The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Ministers’ Summit, held during the World Travel Market (WTM) in London last week saw an exciting opening with Sri Lanka Tourism contributing a song/DVD “A land like no other; A Tourism EarthLung” – an appeal in song by Alston Koch to care for Mother Earth.
Tourism Ambassador for Sri Lanka, Alston, drew enthusiastic applause from delegates at the ministerial summit, and subsequent rendering, at the Virgin Airlines sponsored Responsible Tourism Awards Conference. The launch of the music DVD – “A land like no other; A Tourism EarthLung” was in pursuant to the initiative taken in October 2007 when Sri Lanka’s: Tourism’s EarthLung, was introduced to the world at the second world conference on ‘Climate Change and Tourism’ at Davos, Switzerland. The EarthLung program seeks toward making Sri Lanka a carbon-free destination by 2018. This ground-breaking idea was endorsed by the UNWTO as a way forward for tourism; it also has a strong appeal to travelers and particularly to those traveling to long-haul destinations, in mitigating travel guilt. Sri Lanka’s work in conservation and environment conscience in other areas, too, were highlighted at the ministerial summit where Tourism Minister Milinda Moragoda and chairman Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau presented Sri Lanka’s vision and efforts towards attaining carbon-neutral status.
“This is an initiative to focus attention on the climate change issue and the need for all to take assertive action. We are nowhere near attaining this status, and all of Sri Lanka needs to work together to make it happen. Our Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources is committed to making sure that Sri Lanka is a green country, and Sri Lanka Tourism is providing a further impetus to those efforts. All sectors including education, forestry, wildlife conservation, tourism, and the like need to work closely together to make it happen and that is the only way forward we have. Mitigating climate change is today not a nice thing to do, but a matter of our very survival. Tourism that is so dependent on the natural and the socio-cultural environment, needs to be in the forefront working with conservationists and all citizens in achieving this,” stated the Tourism Minister. “Our success will be when the operators on the beach and other community-tour operators embrace the effort, as much as the formal tourism operators,” he added.
“A land like no other; A Tourism EarthLung,” the music DVD with song and lyrics by Alston, focuses on Sri Lanka’s rich bio-diversity – the green positioning with a strong a call to action by all citizens of the earth to act now.
Among the many commendations the song received, were those of the British State Minister of Tourism, Barbara Follet, who said, “This is one of the best songs I have heard this year and the visuals of Sri Lanka in the backdrop were beautiful,” and the opinion of the chairman, World Travel Market, Fiona Jeffery, who said, “This is an emotional song, and these highly-inspiring words will help carry the EarthLung initiative across the globe.” She went on to say, “This is undoubtedly Sri Lanka’s gift to the world.”
The initiative is supported by the UN World Tourism Organization and its assistant secretary general Geoffrey Lipman who moderated the session said, “It is time now that we build a global EarthLung Community, where we could share the knowledge of our efforts with each other and move together to achieve our common objective of mitigating the causes for global warming.”
Sri Lanka shines with two commendations at World Travel Market
Minister of Tourism Milinda Moragoda and Chairman, Tourism Promotions Bureau Renton de Alwis made presentations at the UNWTO Tourism Ministers’ Summit on November 11, 2008 and at World Responsible Tourism Day on November 12 at the World Travel Market in London. They shared their thoughts and vision for working towards a carbon-clean Sri Lanka by 2018.
The Minister emphasized the need to involve all stakeholders and mentioned that the challenge was not only to get the commitment from formal tourism operators, but also to get even the ‘beach boy’ to understand and respond to the need to mitigate causes for climate change.
The minister’s words were validated when the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2008 honored Sri Lanka’s Turtle Conservation Project with ‘Highly Commended,’ in the Conservation of Endangered Species category. The judges’ citation said, ‘The Turtle Conservation Project is recognized for its work with “poachers” and its success in encouraging the “beach boys” to become turtle guides, enthusiastically contributing to the protection of the turtles’ nesting sites, proud of their new status and their role in the conservation of the turtles.’
In the large hotel category, Hotel Sigiriya was also highly commended, bringing further credit to destination Sri Lanka. On the commendation, the judges said ‘Sigiriya has retro-fitted the hotel to increase its energy-efficiency and sustainability; it measures its performance as a management tool for continuous improvement and shares that information with others to encourage them to reduce their own environmental impacts.’
Among those at the conference who were impressed by Sri Lanka’s work in environmental conservation, were BBC anchor and Hard Talk host Stephan Sackur and Mark Edwards, the famous photo journalist of the Hard Rain Foundation. They said that the song and the efforts were inspirational and were impressed by Sri Lanka’s efforts. At the BBC luncheon the same day, BBC’s head of Global News John Simpson referred to Sri Lanka as ‘a destination where you feel welcome and wanted.’