The power of partnerships

'Two heads are better than one' and 'a problem shared is a problem solved' as they say. How is the tourism industry partnering to find solutions to some of the world's problems?

Taking a partnership approach is often the most effective way to find a successful lasting solution to a problem that achieves 'buy-in' from all parties. As in other industries, members of the tourism industry frequently form partnerships to help solve complex problems such as how to bring about more sustainable tourism development.

A key partnership mechanism is the Global Compact, an international multi-stakeholder initiative which brings companies together with UN agencies, governments, labour and civil society to support universal environmental and social principles. Participants are encouraged to engage in cross-sector partnerships in order to develop practical solutions for meeting the broader development objectives of the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs).

With specific regard to tourism, as far back as 1999, the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UN-CSD) identified that sustainable tourism development 'cannot be successful without a profound collaboration with all stakeholders'] It stressed the importance of involving small and large-scale tourism operators in solving problems; the participation of local residents in destination countries; the role of NGOs (in putting pressure on the industry and facilitating contracts); and the responsibility of governments (both in the destinations and where tourists and investors originate) to provide appropriate legislation for sustainable tourism development.
So, what are the global issues that relate to the tourism industry, what partnerships are in place to address them, and most importantly, what have they achieved

The Issues

Tourism could be described as affecting three key areas: communities and their livelihoods (i.e. businesses), individuals and the environment.

1. Communities and Business

One of the most important issues facing the world today is poverty and how to alleviate it. The MDGs aim to eradicate extreme poverty and halve the number of workers living on less than one US dollar a day, among other aims. Tourism creates economic opportunity through employment business linkages, and other income-generating possibilities -and therefore has the potential to reduce poverty. Enabling communities to create their own economies also affords them access to necessities of life such as water, energy, nutrition, health care, housing and education.

Whilst much of the attraction of travel is in discovering new places and people, an influx into a community of people with very different cultural norms and behaviour can both create conflict with and erode the culture that the visitors come to experience. This needs to be addressed so that traditions and local culture are carried through the generations and not watered down or commercialised.

Too many tourists visiting fragile archaeological and architectural sites of historic and cultural significance can create lasting damage. The tourism industry has a responsibility to protect these assets, by managing visitor numbers and through restoration and conservation programmes.

2. Individuals

No industry is more customer-focused than tourism -satisfying people's needs, desires and dreams. But as well as ensuring the well-being of its clients there are others whose well-being is fundamental to the sustainability of any tourism enterprise: employees and their right to a safe working environment fair wages and freedom from exploitation suppliers' access to the market (particularly small local enterprises and construction workers) and right to fair treatment and payment terms vulnerable young people and children who may be lured into prostitution through sex tourism or who work informally or illegally in tourism and are therefore denied a proper education.

3. The Environment

Tourism can seriously damage the environment at both global and local level if it is not developed and operated responsibly: It contributes to global carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from the use of fossil-fuel generated energy for air-conditioning and heating and in aviation and other forms of transport. This has serious implications for global warming and climate change (which itself threatens the future of tourism on vulnerable islands and in areas liable to hurricanes etc).

The negative effects of poorly-planned hotel and tourism infrastructure development can place an intolerable strain upon natural systems, particularly in terms of demand for water and the effect of its treatment and disposal. This is particularly the case where several individually owned/managed operations are developed in close proximity with limited assessment of their combined impact. The disposal of solid waste can also have serious detrimental effects on land, groundwater and biodiversity. Cruise ships, boats, divers and recreational activity can negatively impact on marine ecosystems.

Partnerships and Achievements

Despite its potential for negative impacts, tourism by its very nature also offers a mechanism through which to address issues and achieve positive outcomes. It has significant economic potential to mobilise capital and resources, particularly in rural coastal and mountain areas. These areas are often also ecologically fragile and have a range of social and economic challenges. The partnership model of development is often the best way of ensuring that equitable and sustainable development are achieved. For example, tourism development in remote, rural communities may be the only means for people to lift themselves out of poverty, or it might be that revenue from tourism provides the best way to fund wildlife conservation. However, these issues can only be properly addressed when the relevant stakeholders and their representatives join forces with others who can bring about change. Though partnerships, they can develop viable, long-term solutions.

