In the lead up to the Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF)’s Outlook 2018 conference, we had a chat with one of the stand-out speakers, Luigi Cabrini.
Cabrini has been the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) since 2014, and before that he worked as the Director of the UNWTO (World Tourism Organization) Sustainable Tourism Programme and has also held the positions of UNWTO Director for Europe and Secretary of the General Assembly and Executive Council.
So in case you can’t tell, we fangirled A LOT at the opportunity to interview him
In his role at the GSTC, Cabrini focused his activities on tourism and climate change, tourism and biodiversity, observatories for sustainable tourism, the green economy, tourism and heritage and global partnerships, just to name a few.
Here’s what he had to say:
Travel Weekly: After working for the UN on programmes in development and protection for refugees, what drew you to working on sustainable tourism?
Luigi Cabrini: I joined the World Tourism Organization at the time when it was becoming a United Nations Specialized Agency, orienting its activities toward the promotion and support of tourism as a tool for sustainable development, contributing to the alleviation of poverty and the empowerment of women.
Sustainable tourism has been increasingly recognised as a sector that can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Working for the High Commissioner for Refugees exposed me to the worse side of humankind, with conflicts, persecution and violation of basic rights.
Tourism, through the interactions of people meeting each other while visiting other countries and the improved social and economic conditions that can prevent or at least reduce the causes of conflicts and exploitation.
TW: Your line of work must have taken you to some pretty interesting destinations. What was your favourite travel experience?
LC: I would like to briefly mention four destinations.
Bonito, in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, a truly authentic ecotourism experience, with small groups of visitors led by local guides in a unique environment of crystal clear water rivers, caves, and an amazing fauna.
Garze region, in Tibet, China, a spectacular sequence of valleys and high mountains studded with Buddhist temples, not yet widely visited by international tourists.
Roatan, a Honduran island in the Caribbean sea, a tropical paradise for divers.
Dubrovnik, a walled city on the coast of Croatia, with architectural jewels built along the centuries.
I travelled more than once over the years in these last two destinations and witnessed how important is to manage sustainably the impressive growth of tourists that both have experienced.
TW: What can the tourism industry do to help combat climate change?
LC: Tourism generates 5% of the total Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Of this amount, three quarters are caused by transport and about one quarter by accommodation and other activities. If mitigation measures are not taken seriously this share is likely to increase dramatically, but it is possible to reduce the tourism industry footprint.
Practical measures include aeroplanes with more energy efficiency, improved airspace management, better design and isolation of buildings, renewable energies instead of fossil fuels, etc.
Tourism must be a leader in responding to climate change, also considering that its impacts are seriously deteriorating many destinations.
It is also important that any future tourism plan take into account the consequences of higher temperatures, such as an increase of the sea level, erosion of beaches, reduced snow season, stronger intensity and more frequency of natural phenomena like storms and hurricanes, etc
TW: What other areas of sustainability does the industry needs to improve on?
LC: The GSTC has developed several sets of criteria for the tourism industry and in particular for destinations, hotels and tour operators, aimed at maximizing the positive benefits and reducing the negative impacts generated by tourism activities.
Our approach is a global one as it takes into consideration all the pillars of sustainability (economic, social, cultural and environmental), and the criteria are relevant for developing and developed destinations, as well as for all geographical areas.
With the continuous increase of international and domestic tourism, sustainability is not an option anymore but an urgent necessity.
One of the issues that have become a priority is the real involvement of the local communities in any tourism strategy, as recently we have seen strong negative reactions to what is perceived as “over tourism”.
A simple yet powerful message to the travellers is the one launched on the occasion of the International Year of Tourism for Sustainable Development in 2017: “Travel, Enjoy, Respect”.
You can view the full TTF Outlook 2018 Conference program here.