WTTC session addresses saving natural resources
To sustain destinations, travelers must have an emotional connection
ABU DHABI - Actress and activist, Daryl Hannah, who spoke during an eco session at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) 13th Global Summit said the goal of travel and tourism should be to touch the emotions of visitors in a positive way so they will want to conduct themselves in a sustainable manner in the destination they have newly fallen in love with.
She said when people "fall in love" with the world, they will naturally want to conserve natural resources and ensure sustainability. “It's not the job of travel and tourism to alert people to bad news, but to engage people and make them fall in love with places and cultures, so they'll want to protect it," she said.
David De Rothschild, Adventurer and Environmentalist, agreed with Hannah, adding that one way to address excess waste and the preservation of natural resources in the industry is to present consumers with opt-in choices. "There's no reason for a drink to arrive with a straw - make it an opt-in policy. If a consumer wants a straw because they can't drink from cup, then make it opt-in," he said. "You have to communicate that and allow someone to question it and opt-in - it shouldn't be automatic to change the sheets [every day]," he continued. This, he said, is a way of cutting waste while simultaneously protecting your consumer offering. The opt-in choice runs alongside "choice editing," which retailers have been using for years to stop saturating consumer choice. "As an operator you have to choice-edit. This has been happening in supermarkets for years," he said. "There are only so many soap suds on shelves because people can't make up their minds. Most of the people that come to hotels are in A-type demographics that do care and will pay if you don't change the sheets every day."
Along with the necessity of measuring carbon footprints in the industry, comes the need to take a "quantum leap" and measure water footprints. This point was made by panellist Laura Turner Seydel, Chairperson, Captain Planet Foundation after addressing the delegates and dignitaries in the audience. "As theme of the Summit reminds us, it's time for leadership. The challenge facing us is daunting and the outcome is in our hands," she said. "We cannot continue business as usual… I believe we have a role to play and tourism and travel has the power to shape the future of the world… it has the power to restore the key natural systems that support our lives."
In a shocking, surprise move during the session, Gerald Lawless, President and Group CEO, Jumeirah Group, responded from his seat in the audience after De Rothschild took offence to the plastic drinking glass covers on stage. De Rothschild proposed that they were superfluous to actual consumer need. Agreeing with the activist, Lawless contacted his employees from his seat and banned the use of the plastic lids mid-session, to a loud round of applause from the audience and panellists.
Further discussion centred on the need to identify sustainability touch-points for the travel and tourism industry, as well as the need to move away from the use of desalinated water to different renewable energy sources, such as ethanol.
"Desalination is a major issue that the travel and tourism industry has to deal with. It is obvious that a majority of hotels, ships and many resorts create their own water supply… Desalination is not the solution to the water problem," Hannah concluded.
The 13th WTTC Global Summit was held on the 9th and 10th April 2013, at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi. Keynote speakers included His Excellency Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General, Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority and former US President Bill Clinton.