Various types of partnership have been formed to address the issues relating to sustainable tourism development and are supported by the case studies on these and the following pages:

1. Multi-stakeholder (and often cross-sector) partnerships such as the ECPAT Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism and the Responsible Tourism Partnership

2. Destination partnerships such as the Gambia Responsible Tourism Partnership, Jaisalmer in Jeapordy and CoAST

3. NGO programmes such as the Rainforest Alliance's Sustainable Tourism Program, the IBLF Tourism Partnership, Youth Careers Initiative (YCI), the Ocean Conservation and Tourism Alliance (OCTA) and The International Institute For Peace Through Tourism OIPT)

4. Industry Initiatives such as The Travel Foundation, the Tour Operators' Initiative for Sustainable Tourism Development (TOI) and Sustainable Aviation

5. Marketing partnerships for destinations, accommodation or beaches, for example Voluntary Initiatives for Sustainability in Tourism (VISIT), an alliance of seven national eco-labelling schemes.

6. Small Local Partnerships such as the Association of Small Scale Enterprises

International partnerships and collaborations between private enterprise, NGO's and local or regional government are common but they should not be entered into lightly. Parties need to understand the potential barriers to delivery and may need training to build the necessary mindset and skills.

To be successful, partnerships need:

  • appropriate stakeholders with the local knowledge and experience to provide key input
  • organisations or individuals who can bring a range of complementary skills and benefits across (possibly) several disciplines and help build capacity
  • mutually agreed goals and processes
  • an understanding of how the different stakeholders work and what they each need to get from the partnership
  • sensitivity to the power balance between members
  • the ability to accept compromise
  • recognition of the commitment required in terms of people, time and financial resources
  • integrity, transparency (particularly over finance) and trust.
  • awareness of the challenges ahead and the risk of failure

It is also important to monitor the success of the partnership and to exchange and publicise information on initiatives that work and the lessons learned. There are some helpful resources on how to form successful partnerships.

On its own, the tourism industry cannot solve the world's problems any more than any other business sector can. However it has begun to engage with sustainability issues and formed many different cross-sector partnerships to address them.

Some partnerships and initiatives have been more successful than others and there is still enormous scope for more to be done, particularly to address issues such as climate change, local economic empowerment human rights and cultural understanding, biodiversity loss and natural resource use (particularly water).

Nevertheless, there now exists frameworks through which action can be taken and models which can be replicated elsewhere. Industry members need to work creatively with each other, with governments and other stakeholders to break down barriers to progress. Above all, there is a need for mechanisms both to monitor the effectiveness of measures and programmes and disseminate them more widely.

Tourism Optimisation Management Model (TOMM), Australia

Situated 15 km off the mainland coast of South Australia, Kangaroo Island is the third largest of Australia's islands. It is promoted as a world-class nature-based and ecotourism destination and attracts approximately 150,000 visitors each year. The island's natural ecosystems contain many endemic and nationally-threatened flora and fauna but its biological integrity remains relatively intact and it provides one of the last opportunities in South Australia to maintain the biodiversity of an entire environmental region.

The Tourism Optimisation Management Model (TOMM) was established in 1996 to help protect and maintain Kangaroo Island and to showcase the benefits of integrating long-term tourism development with sound environmental social and visitor principles.

The concept can be applied as a model and tailored to manage tourism in any destination.

TOMM brings together the agencies responsible for sustaining the growth of Kangaroo Island. Its partners include South Australia's Department for Environment and Heritage, the South Australian Tourism Commission, Tourism Kangaroo Island, Kangaroo Island Development Board, Kangaroo Island Council, the .Kangaroo Island Natural Resource Management Board and tourism industry and community representatives.

