Can Travel & Tourism become nature’s saviour?
In the coming month, the long-anticipated report, “Towards Nature Positive Travel & Tourism” will be published. Produced by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), in collaboration with ANIMONDIAL, it will help to explain nature’s ability to sustain tourism, absorb carbon emissions, prevent pandemics, and support life. It also underlines Travel & Tourism’s key challenges, which the sector must be overcome, and sets out, what I believe, is a huge potential to address biodiversity loss, and with it, climate change.
These are indeed worrying times – heatwaves are exhausting fresh water supplies, agricultural crops are failing, fish stocks dying, and wildfires destroying vast expanses of nature and people’s homes. There is no doubt that we need to reverse our exploitative and unsustainable ways and seek a future where humanity lives in harmony with nature.
Sounds great in theory, right? But with society and geo-political tensions currently taking us in the wrong direction, could this just be wishful thinking? Or is the solution yet to be fully realised?
I believe that the solution lies with responsible and sustainable tourism.
Take the last couple of years as an example: COVID-19 took hold across the world, people no longer travelled, and the tourism revenues that sustain local livelihoods and protect fragile nature, dried up. The devastating loss of income and an inability to access nutritious food, caused many local people (especially those that live alongside nature) to return to harvesting wildlife and natural resources for survival. With nature-based tourism operations suspended, wildlife poaching, illegal wildlife trade, and the degradation of nature by opportune industries caused widespread biodiversity loss – to an extent not previously seen.
These alarming outcomes demonstrate the relevance and power of tourism.
Just through its operation alone, tourism has an ability to sustain community resilience and wellbeing, while also providing for nature’s health. Consider then its full potential if efforts were directed to lessen operation impact, and support nature-enhancing actions. Imagine the extent of the benefits that could be achieved!
The WTTC ANIMONDIAL report, “Towards Nature Positive Travel & Tourism”, highlights these mutual dependencies as well as the business case for a Nature Positive approach. It encourages Travel & Tourism to assess and better manage its environmental impacts, while also identifying nature-related opportunities to restore, or regenerate nature. Within the publication, this process has been called “Nature Positive Tourism”.
Recognising that pre-COVID tourism revenues contributed to over 10% of global GDP, and nature-based tourism generated upwards of US$600 billion in direct in-country expenditures a year, that supported over 21 million jobs, there appears huge potential for Travel & Tourism to drive Nature Positive change. Managed well, Travel & Tourism can reverse the environmental impacts of COVID, bring greater value to nature, and help to convince even the most disengaged of communities and governments to better protect their natural heritage.
Using the “Towards Nature Positive Travel & Tourism” report as a springboard, the WTTC and ANIMONDIAL hope to work with the UN Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and the IUCN, and others, to position Travel & Tourism as a key player in supporting global efforts to protect our planet’s natural wonders – in effect, to become ‘GUARDIANS OF NATURE’.
ANIMONDIAL’s Nature Positive Tourism services are available for any business keen to adopt a Nature Positive approach. These services range from an evaluation tool to assess operational impact on biodiversity, risk mitigation tools, such a nature-based product ‘healthcheck’, and a matchmaker service to find biodiversity and animal protection partners to fit business need.
Adopting a Nature Positive Tourism approach can be as easy as ABC …
- Assess your business operations and activities against the five-drivers of biodiversity loss.
- Build a Nature Positive approach that integrates biodiversity safeguards throughout the business and its operations.
- Complement your actions to mitigate nature-related impacts with measurable opportunities to better protect and restore nature.
- Develop destination biodiversity partnerships with NGOs, educational institutions, or government agencies to halt any exploitation or degradation of the natural world, and restore nature lost.
- Empower your employees, destination partners and suppliers, affected communities and customers through simple yet informative communication to encourage the better protection of animals and nature.
» Sign up to ANIMONDIAL’s Animal Footprint initiative to discover your environmental impact.
First steps to identifying actions that reduce impacts and restore nature.
The main message of Nature Positive Tourism is deceptively simple – measure the ways your business impacts on nature, measure the ways it protects and enhances nature, and make improvements until the positives outweigh the negatives. The principle is simple, but at ANIMONDIAL we understand that putting it into practice can be difficult.
Focus on Destinations
The prospect of making all those improvements can seem daunting when you are only just starting the journey. In fact, it may well be simpler than it appears once you understand what needs to be done. For many, the real challenge comes earlier in the process – how do we go about measuring our biodiversity impacts and benefits in the first place?
