Sustainability, liveability and Greenwashing

In February 2022 (before the Russian invasion) I had the chance to enjoy a few days of a well-deserved holiday. I had time to catch up on some of the reports I received between October and January relating to the world of sustainable tourism.

A few thoughts came up and I hope to be of use in sharing them with you.

How do communications in Italian and English change regarding the sustainable approach to #tourism (commonly called sustainable tourism)?

Communications today (the year 2021 – 2022) on this topic are very different if they are in Italian or English.  What comes out of our communications (in Italy) from advertising, but also and above all from #media, from #newspapers are announcements about the first steps towards a sustainable approach for destinations, protected areas, but also hotels and tour operators.  The problem is that very often these communications have no context, they don’t explain the project in total, but only the part related to an action, for example, a walking tour, a guided tour. 

I talk about #greenwashing because if we only tell about one action, without explaining the objectives to be achieved, many people will understand that sustainable tourism is walking instead of taking a tour by private bus. By choosing this mode we are generating #disinformation. 

In English, the topic is addressed more comprehensively. The project is generally described at 360°, going quickly into the specifics of the action you want to promote, but leaving available the description of the context and the medium or long term vision you want to achieve. 

I believe that this difference in communication approach depends on a couple of factors: 

– for a longer time in some English-speaking countries such as Great Britain (The travel foundation 2003 and Responsible Tourism Partnership 2002), Ireland (Ecotourism Irland 2006), the United States (Ties was born in 1990) and Australia (Ecotourism Australia was born in 1991) people talk about sustainability applied to tourism, they talk about ecotourism. 

Not only experts, but residents and local communities have been in contact with these issues for longer than in Italy, they are more used to dealing with the subject, they have overcome the (necessary) phase of education, knowledge and information. 

– In Italy, only a few organisations deal with sustainable tourism. The best, in my opinion, is AITR, the Italian Association for Responsible Tourism. It is the only association that can have the same strength in Italy as the others (mentioned above). 

– The international organisations (e.g. GSTC, Global Ecotourism Network) communicate in English, some others in English and Spanish. Clearly, the language barrier is strong for involvement in these international organisations, at least for most people.

What can be done to make a destination livable?
Every place in the world should be sustainable, i.e. allow for a harmonious integration between man and the environment, but we know very well that this is not the case. Even in those few places on Earth that are not touristy, the environment and the Homo species are often almost in conflict.
When we talk about destination sustainability we often mean livability in the destination, while when we talk about the sustainable destination we should also include the well-being of the environment. Today, in this post, I want to focus on livability and what the tourism sector can do to improve this.
I believe that in many places in the world the only real solution is to reduce the number of arrivals.
I make this statement also as a hospitality entrepreneur, a business that needs people to arrive in order to exist.
My activity and the affirmation of a need to reduce admissions are not paradoxical to each other, because:
the reduction of admissions can take place gradually,
the reduction of visitors can take place by priority (e.g. those who stay at least one night in a registered hotel or non-hotel accommodation should never have problems);
those who want to visit during the day will be able to arrive under certain conditions (to be assessed elsewhere, but e.g. by attending events or registering at the restaurant – e.g. by making a reservation – to purchase goods or services).
The advantages of reduced arrivals are:
an extra tool for analysing and combating the underground world of undeclared activities in the tourism sector;
better organised services (as we deserve) and commensurate with the number of people present (more easily predictable);
more motivated arrivals and a very attractive marketing strategy for the area.
The inspiration for this reasoning came to me from some articles about the Hawaiian Islands of Ohau and Maui, which have a decidedly difficult and embarrassing social situation (I was able to see for myself during a trip there in 2019 what is left of the Aloha). Hawaii like Venice, Barcelona and many others have a huge #overtourism problem, but destinations like Lake Como and Tuscany are also definitely at risk.
Hawaii is now working on a plan to reduce admissions in order to survive as a livable place for locals.
I know I have addressed in this post a difficult issue involving overtourism, sustainability, economic growth for businesses and municipalities, sustainability and development all with one proposal.
Doing #sustainabletourism is also this: making difficult choices now, knowing that the benefit in the medium or long term will come.

Being civil or responsible? I often find lists and considerations on what to do to be #responsible tourists, I also smile reading what these articles suggest. Every now and then, fortunately, it is my turn to take a holiday, to be a tourist, and I remember why it is so important to keep writing about it, to keep saying it and reminding everyone! 

In my opinion, normality should be polite at home as well as on our travels. If we want to be #responsibletourists the extra step could be to understand where we are going and if and how we are contributing to the economy of the people of the place we are visiting. 

I deeply believe in this. I deeply believe that the rules of good manners are made to allow us to live in a civilised way among fellow. 

However, I am also convinced that our society is now so individualistic that we no longer even realise that we have different ideas about the definition of good manners and being civilised on a daily basis. 

Let alone when we are travelling! 

That is why, in my opinion, we should go back to basics: 

what does it mean to be civilised?  

what does it mean to be polite? 

In my opinion, we should reinstate civic education as much as possible! 

At school as a subject, as an extra course, as a seminar or workshop, as a game for the little ones, as training for the older ones. 

We should monitor and enforce the rules with the famous carrot and stick methodology with incentives and punishments for bad behaviour. 

No one is perfect, certainly not me, but we should all strive for improvement, to become civilised first, then polite, then responsible and so on.  

What prompted me to this reflection? Reality!

– Jobseekers who confirm the interview and then do not show up, without warning (because our time is not important!);

– public and private bodies to whom you send an application by email and they do not reply, just because you may not know the full name of all the employees, you are not an important person or in their circle and therefore they may ignore you; 

– suppliers or professionals you contact for assistance, not only do they not answer you… in some cases, they make the appointment and then don’t show up (because your time is not important and your problem is not important either, for example, we can wash the dishes by hand and we can wait for the boiler to stop working).

I say let’s stop complaining and do something to change things, starting with civic education!!! 

As always, I look forward to your comments. Please share your opinion, email me or write to me on social media!
Sara – tourism sector consultant

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