Diverse perspectives are needed to shape a new path for tourism

Our shared future relies on a shared public-private-community agenda

Last week we launched the Future of Tourism Coalition with six other international tourism NGOs. It’s a significant milestone for  these organisations to come together and align behind 13 Guiding Principles which provide a vision for how tourism could and should be managed and developed. We now encourage every tourism-related organisation to sign up to the principles, and join us as we support each other to remove barriers, seize opportunities, and make this vision a reality. At last count, more than 150 companies and destinations have already done so.

The coalition does not claim to have all the answers, but its members strongly believe that by joining forces we can amplify our message at a critical time, and support signatory organisations to adhere to the guiding principles, through combining and scaling our considerable experience and expertise. We are now in listening mode, and seek as many perspectives as possible to understand how to overcome the many challenges which prevent the needs of destinations and their citizens from being met.

The principles put particular emphasis on ensuring the often-overlooked voices of local communities are at the forefront of tourism development, and equipping local people with the opportunities and resources to lead conversations around tourism and its impacts on their home and livelihoods.

The Travel Foundation has made its own commitment to bring together representative voices to guide its own activities. For instance, we recently recruited a diverse group of more than 50 individuals to create the Travel Foundation Recovery Task Force. As well as being a forum for sharing insights and perspectives in uncertain and unchartered times, the Task Force acts as an informal advisory board, helping “sense check” ideas and initiatives, to make sure they are both realistic and resonant.

This week we also announced a multi-year partnership with the Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) – the first in a series of formal collaborations with in-destination organisations that we will be announcing in the coming weeks. A key part of our programme with the SPTO and other destinations will be to focus on greater community engagement and leadership into how tourism is rebuilt, with a particular emphasis on managing impacts, enhancing livelihoods, and planning for recovery in a way that creates the foundations for longer term success. The SPTO’s members are both governments and businesses, so we are excited to help foster a shared agenda for success across this beautiful and highly tourism-dependent region. This balanced and inclusive approach should be at the heart of any tourism strategy, plan or policy, and will be a key theme in our work going forwards.

Globally, the Black Lives Matter campaign has rightfully brought issues of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion into sharp focus and I’ve reflected further on the biases and inequities which undoubtedly exist within travel and tourism’s structures and organisations. At the Travel Foundation, we certainly have more work to do to ensure we reflect the diverse communities we serve, and we will get better. Our charitable mission has always been to seek justice and fairness in the way tourism operates, and we strive to be even more intentional about addressing those inequalities directly. This is one of the reasons we have recently formalised a partnership with Women In Travel CIC to collaborate on improving opportunities for women in the travel and tourism sector through areas like mentoring, female entrepreneurship, and training. Together, we hope to take a systemic approach that will remove barriers in destinations and companies and improve long-term outcomes for women across the tourism value chain.

Unlike other industries, tourism relies heavily on the natural resources, physical spaces, cultural experiences, and lives of others. Its very existence is based on sharing – and so it is only right that the way it is developed, managed, and promoted should be led by local people in a way that is equitable and inclusive of the diverse backgrounds and perspectives within their communities.

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