Get a Step Ahead: Student-Professional Networking Session

Student-Professional Networking Session

Student-Professional Networking SessionAt this year’s ESTC, we are offering an interactive student-professional networking session “Get A Step Ahead” (Tuesday, September 20th, 2011, 15:30 – 17:30, Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa), which will connect industry leaders working in the fields of ecotourism and sustainable tourism with students – aspiring tourism professionals and future leaders of the industry.

This session is open to public (free), and we encourage students from the local areas to join, as well as any of the ESTC attendees who are:

  • Students and Young Professionals: University and graduate-level students engaged in various tourism and sustainability-related programs.
  • Industry Professionals: Tourism industry professionals working in the fields of ecotourism and sustainable tourism and those who would benefit from input from students regarding product development ideas and market trends.

Interview with Frances Figart

Frances FigartFrances Figart, who serves on the ESTC Advisory Committee and is a passionate advocate for education and networking in the field of sustainable tourism, is one of the industry experts who will share their insights at the “Get A Step Ahead” session. See our interview with Frances below to get a glimpse of what you will discuss and learn at the ESTC!

(Interview conducted by Ayako Ezaki, TIES Director of Communications)

TIES: What do you enjoy most about your career?
Frances: The type of writing I do to support responsible forms of tourism, much of it being marketing oriented, is enjoyable because it allows me to make a difference not only to the consumer choosing to travel responsibly, but also to the ecosystems and local peoples benefiting from their visits.

TIES: What advice would you give someone just starting in this career/business/major?
Frances: To those going into any aspect of ecotourism business, I say: Find a truly unique niche or destination to focus on so your product will appeal to special interest groups, and not be lost in the ever growing number of businesses who are marketing to would-be ecotourists. To those who aspire to freelance write for a living in support of responsible travel, as I have, I say: Spend time studying the business of ecotourism from every angle and know as much as you can about the business of tourism, the psychology of marketing and the science of ecology.

TIES: What professional skills might separate a potential employee from other interviewees?
Frances: Impeccable communication skills including foreign language, and demonstrable cross-cultural sensitivity, awareness and literacy.

TIES: What would you do differently if you were starting over in your field?
Frances: Learn more languages as early as possible; travel globally as extensively as possible; pursue specific study in sustainability and tourism. When I was in college, these subjects were not as accessible as they are in today’s curricula.

TIES: What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession since you chose it?
Frances: While it was rare to hear talk of sustainability or ecotourism in the mainstream travel industry a couple of decades ago, now this language is fairly commonplace. That is indicative of both a paradigm shift in mainstream travel moving to more green thinking and also a general adaptation of greener marketing terminology where actual sustainable practices that take into account the triple bottom line may not yet exist. Simultaneously, we have more and more focus on sustainability in learning institutions, and more young people graduating with degrees in sustainable and responsible forms of tourism. These future leaders are charged with helping to make the entire industry accountable and to ferret out and dispel the green-washing that still exists.

TIES: What trends do you foresee in your area of expertise?
Frances: I recently did some research for Sustainable Travel International and studied the Sustainable Tourism Ministers Briefing 2010/2011, which created a Sustainable Tourist Report that says the coming green economy is likely to be characterized by the following facets:

  • A dramatically aging population supported by few workers pro-rata
  • A focus on happiness rather than wealth
  • A focus on health rather than consumption
  • A focus on renewability rather than obsolescence
  • Parsimoniousness regarding waste and energy use
  • A movement of global power eastwards and southwards

The report goes on to show that, in this coming environment, tourism is bound to change to reflect these realities:

  • BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India and China] countries become major top 10 tourism source markets
  • Domestic and regional tourism takes (even more) center stage
  • Carbon neutral (and carbon reduced) destinations become star destinations
  • Destination transportation options become more choice-critical
  • Long haul travel becomes longer duration too
  • Fewer trips per tourist, more destinations
  • Health becomes a major constituent of travel offerings

Once again, the future leaders of the sustainable travel industry need to be ready to accept the torch being passed to them and to rise to the challenges inherent in these trends, predicted by the travel futurists.

TIES: Thank you and I am looking forward to seeing you and working together in Hilton Head.
Frances: I appreciate the opportunity to serve as advisor and speaker this year, as in the past. This has been fun. See you soon!

Island Tourism and Sustainable Development: Interview with Richard Butler, Strathclyde University

Island Tourism – Sustainable Perspectives

Islands are the most vulnerable and fragile of tourism destinations and will experience even more pressure as the combined impacts of economic, social and environmental change accelerate in the future. In order to understand the process of island tourism development, response to change and challenges and their journey to sustainability, the 2011 CABI book “Island Tourism – Sustainable Perspectives” (Edited by J Carlsen, Professor of Sustainable Tourism, Curtin University of Technology, Australia, R W Butler, Professor of International Tourism, Strathclyde University, Glasgow, UK) provides insights and instruction on topics including social, cultural, environmental and economic aspects of island tourism. It contains essential information for policymakers, planners, researchers, managers and operators within the tourism industry. Learn more & order this book from CABI.

