Access the main content

Analyses

Sustainable Development: The new challenge in the hotel

Live 8, G8 summit, WTO negotiations: many recent events have been dedicated to encouraging development. Closer still to the tourism industry is the surtax on airline tickets that has been voted by the French Parliament to finance the battle against AIDS that is ravaging Africa above all. This “Tobin tax” on tourism demonstrates the temptation to make this growing sector a powerhouse for the development of less advanced countries. Today, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the tourism industry represents nearly 3.5 billion euros and 5 billion in 2013. For many countries, tourism figures on the podium of their sources of revenues. Some, small islands in particular, are fully dependent on this economic activity that nears 60% of their gross national product. And developing countries nibble away at the market shares of world tourism each day.

With the forecasted explosion in the number of tourists, the tourism industry may have to answer increasingly often concerning its impact on the environment and the life of local populations. How can mass tourism and the potentially harmful effects of this growth be managed? Overexploitation by tourism could lead to a certain number of plagues: anarchic building; increased demand for energy and water; weakened ecosystems; threats to indigenous cultures; exploitation of workers; sexual tourism. The demographic explosion around tourist areas must also be managed. A city such as Oaxaca in Mexico doubled in 15 years. In order for players in tourism to work peaceably, local populations must accept this activity. Hotel personnel act as a link with the community and must not be neglected. If a property is not fully integrated it runs a few, non-negligible risks: insecurity and even terrorism which feeds on poverty.The developing awareness of the role that tourism must now play is now worldwide. End 2004, the secretary general of the UN, Kofi Annan, addressed this message to the World Tourism Forum for Peace and Sustainable Development: “Tourism has become the world’s largest economic sector and a central factor in the life of many people. As tourism spans an increasingly wide range of issues and activities, it cannot be looked at in isolation from the global agenda of the United Nations. It is now widely understood that tourism can play a significant role in helping people lift themselves out of poverty”.In 2002, under the aegis of the UN and the WTO, the Quebec declaration laid the foundations for sustainable tourism, leaving its mark on the “International year of eco-tourism”. Today, the ONU and its agency the WTO are committing themselves further to the “Millennium development goal”. The UN–WTO foundation for Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty (ST-EP) will soon open its doors in South Korea. The WT&TC, another key entity in the sector, is also implicating itself. Its “Tourism for Tomorrow ” plan sets forth several tasks for the world of tourism: “develop careers and education; promote small businesses; increase environmental awareness and help reduce the great gap between those who have and those that don’t”.Tourism is filled with potential for the development of receptor countries. Local governments are all considering how to make it a real weapon in the battle against poverty. It is also a means for them to reduce their dependence on raw materials with fluctuating quoted prices. Is tourism a means of helping those who have been abandoned by globalisation? Perhaps. 200 million people work for this sector worldwide, and in 10 years this figure will rise to 250 million. With its high demand for human resources, tourism can have a strong impact on local employment as well as on peripheral activities such as agriculture, crafts, construction, banking, small business or even schools and hospitals. “The tourism industry has a high multiplier effect that positively impacts all the other sectors of the economy,” explains Peter Mbogua, Marketing director of the chain Serena Hotels, implanted in Africa and the Middle East.There is a major problem for these local economies: succeed in transforming foreign currency into local cash. “Of revenues from trips sold as packages, 85% returns to the supply country. And only 15% goes to the receptor country,” deplores Michel Daviaux, president of the association Tourism for Development, I. Several players, with NGOs in the lead, are joining a PPT (Pro-Poor Tourism) strategy. These “Robin Hoods” militate for a better distribution of tourism revenues by developing micro projects in Ethiopia, Gambia... these projects support local businesses with local capital. One example of “win-win” initiatives in South Africa is the upscale resort “Village at Spier”, which transferred some of its buying – including laundry – to eight local businesses. This is a visibly profitable buying policy that offers surrounding villages a serious economic springboard by injecting more than 500,000 euros into it. Sun City, the African Las Vegas launched by Sol Kerzner, is committed to a similar strategy by looking for potential suppliers in the surrounding region.Other associations such as Tourism for Development support projects in the regions that are not fed by tourism revenue. “We act on the poverty line, that is to say lodgings, water and nutrition. We provide local communities with tools so they may develop by themselves”. In the Northwest of