The key to answering this, lies in the classic environmental slogan: “Think globally, act locally”. Impacts on nature come in many forms, and these depend on the activities that happen and the locations they happen in. For Travel & Tourism, this means looking at the destinations you visit.
The difference we can make
For many travel businesses the focus may be on providing services to customers, however most of the environmental impacts will actually take place on the ground. This is where new developments can destroy vital natural habitat, or existing sites can secure and enhance it. It is where nature viewing trips can disturb and harass wildlife, or sensitively and sustainably fund its protection. Where food supplies can be flown in from intensive farms hundreds of miles away, or sourced from sustainable local agriculture. Destinations are ‘where the rubber meets the road’.
We are all about the Destinations
For many Travel & Tourism businesses, this will mean looking at products and supply chains. In our industry no company is an island – we have to work together to make our clients’ travel dreams come true. Everyone involved in that process has a stake in the traveller’s experience in the destination, and so everyone has a stake in the consequences of that experience. Travellers around the world are increasingly aware of their impacts and keen to ensure that their trips don’t ‘cost the earth’. We have to work together, as an industry, to meet their needs and demands. (The upcoming WTTC and ANIMONDIAL report on Nature Positive Tourism provides a clear and compelling focus for doing just this.)
Focusing on key destinations is crucial to understanding the environmental impacts and opportunities of a Travel & Tourism business. It is likely that operations will vary from one place to another, but it is certain that nature will. A broad understanding of environmental issues at each location is essential to identify the major threats, challenges, needs and opportunities for the wildlife and ecosystems that live there.
Your guide to thinking local
ANIMONDIAL can help Travel & Tourism businesses build that knowledge and insight. Whether you choose to create extra capacity in-house, through local partners or by engaging professional consultants, we can guide the process with the level of input you need. As well as supporting you with our years of experience and contacts, ANIMONDIAL’s Animal Footprint online tool offers an evaluation of your Nature Positive business performance. We also have a network of trusted partners that can provide specialist services. Whether you want to identify the biodiversity at a specific site with Nature Metrics eDNA analysis, calculate the economic value of a particular animal in your area with the Endangered Wildlife Biodiversity Valuator or conduct a rapid assessment on the ground with Organeco, we can help you identify and engage the expertise you need.
Where does the journey start?
As with so much of Travel & Tourism, local knowledge is the key. As we build our understanding of an area, our nature-related impacts and opportunities within it become clear. So, if you want to improve your Nature Positive credentials but are still wondering where to begin, just remember that a Nature Positive Tourism journey starts at the destination!
Don’t forget …
- Think about impacts and opportunities in the Destinations you serve
- Work closely with suppliers and partners as a Travel & Tourism team
- Build lasting partnerships with local nature-focused NGOs and other organisations to generate additional benefits for everyone
Yes, that is indeed an ode to Tina Turner, who was certainly no stranger to powerful collaboration, which takes me nicely into the subject of this blog… and what indeed SDG17 has got to do with it.
“The SDGs can only be realised with strong global partnerships and cooperation. A successful development agenda requires inclusive partnerships – at the global, regional, national and local levels – built upon principles and values, and upon a shared vision and shared goals placing people and the planet at the centre”. – United Nations, in reference to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #17 ‘Partnerships for the Goals’
This particular SDG is often the most overlooked, but can be considered one of the most important. Partnerships for the Goals refers to the recommendation for cross-sector and cross-country collaboration to achieve all the global goals, from 1 -16, by the year 2030. Importantly, it recognises that these cannot be achieved in isolation. It is a call for countries to align policies, and adopt a shared vision for a collaborative way forward.
So, what does this mean for animal and nature protection in Travel & Tourism?
Our industry is arguably the best placed to prioritise cross-country collaboration to better protect and restore nature. But we can also learn from other sectors, particularly those that also have a recognised impact on nature. Reporting on biodiversity protection for Net Zero is becoming more commonplace in the corporate world, across a variety of industries. According to the IUCN, the business sectors with a significant impact on nature include large ‘footprint’ industries such as mining, oil and gas; biodiversity-dependent industries including fishing, agriculture and forestry; and, financial services and “green” enterprises such as organic farming, renewable energy and tourism.
But, how do they tackle achieving their goals and demonstrating their actions? Often through collaboration. This shared mission is an opportunity to unite, and demonstrate individual and collective integrity and leadership. For businesses with limited resources, it is also an opportunity to fill gaps in knowledge or services by forming complementary and empowering partnerships. For larger companies it could be an opportunity to lead the way and guide others along the path. Collaborations can also support the delivery and achievement of identified objectives and KPIs and provide reliable evidence in annual reports.
