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Impact-Travel: A sustainability template

Professor Geoffrey Lipman writes from Manilla at the 6th UNWTO International Conference on Tourism Statistics: Measuring Sustainable Tourism.

Professor Geoffrey Lipman, President of ICTP and Co-founder of SUNx writes from Manilla at the 6th UNWTO International Conference on Tourism Statistics: Measuring Sustainable Tourism.

“It feels good to be back in Manilla for more fun in the Philippines. Not the usual description of a UN Statistics Conference.

Even worse, I want to make two what I suspect are contrarian points about the proposed declaration. And then offer a suggestion to strengthen it.

First. The past is prologue. As a sector, we are not going far enough fast enough. This declaration needs to be half as wordy: twice as much implementation: four times as fast. And some real multi-stakeholder checks on delivery.

Why? Because the scale and speed of change and connectivity is accelerating and if we don’t move at the same pace the decisions will be made outside our sector. By environmental and finance institutions; by business coalitions: by local authorities: by States and regions and by very smart cities.
This is not business as usual. Climate change is existential. Repeat existential.

Second, we need to expand our vision of measurement of sustainable tourism. We are moving into a new age of SDG and Paris targets.

Linked Environment and Tourism Satellite Accounts are a good step. But it’s a first step that should have been taken more than a decade ago – when some of us were actively calling for it.

I repeat we need to cover the green part of the equation much faster.

And it needs to have more emphasis on measuring climate resilience. If we don’t fix Climate Change: it will fix us.

How to do this will take as much of a paradigm shift in the use of statistics as in security, product or technology adoption.

We have to cut through the admirable but dangerous, shifting clutter of 17 SDG’s, 169 Targets and 304 indicators with hundreds of national and supra-national groups with their version of the transformation roadmap for the future of everything.

And more so as the real consequences of tourism – good and bad – are ultimately felt at the local level. The money, the jobs, the infrastructure as well as the strain on resources and cultural integrity.

The global figures are great for policy declarations and lobbying and rich companies and consultancies. Implementation is almost always local and SME focused.

We have to act from the bottom up simultaneously with the top down.

We need deadlines for change and we need to engage all key stakeholders in the process by 2020.

Clearly we need to move in the directions set out in the resolution – recognizing, observing, linking, intensifying and expanding collaboratively.

What I believe is missing is a template for a multiyear refocused directional shift that could be useful to countries, communities, companies and consumers Points that anyone, anywhere can easily check seeking sustainability in Tourism and Travel activities.

Our idea at SUNx for such a template is called Impact-Travel. It has three such points of focus.

  • Are the Impacts measured and managed coherently: the good and the bad ones?
  • Does it have Green Growth at the core: low carbon, Inclusionary, hyper-connected, bio-diversity sensitive & resource efficient?
  • Is it Future focused – reflecting Paris 2050 targets, the SDGs, and the World Economic Forum’s Fourth Industrial Revolution – the best tracker of new directions we have found?

Simple questions that give a clear sense of direction for providers and consumers alike. As to where we have to go NOW, to be where we have to be in 2050.

As Dr Johnson said “Nothing so concentrates the mind, as the prospect of being hanged in the morning.” And make no mistake existential means being hanged in the morning.

Professor Geoffrey Lipman is former Executive Director IATA: President WTTC: Assistant Secretary General UNWTO. Co-Founder SUNx and Director of

He has played a leading role in the emergence of Travel & Tourism as a serious socioeconomic sector.
As Executive Director at IATA in the 1970’s helped drive a new liberalization agenda, responding to airline deregulation.
As first President of WTTC throughout the 1990’s, he worked to pioneer new systems of measuring the sector, creating CSR Certification and supporting China’s efforts to open Tourism markets.
As Assistant Secretary General of UNWTO, in the first decade of this millennium, he spearheaded new development support systems, created the ST-EP Program, led the Davos Climate Summit and launched G20 Summit recognition program.
As Director of Greenearth and it’s not for profit Green Growth & Travelism Institute he is curating SUN a global initiative to support Climate Resilience, the SDG’s and Emergency Response through Green Growth & Travelism.
Served on public / private sector Boards in Africa, Europe, Middle East and Canada: Tourism Envoy to UNDP Administrator; Member EU Commissions on Airline Liberalization and on Tourism Employment: Environment Advisor to the Governor of Jeju Island, Korea: President ICTP (International Coalition of Tourism Partners)
Written / lectured widely on tourism strategy, sustainability & liberalization; coauthor/editor of two books and numerous journal articles on Green Growth & Travelism as a visiting Professor, Victoria U. Australia and Hasselt U. Belgium.
Lipman has promoted Travelism with Heads of State, Ministers, Chief Executives and grass roots activists and is currently leading a global green growth initiative – the SUN Program, a legacy project of Maurice Strong designed to champion Climate Resilience and SDG support for Communities, through Green Growth & Travelism.
He has worked closely with the World Economic Forum since the early 90’s on its Competitiveness and Smart Travel activities and is the longest serving Member of its Travel & Tourism Global Agenda Council. 

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