For the June 2014 Tourism Around Europe newsletter we interviewed Deirdre Shurland, Coordinator of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism (GPST). GPST is a global initiative launched in 2011 to mainstream sustainability into tourism policies, development, and operations. It emerged as a more permanent successor to the International Task Force on Sustainable Tourism Development (ITF-STD).
The GPST is a new organization launched in 2011 with the main objective to mainstream sustainable tourism globally in developing and developed countries. What are the main results achieved so far? What are the plans for the future?
We have built a partnership network of more than 80 partners across the globe comprising governments, private sector, NGOs, UN agencies and programmes and academic institutions. We have consolidated our activities in 3 priority regions – the Caribbean, Asia & the Pacific and Southern Africa – and formulated regional project proposals in collaboration with key partners. The sustainable tourism project screening and evaluation tool has been piloted and is ready for full execution in our priority regions over the 2014-2015 biennium. The Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism has also increased the visibility of our partners and their work through quarterly webinars and newsletters, at our 4 previous annual symposia and conferences and at international tourism fairs and events such as ITB and WTM.
We have much further to go and with the advent of the 10 year framework of programmes in sustainable consumption and production (10YFP) patterns developing the sustainable tourism programme, we are busy assisting with the preparation of key documents in support of the global consultation exercise organized by the 10YFP Secretariat.
I believe more and more that sustainable tourism policies and actions are urgently needed, not just in developing countries, but also in developed countries. In reality, many developed countries do not have a solid strategy for sustainable tourism. What do you think are the main differences between developed and developing countries when approaching sustainable tourism?
It may not be entirely fair to compare developed and developing country approaches or progress in sustainable tourism, as these groups have different advantages and are obviously at differing stages of development. Indeed, countries, whether developed or developing, have unique ways, as they should, in interpreting what sustainability should mean for their citizens, the priorities to be pursued and the benefits to be delivered, all in accordance with national budgets and capacities. The most important question is whether a country’s tourism development plan embraces sustainability principles and is provided the resources and infrastructures for monitoring, measuring and demonstrating success. The Global Partnership today emphasizes, transparent, inclusive and integrated approaches based on resource efficiency and a commitment to partnership between the major stakeholders. These are among some of the criteria we look for in the sustainability approaches adopted by countries.
The launch of the Sustainable Tourism programme, within the global 10YFP (10 Year Framework Programme), is expected in August 2014. What main actions should governments and stakeholders perform in order to implement sustainable tourism policies and practices, in line with the 10YFP?
The 10YFP is defining a global process for achieving sustainability across priority sectors and themes based on sustainable consumption and production principles. Sustainable tourism is but one of five priority programmes that has been given an inter-governmental mandate through the 10YFP. This is potentially the first opportunity for governments and other stakeholders to be organized to implement the programme and achieve its objectives with a mechanism for technical support, and funding provided by the Trust Fund and other sources. The tourism sector is not easy to fundraise for and we are excited to part of a process that, with the involvement and collaboration of stakeholders at global, regional and national levels, can achieve the programme goals and objectives within the 10-year time frame. The pathway, however, requires collaboration, consensus and commitment to the goal of sustainable tourism by all involved stakeholders.
What are the job opportunities that sustainable tourism can generate? Can you bring any example?
According to various reports, the private sector will continue to be the main generator of ‘green’ jobs in the tourism sector. This has already been demonstrated in the case of renewable energy technologies, for example. This industry has already been reporting spin off jobs created to fill the need for specialized skills in technology customization and engineering, installation and maintenance, for those hotels that are installing photovoltaic and solar panels or using biofuels. As the shift to renewable energy sources increases within the tourism value chain, we expect to see an increasing need for a variety of skilled labour.
In a few weeks we will have a new EU Political Scenario. What recommendations would you give to the new decision makers for sustainable tourism in Europe?
The world is going through many changes to its political, institutional and social systems, some of which will be both constructive and destructive. This is not unknown in human history and we have found ways to cope, to adjust and to take advantage of newly emerging opportunities. In the case of sustainability, we would advise the decision-makers to do away with the “business-as-usual” approaches that have not adequately addressed the threats to our biodiversity and heritage resources, for example. There is as yet, no substitute to diligent planning for tourism investment and development that is inclusive and that provides the promised benefits for national economies and populations.