Latest News
HomeArticle by ITTFAITTFA Comment on… Responsible Tourism

ITTFA Comment on… Responsible Tourism

Responsible or green tourism is forcing its way onto the international agenda, and you can expect to see more focus on this issue at travel exhibitions in the years to come.

The focus varies from country to country but also crosses international borders. A good example is UK-based website, which recommends green tourism experiences worldwide for customers to contact directly, and has many accredited partners including tour operators, accommodation and sightseeing operators.

It is one of the supporters of Responsible Tourism Day at World Travel Market in London, which has a long history of focusing on this subject.

Formerly known as Environmental Awareness Day, it is also supported by UN Environment Programme, Tour Operators Initiative, The Times and Geographic magazine. It includes a debate with major industry players, and seminars run by bodies such as The Travel Foundation (a UK charity), the International Ecotourism Society and Rainforest Alliance.

Another important part of the day is the Responsible Tourism Awards, with numerous categories. Joint overall winners last year were Calabash Trust, which operates tours around a township in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, which directly benefit the poor; and the adventure tour operator Exodus Travel.

Fiona Jeffery, group exhibition director of WTM and chair of ITTFA, feels passionately about the whole issue of responsible tourism.

The issues have moved on since we started Environmental Awareness Day 11 years ago, when it was not mainstream, she says. Then there was a lot of scepticism, but now the tourism industry recognises that responsible tourism can be part of their core business.

There is now a more practical debate about how companies can demonstrate their involvement in responsible tourism. I would encourage ITTFA members to explore the issue in different ways, as responsible tourism has been one of our best initiatives and put us on the world stage.

Exhibitions have themselves become more environmentally friendly – lowering the temperature in the halls and recycling rubbish, for example.

The UTAZAS exhibition in Budapest, Hungary is planning a conference on responsible tourism next year, says director Klara Tihanyi.

According to the experts this kind of tourism will grow above average in the Central and Eastern European countries in the coming years, and common projects of green tourism will be very important in the region, she says.

Frederique Maurell, senior events and sales manager of MITT and UITT organiser ITE Travel Exhibitions, adds: We have a number of ecotourism companies that exhibit at both MITT and UITT from around the globe.

Their presence is growing every year, which is testament to the interest of the Russian and Ukraine markets in green tourism. As a forum where the global travel industry meets face to face, exhibitions are an excellent platform to raise awareness of responsible tourism and to share knowledge of the ‘green’ tourism products available.

But in Sweden – despite its green image – there appears less interest.

Johan Lundberg, exhibition manager of TUR, says: We had a focus on green tourism some years ago, but it was too early and it has not been asked about by either exhibitors or visitors since then.

But every year we have some exhibitors who are marketing green tourism, and we have an organisation in Sweden called Nature’s Best with around 100 companies who sell these travel arrangements.