*Through TIES partnership with CABI, special discounts (20~% off) are available to TIES members on all online purchases of CABI publications. Please go to Member Center to access the discount codes, or contact for information on this and other TIES member benefits.

Interview with Professor Butler
TIES: What makes island destinations particularly vulnerable to environmental changes, as compared to other types of tourism destinations?

Prof. Butler: In one sense, they are no more vulnerable than any other area, but often because their physical environment is relatively or absolutely small, they may have little margin for absorbing significant impacts – environmental as well as social and economic (because of small populations and economies). Additionally, some isolated destinations such as the Galapagos may have developed unique ecosystems which would be highly vulnerable to insertions of exotic species, or which may have populations not used to human contact (actions, diseases etc). There is also the issue that while many tourists and others anticipate islands – particularly remote ones – to be “untouched,” any changes are perceived as problematic. As with any ecosystem that has a limited range of species present (high arctic, for example), a loss or significant change in any single element can have a drastic effect on all other elements in the ecosystem. Some islands fall into such a category, even those not in extreme latitudes.

TIES: How can visitors and local operators act to mitigate the impacts of economic, social and environmental changes on island destinations?

Prof. Butler: Some management actions are fairly obvious, such as those practiced in the Galapagos and some national parks elsewhere. For example, no food allowed with visitors, no fires or smoking, no litter left behind, restrictions on access (normally restricted to designated trails only), no physical contact with animals or plants, no collecting, no removal of items. Numbers are generally the major issue but almost no place is willing to limit capacities when it comes down to the crunch; instead, so called “capacity levels” are raised regularly in order to allow more visitors. Limits on numbers and the size of cruise boats at any one time (as Bermuda has done) is one step. Limits on accommodation development, airport capacity, and harbor capacity are somewhat easy options to make polices for.

However, the real question is whether policy will be implemented. Islands have great possibilities of limiting numbers, and controlling actions and movement if they wish to do so. Most seem to wish to do so but never do because of alternative viewpoints relating to more senior levels of government and the private sector. Bear in mind, however, that many small islands also seem to want as many tourists as they can get, so local control is not necessarily the answer. In the case of national parks, it is quite often a senior “absent” government that might institute such arrangements, sometimes in the face of local opposition to restrictions on tourist numbers.

TIES: What advice do you have for tourism stakeholders (planners, researchers, operators etc.) in island destinations for areas to focus on in regards to education and program development (ie: critical issues)?

Prof. Butler: Decide what is really important, both for local people and for outsiders. If priorities can be established, then these can be focused on, people can be informed of what is important and why (key species, key habitats, etc.) and how they may be safeguarded. People need to be informed of potential or actual threats and what results could be, as well as how threats might be neutralized. Information is key – both to local people and from them, and to and from all other stakeholders. Trust is important. Without it, evidence is likely to be disregarded in favor of traditional biases and beliefs. Some of these traditional beliefs might be true, but some of which could be terribly wrong and inappropriate.

For example, overfishing or overuse of resources which might have been acceptable in the context of a much reduced population with less frequent use technology half a century ago, but which are not longer suitable although there may be longstanding support for such actions. Care needs to be taken in putting forward new approaches so that they can gain local support. This requires a clear understanding of what is being proposed, why it is being proposed, and how it will work. All of this is education after a fashion.

Above all, stakeholders must sort out the really key issues, problems, and processes and concentrate on these without getting sidetracked by almost irrelevant but highly publicized media issues. For example, it is easy to get worked up about a hotel keeping its lights on on a beach at night where turtles are hatching and might get confused, although a more serious issue might be a harbor extension for local fishermen which could result in changed erosion patterns and total disappearance of the beach at issue.

TIES: Please share case studies and examples that you find particularly interesting and are reflective of the changes occurring in island tourism today.

Prof. Butler: Probably cruise tourism, as this is bringing large numbers of tourists to islands that had not previously experience such numbers ever before. In some cases this seems an easy option; few infrastructure facilities need to be provided, and boats can anchor off shore and transport visitors to the location. Pressures can be very high for very short periods of time with limited returns in terms of employment, expenditure, and lasting benefits, and every port of call is vulnerable because they have little or no role in decision making about whether the cruise ship should return another year or another voyage. This is not to say that cruise tourism is a bad thing, but I think it is symptomatic of a number of issues including vulnerability, lack of control, concentration of pressure and impacts, intensity of effects, minimal per capita expenditure, and a false impression of visitor numbers being maintained.