The project develops a range of monitoring programmes based upon practical indicators (each with an identified acceptable range) covering the health of the environment the number and type of tourists visiting, the island's community, the economy and the type of experience that visitors are having. Each indicator is reported on as data becomes available and information is then presented to the TOMM Management Committee showing whether the current situation is healthy or not. If an aspect is not acceptable, TOMM makes suggestions as to how to solve the problem, and the responsible agencies work to implement an appropriate management action. Monitoring is mainly carried out through the TOMM Visitor Exit Survey and Annual Resident Surveys. The trends that TOMM creates can be used to predict change and help stakeholders to test and discuss new ideas in an informed and rational way.

TOMM recently received funding from the State and Commonwealth Government's Natural Heritage Trust to implement a programme called 'Leave Only Footprints'. An environmental reporting programme will add value to the information already being collected and this will be used to form a picture of how and where tourism is actually impacting on the environment. Through TOMM, possible management solutions can then be identified. It will be an important next step in boosting the knowledge and participation of tourism operators in the management and care of the island's environment.

For Further Information contact

Jaisalmer in jeopardy (JIJ), India

The remote and historic city of Jaisalmer in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan is built of sandstone on foundations of clay, sand and rock. Its old drainage system -open gulleys at the sides of streets -was adequate as long as waste water was minimal. Now, however, because of tourism and a growing population, water is piped in at a daily rate of some 120 litres per head -at least 12 times the amount it was designed to handle.

For some 20 years until 1998, water was seeping through the decayed drains and penetrating the hillside, saturating the foundations of the fortress city, causing subsidence and cracks in buildings. In places the retaining wall at the base of the hillside burst apart. After the devastating monsoon of 1993, some 250 historic buildings either fully or partially collapsed, including the oldest existing Rajput palace, the Rani-ka Mahal or Maharani's Palace. Since then, several more buildings have suffered and three of the fort's 12th-century bastions have collapsed.

Jaisalmer in Jeopardy (JiJ) is a British-registered charity founded in 1996 by writer Sue Carpenter, to raise international awareness and funds to protect and preserve the city's heritage. "Like many visitors, I was captivated by the romance and beauty of the place," she says. "But I soon realised it was in a state of near collapse. A conservation architect I met told me he gave the city ten years. Ten years on, I believe we have helped give the fort and the streets within it a new lease of life. Other organisations have picked up the baton, and now there is a lot of restoration work going on in the fort."

JiJ operates in collaboration with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (lNTACHl. the Jaisalmer Heritage Trust and the World Monuments Fund. The charity's work is made possible largely through the generous support of organisations such as Greaves Travel. a specialist tour operator to India, which has helped sponsor events, site visits and tours in aid of JiJ. Their Managing Director, Mehra Dalton, took over as chairman of JiJ in 2005. Other supporters include Oberoi Hotels and India Tourism, which have sponsored several fund-raising events.

Thanks to the efforts of JIJ, the World Monuments Fund selected the city as one of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the World, giving it their maximum grant of US$100,000 in 1998. This funded the restoration of the devastated Maharani's Palace, which opened to the public in 2001 as the Jaisalmer Heritage Centre. Recently JiJ announced the completion of the final phase of its Streetscape Revitalisation Project, which has systematically renovated all the medieval residential streets within the 12th century fort.

Funded by the Staples Trust, a stalwart supporter of JiJ's restoration projects, the initiative has conserved public and private amenities and spaces, repaved streets, renewed drains and restored facades. Lavatories have also been installed for households that needed them and in a local school. The fort has now been made virtually watertight to protect it for the future.

In 2002, Phase 1 of the Streetscape Project won the Built Environment category in the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow awards, and, the same year received an honourable mention in the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation.

The Streetscape work has made property owners and residents aware of the city's conservation needs and involved them in the management of their environment. The use of traditional materials and technology and local craftsmen has helped to keep alive dying skills. Above all the project has helped to preserve Jaisalmer's unique character and traditional ways of life, and serves as a model for other communities. 

