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From Berlin to Barcelona: Welcome Goodbye

04/03/2012 1 comment

Once again city authorities in Barcelona (and Catalunya) are vying with those of Madrid.  This time it’s for the option to become a “Eurovegas destination”.  The tabling of this project is perhaps irresistible given the very high levels of unemployment in Spain.  But EuroVegas will be no gift.  There will be economic costs as well as a range of social, cultural and environmental impacts (as well as opportunities).  And then there are the opportunity costs–the money invested and the people and places given over to development might be better “spent” on other livelihood-supporting activities…  perhaps?

The big question for me, however, is what would be the dimensions and characteristics of tourism to Barcelona given both the presence of Eurovegas and predicted future tourism volumes.

And, incidentally, on what grounds does Eurovegas form part of the city’s sustainable tourism strategy?

Would Eurovegas serve to decant tourism from parts of the city where authorities have recognised that large visitor volumes challenge the balance of local life?  Or would Eurovegas add to the intensity of tourism numbers, thereby reducing the diversity of place uses and degrading the intrinsic qualities of the city’s places?

With these questions in mind it is little wonder that the Welcome Goodbye project has caught my interest (video in German with subtitles in English).  This filming project plans to ask questions about the potential outcomes for plans to grow, grow and… grow tourism to Berlin.  I suggest it gives cause for reflection for the city and people of Barcelona, with or without Eurovegas.

ROBIN BARDEN

Responsible tourism will be part of a Sustainable Economy

Tourism is a business, and it is a business at the level of individual transactions (e.g. across the guest house’s reception desk or via an online booking) as well as at the global level (i.e. transnational corporations operating in a global business environment determined by political, technological, social, environmental and macro-economic factors).

As doers and thinkers in responsible tourism we need to remind ourselves of this from time to time–the bigger picture–because just about all of the changes we seek to bring about–in tourism business, in destinations, in holiday consumer markets–are linked, however tenuously, with the workings of the global economy.

Currently, the “big picture” depicts the workings of an unsustainable economy with all its pernicious outcomes. Forum for the Future’s Sustainable Economy in 2040: a roadmap for capital markets provides a picture of what a sustainable economy looks like. At least three pages (pp.7-9) of this document are worth looking at, starting from the premise that:

“Ultimately an economy is a means to an end: the wellbeing of human societies within environmental limits. Our Framework for a Sustainable Economy sets out the critical environmental and social factors which must be respected by all key economic institutions.”

The goal, at its diagrammatic centre, is:

“A resilient, sustainable economy that maximises quality of life for all, so that people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives within environmental limits.”

Note they “use the terms ‘boundaries’ and ‘conditions’ instead of ‘targets’ because these are not optional aspirations”–“in order to create a truly sustainable economy, we need to respect each and every one of those boundaries and conditions”.

Many of its high-level principles, to be applied to activities in specific sectors, are challenging, such as:

C15 [A sustainable economy] builds the cost of all social and environmental externalities into valuations.

The report argues that:

“financial markets will need to allocate capital very differently from today. At the moment, finance does not flow in support of the kinds of activities that characterise and shape a sustainable economy.”

Responsible tourism initiatives need finance; they should be attracting finance, and be doing so by generating benefits (economic, environmental, social, health, welfare, sustainable development), so that the transition to a sustainable economy is properly made.

What should your tourism initiative being doing to form part of a sustainable economy? Read more here if you think all this is relevant to you and your responsible tourism endeavours.

ROBIN BARDEN

Destinació Barcelona: on comença, on acaba

El passat dijous 24 de novembre va tenir lloc a les instal·lacions de Barcelona Activa, la jornada de debat “Destinació Barcelona, on comença, on acaba,” arranjada per la delegació de Turisme de la Diputació de Barcelona, qui va donar conèixer el pla de màrqueting turístic de Barcelona 2012, el qual inclou la marca costa Barcelona-Maresme; feta com a oferta complementària del turisme urbà i que permeti potenciar la imatge de Barcelona a l’estranger.

Aquest pla va sorgir segons el Sr. Xavier Font, Cap de l’Oficina Tècnica de Turisme de la Diputació de Barcelona, perquè hi havia una mancança de gestionar els recursos turístics de Barcelona i dissenyar noves estratègies que reforcin el potencial de l’oferta turística. Després d’uns treballs tècnics i d’intel·ligència de mercat, es va poder treballar més enllà el tret de Barcelona com a regió, arrivant a endreçar els actius de la destinació de Barcelona en 22 productes estrelles, entre els quals destaquen: Alt Penedès, Bages, Vallès Oriental, Baix Llobregat, etc.  Encara que el projecte no s’hagi presentat oficialment, s’espera congregar especialistes del mercat turístic el proper any per la seva difusió.

Posteriorment, el Sr. Olivier Ponti, Cap de recerca i desenvolupament d’Amsterdam tourism & Convention Board i el Sr. André Moura, Cap de recerca i estudis de Lisboa Visitors & Convention Bureau, per les dues bandes vam compartir els reptes de les destinacions urbanes que hi gestionen. Segons Olivier Ponti l’estratègia turística aplicada en Amsterdam produeix no només l’increment del nombre de turistes, sinó també, enriquiment de les seves regions a través de una bona gestió i promoció dels productes. En feia èmfasi que era indispensable la investigació a la destinació perquè és la via més adient per saber el moviment del turista i se’n va adonar que hi havia una necessitat d’organitzar l’oferta per a què el turista pugui entendre el producte. Doncs ara, ofereixen rutes turístiques amb un gran poder d’atracció pels turistes i continuen ampliant l’oferta de les regions per consolidar-la. Andrè Moura va plantejar que degut a la recessió, el desenvolupament turístic s’havia embarrancat i la institució pública va tenir que intervenir com a ressort integrat amb marques regionals. Per tant, el desenvolupament turístic seria mes fort i podrien oferir més avantatges a tots els organismes del sector privat. Posar en marxa el pla de màrqueting no va ser gaire fàcil al principi perquè l’enfoc de cada organisme era diferent. Malgrat tot, van tenir que canviar la seva mentalitat i treballar conjuntament aplicant la regla financera 1+1=4 per tal de millorar els ingressos.

També des de l’àmbit territorial català, empresaris hoteleres i representats de la Diputació de Barcelona van fer present les seves perspectives sobre la gestió de l’oferta turística. D’una banda, els empresaris senyalaven que la implantació de la marca costa Barcelona-Maresme proporcionaria una imatge més potencial al mercat internacional. Fèiem una cridada per treballar conjuntament i que Barcelona ciutat hauria d’exportar clients a la província, així es generaria més valor als atractius de la regió. D’una altre banda, des del comissionat de Turisme distingien que hi ha prou competència fora i Barcelona necessita un factor diferenciador per posicionar-s’hi al mercat turístic. Tota gestió turística és possible sempre i quan intenti no perdre la identitat local, sinó afegir-ne unes altres mitjançant una vertebració dels recursos i una bona comunicació per coordinar les polítiques turístiques.

Finalment per tractar la gestió dels productes, van convidar Joan Abellà, MACBA, qui ficava la cultura com element premiant de l’oferta catalana; Josep Altayó, LARSA-Montserrat, feia referencia Barcelona com a emissor de productes turístics i és un clar exemple d’un distanciament entre l’oferta cultural i turisme; Manel Casanovas, Gastronomia i Agenda Cultural de Turisme de Barcelona, considerava que el turista qui ve a Barcelona busca lo autèntic i quasi el 45% escull un restaurant local; Elena Foguet, Value Retail Spain, cada vegada més el turista busca nous productes i el que repeteix vol conèixer els voltants; Anna Sánchez, Cap de l’Oficina de Promoció Turística de la Diputació de Barcelona, sostenia que el pla de màrqueting és una oportunitat de treball pel sector privat i treballant entre tots assolirien els objectius.

Com veiem, hi ha un lleuger progrés en desconcentrar l’oferta turística de Barcelona cap a tota la província i això no només permetria una integració dels productes i les empreses, sinó també un posicionament privilegiat dintre del mercat turístic internacional. Encara que l’avinença de les idees entre les empreses privades i les institucions públiques no serà gaire fàcil, el pla de màrqueting turístic vol contribuir a tenir una oferta més dispersa amb la integració dels productes de la regió. No obstant, si no creiem al nostre producte mai podrem gestionar-lo ni molt menys promocionar-lo.

De fet, trobo molt oportú el comentari d’Olivier Ponti sobre la investigació perquè sense ella serem incapaços de conèixer ni tan sols el turista qui ve a Barcelona ni tampoc dissenyar un pla estratègic de qualitat que ens permeti gestionar els nostres recursos de manera responsable.

Karen Rodríguez

Desafíos y tendencias del Turismo Responsable en 2011

17/11/2011 1 comment

Del 7 al 10 de noviembre, Londres acogió el World Travel Market, el evento más internacional de la industria de viaje y turismo. En esta ocasión, para nosotros era apremiante participar porque se celebraba the World Responsible Tourism Day, o Día Mundial del Turismo Responsable. Por ello, durante éstos días se realizaron varios seminarios en los cuales se pudo debatir la situación actual del Turismo Responsable.

Heidi Keyser, Ciudad del Cabo, Sudáfrica, explicó su experiencia de cómo había implantado un turismo más sostenible en Sudáfrica. Señalando que es un “road”, un camino en el que nos comprometemos a trabajar conjuntamente con la gente local, desarrollando una estrategia que respete el ambiente natural y cultural.

Posteriormente, Taleb Rifai, secretario General de la OMT, enfatizó que las empresas de la industria turística, deberían reconocer el código ético mundial como un manual de instrucción porque se centra en unas prácticas responsables con el medio ambiente, la sociedad, las culturas, las mujeres y niños.

De todo ello, se llega a la conclusión que la industria turística ha crecido considerablemente y constantemente presenta nuevos desafíos. Por tal motivo, si trabajamos juntos éticamente, siendo conscientes de que en este negocio intervienen culturas, es decir “personas” y conducimos nuestros objetivos a un balance provechoso del destino y la gente local, lograremos un turismo más sostenible. No es novedad que para la empresa sea esencial obtener beneficios económicos. No obstante, si se tienen buenas intenciones en la gestión humana, el éxito sería equitativo para todos los agentes que contribuyen en el turismo.

Se puede observar un pequeño progreso por parte de las empresas en turismo responsable. Sin embargo, hay mucho por planificar y comunicar. Desde Barcelona, nuestra intención es potenciar el crecimiento de ICRT y comprometernos en comunicar nuestras perspectivas que se adhieran al turismo responsable.

Karen Rodríguez

World Travel Market, Londres 2011

12/11/2011 1 comment

El World travel market, o mercado internacional de viajes 2011  llevado a cabo en Londres los días 7 al 10 de noviembre ha sido totalmente inspirador y alentador para todos los que nos dedicamos o queremos dedicarnos al turismo responsable.

Entre las mejores frases que he escuchado en las diferentes conferencias a las que he asistido están las siguientes:

Apertura Oficial del día del turismo responsable en el WTM

Harriet Lamb, directora ejecutiva de la fundación de comercio justo del Reino Unido:

“…estamos destruyendo nuestras especies más rápido de lo que podemos descubrirlas!!…”

“la vida no se trata de esperar a que pase la tormenta, sino a aprender a bailar en la lluvia…” como una clara referencia a la crisis mundial actual y a alentarnos a ser creativos y usar la crisis como una herramienta de cambio hacia un futuro dónde los negocios pueden y deben ser éticos y justos, a usar el turismo responsable como herramienta para bailar en la lluvia y salir de la crisis.

“Los mejores negocios son los que se adelantan a las necesidades de los clientes…”  Harriet dijo que cuando ella empezó con el comercio justo hace 20 años, se rieron de ella, le dijeron que no había mercado para ese producto, que  al consumidor no le interesaba la historia detrás del café que consumía. Bueno parece que se subestimó al consumidor, porque resulta que si le interesa. Harriet piensa que el turismo puede ser una herramienta fantástica para acercar a las personas y beneficiar a las comunidades locales con creación de empleos, conservación de la diversidad natural y cultural y también incrementar la calidad y autenticidad de la experiencia del viajero.

Harriet terminó su brillante y genuino discurso con un antiguo dicho maya: “cada pequeña gota de lluvia, al final forma el río.”

Los premios de Virgin Holidays al turismo responsable

Una de las ideas más brillantes que se han oído últimamente fue del ganador de este año al  mejor tour operador de experiencias locales – Sock Mob / Unseen Tours, Reino Unido.

Los jueces estaban entusiasmados con la promesa de este operador turístico relativamente joven de proporcionar un modelo de turismo responsable en las ciudades. Unseen tours ayuda a tener una visión única de Londres por la organización de visitas dirigidas por guías (personas sin techo)  entrenados, que ofrece una visión sin explorar de la gran ciudad. La incorporación de la historia con una perspectiva personal, los tours dan voz a los que por lo general no la tiene en el turismo, crean oportunidades de empleo, y una experiencia inolvidable.

¿Podría funcionar esta iniciativa en Barcelona? ¿Podríamos formar a los miles de personas sin techo de Barcelona como guías turísticos de una ciudad como Barcelona?¿ O podríamos tener una idea propia sobre como bailar bajo la lluvia?

 

Mariana Quiroz

Eco, sustainable or responsible?

11/11/2011 1 comment

What’s the difference between responsible tourism and ecotourism, and does it matter?  Many of the views expressed in this responsible travel and tourism discussion group are worth taking on board, whether you’re interested in tourism academically, for business purposes, or as a traveller who wants to get more out of your holiday experiences and the places you visit.  Note in particular Anthony Climpson’s “ode to all stakeholders to help make tourism more responsible and play our part in ‘good’ tourism development”.  This presents a virtuous circle that some visited and lived-in places would do well to set in motion (remembering that places are people; that people make places).

My thoughts:

Responsible tourism, eco-tourism, or even sustainable tourism: we need to distinguish between what we believe these terms to be (which therefore shapes the definitions we debate over), and what is being done on the ground.

Some excellent things are happening beneath the banners of eco-tourism, responsible tourism and sustainable tourism.  But then there is also a lot deceitful, ignorant or sloppy application of these terms to components of holidays and travel (greenwashing), and this has blighted all three terms to some extent, as well as the often overlapping movements behind them.

There are also excellent things taking place on tours, in stays, as part of tourism “product”, or in travel generally, where claims to be green, eco-, sustainable or responsible are entirely absent.  Note that neither of the joint overall winners of this year’s Responsible Tourism Awards define themselves as either eco-tourism or responsible tourism.  Yet one thing’s for sure, they’re taking responsibility for issues beyond the conventional business remit, incorporating into their business both the principles and acts of responsibility-taking, and they’re doing something very positive and inspiring to boot.

The question is another in a series of questions posed in this discussion group provoking useful debate (the one on ethics and authenticity was active too).  Yet we can agree, disagree and carry on developing terms all we like–to what end, if reality isn’t changing on the ground?  I think it’s crucial that there is a greater prevalence of the right intentions, ethos and understanding; and thereafter the manifestation of these in decisions, actions, better outcomes for local communities and environments, and of course, better more enriching travel experiences!

We also need to keep refreshing our thinking based on readings of what’s going on “on the ground”, to understand how the wider public believes, perceives, purchases, behaves and responds to travel and tourism experiences.  After all, in global travel population terms, we are a fairly like-minded bunch in this forum.

We also have to keep a watch on what others are doing.  Hence the need for data gathering, reporting, monitoring, advocating, educating, celebrating (awards), policy-making, whistle-blowing, networking, best-practice sharing, and all-round positive change-making.

