Exploring the potential of sustainable approaches in the tourism sector

Chapada dos Veadeiros (Goiás, Brazil) 2020, by Helena Leonel Ferreira

The annual conference of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council took place in Seville, Spain, last week (December 12 to 15). It was the most participated in GSTC’s gathering so far, with around 350 participants from 61 countries. ETIFOR has been a member of GSTC since 2019, and was present at the 2022 conference as a main sponsor.

During the conference, we had the chance to follow multiple panels by key speakers, and to get interesting insights on what is going on in the global sustainable tourism community. It was a unique opportunity to listen to (certified) destinations and members, and to exchange best practices on how to apply the GSTC criteria. What strongly emerged is the need for having a global standard, as is GSTC, to face a global problem as is the climate and ecological crisis we are facing. What is more, several criticalities and contradictions related to travel, tourism and sustainability were brought out as a stimulus to improvement. For instance, it was underlined how stakeholder engagement takes time and effort, but how necessary it is for tourism to truly develop responsibly. In this respect, what emerged multiple times is the term destination stewardship, with Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) becoming increasingly focused on and responsible for taking care of a destination holistically and not solely focusing on marketing.

Panels were varied and touched upon: readiness of the tourism sector to climate change (adaptation strategies and risk action plans); how to make business travel (which shares 20% of the global travel spend) more sustainable and less carbon-intensive; the need for constantly integrating Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in tourism, as a sign of the sector adapting to new generations demanding new values; the concept of Smart Regions at European level; etc. It was the chance for seeing the so-called big players TUI, Royal Carribean, Easyjet holidays and more) sit together and disclose the ways they are trying to sustainably influence supply chains. The GSTC itself announced it is working on developing two new sets of criteria, one for Attractions and one for MICE, to be implemented and published in the coming years.

Thanks to the presence of a promotional booth, ETIFOR gained multiple positive  feedbacks from the community, which proved much interest in our approach mixing sound scientific research with a practical application to territories. We also had the opportunity to take part in the Academic Symposium, presenting our case study “Tackling the Climate Crisis: the Case of Alta Badia”. To conclude, the GSTC Italy Working Group moved its first steps, gathering the Italian members, delegates and participants at the conference and with the presence of the Chairman Mr. Luigi Cabrini. The group has committed to pursue GSTC’s mission in the national context by promoting the principles of sustainable tourism.