Sustrans National Cycle Network, UK

Sustrans is a UK sustainable transport charity which helps people to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment. Its flagship project, the National Cycle Network, began in south west England with the Bristol & Bath Railway Path, a 17-mile traffic-free trail along a disused railway. Completed in 1984, it now carries over two million cycling and walking trips each year.

In 1995 Sustrans received a GBP43.5 million Millennium Commission Lottery Grant to develop the National Cycle Network. This involves working with local authorities and other partners to identify, plan and build the routes including everything from environmental audits to ensure minimum disruption for wildlife, through public consultation to building fences and bridges.

For almost 30 years the charity has worked with hundreds of local authorities and organisations such as British Waterways, the Forestry Commission, the National Trust, the YHA, the Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to link together existing cycle routes and develop new ones into a UK-wide network. By 2005, the network covered over 10,000-miles and now passes within one mile of half the UK's population. In 2005 alone, 232 million trips were made for leisure, getting to work, schools and shops or just generally from A to B.

The routes are free to everyone and around one third are traffic-free. "Our aim is to make cycling as accessible as it is in Denmark, Holland and Switzerland where cycling is a way of life" says Gill Harrison, Sustrans' press and PR manager. 'We've worked with many partners such as local authorities, who have the responsibility for maintaining the Network. The term 'partnership working' could have been defined for us; they have been with us the whole way to deliver the routes that are used today".

For Further Information Contact

Cornwall Sustainable Tourism Project (CoaST) Network, UK

The CoaST Network provides the opportunity for organisations and individuals committed to the successful development of sustainable tourism in Cornwall to exchange ideas, knowledge and expertise. Spurred on by growing demand for responsible practices from Cornwall's host communities and visitors, an increasing number of tourism-related businesses in the region are trying to involve some element of sustainability within what they do. The network puts them in touch with agencies at local regional and national level eager to support sustainable tourism.

Projects that CoaST has undertaken include:

•providing well-designed towel and linen cards to accommodation providers

•securing funding to help supply recycling bins on 11 beaches and innovative beach buggies to empty them

•improving the accessibility of the South West Coast path to visitors with disabilities

•developing a Cornwall Visitor Charter to engage visitors in sustainability issues

• supporting a network of tourism 'ambassador businesses of good practice' who work with other businesses to change business behaviour

•trialling low-impact cleaning materials among members

•supporting the development of visitor payback by members (for example to support the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the Marine Conservation Society)

•developing joint partnerships (for example delivering sexual health awareness training to seasonal and permanent workers and managers)

•accelerating applications to sustainable training programmes, sustainable practice awards, and the newly-launched Green Tourism Business Scheme.

CoaST's partners include Greener Events, Future Footprints, Sustainability South West, Green Business (which runs the Green Tourism Business Scheme) Sustrans, Cornwall AONB Partnership, Cartwheel (which markets rural tourism) South West Tourism, Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

For Further Information Contact

The Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET), The Gambia

Before the Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET) was established in April 2000, guest houses, ground tour operators, craft market vendors, tourist taxi drivers, tourist guides, juice pressers and fruit sellers operating in the informal tourism sector in The Gambia were largely excluded from mainstream tourism and regarded as a nuisance by the large hotels when they pestered guests for business.

ASSET brought them together and agreed codes of conduct for each of the groups, codes which also detailed how the different informal sector groups should treat each other. ASSET acts as trade association for its informal sector members and represents them at meetings of the national Responsible Tourism Partnership (RTP)'.

The association is a leading player in the RTP which brings together the hotels, local and international tour operators with ASSET and government to develop and improve tourism in The Gambia.

The UK's Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) members also participate and relationships between the formal and informal sector have improved. ASSET won the Best for Poverty Reduction award at the 2005 Responsible Tourism Awards at World Travel Market. Its' future goals include training large numbers of personnel working in tourism, the development and implementation of industry-wide standards and marketing the diverse services that are provided by ASSET members.

For Further Information Contact

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