TOP TIPS for Nature Positive Collaboration in Travel & Tourism
Whilst operations are grounded, this is a rare opportunity to review them – to return more effective and make the protection of animals and nature an integral component of our tourism agenda. Here are some ideas:
- Identify partners with a shared vision and shared goals to tackle the same challenges.
Identify partners of best fit – consider what parts of the jigsaw you are missing, and who can provide them.
- Stakeholder mapping can be beneficial to help Identify others with shared purpose and whose objectives align.
- Set partnerships as a key tactic to achieve your sustainability strategy, and include their identification and formation within your goal-setting, signed off at CEO level.
- Understand the value of other stakeholders as part of your supply chain to achieve the goals- they are not passive contributors, but pro-active ones, that can do much of the heavy lifting that you can’t, and facilitate the actions you may not be equipped to.
- Ensure that partners are aligned with your goals and demonstrate integrity in the shared commitment. Add a policy to that effect within your partnership contracts.
- See NGOs as instrumental to supporting the delivery of business actions on the ground, and adding value and meaning to your brand and its products. The knowledge and expertise of in-destination communities (and NGOs) should not be underestimated. They can deliver monitoring and reporting on community-based conservation actions, Partnerships should be strategic, and aligned to commitment goals, providing inspiring case studies to educate and inspire.
Who could you partner with?
Partners could include travel business peers, travel trade associations, local, national or international NGOs, government bodies, or destination authorities. They can also include suppliers from alternative industries that have touch-points with your business and its sustainability commitment. These could include food and beverage providers, providers of furnishings and transport, or example.
Where to start?
This June, we will be celebrating the release of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and ANIMONDIAL Nature Positive paper – a perfect example of a collaboration of shared purpose to support the sector in the delivery of animal and nature protection across global destinations. The paper includes numerous case studies and examples of how other industries, and other peers in Travel & Tourism, are working together to tackle the same challenges and achieve our collective goals. It is our hope that the paper equips our sector with the essential information needed to both integrate biodiversity protection actions within the sustainability agenda, and support collaborative efforts.
ANIMONDIAL, with WTTC have gathered the views of all pieces of the jigsaw to ensure the content is as relevant and useful as possible. Over 200 stakeholders including Travel & Tourism businesses, biodiversity experts, scientists, NGOs, Travel Trade Associations and policy-makers have been consulted. The paper acts as a megaphone for an important message to inspire collective action for the protection and restoration of nature.
Without achieving the fundamental Sustainable Development Goals of ‘Life on Land’, ‘Life under Water’, ‘Clean Water’ and ‘Climate Action’, and applying ‘Partnerships for the Goals’, we simply have no chance of achieving the remaining 12 goals. As of course without a healthy planet, and a collaborative effort to better protect it, none of the others, and indeed any of us, will stand a chance.
However, even with all the bad news, the good still remains. It is not too late to restore nature and reduce climate change. Through working together, RIGHT NOW, we still have a fighting chance!
» Register for our e-news today to be one of the first to access the Nature Positive paper next month!
“In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” – Albert Einstein
This quote has sprung to mind several times over the past seven months and is perhaps now more poignant to the Travel and Tourism sector than most. According to the World Trade Tourism Council in 2019, prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, the sector supported 330 million jobs globally, and now as we hit the difficult winter season, we are likely to suffer 197.5 million job losses.
This is indeed a time of unprecedented global crisis, a time we switch to survival mode, to save our jobs, and our industry. However, there is STILL opportunity. Not of increased profit and market growth, but of increased global determination to fight an invisible war and build back with a greater respect for nature.
Nature is indeed ‘everyone’s business’. According to the Business for Nature Initiative, over half of the world’s GDP is reliant upon it, and through unsustainable supply chains, we are drawing away more than can be replenished.
At no time in our history has consumer priority towards safety and ethical standards been higher. People are putting their trust in businesses to make things better, and it is suggested that global brands have more influence over public conscious than our political leaders. Through Business for Nature, corporations are calling on governments to adopt policies to reverse nature loss in this decade. This is a journey I am proud to be a part of. This month ANIMONDIAL was honoured to reach the finals of the Lloyds Bank National Business Award for Social Impact for our work to galvanise the amazing work of NGOs and travel businesses through the crisis.
