Tourism has a major economic impact particularly, but not exclusively, on the developing economies of the world. Prior to the Covid 19 pandemic, it accounted for 10 percent of the global GDP and it is anticipated that it will contribute significantly to the post-pandemic economic recovery. Additionally and importantly, it also contributes non-economic benefits being, as Mark Twain recognised, “fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness”. However, it needs to be recognised, also, that tourism contributes something in the order of 8 percent of man-made climate gases and the message is clear. Unless we are wise and act now, with some urgency, its impact will be fatal not just for “prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” but for the planet.
With over 30 years experience of wellness tourism and some 10 years in the United Arab Emirates running an events business for hotels, Nicki Page, a Welsh entrepreneur and Masters Graduate of the University of Surrey has established TLC Reset Tourism to promote sustainable development in tourism, travel, and hospitality. Together with her business partner, Leo Downer, she has produced a quality kitemark for tourism, The Harmony Golden Ratio. Developed in consultation with a range of practitioners and academics from the Harmony Institute at the University of Wales Trinity St. David, it is different from other sustainable tourism accreditation approaches in that it goes beyond carbon offsetting and recycling and requires more from the destination in terms of its socio-environmental impact. By using verified international financial modelling techniques it produces a clear cost figure that can be used to offset any negative impacts, helping destinations become impact negative.
To launch the Ratio and promote the concept, in May 2021 they organised an international Sustainable Tourism Conference, Reset Tourism, which was supported by The World Tourism Association for Culture and Heritage, Dusit Hotels and Resorts, and Mekong Tourism among others, including Taleb Rifai, former Secretary-General, UNWTO. As he said, “sustainability is such an important outcome of Covid, I am, therefore, ready to support TLC as they strive to support a sustainability position of tourism development in leaping forward to protect our environment, our societies and our economies and thus retaining life on earth”.
While this is very much a global intervention, one that is considerably more local and immediate but with national and global potential is Ride Dyfi, an online travel agency for mountain bikers planning a riding holiday in the magnificent Dyfi Valley of Wales and the awesome mountain area of Snowdonia. Essentially it is a one-stop-shop helping to promote staycation sustainable tourism and cycling holidays in North West Wales by helping tourists find accommodation, cycling routes and places to visit, etc. It has teamed up with “One Tree Planted” (https://onetreeplanted.org/) so for every booking through their site, Ride Dyfi plants a tree wherever it is most needed in the world.
The venture was founded in August 2020 by two graduates of Aberystwyth University, both enthusiastic cyclists. This was during the Covid 19 lockdown, when foreign travel was not permitted and even local travel was restricted. With the lifting of local travel restrictions and the growing popularity of staycation domestic holidays, the business has grown and with the help of outstanding facilities and a mentor from Big Ideas Wales, their brand has strengthened. As a consequence, “Dyfi is getting a name as the unofficial ‘adventure capital of Europe’” says Tom Lancaster, one of the founders. However, Tom and his co-founder Emily Stratton are not content with promoting and helping develop sustainable tourism in North West Wales. “Once the ‘Ride’ brand is established,” says Emily, “we can replicate the Ride Dyfi business template at various riding destinations across the UK”, as well as internationally adds Tom.
While there is no doubt that tourism is beneficial to economies, societies, and individuals, it can also harm the places being visited, spoil the experience for future generations and impact negatively on both people and place. Whether dealing with established tourism destinations and venues or opening up new opportunities, sustainability is a priority. There is an urgent need to “bring Prosperity in harmony with Nature, People, and Planet”( Terra Carta 2021). As these cases demonstrate, it can be done but it requires commitment and ingenuity, and, in the words of the former President of the USA, Barak Obama, it “will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time”.
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