Where the buck stops

OUR PLANET 10.1 - Tourism

Where the buck stops


says the tourist industry and nature are natural allies
and describes how companies like his must take
responsibility for protecting the environment

tourist boat

An astronaut's-eye view of our planet - and the map of sins against the environment that can be drawn from that viewpoint - show clearly that all parts of the globe are exposed to the ecological damage caused by humanity. But nearly all the major holiday destinations belong to the areas of the world which generate less pollution and are generally less affected by industrial damage to the environment.

These countries benefit, through their income from tourism, from the high level of industrialization and the economic strength of the leading developed countries, the source of nearly all the tourists. This unequivocal fact means that the countries less burdened by industry, and the damage it inflicts, are the indirect beneficiaries of the industrial countries' economic output - often achieved at the expense of the environment. Thus the growing globalization of the world economies requires a global responsibility for safeguarding and protecting the environment.

The World Tourism Organization (WTO) and economic experts estimate that tourism will be one of the world's major growth areas in coming years. They expect that higher-quality tourism will grow even faster than the industry as a whole - and that it will provide large numbers of new jobs as it requires more personal services. By and large tourism is far less of a burden on the environment than other areas of the economy. But its sustainable development, benefiting nature and the environment, is still a top priority for the industry's policy makers. There are two reasons for this:

- Tourist companies like Touristik Union International (TUI) aim to reduce the damage arising from tourism to the minimum. This is particularly urgent, bearing in mind how much the industry is expected to grow in the coming years - and the strain that this will exert on the environment if we fail to make improvements. In the long run, growth will only be possible if natural resources are used sustainably. So, in future, transport, accommodation, catering, waste disposal and other activities that provide for the guests must be organized in a much more cost-efficient and ecological way than in the past.

- The decisive factor determining whether tourists are satisfied with their holidays is the extent to which the quality of facilities and services live up to their expectations. So an intact environment is the prerequisite for enjoyable holidays. This makes it the economic life principle of tourism. No other branch of the global economy is so keenly dependent on clean water and beaches, pure air and intact nature.

An intact environment, for most vacationers, means enjoying a holiday untainted by the harmful influences of industry and mass transport. Only a small circle of experts and highly-aware tourists relate it to such terms as biodiversity, rainforests or ecosystems. Most use the ecological standards and measures of their own home country as their yardstick, though this may be tempered by insights gained from the additional information they learn at their destination. Above all, their satisfaction - or otherwise - with the ecological circumstances of their holiday is determined by what they register with their own senses.

Taking the lead

Travellers' 'green thinking and acting' has grown in recent years, and is valued. But progress in the care and protection of the environment depends on initiatives by policy makers, specialists and key people in the tourist companies themselves, both individually and in partnership with both the private and public sectors of the economy.

Environment protection and nature conservation are therefore natural allies of the tourism industry. Leading ecologists take this view, as well as those in charge in the tourism business. They expect tourism to exert its ever-growing strength in the interests of protecting nature and the environment worldwide.

There are good examples of the positive effects of tourism. For instance, fishermen can make a much better living by taking tourists on boat trips to watch whales than they ever could by hunting them. The growth of tourism over the past 50 years has multiplied the number of the world's nature reserves tenfold: there are now almost 10,000 national parks and reserves worldwide.

'The protection of an intact nature and environment is of the highest importance for us,' reads Rule 8 of TUI's corporate principles. 'We thus secure our natural resources and the future of our business.' The ecological sustainability of our products is an essential element of our quality standards. This principle dominates the awareness of staff and management and serves as a code of conduct for everyone in the company.

TUI established its own Environment Department in November 1990, the first company in the world to do so. This unit is one of the TUI's central functions and part of its corporate management. It is thus responsible for all the group's subsidiaries in all its source and destination markets, and for all stages in the chain of the business, including travel agencies, tour operators, carriers, incoming agencies and hotels.

Its work is aimed at: It wants:

- TUI itself. Every TUI company, and every segment in each company, has to be environmentally responsible. Every member of staff is expected to come forward with ideas, because protection of the environment is everyone's individual responsibility. Hotels belonging to the TUI group have gained numerous 'green awards' over the years.

- The governments and administrations of the host countries.

- International and national public and private organizations responsible for tourism and environment.

- Those with responsibility in regional and local councils.

- Our business partners - hoteliers, airlines, car rental companies, incoming agencies, travel agencies.

