Climate change and tourism

Is the tourism sector serious about it?

It has been fitting, perhaps, that the weather in Durban during COP17 has been as unpredictable as guessing the outcome of the COP17 negotiations. Writes Don Leffler from Durban

We are told that KwaZulu-Natal will get increasingly wetter and hotter and we have experienced this in both the COP17 debates and in the weather.

As the COP17 negotiations heat up this week, we are told that we will not be seeing or hearing from the Heads of State from America or China. The question is being asked whether countries are seriously committed to seeking an accord on climate change.

A similar lethargy and apathy was noticeable at the specially arranged COP17 Side Event entitled “Climate Justice and Tourism – sustainable tourism practices alleviate poverty more effectively than tourism growth numbers”.

The event was poorly attended despite an excellent panel of international and local speakers. The content of Presentations was fairly predictable.

Suprisingly no reference was made to the well attended IIPT Africa Conference on Climate Change and Tourism held earlier this year at Victoria Falls. There was some reference to the Davos Declaration but none on the more recent Lusaka Declaration. These two Declarations should be the basis of looking ahead and seeking commitment from all countries and tourism stakeholders.

Devil’s Peak, Cape Town when fires raged almost out of control

It was interesting to hear that the Caribbean has been identified as potentially the worst to be affected by climate change, and that Montego Bay in Jamaica is particularly at risk mainly because of sea levels. I say interesting because a group of South African tourism stakeholders are planning a visit to Montego Bay in February 2012 to study the Jamaican world-recognised Model on Community Tourism known as “Villages as Businesses”. It will be opportune to discuss the issue of climate change and tourism (particularly Community Tourism) with the Jamaican CCTN and IIPT Management Team. The South African delegation will be able to share the SA Policy Guidelines on Responsible Tourism which were published in March this year.

Climate change certainly affects everyone and impoverished communities stand to be the worst affected. Again, this highlights the need for “responsible” tourism, none more so than with community tourism.

The COP17 Side Event spoke about the beneficiaries of Tourism and whether it did in fact assist in the alleviation of poverty.

In a “Call to Durban” Position Paper, presented by Sabine Minniger of EED Tourism Watch on behalf of civil society organisations from the global North and South — including Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), German Church Development Service (EED – Tourism Watch), Swiss Working Group Tourism and Development (akte), Ecumenical Coalition On Tourism (ECOT – Thailand), and Naturefriends International – she called for a serious and differentiated debate on tourism’s contribution to poverty alleviation.

The travel and tourism industry has, Sabine argued, successfully protected its business interests in the name of poverty alleviation. However, it is urgent and imperative to address the complex social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts of tourism in destinations, especially the situation of employees and local communities.”

Tourism does not automatically equal poverty alleviation.

The “Call to Durban” Position Paper states that claims that tourism automatically contributes to poverty alleviation in developing countries and that binding emission reduction targets for the sector would compromise poverty alleviation are unsupportable.

The Position Paper also states that evidence from various case studies has shown that a large part of the income from tourism does not remain in developing countries, but leaks back to international investors. More often than not, the remaining income fails to benefit the poor. Rather, it is argued, local elites will profit from it. The poor in the so-called developing countries are the ones who suffer most from climate change — which they have not caused. And they hardly participate in or benefit from international tourism, even though this has often been claimed.

Luigi Cabrini, Director, Sustainable Development of Tourism at UNWTO (UN World Tourism Organization) did not agree with all of Sabine Minnigers arguments and drew attention to the Davos Declaration as a more appropriate position. In particular Luigi Cabrini argued against Sabine’s call for strong legislation and taxes on the aviation sector to compel emission reduction targets.

Sabine stated that the NGO alliance criticises the often-cited claim brought forward by the travel and tourism industry that climate-related regulation of the aviation sector would make developing countries lose a considerable portion of their tourism income — a loss which would have negative impacts on poverty alleviation. According to this argument, binding emission reduction targets for the aviation sector would threaten the achievement of economic development goals.

Don Leffler of CCTNSA (Countrystyle Community Tourism Network) and the Tourism Centre of Excellence which is associated with the Tourism Discipline at UKZN (University of KwaZulu-Natal), attended the COP17 Side Event. He represented a “community of Tourism stakeholders”* which had responded to the NGO Alliance Position Paper and had argued that the Davos and Lusaka Declarations on Climate Change and Tourism should be the foundation on which to grow the debate on this complex subject. These Declarations supported the call for a reduction in emissions from the aviation sector. However, the Declarations called for intensifying negotiations with the aviation sector and investing in seeking alternatives. They did not go as far as the NGO Alliances “Call to Durban” Position Paper which lobbied for legislation and taxes to force reduced emissions from the aviation sector.

During the COP17 Side Event South Africa’s Myron Peter, Chief Director for Consumer Protection and Responsible Tourism at SA’s National Department of Tourism, stated that South Africa was a world leader in formulating an official Policy Guideline on minimum standards for responsible Tourism. Myron Peter stated that it was intended to further develop the Policy Guideline as part of the Tourism Strategy and eventually for it to become legally binding.

Paul Miedema, Director of Calabash Tours and co-founder of Calabash Trust, represented FTTSA (Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa) at the COP17 Side Event. In his Presentation, Paul said that in South Africa we have a range of policies and policy instruments and public-private partnerships that can help to inspire more equitable tourism development on a global scale.”

Other Speakers at the COP17 Side Event included Dr. Murray Simpson, a senior Research Associate at the University of Oxford and Solomuzi Mabuza representing the ECOT (Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism)

The COP17 Side Event resulted in limited common ground – there was consensus that the debate on the role of tourism must be intensified and must include discussions on the impacts of rapid tourism growth on the climate, biodiversity, natural resources and human development.

Source / Fuente:

Author / Autor: Don Leffler

Date / Fecha: 13/12/11

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