Tanzania, TFD and the NGO “Partage Tanzanie” have financed and will support the implementation of an alternate cultivation that is more profitable than single-crop farming of cof fee, which is seeing its quoted price collapse: vanilla.For the most part these initiatives are the result of small groups that are not near the favourite holiday destinations of western clientele. And what are the sector’s giants doing within this dynamic? Wishful thinking or real implication? Most large hotel groups have their “good deeds”, which are an integral part of their sustainable development policy. Accor thus supports Agrisud’s micro projects. This French association develops durable business to benefit local populations in order to give them the autonomy they need. 400 micro agricultural businesses were born out of 13,000 micro projects launched. In the Dominican Republic, the hotel Coral by Hilton, in addition to its environmental policy is also exemplar. The property supports local feminine crafts, financed an aqueduct and a library and sponsors schools. Another initiative of Coral by Hilton: the property raised 400,000 dollars for a charity for children in the Caribbean. On a voluntary basis, clients add a symbolic dollar to their hotel bill. Starwood has been using this same strategy since 1995 with Unicef. The humanitarian funds programme “Check Out for Children” raised 10 million euros since it was implemented. Each million raised provides vaccinations against six diseases (tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus...) for 55,000 children. Another privileged partner of Unicef since 2002, InterContinental Hotels Group donates 150,000 euros to the charity each year, in addition to the “100% Campaign”, in which employees are encouraged to take fund raising initiatives.What are the risks if the sector doesn’t enter development whole-heartedly? In this debate on durable tourism may be found an influential figure: the client. Last year, global mobilisation following the tsunami revealed the concern for important causes. “Consumers change. It gives meaning to their purchase. Of course, the traveller wants to preserve his personal space when he travels. This is because it is expensive, because he has less and less time, because his vacation must be something marvellous. He doesn’t go to see true misery. However, if he can choose to travel with responsible players he leaves with a good conscience,” explains Michel Daviaux realistically, who has gathered 7,000 pledges for the “solidary traveller” initiative. With TFD, Fnac published the “guide for the responsible traveller” in 2000 and 2002. At the time the subject was fashionable. “After September 11, it lost its strength. It’s doing better now. This is why I took up my pilgrim’s stick again. We’ve returned to an offensive phase”. Once upon a time, Thomas Cook and Accor were partners of TFD before pursuing it on their own. Soon, a major advertising campaign will be launched with support from the French ministry of Tourism. With two goals: dynamise the association’s action with regard to professionals and develop the awareness of the general public. A TFD label is given to partners, tour-operators, travel agencies, but also hoteliers such as the Four Seasons George V. In exchange they are committed to making a donation to TFD corresponding to 0.015 of their turnover.In South Africa, the “Village at Spier” was certified by the local association Fair Trade. This mark of recognition led to 52 articles in the press, the equivalent of over 30,000 euros in advertising. Awarded by the WT&TC, Wilderness Safaris lodges also receive regular newspaper coverage for their actions with regard to communities. With the growing awareness of the general public with regard to responsible tourism, the guarantees of “solidary” commitments can be crucial to a potential customer’s choice. “The development of sustainable tourism offers a comparative marketing advantage,” remarks Peter Mbogua.With the forecasted explosion in the number of tourists, the tourism industry may have to answer increasingly often concerning its impact on the environment and the life of local populations. How can mass tourism and the potentially harmful effects of this growth be managed? Overexploitation by tourism could lead to a certain number of plagues: anarchic building; increased demand for energy and water; weakened ecosystems; threats to indigenous cultures; exploitation of workers; sexual tourism. The demographic explosion around tourist areas must also be managed. A city such as Oaxaca in Mexico doubled in 15 years. In order for players in tourism to work peaceably, local populations must accept this activity. Hotel personnel act as a link with the community and must not be neglected. If a property is not fully integrated it runs a few, non-negligible risks: insecurity and even terrorism which feeds on poverty.

This article was published over a month ago, and is now only available to our members.

Access all content and enjoy the benefits of subscription membership

and access the archives for more than a month following the article

Register

Already signed up?

Loading...

You have consulted 10 content. Go back home page or at the top of the page.

Access next article.

Sign up to add topics in favorite. Sign up to add categories in favorite. Sign up to add content in favorite. Register for free to vote for the application.

Already signed up? Already signed up? Already signed up? Already registered?