A conversation with Gérard Ruiz, the President of the ‘Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism’

On the occasion of the Second Annual Conference of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism, a task force promoted by UNEP with the mission to transform tourism around the world by making it more sustainable, Jlag has interviewed the President: Mr Gérard Ruiz.

The interview was realized before the Conference, hosted in Seoul by the Ministry of the Environment, Republic of Korea, from the 12th to the 14th March 2012. The results of the conference will be posted on our Blog.

The Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism was launched in 2011 in Costa Rica with the ambition to transform the way tourism is done worldwide, by promoting sustainability through clear policies, successful projects and the sharing of knowledge and experience. What have been the major achievements of this global initiative so far?

Many countries are using tourism as the development strategy to generate jobs, economic growth and opportunity for local populations. The Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism was borne out of the need to promote collaboration, learning and knowledge among many partners, and to serve as a clearinghouse for sustainable tourism projects. We have been tasked to do this for an industry that is of high visibility and from which much is expected; but also in a way that is sustainable, yet adds impact and value. We are also tasked with providing visibility for the work of our partners and contributors. This is an ambitious undertaking….but we are up to the task firstly by bringing together tourism stakeholders in the public & private sector, NGOs, UN agencies and donors. For us at the Global Partnership it is important to remember that a suitable balance needs to be achieved in our development choices: the balance across the economic, social and environmental aspects.

The main accomplishments of the Global Partnership in 2011 – from the time of the Task Force, to the launch in Costa Rica, to this 2nd meeting in Korea, include 84 partners in total located in 46 countries on 5 continents including 29 in emerging and developing countries, of which 48  are new partners. Over the past year, we have worked hard to establish the structures to do our work in transparent, interesting and enduring ways. This first year notably enabled us to build our communication platform and define our structure for becoming the driver of high-impact projects.

The Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism is holding a Symposium preceding its second Annual Conference in Seoul this year, what are the key topics on the agenda?

Indeed, the Annual Conference of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism will be hosted by the Ministry of the Environment, Republic of Korea, one of our active Partners. It will be preceded by a Symposium which will provide an opportunity to hear from sustainable tourism experts and learn of best cases, discuss north-south/south-south cooperation opportunities, donor interests, and innovative projects. The ‘brain trust’ that will be assembled in Korea brings together a wealth of experience and skills.

With the idea of providing a panorama of the last 10 years of Sustainable Tourism, we have particularly designed 3 discussion panels: linking tourism and conservation, tourism and poverty alleviation; green innovation and tourism. These are consonant with the 7 priority themes of the Global Partnership and speak to current global issues, and achieving that fundamental balance between the 3 pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental. We expect to have a very vibrant conference

– What are your priorities and challenges in 2012/13 for the Global Partnership?

In 2012, our objective is to focus on global projects – identifying the best examples of the work of our partners in destinations; supporting our partners in helping them to promote the results of their efforts; and working with donors to open up new areas for funding sustainable tourism projects that are both innovative and transformative by focusing on results-based project implementation.

It is important for the Global Partnership to keep the RIO+20 global conference in Brazil in focus whilst it does its work, this Conference will set the global environmental agenda for years to come and the Partnership should be nimble enough to respond.  Our aim is to accomplish the improvements that tourism and tourism destinations require with the participation, collaboration, innovation and creativity from our partners .

Tourism needs to continue working on improving its linkages across key sectors and supply chains, in order to generate the expected economic benefits and by using the available technologies to do so quickly and efficiently and in a way that delights the visitor and provides them with more sustainable products and choices. Innovation is therefore key!

Our projects will embrace sustainability through the prism of “sustainable consumption and production” – focusing on how global industry may be more efficient in its use and consumption of natural resources and contribute to the green economy.

The Road to Rio+20 is an initiative to engage, inspire and motivate young people around the world to take action on sustainable development issues and influence the outcomes of Rio+20. Which role can young people have in contributing to develop sustainable tourism practices? 

Inspiring and motivating young people is essential for the evolution of new tourism practices. Young people are the generators of consumer trends to come. With regard to tourism, we hope that they will continue to express, through their campaigns the urgency for more sustainable tourism practices in accordance with the issues they have learned about the need to protect the planet.

Planning and management are key elements to achieve sustainable tourism. Which are the main global and European challenges in this field?

It is important to anticipate today the needs of tomorrow’s tourists. Tourism requires significant investment. It is therefore necessary to be prepared now for future tourism development options and to meet the requirements and demand for sustainable products and services that will guide future consumer behaviors. This also requires that professionals begin now to adapt to these anticipated changes in their operations, in the management of their facilities, through implementation of actions, and by training their staff.

Sustainable management and private sector: how these two elements can be connected? Which are the GPST strategies to support the private sector in becoming more sustainable?

Assuming that you refer to the tourism private sector: Sustainability is built upon 3 pillars – economic, social and environmental. Tourism is a business concern driven largely by private sector investment, innovation and operation. The private sector is therefore a key stakeholder, as are national governments and communities. The main objective is that these 3 categories of stakeholders are cooperating, communicating and collaborating on the appropriate forms of tourism development and operations, and deriving benefits equitably. Achieving a balance among the 3 pillars is essential and this defines sustainability.

Pompeii is a destination where local community seems not to be aware of living in one of the world’s most-visited attractions; there is a border between the archeological site and the town. This happens in many destinations. How can local people and host communities become key players and drivers of tourism development?

I do not know specifically how the Pompeii site is managed, and hence cannot comment directly. It is essential, however, for local communities everywhere to be truly responsible for sites of cultural and heritage significance. In this way, that they can benefit from tourism economically, and greater awareness of the value of heritage assets may be encouraged along with participation in their protection. This is one of the objectives of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *