Travel has many faces
More and more people travel more and more often and over increasing distances – for recreation and to get to know other countries. 1.8 billion tourists will be travelling across the globe in 2030, according to forecasts by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). This entails opportunities as well as risks. For travel has many faces – it expands horizons, it enables human encounters. However, it may also lead to encroachment: when tourist flows get out of hand and resorts and leisure parks proliferate, putting a country’s identity at risk. The tourism industry is the third largest industry in the world, an important employer and generator of foreign exchange. But not everybody benefits in an equal manner. The benefits hardly ever reach local people – unlike the negative consequences, such as damage to the climate and environment. The trend to long-haul travel in particular, often to developing countries, increases the problems. But how can eco-friendly and socially responsible travel work in the 21st century? How can everybody participate in the value added by tourism and how can a country’s cultural diversity be maintained?
Tourism creates perspectives...
At the Institute for Tourism and Development, we have taken up the task of finding answers to these questions and of taking new paths in tourism – for 25 years. We are pioneers of holistic, eco-friendly, and socially responsible tourism and an intercultural travel culture. In this context, we are engaged in research and consultancy, organise seminars and regular discussions, conduct international contests, and with our publications do information and education work on development. We have decades of expertise in how to use the potentials of tourism, especially in structurally backward countries. For tourism, if designed in an eco-friendly and socially responsible, i.e. sustainable manner, can bring not only economic but also social progress – in terms of participation, equal opportunities, and strengthened identity. That’s why the Institute for Tourism and Development launched the international ”TO DO Award“ in as early as 1995. The contest gives awards to tourism projects which strongly involve local people in their planning and implementation. Furthermore, we have since 2016 awarded the “TO DO Award Human Rights in Tourism“ to persons or initiatives with outstanding merits in human rights in tourism.
...and changes perspectives
We would like the opportunities evolving from tourism to be recognised and promoted. Travel can contribute to intercultural understanding, that’s why we engage in intercultural learning. For more than 20 years we have continued the long-standing tradition of “SympathieMagazine“ which were first published in 1974 by the former Institute for Tourism (Studienkreis für Tourismus) in Starnberg. Written by proven experts on the respective countries, the series not only provides profound background information, but also raises curiosity, understanding, and empathy for other countries and their people – a concept that has been successful for four decades and has won several awards. But it’s not only the booklets that play an important role in the preparation for visiting a country and its people. What tourists notice, experience and learn in another country essentially depends on a qualified tour guide. In our “Intercultural Tour Guide Qualification“, we train guides to sensitise tourists for the cultural, religious and political background of a country.
Of course we have not been taking this path all on our own. Over the past decades, the Institute for Tourism and Development has been able to rely on broad-based support. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has been supporting the publication of the „SympathieMagazin” booklets and the implementation other projects as part of our development related informational and educational work. Ministries on youth and environment, renowned organisations such as Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) as well as church-based organisations such as the International Pontifical Mission Society (missio), Bread for the World – Tourism Watch and adveniat (Aktion der deutschen Katholiken für Lateinamerika) are among our supporters. We closely cooperate with the tourism industry. Renowned tour operators are among our partners and customers.
Success proves us right
The future of tourism is to be sustainable – this has since 2017 been the motto of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals stipulate that by 2030 concepts of sustainable tourism will have been implemented worldwide. This bears out our mission statement and decades of work as pioneers in this field. Business models in the tourism sector, which have become very successful by now, also show where this path may lead: more and more tour operators offer sustainable tour packages and work through foundations for environmental and educational projects in host countries. By now, there are more than 100 sustainability labels and certificates for tourism enterprises, accommodation, regions, or products. This is in line with the zeitgeist, for according to the Reiseanalyse (travel analysis) 2018, 52 percent of the Germans would like to go on eco-friendly holidays and 60 percent would like to travel in a socially responsible manner. Politicians, businesses, and tourists have recognised that everybody will benefit from saving a host country’s resources and from treating local people in a fair manner.
Paths emerge by taking them
Nevertheless, a lot remains to be done. The tourism sector is dynamic, tourist flows between source markets and holiday destinations keep changing, and the number of tourists is increasing. Against the backdrop of more than a billion people’s global mobility, sustainable strategies gain importance. How can we address the consequences of “overtourism“ in meaningful ways? And how does social and technological change influence travel behaviour? What are the impacts of political decisions or terrorist attacks on the tourism sector, how do we deal with human rights violations? The Institute for Tourism and Development addresses current and sometimes inconvenient questions and deals with them in a critical and constructive manner – in our own research projects and publications as well as event formats such as the ”Ammerlander Talks“ and the “Interjections – Questioning the Unquestioned at ITB Berlin“. We observe, question, point out, and promote dialogue. We bring together different stakeholders in tourism – in order to continue to jointly walk on the path we have embarked on. We believe: Tourism needs visions!