A very interesting day at the World Travel Market this last week. Not only was walking through the exhibition space like a sumptuous trip around the world in one day, I also attended several very good conference sessions. The first was on Wellness Tourism. Not something I would have thought of immediately but when I was planning out my day I was reminded of the statistic in last year’s Heritage Counts report, which showed that visiting heritage sites ‘makes you happy’ – improving well-being to the tune of £1,646 a year for the average visitor (as opposed to £993 for taking part in sports!).
So, heritage is definitely a contributor to wellness, and this was borne out by the experts at the session. Much can be applied to the INTO context: experience rather than destination; emotional and multisensory language; focus on the ‘wellderly’ (not sure of the spelling – but Wikipedia defines as ‘old people who are in good health’); co-creation of experience; the importance of stories, myths and cultures; special experiences at special, local places; authentic simplicity.
My second session was on Digital Tourism. Storytelling cropped up again here, along with relevance and credibility. In terms of how much the game has changed, the following were cited:
Here, the focus was definitely more on youth. I was struck by Millennials being:
How the heritage world gets into this space is an interesting question, but it’s definitely where we need to be. You can join a free INTO webinar on social media on 10 December.
Within the Responsible Tourism strand of the WTM, there were a number of interesting discussions about climate change and what the industry needs to do. Wednesday began with the Carbon Debate and a stark presentation from Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. With the subtitle, Ostrich or Phoenix, Kevin referred back to the Copenhagen Accord pledge “to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius, and take action to meet this objective consistent with science and on the basis of equity”.
The importance of reducing demand NOW was highlighted, while we build a ‘Marshall Plan’ style programme of low-carbon supply. In terms of travel, this means much more than towels!!!! It is about:
“This will demand leadership, courage, innovative thinking, engaged teams and difficult choices – we’ll get some things wrong and they’ll be short-term ‘pain’ for high emitters.”
He ended with a note of optimism (the Phoenix!) “at every level the greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack the clarity and imagination to conceive that it could be different” (Robert Unger).
In a later debate, the following stood out:
The last presentation I attended was From Conflict to Sustainable Tourism. We heard from Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) about tourism as a force for good and his belief that “the more we travel, the better people we become”.
We heard the uplifting story of Belfast from Suzanne Wylie, CEO of Belfast City Council, who highlighted the importance of community involvement and storytelling; we heard from H.E. Akel Biltaji, Mayor of Amman, Jordan who advised us to look at our assets, to build on our icons (both people and place); Hiran Cooray from the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka told us about the country’s growth in tourism since the end of the conflict in 2009 and Eneko Goia, Mayor of San Sebastian, Spain described a similar situation in the Basque country. “Culture is co-existence.”
In all, a lot to take in and mull over: from tips on how to raise awareness of and engagement in the work that we do to preserve the world’s heritage for future generations to a stark reminder that we need to seriously cut our carbon usage – or neither of these will exist any longer.
At the end of November, a delegation of INTO members and partners will attend the UN Climate Change talks in Paris (COP 21). You’ll be able to follow progress here on the INTO site – and check out the National Trusts’ Keith Jones’ blog too.