Although not specifically a tourist issue, increasing numbers of islands are becoming the focus of development (oil and gas, defense etc.). This has implications for tourism by increasing the visibility of islands through reference in the media, and by provision of infrastructure. For example, the Falkland Islands are much easier to visit now, following the post 1980 increased defense presence there. Similarly, the Shetland Islands have benefited enormously from oil infrastructure developments in terms of access and communication improvements, which have had a positive impact on tourism development.

Interview conducted by Lindsay Milich, July 2011

Prof Richard ButlerProfessor Richard Butler was educated at Nottingham University and the University of Glasgow (PhD Geography 1973), and spent thirty years at the University of Western Ontario in Canada as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Geography, and then the University of Surrey, where he was Professor of Tourism from 1997 to 2005. He is currently Emeritus Professor of International Tourism in the Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. He has published a large number of journal articles, fourteen books on tourism and many chapters in other books. His fields of interest are the development process of tourist destinations the impacts of tourism, carrying capacity and sustainability, and tourism in remote areas and islands.

Related Articles

Conservation Tourism: Interview with Ralf Buckley
Conservation Tourism, written by Professor Ralf Buckley and his colleagues at the International Centre for Ecotourism Research in Griffith University, Australia, features 100 international case studies from private marine reserves to bird watching lodges, and covers key topics including sources of capital and operational funding, corporate and organizational structure, marketing strategies, primary conservation outcomes and spin-off effects, links to public protected areas, future plans and global trends.

Volunteer Tourism: Interview with Dr. Stephen Wearing
Volunteer Tourism: Seeking Experiences that Make a Difference by Dr. Wearing, Senior Lecturer, University of Technology, and Dr Lyons, University of Newcastle, will be published by CABI in 2012. Concentrating on the experience of the volunteer tourist and the host community, this new edition builds on the view of volunteer tourism as a positive and sustainable form of tourism to examine a broader spectrum of behaviors and experiences.

Coastal Tourism: Interview with Dr. Andrew Jones
The symbiotic relationship between coastal tourism and amenable climates has become a paradox with climate change now threatening the very nature of tourism that it has so successfully encouraged in the past. The U.S. coastline along the Gulf of Mexico (i.e. Louisiana and Florida) represents a good example of this ongoing dynamic relationship. Similarly, many of the island archipelagos of South and South East Asia demonstrate vulnerabilities in this context.

GSTC: Spearheading Efforts to Make Tourism More Sustainable

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) is a multi-stakeholder global initiative dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism around the world. The GSTC works to expand understanding of and access to sustainable tourism practices; helps identify and generate markets for sustainable tourism; educates about and advocates for a set of universal principles, as defined by the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. The GSTC Criteria, a set of voluntary principles that provide a framework for the sustainability of tourism businesses across the globe, is the cornerstone of our initiative.

Momentum around this movement is growing. The GSTC is currently active in all UNWTO (World Tourism Organization) regions – Africa, the Americas, Middle East, and East Asia and the Pacific, with countries like Egypt, Costa Rica and India, and others progressing forward. Please see the GSTC website for more information on members and partners around the world.

The GSTC offers a great opportunity for tourism businesses and organizations to get involved as members, and to be part of the global movement towards sustainable tourism. TIES joined the GSTC in September 2010 to contribute to a vision that encourages and stimulates the travel and tourism sector worldwide toward more sustainable tourism operations. The GSTC’s work to position the tourism sector as a contributor to conservation and poverty alleviation is in line with TIES mission, and I believe that these efforts are changing the way in which we think about tourism. Ecotourism, in part, has been an impetus for creating a more sustainable tourism industry – and we are very encouraged about the potential for the GSTC to build these efforts for all tourism.

GSTC CSR Session

GSTC Executive Director, Erika Harms, addresses the ITB-Berlin audience, Corporate Social Responsibility Day (March 2011)

Opportunities for Tourism Stakeholders
We are all aware of the issues our industry and planet face: from climate change to resource depletion; increasing poverty to unstable political climates; and government regulation to raising consumer awareness of sustainability issues. As an industry we depend on consumer demand and stable environments to succeed. Such large issues cannot be solved by our industry alone. However, we can take positive steps toward a solution.

The GSTC is a place where tourism stakeholders can support action on sustainability issues, extend their networks to work with other like-minded companies and organizations, and enjoy a competitive advantage over those who are slower to come around. The GSTC is working on many projects that will be launched in 2011, including: GSTC Accreditation, GSTC Market Access programs, development of education and online training materials and revision of the current GSTC criteria. I encourage you to join the GSTC and help shape the outcomes of these projects.

The GSTC is the first multi-stakeholder, truly global initiative operating in all regions of the world. It is an exciting time to be at the GSTC and I hope you will take a moment to visit the website, learn more about the organization and become a member.