“The travel and tourism industry is one of the largest industries in the world, and as such it is a very powerful marketing force.
It is up to us in the industry to marshal the power to effect positive change and to protect natural resources upon which our industry depends,” said Marshall Calder, senior vice president marketing, Leading Hotels of the World, at this year’s ILTM conference in Cannes. About 750 delegates from the luxury travel industry attended the conference which stressed the need for the industry to deal with the challenge of responsible tourism in order to survive and progress.
Buyers, travel agents, tour operators and tourism companies need to develop a good understanding of each others’ product and modus operandi in order for sustainable tourism to work according to Andy Payne of Wilderness Safaris in South Africa, a company that creates sustainable conservation economies in southern Africa and in the Indian Ocean. He believes it is all about balance – sustainable tourism has to make economic sense and it has to be environmentally beneficial.
“It is up to us to get the understanding across to our guests. The better they understand the more they support us. I see that as our key role. I also see that it is the responsibility of the buyers to understand the suppliers. This is a huge opportunity for us–we need to lead, to go out there and make a positive difference.”
With the size of the travel industry set to double in the next 15 years, keynote speaker Costas Christ, founder of The International Ecotourism Society, highlighted that the issue of climate change is only going to get bigger and luxury travel companies must acknowledge this. “We’re on the frontier of something new - responsible tourism is not a possibility but a reality and is a sound business approach,” he commented.
Sponsored by Departures magazine, the conference illustrated that a growing number of luxury travel companies are making progress in the realms of responsible tourism, be it through carbon offsetting policies or other environmental projects. However, it was evident that there is still scepticism surrounding the issue and many companies are yet to implement their own policies. The 60 per cent increase in conference delegate numbers on last year indicated that the industry was conscientious and eager to address the challenge.
A new ILTM Industry Report on the luxury travel industry was also presented by its author Nancy Cockerell, and general indications were that the luxury travel industry as a whole is booming, with huge growth in developing markets such as India, Russia and China. ILTM 2007 welcomed more than 3,700 attendees from 110 countries worldwide, and organised 47,000 pre-matched appointments. Newcomers at the event included The Valencia Tourism Convention Bureau, Slovenian Tourist Board and the Luxury Train Club, plus a number of new exhibitors from Japan.