- Our guests, whom we want to win over to an ecological orientation and who expect corresponding efforts from us.

TUI attaches great importance to informing its guests about the environment. All our catalogues, with a total print-run of over 30 million copies, provide important ecological information on the condition of nature and the environment in 150 holiday regions worldwide, and the ecological operations of selected and monitored hotels in all our holiday regions. This information is intended to help guests choose their destination and hotel so that they arrive with realistic expectations.

More than 10,000 holiday hotels and apartment houses are monitored every year using TUI environmental checklists. The records of the data are documented, analyzed and processed over seven years for contracting hotels and travel agents and for the descriptions in the catalogues. This shows how ecological quality standards are realized in practice in 166 holiday hotels with a total of 80,000 beds - belonging to six subsidiary companies and TUI brands; the economic and ecological benefits that result; and the impact they have on client satisfaction. We have proof of the beneficial influence of continuous environmental improvement in contracting hotels.

We also support all moves towards 'eco-labelling', such as ISO14001 for the 'Blue Flag'. We naturally inform our business partners in international holiday hotels that do not belong to the TUI group of our experiences in putting ecological quality standards into practice in our hotels.

mountain top

Environmental network

The TUI Environment Department represents a unique Corporate Competence Centre. This communicates advisory and support services to the entire TUI group, with more than 100 associated companies, according to defined ecological criteria for destinations, holiday hotels and transport. The worldwide TUI Environmental Network brings together thousands of our staff members, contracting partners, environmentalists, national tourist boards and information bureaux and environment associations, in reporting and solving problems to relieve the environment and improve the quality of tourism.

The findings that result from TUI's worldwide environmental monitoring are presented to tourism managers in local and regional seminars and conferences - and are directed to regional and national governments in the form of 'recommendations'.

The Environment Department has developed an environmental management system, which follows up local environmental activities in the resort areas and source markets as well as taking regional, international and global relations into account. Since participating in the World Conference on Sustainable Tourism in Lanzarote in April 1995 the group has continued its environmental policy in accordance with Agenda 21, seizing many opportunities in cooperation with UNEP. It played a part in preparing for the Berlin Declaration on Biological Diversity and Sustainable Tourism in March 1997 and presented its ecological ideas and measures at the Fourth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bratislava in May 1998. It also contributed to the dialogue at the UNEP/WTO Conference on Sustainable Tourism in Small Island Developing States in Lanzarote in October 1998.

Guiding star

The special Agenda 21 for the Travel and Tourism Industry provides a ready-made framework for developing and implementing measures for enabling tourism to grow in an ecologically sustainable way. The group cooperates with the WTO and the World Travel & Tourism Council, which give considerable support. It finds cooperation with the tourism industry's national associations equally fruitful. The Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry is prominent among these: it has provided a common Environmental Declaration advocating sustainable development as a guiding star for those in charge of the tourism industry in Germany.

Dr. Ralf Corsten is Chairman of the Executive Board of Touristik Union International, Hannover, Germany.

TUI's practical activities in working for the sustainable development of tourism:

- Reducing environmental impact by boosting eco-efficiency - in energy consumption, water consumption, land use and nature use - in thousands of holiday hotels. TUI's own hotels play a pioneering role here.

- Integrating environmental quality standards and social standards into total quality management concepts and actively implementing them.

- Supporting a graduated policy of conserving nature and landscape in holiday regions, with firmly defined regulations on how to protect and use them. TUI uses the number of protected areas in each region as one of its key ecological criteria for determining the quality of holidays.

- Supporting and promoting holiday regions as candidates for recognition as UNESCO biosphere reserves: Menorca, Lanzarote and Coto Doñana are positive examples.

- Supporting measures to restore overused holiday zones to nature, including measures for 'restoring value' by a strategy of 'protection through use'. This combines nature protection and adding economic value through compatible ways of utilizing the areas.

- Supporting communities and regions - such as Calvia in Mallorca, the Alps and the Caribbean - in implementing the development processes of local Agenda 21s.

- Actively promoting the harmonization of local, communal and regional needs in concerted regional tourism development programmes, according to strictly controlled master plans.

- Supporting all measures that help provide the sensible management of visitors such as controlling their flow and regulations on the appropriate numbers for particular areas at any one time.

Complementary articles in other issues:
Frank A. Campbell: Whispers and waste (Small Islands) 1999
Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel: Making a difference (Small Islands) 1999
Francesco Frangialli: Preserving paradise (Small Islands) 1999

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