Held at the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur Region Premises, the international conference “European Realities of Responsible Tourism” was organised by our network EARTH (European Alliance for Responsible Tourism and Hospitality) on Monday, 2nd of December 2013. The conference was rich in content, thanks to the participation of 23 speakers who welcomed about 80 participants from all over Europe. Each gave an overview of the realities of responsible tourism in Europe, and all, for “One Europe for Responsible Tourism”! The conference was introduced by Eduardo Santander and then moderated by Annelies Waegeman, both from the European Travel Commission.
The European experiences in responsible tourism
Five years on from its founding, the President of EARTH, Maurizio Davolio presented our activities and achievements. Having acted as a platform of collaboration between the members and other external partners, as a European network we have also intervened as the protagonist in a dialog within the European institutions on issues relating to responsibility and sustainability. The conference hosted various presentations from our members:
Corinna Lettini presented the project called TransCSR, for “KATE Ecology and Environment”; Cathrine Schwenoha from our NGO “Naturefriends International” highlighted the Landscape of the Year awards ; Julien Buot for the French association ATES (Association du Tourisme Equitable et Solidaire) spoke about the relationship between responsible tourism and fair trade; Jose Maria De Juan Alonso representing KOAN Consulting and the Spanish Centre for Responsible Tourism, exposed the topic on responsible tourism as a tool for local development. Barbara Tomasella for Sustainable Tourism Ireland explained the relationship between SME’S, responsibility and the visitor experience. Gianluca Pastorelli, president of the Belgian Cooperative Diesis, who also hosts EARTH in its headquarters, presented the role of social innovation in responsible tourism. Maya Collombon from Marco Polo explained the development of “Mygrandtour” project, as well as the “Pescatourism” initiative which is floruishing in the Mediterranean coast. The permanent representative of the Legacoop office in Brussels, Sabrina Luise, described Legacoop and its efforts towards ethics and solidarity.
Global Sustainable Tourism Council, illustrated the activities dealt with in the accreditation for certification bodies (criterias of the GSTC). To close the first part of the program, Silvia Barbone described the PM4SD (Project Management for Sustainable Development) method for sustainable tourism management.
Accessibility in tourism; a priority for all
A section of the conference was dedicated to accessibility in tourism, specifically for people with “special needs”. Responsible tourism works to include individuals from the local community, who may have less advantaged conditions, and for whom the aim is to ensure social inclusion and employment opportunities.
Jose Maria De Juan Alonso, vice-president of EARTH exposed our point of view on the accessibility of responsible tourism and where the limits may be found. Annagrazia Laura followed as the president of ENAT (European Network for Accessible Tourism). She stressed that that accessibility should be a concern of everyone, as 15% of the global population have special needs. Cathrine Schwenoha, for NFI, presented the political demands needed in order to improve accessible tourism in all sectors. Jean-Marc Mignon, president of ISTO (International Organization of Social Tourism) mentioned their memorandum, already presented during the celebration of their 50th anniversary, at the European Parliament in October 2013. Françoise Guaspare and Anna Breda as coordinators of NECSTouR Tourism Task Force spoke about the improvements needed to implement accessibility within the European regions.
Responsible tourism in the European policies
The intervention of Francesca Tudini, Head of the Tourism Unit for the European Commission detailed the ETIS (European Tourism Indicators System), as an instrument for the improvement of sustainability in the destination. Mrs Francesca Tudini also disclosed the details of the European Charter for sustainable and responsible tourism, highlighting its 9 key principles.
Gkofas Panagiotis represented the European Social and Economic Committee’s view point. The Vice president of the Tourism Task Force from the European Parliament, Carlo Fidanza closed with a video message showing his support for the EARTH initiative.
Julien Buot, Vice-President of EARTH ended the conference by presenting the draft version of our EARTH memorandum, document directed to the European Institutions in prevision of next year’s European Parliamentary elections. The memorandum aims to bring attention to responsible tourism, developing it into a focal point in European policies.
All for “One Europe for Responsible Tourism”
To conclude, the conference, overall, it can be agreed was truly a great success. Considering it was the first official international conference organised by EARTH, thanks to the outstanding collaboration and consideration of all those involved, there was truly a lot to be proud. Although the timing issue was a concern, with out it there would not have been the chance to listen to the insights and experiences of so many experts. In definitive, we are satisfied because the goal of the conference has been archived: to gather together experts from all the tourism sectors, to share, to exchange their experiences about responsible tourism in Europe!
Now that there has been a thorough introduction, the next conference will focus on a specific topic depending on the actualities of responsible tourism.
A big thank you to all the participants for having attended this conference, for supporting EARTH, and for sustaining responsible tourism!
Memorandum of EARTH: EARTH memorandum