At this time of increased global unity, could we be facing a new revolution? – The Sustainability Revolution. Never have we seen such focus on ethical rights and responsibilities – the rise of veganism and ethical consumerism, the growth of importance of the Global Sustainable Development Goals… and then in walks Covid-19 to knock us all sideways! We need to better protect nature for our own survival. In this blog, I am choosing to focus on the biggest issue of this generation: the survival of Planet Earth, and the role of the travel and tourism sector to lead the way for the Sustainability Revolution…
First of all, let’s look at the problem…
In economic terms, nature is believed to have an estimated value generation of 44 trillion US dollars (equal to over half of the world’s total GDP!) However, humanity’s negative impact on the planet is not only contributing to the Climate Change Crisis but also increasing the occurrence of animal-to-human (zoonotic) infectious disease such as Covid-19. In fact, over 60% of all known diseases discovered in the last 50 years originate from animals and spread to us when the protective barrier of nature has been jeopardised.
But why should all this matter to us, the travel sector?
- The lack of tourists visiting national parks may well have stemmed the tide of negative impact caused by ‘over-tourism’, but the lack of revenue has resulted in less money generation for conservation efforts.
- With wildlife tourism supporting over 30million jobs, lockdown puts a huge strain on local communities.
- With park staff and anti-poaching patrols losing employment, threatened wildlife, such as the highly endangered pangolin or black rhino, are left increasingly vulnerable to further persecution.
- Tourism itself, puts an enormous stress on the natural environment, and encourages greater contact between nature and people, thus heightening exposure of viral transference.
- And of course, other animal species are at risk of catching the virus and passing it on. Malayan tigers at the Bronx Zoo contracted Covid-19, whilst non-human primates are also highly susceptible. As projects are struggling for funds to continue their conservation work – we are at risk of losing some of our most vulnerable animal species.
Recognising that up to 60% of holiday excursions or experiences, and up to 96% of all tourism activities in Asia, involve animals and nature, we must all take positive actions right now.
The good news, however, is that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to some ground-breaking positive change for animals and nature. As human activity has reduced, nature has taken advantage! There have been encouraging reports of re-wilding of urban areas. We have seen wildlife – from coyotes, spotted at the Golden Gate Bridge – to wild horses grazing in downtown Washington DC. In Asia, China is closing live animal markets and announcing a ban on wildlife consumption. And one of Southeast Asia’s most iconic tourist destinations, Siem Reap has taken major strides to protect dogs and cats by banning their trade and consumption.
Taking all of this into account, what steps can we take at this challenging time to aid our recovery and rebuild the travel and tourism sector for the better protection of the planet?
Step 1: Look inwardly
Whilst operations are grounded, this is a rare opportunity to review them – to return more effective and make the protection of animals and nature an integral component of our tourism agenda. Here are some ideas:
- Adopt new animal and nature SDG commitments for your business and ensure these are ingrained into all your business practises and operations.
- Use this opportunity to audit your tourism experiences that involve animals or nature to identify and mitigate risk of zoonotic disease transfer and negative local impact.
- Encourage activity-suppliers to adopt their own animal protection commitments through selling only responsible and sustainable experiences, and supporting suppliers to improve standards, avoiding loss of local livelihoods.
- Educate customers about animal and nature protection. Use this time to create new customer guidelines and educational materials to engage their interest and report any questionable activities.
Step 2: Collaborate!
‘Nature is everyone’s business’! Changing our relationship with nature is too great a task to do on our own. Working together we can make big impact for the better protection of animals and nature in tourism.
- Sign up to the World Trade Tourism Council Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade and the International Wildlife Trade Zero Tolerance Policy to to support the protection of endangered species.
- Join the World Economic Forum’s Business for Nature initiative, engaging governments to reverse nature loss by 2030.
- Support global tourism solutions: Work together to establish and invest in new solutions to some of the biggest, long standing issues for animals and nature in tourism.
- Work with NGOs to deliver meaningful change: This can be as simple as signing a pledge, donating skills or funds to help them deliver their work or including projects within holiday portfolios.
Step 3: Shout about it!
For the marketeers amongst us: do not let all this good work go unnoticed! Speak to colleagues and ask them to tell you what actions your company is taking to help save the planet and then shout about them! Tell amazing stories and win over the hearts and minds of customers by building your brand as one that cares for the planet! And importantly, use your influence to inspire others to follow your lead.
When lockdowns ease, we have a choice of returning to unsustainable ‘business as usual’, or to take greater responsibility moving forward. So, perhaps now is our chance to take stock, hit reset and set new intentions towards a better future. Join the new revolution and leave your legacy to save nature and save ourselves!
For all travel businesses keen to know more about how to Build Back Better for Animals,
sign up to ANIMONDIAL’s free monthly newsletter.