The Global Sustainable Tourism Conference 2018 in Maun, Botswana, which was organized by Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) and the Global Sustainable Tourism Conference (GSTC), brought together 150 delegates from 26 countries, as well as hundreds of viewers joining the live broadcast of the conference.
The Conference themes were: (A) Achieving Sustainable Destination Management; (B) Certification as a Driver of Sustainable Tourism; (C) Reaching the SDGs through the GSTC Criteria; and (D) Market Access for Responsible Tourism Businesses.
In the opening speech of the conference, His Excellency The Fourth President of the Republic of Botswana; Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama stressed the risks and opportunities in tourism development: “An increase in tourism always carries the risk of harming the very attribute that attracts visitors in the first place. For example, roads, airports, water supplies, and public services. This would then lead to a perception by communities that the inconvenience from tourism outweighs its benefits, eventually leading to conflict, particularly with conservationists. Therefore proper planning is key at the early stages of tourism development.”
“Attitudes toward tourism could become negative over time as tourism development increases and host communities perceive such development as not beneficial to them. This may result in product defacing, animosity towards visitors and general resistance to tourism advancement. Therefore there is a need to develop policies and framework that will ensure that tourism development benefits both the entrepreneur, the nation and communities.”
“I, therefore, challenge you to give careful attention to ensuring that a balance is established between sectors of the economy if we are to have communities embracing tourism.”
GSTC Chair, Mr. Luigi Cabrini raised the question of “is tourism part of the problem or can it contribute to the solution?”
“Tourism is and remains an economic activity and small and big entrepreneurs have to make a profit from their businesses. Several studies and researches demonstrated that sustainable tourism generates higher economic benefits than a “business as usual” approach, thanks to: * savings generated by a better management of resources; * a healthier and more productive working environment deriving from a shared vision between the management and the staff; * an enhanced market access, driven by (1) a higher consciousness of the tourist as a responsible citizen, who rewards efforts to save energy and water, initiatives for protection of biodiversity, the respect of local cultures, etc. This tourist makes choices based on his or her ethical principles and is ready to spend more when a hotel or a destination show that it cares for their shared values. (2) Sustainable tourism is likely to offer better quality products by being more experiential and emotionally engaging.” (full speech)
Speakers came from near and far – from Botswana, different parts of Africa, and from further continents such as Asia, America, and Europe. Session topics included: “Destination Management – finding the right balance between overtourism and under-tourism”; “Wildlife Conservation and Tourism”; “Certification Body Collaboration Through Mutual Recognition or Shared Service”; “Recommendations for Market Access for SMEs”; “Achievements towards the 17 SDGs in the Tourism Sector”; and more.
Participants included international and domestic tourism stakeholders involved in the development and promotion of sustainable tourism; including public sector, hotels, tour operators, academia, development agencies, NGOs, consultants, and more. Along with Batswana participants, international participants come from: Namibia, Egypt, South Africa, Norway, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Switzerland, Belgium, The Gambia, Greece, Costa Rica, Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, Russia, Spain, UK, USA, and more.
As part of the GSTC Destination Criteria Revision process, a “Working Session on GSTC Destination Criteria Revision” took place (facilitators: Dr. Kelly Bricker, Vice-Chair GSTC Board of Directors, Co-Chair of GSTC International Standards Working Group; and Dr. Richard Denman, GSTC Associate Technical Director, Co-Chair of GSTC International Standards Working Group). All tourism stakeholders are invited to comment and make recommendations during the GSTC Destination Criteria Revision public consultation period.
As with previous GSTC Conferences, the carbon footprint of the event is being offset to become a ‘carbon neutral event’ by the scheme CO2 NEUTRAL SEAL through sponsorship of Green Evolution SA. Other sustainable-events practices were carried out, such as reducing paper and plastic usage to a minimum: brochures were not printed at all but were being provided through pdf files, no plastic bottles were used during the conference. Vegetarian meal was the default meal option. The lanyards of the badges were collected to be re-used at the First Tourism and the SDGs Conference (Auckland, New Zealand, 24-25 January 2019).
The Conference also brought direct and indirect benefits to local businesses, as the participants stayed in different accommodations in Maun, with dinners distributed to a number of venues. Stands of local craftsmen and local goods were present at the venue.
A document with the key conclusions from the conference is available here.
Presentations from the conference can be accessed here.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Conference 2019 (#GSTC2019) will be hosted in Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal, 4-7 December 2019. For updates about GSTC2019 and other important developments, sign up for GSTC monthly newsletter.