mindset in a remote area; it takes resources out of the area and into the city. Instead, we need to support development in the region,” he explained.
King added that the travel industry, which takes people into these areas and profits from their visits, should consider how the military would never deploy troops without having support systems to bring them back. “They don’t rely on someone else – they create their own support structure,” he said.
Introducing the session titled ‘Creating Shared Value’, WTM Responsible Tourism Advisor Professor Harold Goodwin explained that the concept of Creating Shared Value (CSV) “responds to the rapid growth in market demand for experiences and creating additional products that support local communities. It is not CSR, but rather putting positive impact at the centre of the way a business operates”.
Glynn O’Leary, Co-founder and CEO of South Africa’s Transfrontier Park Destinations (TPD), said he wanted to talk not about principles and policies, but about what shared value looked like in action. TPD’s business model involves taking over the management of properties and business that have totally failed, and then integrating them with the local communities to make them successful. This would be done through developing local microenterprises, from artisans to food producers, to become suppliers to the lodges. TPD owns nothing, keeping 100% of ownership with the local communities. He gave the example of TPD’s Khomeni-San owned !Xaus lodge, which is so remote that supplying yoghurt to the guests at breakfast involves a round trip of over 700km. Since working with TPD for the last 10 years, this once failed 24-bed lodge has generated over R40 million (€2.5m) in economic activity for its remote region.
Finishing off the session, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom said tourism needs to do more than just make a difference through creating economic opportunities. Giving the example of visiting and staying in townships, he added: “We have to break the prejudices. It’s not just about doing this because it is the right thing to do – do it because it’s a great experience.” Highlighting how Transfrontier Parks Destinations fills its lodges with furniture made by local artisans, he suggested: “Why not go one step further, and make every locally sourced item in your lodges for sale?”
A session on ‘Partnerships for Change and Development’ saw representatives from across the industry explore how different organisations work together to effect change. “Partnerships between non-profits, government and business really exist to support destinations,” said Paula Vlamings from Tourism Cares, adding that the risk for those destinations that do not engage is that they will decline from not tackling issues like overtourism and plastics pollution. “Companies are all selling the same places, so how do we come together to create solutions to issues; and then because we have a common dialogue, move forward together and create more change within the sector.”
O’Leary said one of the challenges in partnerships is that there is often an unequal power relationship between small local operators and large international organisations. This can put pressure on the local organisation to meet the demands of its international tour operator partners, regardless of whether the changes fully respect the rights of local people to live as they choose to in their homes. He gave two examples from his own company’s experience. In one case they were told by the international tour operator to stop children swimming in the rivers when visitors were there; and in another they were asked to remove children from the local village bars.“Why is it OK for me to go with my granddaughter to a pub in the UK,” he asked, “but international tour operators I work with in South Africa are demanding that I change the way the village works in order to meet with company expectations?”
James Thornton, CEO of Intrepid Group, explained that done correctly, making the ethical choice should make for good business. He said a few years ago his company removed elephant riding from its offer in Thailand, and the following year business to the destination increased. The company was then able to put additional money into supporting alternatives such as elephant sanctuaries. “If you make the right decisions and back it up with the right evidence,” he said, “you end up with better experiences for travellers and better business for your group”.