Is that even possible or is it a sector greenwashing initiative with the aim to convince people that travel and tourism are ok again. Given the dramatic impact of the Covid pandemic on the sector, this would be understandable but not sustainable. Why? Because all the industry leaders on the podium strongly communicated that sustainability is now a business imperative. So the focus is shifting to sustainability innovation focused on speed and progress.
Sustainable Tourism: an Arab Country Takes the major Step
I would like to share the story of my personal experience from attending the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit in Riyadh Saudi Arabia 2022. Although I live in Riyadh, I had to join WTTC online because I was also attending the Riyadh Philosophy Conference that ran in parallel with the WTTC Global Summit.
Vision2030 – A country on the move
Both different gatherings consistently shared one experience with their attendees. The international guests, all leaders in their respective fields, that visited Saudi Arabia for the first time were overwhelmed by its hospitality and opportunity potential. Saudi Arabia is on the move driven by Vision2030 of its Crown Prince. Visiting Saudi means parting from preconceived notions that people may have had about the country. Living in Riyadh since early 2022 I can only confirm what all speakers attested to. Saudi Arabia and its people are hugely welcoming and very focused on the future.
Humans want to explore and discover
The other common thread between both gatherings is the essential human nature to want to explore and discover. At the WTTC as tourists and travelers. At the philosophy conference with a focus on outer space. Can this exploration and discovery develop to become sustainable and do we and the industry even care? That is what I wanted to find out.
Unique experiences – sustainably implemented
The theme of this year’s WTTC Summit was “Travel for a better future”. Saudi Arabia aims to become a global powerhouse in tourism, and promises us “Culture and Nature”. Tourists increasingly decide what they want to experience, not where they want to go. Tourism providers have to create unique experiences that leave their guests with a story to tell. The entire experience must be made sustainable from door to door. Responsible tourism is only possible when it is carbon neutral, free of waste, and supports the local environment and community. A gigantic leap from where Tourism was before the Covid Pandemic. This fundamental rethink is what characterizes the business imperative that all CEOs spoke of.
Back to the theme of the Philosophy conference and Tourism and Travel in general:
People seek experiences that expand their horizons.
What makes us humans unique is that we seek to explore and discover. Global exchanges between people create real connections. As we encounter people one on one, we learn to see and experience the texture of other places and cultures. Travel can create real empathy and connection between people and cultures. Without travel, exploration, and discovery, humanity stops developing.
Social issues are an essential part of the concept – and innovation needed
We are back at the business imperative for the tourism industry. The only way to achieve this is by creating positive economic outcomes from sustainable travel and tourism for all the stakeholders in the industry. Notably, most CEOs admitted that fair working conditions and compensation must be an integral part of their strategy and that they are not there today. Technological innovation will play a huge role in the transformation because efficiency and seamless travel experiences can (must) offset the cost of improving working conditions.
We will actively follow all aspects of this development. We will research the global best practices of companies that are leading the transformation to sustainable travel and tourism, including space tourism and outer space exploration. Two conferences connected by a common theme of human exploration and the need to sustain humanity on earth and maybe interplanetary in the future.
Blog article was written by: Peter Storm
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