The European traveller today demands more sustainable hotspots to travel to but countries like Sri Lanka that are called to improve its standards in this respect is right now fighting hard to sustain a faltering industry amidst a pandemic that has taken its toll on tourism revenues. German Ambassador in Sri Lanka Holger Seubert insisted [...]

Business Times

EU traveller wants sustainable destinations to holiday


File picture of tourists at a waterfall

The European traveller today demands more sustainable hotspots to travel to but countries like Sri Lanka that are called to improve its standards in this respect is right now fighting hard to sustain a faltering industry amidst a pandemic that has taken its toll on tourism revenues.

German Ambassador in Sri Lanka Holger Seubert insisted that tourists of today book according to the sustainable tourism standards adopted by the destination they visit.

“Tourists don’t want to have a guilty conscience when booking,” he said adding that sustainability has become a priority for many governments and one that is likely to make Sri Lanka tourism viable and profitable.

This global trend in tourism means that sustainable tourism is no longer an alternative to conventional tourism, he noted.

The Ambassador was speaking at the virtual launch and signing of the Sustainable Tourism Initiative by different organisations on Monday.

The event was organized by the German Delegation of Industry and Commerce in Sri Lanka (AHK Sri Lanka) together with the Office of Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and “Loning” Human Rights and Responsible Business.

Human Rights and Responsible Business Managing Director and Senior Strategy Advisor Markus Loning identified that today there is a trend towards sustainability in tourism.

This is based on a shift in values by consumers where people are looking more into the kind of environmental and social effect, he said.

In this respect, he noted that consumers can change the way they are buying and travelling.

He also pointed out that according to a 2021 survey on global travel trends by the German Ministry of Environment it was found that 69 percent of respondents agree that they want to choose an airline or hotel that values diversity and inclusion and whose employees reflect a diverse customer base.

On the other hand, 68 percent agree they are trying to be more aware of sustainability friendly travel brands to support.

Mr. Loning explained that a further 22 percent of German travellers stated that they pay great attention to sustainability when travelling.

Moreover, the survey revealed that 61 percent would like to spend their holidays in a more sustainable destination. Of this segment it was particularly the upper middle class and upper categories that were more concerned about social responsibility, sustainability and the environment.

Travellers today search for authentic and local experiences when they travel particularly tourists from the UK and Germany.

“Travellers also want to see a destination where the environment and people are treated with respect and treated in a sustainable way,” Mr. Loning explained.

He noted that during pre-COVID in Sri Lanka, the competitiveness of the country decreased, according to a report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) with Sri Lanka ranking 93 in 2018 and slipping to 102 out of 140 in 2019 in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2019.

In this respect rebuilding tourism is priority but the sector must become more sustainable and resilient in the future, Mr. Loning pointed out adding that the current crisis “is an opportunity to rethink tourism for the future.”

Other countries in the region he noted that are using the pandemic to start initiatives are the Mekong area, the Philippines and Thailand.

Mr. Loning explained that cooperation by all parts of the sector; inclusion of communities and important representatives; and constructive private and public sector cooperation were vital in creating a sustainable environment.

Partners involved in this initiative signed a common commitment that will promote a sustainable tourism sector; respect and contribute to the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN; also they committed to work on fair working conditions; respect for communities and cultural heritage; health and safety; and the efficient use of resources and infrastructure.

Presentations of ‘Best Practices and Endorsements’ of founding members highlighted the sustainability standards adopted and maintained in attracting tourists.

Kite Surfing Lanka Director and Owner Dilsiri Welikada explained how sustainability works as a competitive advantage and driver of growth of tourism in Sri Lanka.

He noted that many people in the areas they operate were able to enhance their livelihood following the assistance provided by them by sharing best practices of clean energy and preserving the nature and flavor where necessary.

Hilton Colombo Residences and Hilton Champion of Corporate Sustainability of Hilton South East Asia General Manager Linda Giebing showed the hospitality partner’s commitment to doubling social impact investment by 2030 and cutting the environmental footprint by half.

Sri Lanka Tourism Ministry Secretary S. Hettiarachchi addressing the virtual launch stated that they hope to prepare a national tourism policy with the support of all stakeholders and this is to become a legal document.

In doing so he pointed out that they will establish a sustainable tourism division that will function as a separate unit within the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA).

Once this is established “we plan to use it as a council similar to what Costa Rica has done,” he noted.

Jetwing Chairman Hiran Cooray making a comment observed that Sri Lanka too should follow the example of Costa Rica in terms of sustainable tourism.

He also pointed out that Germany has been an important destination in the world to Sri Lanka and even during the war years when no other country visited it was only the Germans and the British that continued to travel here and braved the travel advisories.

Mr. Cooray observed however, that it is not easy to talk about sustainability when you don’t know if the company will survive.

The industry veteran also indicated, “it’s all good to do all this sustainability stuff,” but what if the country does not have the ability to market it then.

Siddhalepa Managing Director Asoka Hettigoda making his comments at the event stated that he hoped they could sustain this initiative.

“It’s important to obtain this recognition other than the financial benefit,” he explained.

The Sustainable Tourism Initiative will support companies to improve their sustainability performance, for example through know-how transfer, training, and best-practice sharing. The Initiative will also offer self-assessments, development of roadmaps, certification, and standards preparation as well as reporting guidelines.

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