One thing’s for sure, both eco-tourism and responsible tourism movements are challenged by the “flying to destination” issue, bio-fuels or not.  In the meantime, we travellers will just keep on morally disengaging every time we get on a plane.

In the end, I favour the language of taking responsibility, noting that we do that along a journey of continuous mutual learning.

ROBIN BARDEN

Just how enamoured with tourism are the Barcelonins?

Survey results released at the end of this summer prompted the headline in the Catalan edition of El Periódico “nine out of ten Barcelonins “applaud” [approve of] tourism”.

Well, 9 out of 10 of those who commented this story online responded “falsa” (false), “mentida” (lies) or “a quien demonios le han hecho esta encuesta?” (who the hell did they do this survey with?). Read beyond the headline, however, and the reasons for the 87.5% positive response become a bit clearer.

Tourism is probably the only major industry sector in Barcelona to have continued growing regardless of recent and ongoing economic crises: June through August saw tourist arrivals up 5.1% on the same period the previous year; tourism represents 15% of the city’s GDP; and visitors are purported to leave an average of €2 million a day in a multitude of cash tills in the city.

Such figures are also widely reported in the city’s press, so it’s to no surprise that city residents respond favourably when asked questions like “Does tourism create wealth?” and “Is tourism beneficial?”.

These questions do not, however, provide a complete or accurate picture of how locals feel about tourism. Above all, different locals feel differently about tourism–sometimes very differently–and this often depends on the extent to which they either benefit from tourism, or have to tolerate its less-appealing repercussions as part of daily life.

A more incisive reaction to the news story, therefore, involved questioning whether the survey had involved anyone living in the area around Las Ramblas. To those unfamiliar with the city, this is where Barcelona provides all sorts of enjoyment for tourists as well as residents from other parts of the city, ranging from taking in some extraordinary built heritage, to having fun in bars and clubs. Places here are special for myriad reasons–symbolic, nostalgic, identity-defining, educational, multicultural,…–again, depending on individual and group perspectives.

Also key, however, is the residential use of the area immediately surrounding Las Ramblas. So while some long-established residents may have perceived some Olympian improvements in infrastructure, they have also borne the brunt of an incredible growth in tourism flows with its attendant effects and changes to their neighbourhood. Elsewhere amongst Barcelona citizens, this has resulted in a certain level of recrimination that this iconic area is now “owned” by tourism and is less charming, less characterful or “less Barcelona” as a result, hence the various campaigns in recent years to “reclaim La Rambla”.

Here are some of the insights I gained while talking to people in La Rambla area whilst conducting interviews and a questionnaire survey as part of my Masters project in October-November 2010. Of the resident group surveyed:

  • 70% disagreed or strongly disagreed to the notion that “tourism generally seems to be having a positive effect on life” in the area
  • 50% strongly agreed that “the large volumes of people visiting this area have a negative effect on [their] enjoyment of the area”
  • 45% disagreed or strongly disagreed that visitors “seem to treat the place with respect”.
  • while 30% of residents indicated affection for the area, over 30% of them chose of their own volition to describe it as noisy, crowded, stressful and alike.

These figures are intensified considerably when we focus on those residents who have been living in the area for several years or more, i.e. established residents.

Clearly, the statistics I have presented are less upbeat than those based on different questions and a city-wide sample. But they are equally pertinent, if not more so.

Yes, people across the city support tourism to Barcelona–such international interest in the city is still a source of pride for many Barcelonins. And yes, there is much acknowledgement that tourism has helped improve the city in many ways, and that it continues to pay many salaries. But these views mix with doubts and resentment and the real and visible remonstrations of Barcelona’s “tourismophobes”.

So I question the utility of such broad-based surveys, and ask, isn’t it better to reach an understanding of the attitudes of those Barcelonins who really play host, whether inadvertently or purposefully, to its tourism and visitor industry? After all, don’t the city’s planners and policy-makers, businesses and tourism strategies need real insight if sustainability objectives are really to be acheived?