Bringing sustainable tourism out of the niche, into the mainstream
In the recent years, the critical role of tourism in contributing to sustainable development has been widely recognised.
Within the United Nations’ Sustainability Development Goals, tourism has been included as targets in Goals 8, 12 and 14, and is therefore firmly positioned in the 2030 Agenda.
At European level, sustainability has received increased attention, leading to the emergence of several sustainability programmes, certifications and awards to foster a sustainable development of destinations and acknowledge those ones already addressing sustainability issues within their strategies. In 2019, indeed, the European Travel Commission – ETC published a report on European Sustainability Schemes to help Member States understand the potentiality of sustainability schemes to increase destinations’ attractiveness and influence travellers’ decision making. To assist European NTOs with the development of their own sustainability strategies and models, the ETC published a handbook and toolkit of practical resources with the final aim of enhancing Europe’s reputation, attractiveness and visitor experience.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, the effects of irresponsible practices in the tourism sector have become always more visible, for this reason, the UNWTO’s Global Guidelines to Restart Tourism highlight the need for a Responsible Recovery, in which sustainability becomes the new normal and is not simply a niche part of tourism. A valid example of the general need to take sustainable travel into the mainstream is given by Travalyst, a non-profit organisation established in 2019 by the Duke of Sussex in partnership with Booking.com, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor, Visa and Trip.com. By working with Forum for the Future, Travalyst is recognising the unique challenge for the year 2021 to unlock new potential for tourism and reset the industry on a more sustainable footing, with a more positive impact on communities and environments.
The urgency to build resilience as well as promote sustainable tourism, as a contributor to the European Green Deal, emerges also in a Communication from the European Commission, which stresses the need for Member States to provide the tourism industry with better financing opportunities, together with promoting digitalisation, innovation, sustainability, reskilling and upskilling.
This concept is underlined also in the Tourism Manifesto’s campaign #Tourism4Recovery, which promotes the idea that supporting tourism-related reforms will accelerate digital and green transitions, and thereby make Member States economies and societies more sustainable and resilient in the long-term.
At Twissen we observe that, in the post Covid-19 era, sustainability is no longer a final objective, indeed, it is a prerequisite to recover from the recession. Tourists’ new mindset, together with tourism policies’ emphasis on sustainable development, increasingly shows how the future of tourism will no longer distinguish between “tourism” and “sustainable tourism” since the only way for tourism destinations to enhance their attractiveness and be competitive in the long term is to consider sustainability as a core element of their strategy.